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Great Yoginis of Tantric Buddhism

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Yoginis literally means female practitioners, and sometimes refers to accomplished female practitioners. For example, among the famed 84 Mahasiddhas of India, four were female: Laksminkara, the mad princess; Manibhadra, the model wife; Kanakhala, the younger of the two headless (severed-headed) sisters; and Mekhala, the elder of the two headless (severed-headed) sisters.

Mahasiddhas are the spiritual practitioners who within one lifetime have attained self-realization through real life experiences. This spiritual realization grants them mystical powers or siddhis. Some of the mystical powers are: increasing or decreasing one's size at will; making oneself invisible; assuming forms at will; power to control one's passion; the power to fly; the power to enter another person's body; the power to levitate; achieving high speed; to move about anywhere unnoticed; the power of obtaining everything; irresistible willpower; causing temporary paralysis in someone; control over others; infinite mental powers. These are some of the traits that come with being realized, but they are not the key purpose of attaining enlightenment.

The Drukpa Lineage, with Tilopa and Naropa, two of the 84 Mahasiddhas as its forefathers, is essentially a lineage of Mahasiddhas or enlightened yogis (Tib. Togdens). Since the time of Tsangpa Gyare, the founder of the Drukpa lineage, there have been many great female yoginis in the lineage, although not publicly well-known, they had benefited innumerble beings, especially setting themselves as inspiring examples to female practitioners of their times.

The first Drubwang Tsoknyi (1828-1904), an accomplished yogi of the Drukpa Lineage, was instrumental in establishing the biggest institution for female practitioners in Tibet - the Gechak Nunnery in Nangchen. Drubwang Tsoknyi was recognized as the reincarnation of Rechungpa, Milarepa's moon-like disciple, and Ratna Lingpa, one of the great tertons. Drubwang Tsoknyi instructed his disciple Tsangyang Gyatso to build the famed Gechak Nunnery which eventually had about 3,000 nuns, most of whom spent their entire life in solitary retreat, practicing the revealed treasures of Ratna Lingpa and special yogini practices belonging to the Drukpa lineage. Many of them attained rainbow bodies and enlightenment within one lifetime.

In this section, abridged biographies of the great female practitioners in Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism are retold to encourage and inspire women on the spiritual path.



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