O.M.G. The Dakini

Wisdom Dakini Jennifar Baird

WOW. I was doing a Skype consult with one of my subscribers when I’m finally like what do you DO? Because her chart was kind of all Jupiter, Uranian, Lilith-ish and she told me she is writing a book on the Dakini…And I’m like “the what?”  So that is how this little Q & A came about.

Kerry Moran is “a depth-oriented psychotherapist, a writer, a Buddhist practitioner, and a few other things. I lived in Kathmandu, Nepal from 1985-1998, during which time I traveled extensively in Tibet and wrote several books, including Kailas: On Pilgrimage to the Sacred Mountain of Tibet and a number of guides to Nepal. I currently work as a Buddhist-oriented psychotherapist in private practice in Portland, Oregon.”

MYSTIC: What are the Dakinis? Muses? Buddhist Angels?

K.M: Hard to pin them down in words, they are both compelling and elusive! The short answer might be: mystical/magical feminine beings who embody enlightened power. The dakini appears in Tibetan Buddhism as a muse, a trickster, a mediatrix, a provocateur. Statues and paintings show her as dancing in the sky, naked except for jewelry and delicate bone ornaments. She appears in visions and dreams, in meditative awareness, and in the form of actual women, provoking and inspiring practitioners towards enlightenment — the recognition of the nature of their own minds. She has many moods — playful, wrathful, inspiring, seductive, terrifying — but her basic nature is always profound wisdom and effortless compassion.

MYSTIC:  How did you come to be interested in them?

K.M: Traveling through Tibet in the mid-80s when it first opened to independent travelers, I was struck by the strength, resilience and humor of the Tibetan people. Clearly they were on to something, and I could only attribute it to their deep-seated Buddhist faith, which years of Chinese occupation had failed to destroy.

It took me several years to dig through my own personal layers of resistance, but I became a Buddhist in 1988. The teachings and meditation instruction that followed, along with my continuing travels in Tibet and Nepal, revealed more about the dakini.

I went deeper into dakini-land when I wrote my master’s thesis exploring her from a cultural and therapeutic perspective – weaving together the ancient image of the dakini with our culture’s profound need to reintegrate the power, sexuality, and fierce, grounded femininity she embodies.

MYSTIC: I feel so naive but as a lifelong vegetarian and with an interest in/respect for Buddhism, i have not heard of them, why is this?

K.M.: Maybe because the dakini only appears in Tibetan Buddhism? But I am inclined to say that it’s because she is the dark feminine– the assertive, angry, powerful, sexual feminine that’s been swept under the rug in Western culture for a few millennia. She doesn’t get much press.

MYSTIC:  A few years ago I saw an amazing exhibition called Goddess that was all about the Hindu-Arabic Gods/Goddesses and they said there were two paths of Buddhism ­ one the better known school of non-attachment/celibacy etc and one that was more sensual and creative. Do the Dakini belong to the latter?

K.M: Yes, she belongs to Tantra, an ancient spiritual tradition that has both Hindu and Buddhist forms. Tibetan Buddhist Tantra or Vajrayana emphasizes the integration of spiritual realization with ordinary life.The dakini’s mission is to wake us up to this.

MYSTIC:  How do you feel the Dakini fits in with other traditions ­ e.g.: Wicca, Islam, Judeo Christianity etc. Is there any cross over?

K.M.:To my mind she embodies an important missing piece in mainstream Western religious traditions – the transformative power, and raw sexuality of the dark feminine that has been taboo since at least the witch hunts of Europe.

MYSTIC: what does the word Dakini literally mean?

K.M: Dakini is a Sanskrit term. originally referring to malevolent witch-spirits of ancient India. She was developed further in Hindu Tantra, and reaches her full fruition in Tibetan Buddhism. The Tibetan word for dakini is khandroma – literally, “She Who Goes Through the Sky”, more poetically translated as Sky-Goer or Sky Dancer.

MYSTIC:  Do you think it could be a good idea to work with Dakini energy or could it be dangerous?

K.M.: I think it depends on your motivation and your frame of reference. She needs to be respected — she is not something to tinker with casually or for personal gain. She’s really a way of being/seeing, a way of moving through the world in a free and unobstructed fashion, unhindered by conceptual thought. She is the integration of space and awareness. If you are sincere about developing this – for the benefit not just of yourself, but of all beings, as Buddhism emphasizes – then … go for it!

See also What Is A Dakini?

Image:  Jennifer Baird – Wisdom Dakini – Fine Art America

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59 thoughts on “O.M.G. The Dakini

  1. Inspiring! Now i want to take off all my clothes, dress only in fine jewellery and bone adornments and fly through the sky being sensual, uninhibited by conceptual thought and, of course, compassionate.

  2. Just wonderful to read this now. Honouring the dark feminine is so essential for the world in this time of transformation. Compassion and sensuality and just getting on with real life… Magic! Oh and Mille… I do love your mer lady :)xx

    • Aren’t her colours and swirls gorgeous? She’s from a 1935 book called The Enchanted Castle.

      There is a card in Froud’s Faerie Oracle called The Dark Lady, which is meant to honour that time of quiet before germination, the unborn, the ritual of silence and stillness. The Dakini is more dynamic and energetic, more trickster than that. I am more familiar with her ancient origins, which is a more malefic form than the Tibetan.

  3. Another female form of the dark feminine, so cool.
    There’s so much more to the old goddess that we can imagine, maybe one day we will be able to celerbrate all our sides without ‘mainstream Western religious traditions’ getting in the way.
    When/Where will we be able to buy her book?
    It sounds like a very interesting subject and something i would like to study/contemplate on for a while.

  4. owrmahgoddess this is wonderous and just what i needed to read. last night mirror gazing i saw hanging women, lots of them, blonde. witch trials. then this morning was given an article about the contemporary manifestations of this in papau new guinea. we’ve come so far and yet how easily we can devolve. the dark feminine and the practice of her are so crucial. embody all the horrors of the world and still dance.

    • That’s interesting, I have come across this recently working with a friend, both witch trials & a Papua reference. I suppose we have been all things across all ages and it is the personal nuance that is the key, but synchronicity!
      Yes, dance fearlessly, be yourself, NO MATTER what.
      That is what is demanded of us in the face supreme adversity, eh? 😉

      • this is pretty much the 9th house eclipse, scene is remembering why its still so important to celebrate our existance to still dance – if not physically then mentally in the face of all this information. Not one generation has had to face the information exlposion were comming into now ley lines, Orion, secret societys and non stop barking dogs. 🙂

        Its all can get a little overwhelming… when do I tell how do I tell.. How can I say. lets all give ourselves a big hug. revel in your accomplishments, in the face of such choice and adversity.

    • Shudder. I spent some nights feeling myself choking. The hanging times are a sort of dividing line. Its hard to see past the horror.

      • Yikes! The horror seems to be coming up front and center these days. Neptune in Pisces about to tribe Saturn in Scorpio… Collective wounds arise. Let us heal!!! i have a dread terror of water- think I was drowned. Xoxox

  5. When one reaches a state of ecstasy, it is said to be ‘like dancing in the sky’.
    One of, if not the most famous Buddhist nun was called Sky Dancer, it is she who Margot Anand named her courses after=Sky Dancing Tantra.

  6. How exciting! Lovely topic, love image too, this opened up a little door of investigation & I found the answer to something I had been wondering.

    Had a wonderful experience with a piece of fuschite that has an intense connection to Devas. t I don’t know that the Devas are the same as Dakinis.
    I kind of think so on some level as they are like vibrations of consciousness, as are the Devas?

    Perhaps the writer of this book will pop in here & clarify.

    Actually the part I found most interesting in my wiki’ing, this isn’t Tibetan, but:
    “Dakini, Shakini, Kakini, Kamini are per Hindu tantra also the shaktis or powers who control the different Chakras”.
    That is something I have been wondering for aaages! Who is the gate-keeper? (*Who you gonna call?*)

    “Thus dakinis are the guardians of the deeper mysteries of the self, and it is through them that the secrets of inner transformation are opened”.

    • Interesting that the devas in Buddhism is god-like beings living in bliss — (but I’m assuming you mean elemental devas!) I wouldn’t link the dakinis so much to them. But in terms of the chakras, there is a profound link between the dakini and the subtle body and all the various practices involved in activating and energising it.

      • Thank you so much Kerry!

        Yes I did mean the elemental Devas.

        I imagined the Dakini would be similar to the elemental energies given their relationship to the sky element as I experience levels of vibration, let’s say the troposphere, which incorporates one level at which Dakini play, that certain Deva’s explore (esp near the tree tops level).

        But now I hear you delineate I see the Dakini are more a independent and richly individuated consciousness.
        I will look out for a Dakini experience in my wanderings 🙂 .

        As for being guardians of the subtle body, do you have any further info on that topic? Thanks again, so glad MM posted on this!

  7. This is a great piece. I went off on a google-athon and ended up trying to put the various streams of buddhism together in my head. Still haven’t succeeded but am very interested in how the dakini seem to straddle (or ignore) the divide between the divine and the human, as well as the monastic and secular approaches to enlightenment. Plus it brought me to this great quote by Robert Thurman who was describing early Tantric communities:

    “I call them the “psychonauts” of the tradition, in parallel with our “astronauts,” the materialist scientist-adventurers whom we admire for their courageous explorations of the “outer space” which we consider the matrix of material reality. Inverse astronauts, the psychonauts voyaged deep into “inner space,” encountering and conquering angels and demons in the depths of their subconscious minds.”

    I wonder how many psychonauts came across dakinis in their long journey inside!

      • ‘psychonauts/shamans’ .. so true!
        cerebral time machines of the spirit?

        • I always fashioned myself after these people but I only went as far as a few things, C,K,M,E,S,and never in combination. Some astrology book also said I have natural connections to the collective unconcioncous so it wouldnt be good for me to use anything at all as I couldnt be able to pull myself back through the either… Ive found it to be true for some but not all.

          I have found my limits though. Although who knows what the future may bring. Maybe if I see an alien ill just say fek it all and take shrooms always been afraid of those since they last so friggin long. I like intense but short trips…

          Zoe 7s into the void and Back from the Void two of my fav books.

    • Did you know he is Uma Thurman’s father and was a close friend of Timothy Leary.

  8. amazing blog so rich and interesting. i love buddhism for that reason and lived near a tibetan monastery for a while. now i more into krishna consciousness but i don’t take it on in a fanatic way. Like who is going to only have sex for children? i take what i like and leave the rest!
    Dakini sounds a lot like goddess Kali is also a Lillith role model. Kali cut of the heads of the ignorant and was blood thirsty andcious. Life is more valuable through learning about all these amazing goddesses and ritual. those that pray together stay together so they say!

  9. how timely! i was jut playing with a dakini oracle deck the other day.

  10. interesting the link on the blog to the article about the dalai lama quoted as being open to change re women having a greater role. I learned in a documentary which followed the journey of a tibetan nun, that his sect is the one responsible – she said it continues to this day – for the removal of the oracles and other traditionally female roles in the belief system. A systematic dismantling of the feminine power roles. Since hearing her story I have found it hard to warm to the belief system and its figurehead. Am heartened by this post and hope his change of stance is ongoing.

  11. Something just clicked on reading through this .. a flicker of recognition.
    I’m currently researching the origins of the Goddess tradition on some of the islands scattered through the Mediterranean (Middle Earth) .. with a focus on energy & its manifestation into form/forms here on our planet. The description of the Dakini energy has just unearthed a latent memory of mine. I have always held a quiet belief that sexuality need not be categorised and divided into male and female. Western society is keen on this, as are many sexually repressive cultures. But sexuality never really needed labels. To hear of the ‘Dakini’ & her sexuality, that goes beyond duality and transcends gender, resonated deeply with me. I had been wanting to develop this further within myself, but the light of it was crowded out by my fears. “She’s really a way of being/seeing, a way of moving through the world in a free and unobstructed fashion, unhindered by conceptual thought.” How beautiful!! Isn’t she the embodiment of what we are all crying out for? I adore fashion & beauty & cultural expressions of that, so I’d hate to be misinterpreted here – but – what a sweet relief not to have to live up to the current ideals/prescriptions/expectations of ‘female sexuality’ (from my perspective) & vica versa from other perspectives .. & just express as freely as Dakini?

    The timing of this is so sweet to me.
    I will head off to ‘Hagar Qim’, one of Malta’s most special sacred temples, at the end of this week, carrying the thoughts of Dakini with me. Interestingly, the goddess worshipped here is most commonly represented with an absence of sexual characteristics. Some theorists imply that the ‘being’ represented in stone figurines (some on a massive scale)  is in fact asexual, but I prefer the Dakini angle. That her sexuality transcends gender. And the exaggerated proportions of her figure (she’s often referred to as ‘the fat lady’) is just an attempt to express the enormity of her being.

    I’m so far from being an enlightened one, but I know this energy. 
    It’s just hiding, deep within. 
    A tiny flicker of recognition – but Dakini’s definitely not lost on me!

    • wow .. i just read back over this .. I had my research voice on .. why does this energy strike such a cord?  .. I need to anchor it to the domestic/relationship issues that have been swirling around me and my husband (hate that label). But this dark energy is palpable. The Dakini energy reads as a very visceral, instigating, pioneering force .. territory that has been claimed by the masculine.
      I’m an Aries. With my Venus in Aries. I want to conquer, to chase, to claim; and at the moment Uranus is scorching my butt with the heat from his magnifying glass, intensifying my natural way all the more.
      But my husband is an Aries too (natally trine Pluto on his Ascendant). He wants to conquer, to chase, to claim! We’re tracking each others movements strangely at the mo. Intellectually, physically, pschologically .. He wants to be the one controlling things, having the definitive say on things, being the first to discover things .. farkkk!
      & of course, so do I!!! 
      Dakini, I want to be way more free-flowing than this!

    • I absolutely love this, your thoughts and ideas and Dakini as sexuality transcending gender — talk about getting free of conceptual thought. Thanks for sharing and I would love to hear more as you discover in your travels!

      • Yes, I stumbled across the description of Dakini sexuality transcending gender & it really struck a chord with me .. especially as I had just been unearthing details about Malta’s goddess traditions.

        Travel updates? .. Will do!
        (Can’t wait till Thursday’s temple visit 🙂

  12. I read KM’s thesis on the power and role of Dakini via the grad school dissertation service — when I edged close and closer to Buddhism. There are very few resources available to Western readers, so I stopped following the trail and turned within. Who knows? Green Tara sitting on my desk knows..

    It is my honor to thank KM here for her wonderful thesis – she may not know it, but it gave me the courage to shake a very harmful mindset in 2002.

  13. This Dakini intrigues me. I also love the image. I would love to know more of her. Many of the dark feminine traits are hidden throughout Eastern and Western religion,and subsequently, art. I am more familiar with Shiva Nataraja in Hinduism. Is Dakini the female counterpart to Shiva?

    • There is something Shiva-esque about her potent transformative abilities that do not shy away from wrath or destruction, but I would say she’s more a trickster figure, harder to pin down — and a messenger, flying in the sky —

    • No Shiva’s opposite & partner is Shakti. Tho’ it’s all up to interpretation in western exploration of Tantra/Tantric Buddhism.
      The Dakini are more like ‘muse’. There is Hakini for the 6th chakra, Shakini-5th, Kakini-4th, Lakini-3rd, Rakini-2nd, Dakini-1st.
      On my chart ‘the mysterious kundalini and the location of glands ‘Dakini’ is in charge of ovaries & testes, the root chakra.
      Brahama & Vishnu govern the 1st & 2nd chakras. Shiva-Shakti are at the crown, entwined and the ideal, representing the end of duality when the energy reaches
      top of head and extends to the universe.
      The universe then goes ‘whoopee doo’ and sends all it back to you in a double or nothing play out 🙂

      ‘Ini’ or ‘ita’ usually means ‘smaller’ or ‘little’.

  14. The transformative feminine power …sounds similar to Shakti, very interesting post thank you

  15. I’ve studied The Dakinis for the last twenty years and yes, it’s rare to find books, info on the subject. Fascinating post and writer!

    • Sure entails a search coupled with luck.
      One of the best, read simplest, books on the subject i have found is
      ‘Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddess’ (Spiritual secrets of Ayurveda) by Dr. David Frawley.
      Says a Yogini & Dakini are same energies, that is ‘attendant
      goddess on the yogic path’.

  16. this is beautiful! I am a dancer of Odissi (one of the oldest classical dances of India) and this post resonates so much! a friend of mine, also dancer, has recently graduated from university with a thesis on the yogini which, as I understand, is just another term for dakini…definitely fascinating figures, embodying both the human and the divine (for through dance we become divinity) but also the dual nature of light and darkness that is present throughout hinduism. So far from the occidental categorisations of good/evil and light/dark, and so much more complex and satisfying. Will definitely research, thank you for the beautiful post!

    • Wow & amazing, just wrote the yogini is same as dakini.
      That shakti-shiva danced the world into creation along with their love-making.
      This is a beautiful philosophy (not religion is why i love it) and i liken it to being given 72 Derwents to play with instead of the usual 12 colours.
      (Derwent now actually make 102 or 120!).

      ‘She comes in colours’……………Rolling Stones song.

    • I know a dancer who became so enchanted by the sacred power & beauty of the dance of Odissi she dedicated herself to learning it & eventually toured India as an Odissi dance performer…
      My co-ordination is not my strength, but even so, I do have the pleasure of a spirit guide who has been with me for a while now…I call her the red dakini because that is who she is…she informs my wild & deep sacred feminine self on how to move & dance through today’s world with my integrity intact.
      I did a painting of her…’dakini of the Waves”, as in riding the cosmic currents through air & water…she is fire & earth (as a reflection of me, all leo virgo & cap)
      very current but hailing back to tibetan tantric art…what a profound post, thanks all!

      • Thank you for sharing that earthmonkey!
        How lovely & what a joy to move with the flow of energy this way. Must see this one day! 😀
        And I really like yr description of yr perception of your red daikini. On a recent post I commented learning dancing from a red ‘man’ or form, who appeared when I was lost in dance at trance parties. I will definitely connect with the red one in meditation to thank it now!

        • All I ever seen once and I wasnt meditating, as I dont know if I could turn my aquarian brain off long enough to do that. But I was catching some winter time sun which comes in diagonal pretty strong facing south facing window I was so relaxed eyes closed perfect temp huge window totally open the but freezing outside and I zaped into this indian scene… inside my eyelids painted orange yellow and red from the sunlight…I was an indian with a bunch of other indians. I was holding a tomahawk.. It was vivid came with feeling and was like a 5 second zap then it dissapeared. I wasnt alseep just relaxed…

          Who knows could have been me in a past life but that was wierd… Never had anything like that happen agian.

  17. Wow – after such an INTENSE full moon eclipse that invoked many of the above attributes and/or characteristics in me – I loved waking up to this 🙂

  18. Particularly like the ‘wrath’ bit. . . also completely comfortable with the uncompromisingly honest part .

  19. when I saw this heading, I assumed that Dakini = a mix of daks + bikini = so maybe a daggy bikini made of cotton? or a “bottoms only” bikini?

  20. Yes, i thought it was going to be about a thong thing. But now i see it is sexy tantric sex spirits who you can summon to HELP???

    * runs off to build Dakini shrine.

    WHAT do they want? Perfumes? Bowls of apples? Incense? I’m there.

    Also i feel half psychologically dead after those eclipse and the Zap. I relapsed back into both alcohol, drugs and love zombie shit and being nary with my ex in front of the children. I feel regressed in every way.

    Is it just me?

    * shrink on speed dial

  21. My thoughts immediately went to Nut, the Egyptian goddess, although I’m not sure how in links in the with the dark feminine, I am less than scholarly about that…

  22. I just love this Q&A, totally fascinating and inspiring. You may also be interested in the Celtic goddess, Sheela Na Gig.

  23. I am doing a MA in Mindfulness Based Core Process Psychotherapy…intention of Core Process is to act like a bridge between Buddhism & Western Psychology.
    Earlier this year, spontaneously whilst exploring a personal process around abuse, the dakinis arrived in my dreaming, surrounded me with such magic!

  24. Mystic: You ask if it is scary, or dangerous to work with Dakini energy.
    Actually, I am an embodiment of a Dakini – no point in hiding it 🙂

    Life has not been pleasant… more of a stripping away… more of hearing the world tell you to denounce your ego, when you are trying to create one as a human suit – sort of like Diana Prince is to Wonder Woman.

    You are never quite grounded – and the Lovers you Love are afraid of you…

    Most of the time, men do not know what they are in for; “sexy” is actually Kundalini Dancing – not for the ego-encrusted. SHE will chop off your head as she merges you with Oneness.

    She who Traverses the Skies; as in, She who is connected to the Cosmic Consciousness.

    Thanks to facebook, I have also found other Dakinis… 🙂

    -She is always female, by the way.
    And ~ it is not something I can write about properly, because She is “experienced”; tailor-made to your moments because She is carried on the Magnetic Winds of Initiation.

    Now, if you click my name, it will take you to my book – which is my Naked Soul self after Spontaneous Kundalini Awakening….

    Remove all the labels of Dakini, Tantric Goddess, Devi Brahman, and Guru Goddess, and just enjoy the ride…


  25. I saw this statue at the MET in NYC this past summer (http://mellifluousyates.tumblr.com/post/56569791219). It was in the “Eastern Religion” section, and the only thing the plaque next to her said was “dancing celestial.” No artist. As soon as I saw the picture above of the Dakini, I made the connection to this statue.
    I stared at her for a long time. Obviously her physical beauty was so striking, but it was the way her body was twisted, every part of her had adornment and movement. And the look on her face is so amazingly carefree, yet wicked.
    I need to print this picture out, seriously. it gives me strength whenever I look at it. Or at the very least, see if the MET gift shop sells little replicas of her?

  26. Sky-Dancer & trickster energy seems verrrry Gemini, (a la Josephine Baker, even, who was prone to dancing nude with nothing but jewelry for adornment) with her darker aspects tieing in with Lilith &/or Scorp femininity. (Scorp women I have known embody the most powerful, creative & strong femininity I have encountered & are a deep inspiration for me.)

    Love this interview & the information, thank you!