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Elucidating the Body Maṇḍala
Clarifications on the Recitation Manual of the Female Practice of the Queen of Great Bliss
by Jigme Lingpa
Homage to the venerable Vajrayoginī!
Herein is contained a supplementary text that will remove all doubts concerning the Recitation Manual of the ḍākinī Queen of Great Bliss, the utterly profound practice of the female awareness-holder.
Generally in the Mantra Vehicle, the path consists of two stages: the generation phase and the completion phase. This is in order to purify the impure appearances of the world and its inhabitants as well as our confused attachment to them. As for the support, the vessel that is the world; as well as the supported, the essence that is all beings, there is nothing that is not made of the five elements. The outer elements are the five of earth, water, fire, wind, and space; the inner elements are the five of flesh, blood, warmth, breath, and consciousness. You must understand that their essence is the natural purity of the five female buddhas, just as in the statement ‘Earth and water are Buddhalocanā [and Māmakī…]’. The empty spaces in the netherworld, terrestrial world and celestial world are known as the three realms of existence. You should also know that they are naturally awakened as the pure realms of the awakened ones.
In particular, the aggregates, elements and sense sources; and the faculties, objects and eight consciousnesses are what appear to us as impure sentient beings. Through the profound generation phase, which includes the objects of purification and the results of purification, you will unmistakably know them to have the nature of the deities. You will know the essence of purity, the nature of reality. When you stabilize this clear appearance taken as the path, it is called the 'generation phase of the great consummate nature’.
Now, what are the objects of purification and what are the results of purification? The objects of purification are the stains. This refers to the five aggregates and five elements that initially arise from the all-ground consciousness and the defiled consciousness, and also to the collection of consciousnesses that are defined as the sense sources (including the five faculties) that are the result of dominant conditions and objective conditions. These are mutually connected as object and subject. The result of purification is the arising in the form of deities such as the blessed, glorious Samantabhadra, who is the self-cognizing king of awareness and the embodiment of infinite maṇḍalas. As the Immaculate Confession Tantra says:
When the secret all-ground is purified within all-pervading space, the mind naturally arises as the self-cognizing king of awareness, the father of the buddhas of the three times… 
Mind is the dominant condition because it is the agent that generates confusion. If you realize that it lacks true nature you’ll know it to be the ultimate Samantabhadra of the natural condition, the self-cognizant king of awareness.
The term dharma has many meanings, yet here it refers to the objective condition, which is the element of mind, [i.e., the object]. Although this could apply to anything with characteristics in saṃsāra and nirvāṇa, on this occasion it refers to all that appears as the relative once it is brought within the all-pervading space that is free from conceptual elaboration—the absolute truth of the nature of reality, which arises as the mother who generates all maṇḍalas. It is therefore given the name Samantabhadrā, the acted-upon object.
Secondly, although [the deities] remain in the dharmakāya, all-pervading space, in order to illustrate the union of appearance and emptiness, they are shown to have aspects such as a face and hands. It is said:
Utter purity of action and actor, mind and its object;
I pay homage to Samantabhadra and his consort!
Likewise, to illustrate the five aggregates, it is said:
In the absolute, beings’ aggregate of consciousness is naturally pure. That is the essence of all the enlightened minds of the Thus Gone Ones.
From here, continuing up to:
I pay homage to the blessed, glorious Vajrākṣobhya!
With this, the characteristics of the objects of purification and the results of purification are explained. If you analyse this, you will also be able to understand the visualizations for the deities of the body maṇḍala. Still, [to render this clearly], Samantabhadra is in the mudrā of meditative equipoise and his consort is in the mudrā of ‘hands folded together in dharmodaya’. The buddhas of the five families hold in their right hand their respective sign and in their left, a bell. The consorts hold a bell in their right hand and in their left, their respective sign. Their colours are also determined by their family. To show the meaning of this, our own text says:
At her heart, the expanse of the glorious knot,
Are the unfabricated, naturally arisen, completely perfect deities.
At the centre of a five-spoked wheel
Is the pure nature of the all-ground consciousness, mind and phenomena:
The all-pervading awareness is Samantabhadra.
In union with his consort Samantabhadrā, they are appearance and emptiness indivisible.
On the five spokes are the deities of pure form, feeling, perception,
Formation and consciousness:
Here it is gradually explained how the colour of the form of Vairocana, the purity of the aggregate of form, is white, and so on. Intelligent people might notice that there are minor discrepancies in the commentaries on the tantras, yet in our own tradition we should rely on the Dispelling Darkness in the Ten Directions commentary on the Illusory Net, which is the basis for the hundred peaceful and wrathful deities. If you do not realize the deities’ objects of purification and results of purification through this kind of generation phase, you might achieve a clear appearance, but still be deluded, which would be no different from seeing an ordinary temple—you won’t understand the crucial points of how to swiftly traverse the path based on the Mantra Vehicle’s path of skilful means.
The Twenty-Four Sacred Places
Furthermore, on the outer level, in this world of Jambudvīpa there are the twenty-four places where the heroic ones and ḍākinīs naturally gather. The Cakrasaṃvara Tantra says:
In Kulutā and Maru,
In Sindhu and Nagara,
In Suvarṇadvīpa and Saurāṣṭra,
In Gṛhadevatā and Pretapurī,
In Himālaya and Kāñci,
In Lampāka and Kaliṅga,
In Kośala and Triśakuni,
In Kāmarūpa and Oḍra,
In Mālava, Devīkoṭa,
Rāmeśvara, and Godāvarī,
And in Arbuda, Uḍḍiyāna,
Jālandhara, Pullīramalaya, and so on.
The girls of these places are yoginīs
Who are indivisible from the heroic ones.
They all have amorous forms
And are engaged through the power of mind.
Similar lists are found in other tantras, but fearing verbosity, I shall leave it at this. As regards these places, they are entirely present internally, within our own body, as shown in a line in our practice text: ‘The crown of the head is…’. Those places’ channels are completely transformed into heroic ones and their elements are completely transformed into yoginīs, each with their own names and in union. This is shown explicitly in the mother tantra of Cakrasaṃvara, in chapter forty-one:
The Six Yoginīs are in Kulutā,
And the Mothers are in the land of Maru.
The Lāmās are in the land of Sindhu,
And Ladies of the families are in Nagara.
In Lampāka and Saurāṣṭra are
The goddesses of the families.
In Pretapurī is Mahākālā
With the ḍākinī Rūpinī.
At the Himālayan mountains and Kāñci,
In the regions of Pañcāla and Kaliṅga,
The householder goddesses who uphold yogic discipline,
And Sabālikā, are said to be.
At Kośala are the female meat-eaters.
At Pretapurī those who eat the great flesh,
The vajraḍākinīs are at Sthūleśvara.
At Triśakuni are the Khaṇḍarohās,
And also at Pullīramalaya.
On the golden mountain there are twenty-one thousand women
Born in the Meshachen family.
Whatever others there are,
They are all part of the circle of ḍākinīs
Of the glorious Heruka—
They are the Ladies of the maṇḍala
Of the glorious Heruka, the great churner.
These twenty-four ḍākinīs are pervasively present
In everything animate and inanimate of the three worlds
And in all sentient beings.
This samaya of the ḍākinīs
Is to meditate on these emanations.
Meditation and so forth, anything that is done,
Will be brought to perfection on this earth.
Thus, as this explains, mantra is accomplished through samaya and aspiration. Once you gain certainty that the inner twenty-four places have the nature of the chief goddesses, this will be of immeasurable benefit when it comes to generating inconceivable cities of heroic ones and ḍākinīs through aspiration. The same text also says:
If the offering of the mudrā of dance
Is always offered to the Self-Arisen One,
Then everything without exception is accomplished—
You’ll be fully engaged in the worship of the left.
You should know that ‘left’ here relates to gender and refers to the gathering of ḍākinīs, yet it can also be understood as a mental disposition. Similarly the vast retinues of hundreds of thousands of ḍākinīs is an inclusive category. The Collected Tantras of the Early Translation School contains the following:
Hundreds of thousands of great gandharvīs,
Hundreds of thousands of great kumbhāṇḍīs,
Hundreds of thousands of great brāhmīs...
There are others too, but I shall not list them all. In a similar vein, regarding the residence of the wisdom being, other tantras say:
In the heart is Kāñci.
Memory is Himālaya.
Each text thus has its own way of applying the purity. Here, it is not that Samantabhadra and his consort at the heart are transformed into Vajravārāhī. You need to abandon negative thoughts such as thinking that Vajravārāhī is in the heart of Samantabhadra and his consort; and clinging to imputations of such conceptual thoughts as putting one thing inside something else, or one thing touching something else, or thinking that they would mutually obstruct one another. Rather, you need to meditate clearly on the completely perfect deities, who are the radiance of the natural, unfabricated state. In the expanse of light at the level of the heart of the chief goddess, meditate on the wisdom deity Vajravārāhī in an especially clear manner and focus your awareness without wavering. Then, imagine light rays radiating out and gathering in and so on, as described in the Recitation Manual. This is to be understood from the spoken teachings and has the seal of the extraordinary oral tradition. Nevertheless, when doing the recitation of the body maṇḍala, meditate that in the heart of Samantabhadra and consort, within a casket of the union of the sun and moon, is the life-force syllable a (ཨ) surrounded by the mantra garland.
Palding Jetsün Drung, who has the great fortune of having met the profound and swift path and is diligently applying the sacred teachings and practices, sent a messenger from afar urging me to write down some quintessential pith instructions. In the past I made many mistakes by releasing the seal of these sacred words to numerous individuals who didn’t even practise and who simply plundered them. Still, I have only ever explained these things with a pure motivation. Therefore, ḍākinī Dharma custodians, I beg you to consider that and forgive me. Please clear away all errors that reduce the blessing of this Dharma and obscure the great accomplishment, transforming them into great purity! This was written at the glorious Sanctuary of Lotus Light (Pema Ö Ling).
| Translated by Han Kop under the guidance of Tulku Dawa Zangpo of Chorten Gompa and edited by Adam Pearcey and Libby Snape, for the Longchen Nyingtik Project, 2020. This translation was made possible through the generous support of Áron Csöndes.
‘Jigs med gling pa. "yum ka bde chen rgyal mo'i bsnyen yig yang gsal lus dkyil mngon brjod", in gSung 'bum/_'Jigs med gling pa/ （sde dge par ma）. 9 Vols. BDRC W27300. Gangtok, India: Pema Thinley for Dodrupchen Rinpoche, 1985. Vol. 7: 243–249.
___ . "yum ka bde chen rgyal mo'i bsnyen yig yang gsal lus dkyil mngon brjod", in gSung 'bum/_'Jigs med gling pa (a 'dzom par ma/ 'brug spa gro la bskyar par brgyab pa/). 14 Vols. BDRC W7477. A 'dzom chos sgar par khang, 1999?. Vol. 10: 277–286
___ . "yum ka bde chen rgyal mo'i bsnyen yig yang gsal lus dkyil mngon brjod", in gSung 'bum/_'Jigs med gling pa. 9 Vols. BDRC W1KG10193. Gangtok, Sikkim: Sonam T. Kazi, 1970-1975. Vol. 7: 370–380.
___ . "yum ka bde chen rgyal mo'i bsnyen yig yang gsal lus dkyil mngon brjod", in klong chen snying thig rtsa pod. 5 Vols. BDRC W1KG13585. Bodhnath, Kathmandu and Bodhgaya, Bihar: Shechen Publications, 1994. Vol. 1: 321–331.
___ . "yum ka bde chen rgyal mo'i bsnyen yig yang gsal lus dkyil mngon brjod", in rig ’dzin ’jigs med gling pa’i gsung ’bum. 9 Vols. China: Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang & bod ljongs bod yig dpe rnying dpe skrun khang, 2018.
Other Primary Sources
___ . "bshags pa thams cad kyi rgyud dri ma med pa’i rgyal po", in snga ’gyur rgyud ’bum phyogs bsgrigs. 59 Vols. BDRC W1KG14783. Beijing: mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2009. Vol. 17: 7–106.
Kambala (La wa pa). “'khor lo sdom pa’i dka' ’grel sgrub pa’i thabs kyi gleng gzhi". bstan 'gyur (dpe bsdur ma). Beijing: krung go’i bod rig pa’i dpe skrun khang, 1994. Vol. 8: 827–1018
Gray, David. The Cakrasamvara Tantra. New York: American Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2007.
___ . Tsong Khapa’s Illumination of the Hidden Meaning: Maṇḍala, Mantra, and the Cult of the Yoginīs. New York: American Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2017.
Samten Gyaltsen Karmay. The Great Perfection (rDzogs chen): A Philosophical and Meditative Teaching of Tibetan Buddhism (second edition). Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2007.
Sugiki, Tsunehiko. “The Structure and Traditions of the Systems of Holy Sites in Buddhist Samvara Cycle and Its Related Scriptural Cycles in Early Medieval South Asia.” In Shingo Einoo (ed.) Genesis and Development of Tantrism. Tokyo: Institute for Oriental Culture, University of Tokyo, 2009. pp. 515–62
The Main Recitation Manual for the Female Practice of the Queen of Great Bliss, by Jigme Lingpa himself. ↩
This refers to the quotation from The Secret Essence Tantra (Skt. Guhyagarbha Tantra) found in the Recitation Manual. ↩
Tib. rang bzhin yongs grub chen po’i bskyed rim ↩
"Immaculate Confession Tantra (bshags pa thams cad kyi rgyud dri ma med pa’i rgyal po)" in snga ’gyur rgyud ’bum phyogs bsgrig (Beijing: mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2009), Vol. 17: 18. Compared with this edition of the tantra yid byed pa po is omitted here. ↩
Tulku Dawa Zangpo comments that the discussion up to this point concerns Samantabhadra, whereas what follows concerns Samantabhadrā. ↩
Tib. chos bya ba mo. On the distinction between Samantabhadrā/Kun tu bzang mo as the passive object (chos bya ba mo) and Samantabhadra/Kun tu bzang po as the active agent (byed pa po) in the writings of Longchen Rabjam see Samten Gyaltsen Karmay, The Great Perfection, p. 157. ↩
Immaculate Confession Tantra (bshags pa thams cad kyi rgyud dri ma med pa’i rgyal po), Vol. 17: 19. ↩
Skt. śrīvatsa ↩
By Longchen Rabjam ↩
i.e., Guhyagarbha Tantra. ↩
For translations of passages from the Cakrasaṃvara Tantra and Sanskrit spellings, David Gray, The Cakrasamvara Tantra (New York: American Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2007); and Sugiki, 'The Structure and Traditions of the Systems of Holy Sites in Buddhist Samvara Cycle and Its Related Scriptural Cycles in Early Medieval South Asia' have been very helpful. The Cakrasaṃvara Tantra was translated into Tibetan by Padmākara and Rinchen Zangpo (rin chen bzang po; 958–1055); that translation was then revised at least twice. The revision currently accepted as canonical (the one found in the Derge Kangyur) was made by Prajñākīrti and Marpa Dowa (or Mardo) Chökyi Wangchuk (mar pa do ba chos kyi dbang phyug; ca. 1042-ca. 1136); another was made by Sumatikīrti and Locāna Lodrö Drak (mal gyo Lo tsā ba blo gros grags pa; 11th century). Gray comments that the Sumatikīrti revision (the phug brag) is “of great significance as it often provides alternate readings, some (but not all) of which accord more closely with the surviving Sanskrit” (Gray, The Cakrasamvara Tantra, 145.). To make matters more complicated, however, Jigme Lingpa uses a different version from the phug brag that Gray has used. Jigme Lingpa’s version corresponds most closely to another revision, also attributed to Sumatikīrti and Locāna Lodrö Drak (BDRC W2DB54922), although even this is not a complete match. For example, Jigme Lingpa’s text has yi dwags where W2DB54922 has ka+tya che, and elsewhere has sha chen za where W2DB54922 has de bzhin du. ↩
Sugiki (p. 532) has Kulatā, but this spelling does not seem to be attested in any Tibetan text. ↩
Gray and Sugiki have Nagara. This spelling is also found in the commentaries by Vajrapani (W1PD95844, p. 1061) and Tsongkhapa (W20510, p. 248). ↩
Kambala comments in his 'khor lo sdom pa’i dka' ’grel sgrub pa’i thabs kyi gleng gzhi that this means sexual union (snyoms par ‘jugs pa’o). Vol. 8: 991. ↩
The following section is increasingly obscure and it is not possible to completely reconcile the Tibetan with Gray’s translation based on the Sanskrit. The translation is therefore provisional. ↩
All versions of Jigme Lingpa’s text read mtshan ma (sign/mark), yet this must be a mistake for mtshan mo (night), which is to be found in all editions of the tantra. ↩
Tsongkhapa comments that ‘left’ here refers to a woman. See David Gray, Tsong Khapa’s Illumination of the Hidden Meaning: Maṇḍala, Mantra, and the Cult of the Yoginīs (American Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2017), Chapter 41. ↩
These are the final verses of chapter 41. Gray’s translation is as follows: [If] one is always heteropraxical, naked, and equipoised at night, [then] all heroes and yoginis, who are born from the hero, are delighted. The self-emergent worship should be performed with offerings of gesture and dance. Everything is achieved without exception by means of the worship of the left. Gray, The Cakrasamvara Tantra, 336–337. ↩
This line is somewhat obscure. The Tibetan reads: rtags kyi sgo nas mkha' 'gro ma tshogs dang / kun slong gi sgo nas g.yon pa zhes bstan par rig par bya'o ↩
The temple at Jigme Lingpa’s hermitage, Tsering Jong. ↩