The nature of love is to amplify its object. The wisdom that emanates from love, then, can be received only by a mind suitably disciplined to comply with its constraints. Lacking that discipline, the grasping ego will be amplified, attracting destructive forces to the recipient.
The wise teacher therefore secures his wisdom from those that it would harm. In the New Testament Jesus ministered to his generation with parables, and in Revelation spoke of his greater mission in obscure symbols.
As described by Judith Simmer-Brown in Dakini’s Warm Breath, Buddha took a different approach. He entrusted his unrevealed wisdom to the feminine charnel deities, the dakini. Each terma was to be revealed only to a receptive guru (a terton) that had prepared receptive students.
The curious must be driven to ask “But why feminine deities?” Would not masculine deities be suitable? Here is where Simmer-Brown might find a purpose for the womb that brings so much distress to women in primitive societies.
The womb creates a protected space in which a spirit can bind itself to matter. I would hazard, in fact, that gestation is not simply a biochemical process, but that the spirit within the womb defines the subtle energy framework that guides the growth of the fetus. To protect this process, the womb must construct powerful barriers to invasion by destructive personalities.
It is for this reason that Buddha entrusted his unrevealed wisdom to feminine deities. Only they would be capable of preserving its integrity, and only those allied to death would be capable of reclaiming it if a terton did not honor the gift.
The method of symbolic obscurity is also used by the dakini protector of a terma. I find Simmer-Brown’s example, however, to be astonishing. It was a spontaneous song offered by the Indian guru Naropa to his Tibetan student Marpa at their parting feast. Naropa sang:
A flower blooming in the sky,
The son of a barren woman rides a horse,
Wielding a whip of tortoise hair.
With the dagger of a hare’s horn
He kills his enemy in the space of dharmata.
The mute speaks, the blind man sees.
The deaf man hears, the cripple runs.
The sun and the moon dance, blowing trumpets.
The little child turns the wheel.
Naropa claimed that Marpa would receive understanding if he should return. That event never occurred.
Of course, having received that sacred purpose, why would a dakini allow the merger of her wisdom with that held by others? In the eighth chapter of her book, Simmer-Brown reveals that they often do not do so willingly. More than once, a guru must confront and overwhelm the resistance of the wisdom-bearer before the dakini will surrender her terma.
This is the core female ego-grasping that we see played out through the patriarchs in Genesis. It is the desire to possess and control progeny. It is the fuel for Sarai’s derision, and Leah’s usurpation of Jacob’s loyalty to Rachel.
So I am somewhat suspicious of the interpretation of Naropa’s song that Marpa received in a dakini-sent vision:
The dakini is the flower blooming in the sky.
The son of a barren women riding a horse is the lineage.
The whip of tortoise hair is the inexpressible.
The dagger of a hare’s horn is the unborn.
This kills Tilopa in the space of dharmata.
The explanation continues with ever more obscure correspondences with the Tibetan Buddhist lineage, including:
Lodro is the cripple, who runs on the mountain with the gait of luminosity, free from coming and going.
In my first post on Simmer-Brown’s book, I observed that the characteristics of Prajnaparamita closely mirrored those of the Sacred Mother in Revelation. I was drawn to the conclusion that both Buddhism and Christianity have the same sacred seed. Given that insight, I am free to read Naropa’s song thus:
- “Flower blooming in the sky” is the star perceived by the eastern Magi [Matt. 2:2]. It is Christ.
- The barren woman is Sarai. The rider of the white horse is the descendent of her lineage claiming love’s kingdom [Rev. 19:11].
- In Revelation 13 the dragon makes a pact with the mammalian predators to beat humanity down. The tortoise represents the surrender of reptilian aggression to wisdom; the hare represents the conquest of mammalian predation through patient self-sacrifice. The latter’s “dagger” appears in Revelation 19:15.
- The enemies of truth (dharmata) are cast out of Christ’s kingdom in Revelation 4:10, 11:15, 14:9-10, 19:20-21 and 20:10, respectively transmitting the experience of the angels (Rev. 4), the living creatures (Rev. 11), the dragon (Rev. 14) and humanity (Rev. 19 and 20).
- The four healings are all accomplished by Jesus during his ministry.
- The honor accorded to Christ by the sun is described in Daniel 7:14.
- The little child turning the wheel signifies Jesus’s victory over death on the cross.
This is so direct and obvious that the dakini‘s subterfuge becomes transparent. They were simply trying to misdirect the Tibetan lineage to preserve their privilege by preventing its union with Christianity.
Should we be harsh in the judgment of the adherents to Tibetan Buddhism? Many Christian leaders denounce the practice of yidam as “demon worship.” Certainly some of my pronouncements here echo that sentiment.
But I recall one thing that many Christians overlook. Satan, the serpent, the “enemy” that many Christians pray to see destroyed, was not created by us. God remonstrates with him directly in the Book of Job, and charges Cain to “master [him]” [Gen. 4:7]. Jesus himself charges his disciples to “love your enemies” [Matt. 5:44], and God does not ask us to do anything that he does not do himself.
So as a Christian, I would argue that Vajrayana Buddhism is not demon-worship. It is demon-redemption. Buddha started this work when he dispersed the terma to the dakini. Moreover, where Christians use the sterile practice of exorcism, the Tibetan lineage has continued to refine its redemptive skills. Neither tradition will be superior or subordinate, for Christianity is intended to propagate love into what Simmer-Brown calls the outer-outer realm of material existence. Vajrayana Buddhism is a Trojan horse that will then spread the gift to the outer and inner realms, where it will finally unite with the secret source: Prajnaparamita and her consort Samantabhadra, the Spirit and Bride that in union become the Unconditional Love celebrated by Christianity.