Vajrayoginī is the Vajra yoginī, literally ‘the diamond female yogi’. Her practice includes methods for preventing ordinary death, intermediate state (bardo), and rebirth by transforming them into paths to enlightenment, and for transforming all mundane daily experiences into higher spiritual paths. Vajrayoginī is a ḍākiṇī and a Vajrayāna Buddhist meditation deity. As such she is considered to be a female Buddha. The purpose of visualizing Vajrayoginī is to gain realizations of generation stage tantra, in which the practitioner mentally visualises themself as their yidam or meditational deity and their surroundings as the Deity’s maṇḍala. The purpose of generation stage is to overcome so-called ordinary appearances and ordinary conceptions, which are said in Vajrayāna Buddhism to be the obstructions to liberation and enlightenment.
Yab-yum (Tibetan literally, “father-mother”) is a common symbol in the Buddhist art of India, Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet representing the male deity in sexual union with his female consort. Often the male deity is sitting in lotus position while his consort is sitting in his lap.
The symbolism is associated with Anuttarayoga tantra and, while there are various interpretations of the symbolism in the twilight language, the male figure is usually linked to compassion and skillful means, while the female partner to insight (prajñā). The symbolism of union and sexual polarity is a central teaching in Tantric Buddhism, especially in Tibet. The union is realised by the practitioner as a mystical experience within one’s own body.
Yab-yum is generally understood to represent the primordial (or mystical) union of wisdom and compassion. In Buddhism the masculine form is active, representing the compassion and skillful means (upaya) that have to be developed in order to reach enlightenment. The feminine form is passive and represents wisdom (prajna), which is also necessary to enlightenment. United, the figures symbolize the union necessary to overcome the veils of Maya, the false duality of object and subject.
Yab-yum may also be represented through the aniconicsignification of yantra and mandala.
In Tibetan Buddhism, the same ideas are to be found concerning the bell and the dorje, which, like the yab-yum, symbolize the dualism that must be exceeded. The sacred Tantric practice leads to rapid development of mind by using the experience of bliss, non-duality, and ecstasy while in communion with one’s consort.
In Hinduism the yab-yum has a slightly different meaning. There, the embraced posture represents the divine strength of creation. The Hindu concept is the one of a passive masculine deity embracing his spouse called shakti, which represents his activity or power.
These figures are frequently worked in the shape of statues or reliefs, or are painted on thangkas.
Nāropā was born a high status Brahmin but from an early age showed an independent streak, hoping to follow a career of study and meditation. Succumbing to his parents’ wishes, he agreed to an arranged marriage with a young Brahmin girl. After eight years they both agreed to dissolve their marriage and become ordained. At the age of twenty-eight, Naropa entered the famous Buddhist University at Nalanda where he studied both Sutra and Tantra. He gained the reputation of a great scholar and faultless debater, essential at that time as the tradition of debate was such that the loser automatically became a student of the winner. He eventually gained the title “Guardian of the Northern gate”, engaged in many debates and taught and won many students.
According to his Tibetan biography, one day while he was studying, a dakini appeared to Naropa and asked if he understood the words of the Dharma, Buddha’s teachings. He replied that he did and when she seemed happy with his response, he added that he also understood their meaning. At this point the dakini burst into tears, stating that he was a great scholar, but also a liar, as the only one who understood the teachings was her brother, Tilopa. On hearing the name “Tilopa”, he experienced an intense feeling of devotion, and Naropa realized he needed to find the teacher in order to achieve full realization. He abandoned his studies and position at the university and set out to find Tilopa. Naropa then underwent what is known as the twelve minor hardships in his quest to find his teacher, all the hardships being hidden teachings on his path to enlightenment. When he finally met Tilopa, he was given the four complete transmission lineages which he then began to practice. While studying and meditating with Tilopa, Naropa had to undergo a further twelve major hardships, trainings to overcome all the obstacles on his path, culminating in his full realization of Mahāmudrā.
In Tibetan Buddhism, the Citipati, or “Lords of the Cemetery” are two mythological Buddhist ascetics, who were so deep in their meditation, they were caught unawares by a thief and beheaded even before they knew they were dead. As a symbol, the Chittipati represent the eternal dance of death, and perfect awareness. They are usually depicted as a male/female pair of intertwined skeletons caught up in an ecstatic dance. The dance of the Citipati is commemorated twice annually in Tibet with ritual dances. The Citipati are invoked as ‘wrathful deities,’ benevolent protectors who appear as fierce beings with a demonic appearance.