The seventh installation on the Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo transmissions in Siliguri, India, January 2020, is about the Kurukullā empowerment given on the 12th day of the event (21st January). Before giving more detail about the Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo re-discovered treasure text itself, I give a little introduction to the goddess deity, her function and mantra. Although this article is for information and public interest, please bear in mind that one should not practice Kurukullā without the correct transmission and empowerment from a fully qualified lineage master.
The red goddess of magical domination and subjugation
Kurukullā (ཀུ་རུ་ཀུ་ལླཱ་; རིག་བྱེད་མ་, rig byed ma “Knowledge/magic/vidyā Woman”) is a female, peaceful to semi-wrathful Yidam of the Lotus family in Tibetan Buddhism particularly associated with rites of magnetization or enchantment. Her Sanskrit name is of unclear origin. She is usually depicted as red in colour, in dancing posture and holding a flowery bow and arrow. She is also one of the Twenty-One Taras mentioned in the ancient Tara tantra.
Some sources say that Kurukullā was likely an Indian tribal deity associated with magical domination and was assimilated into the Buddhist pantheon at least as early as the Hevajra Tantra, which contains her mantra. Her function in Tibetan Buddhism is the “red” function of subjugation.
The practice of Kurukullā is found in all four Buddhist schools. In the Tengyur there are found a number of sadhana texts for Kurukullā besides that composed by King Indrabhuti. In them her name is usually not translated into Tibetan, but given in the variant form Ku-ru-ku-lle. However, the chief canonical source for the goddess, found in the Tantra section (rgyud) of the Kangyur, is the Arya Tara Kurukullā Kalpa (‘Phags-ma sgrol-ma ku-ru-ku-lle’i rtog-pa), “The Magical Rituals for the Noble Tara Kurukullā .” This text was translated into Tibetan by Tsultrim Gyewa, a Tibetan disciple of the great Indian master Atisha (982-1054). A translation of this text into English can be found on the Khyentse Foundation’s 84000 website, here.
In an article about Kurukullā and magnetising activity, what it is and why to practice it, Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche says that:
“When sambhogakayas arise in the realms of the world by ‘displaying movement without ever moving from the dharmakaya’, the manifestations that appear are in essence the buddhas of the five families. Among these deities, the natural expression of the wisdom of discernment manifests as the deities of the lotus family of magnetizing. The two aspects of skilful means and wisdom need to appear and manifest in deities. In the lotus family, the main deities are Amitabha, who is the manifestation of the skilful means aspect, and Guhyajñana or Pandaravasini corresponding to the wisdom aspect. When the deities manifest, their features such as their mantras, mudras, and samadhis also appear.
The deity that we are practising now is one of these deities who is the natural expression of the wisdom of discernment, and the manifestation of the wisdom aspect. She is known as Kurukulla by Buddhists, and Umadevi by Hindus.
Even though there is fundamentally no difference between the different deities, the manifestations of the wisdom of discernment are the deities of the lotus family of magnetizing. The magnetizing deities have the power to bring circumstances under control.”
He then gives a fascinating anecdote about Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo:
“This practice works. For example, it is said that when Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo wanted to see somebody, he just had to direct his mind and the person would come. He was able to magnetize that person simply by directing his mind.”
oṃ kurukulle hūṃ hrīḥ svāhā
Her seed syllable hrīḥ is said to emphasises her relationship to Buddha Amitābha. For more on the mantra and how it is written in Tibetan, Devanāgarī, Siddhaṃ, see here. The mantra says Kurukulle and not Kurukullā yet this is because of the vocative form of Sanskrit grammar. The proper noun in Sanskrit is thus Kurukullā , although Tibetans call her Kurukulle.
The Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo Rediscovered Treasure of Rongzom’s Kurukullā
Here is an image (above) from the Rinchen Terdzo called the Khyentse Wangpo Rediscovered (yangter) Treasure of Rongzom, Padma Dakini (mkhyen brtse’i yang gter rong zom padma mkha’ ‘gro).
The terma treasure Jamyang Khyentse re-discovered was revealed by Rongzom Chokyi Zangpo (1042-1146) aka Rongzompa lived in the 11th century. He was born in Tsang rong and met Atisha in his youth. He mastered the teachings of both Nyingma and Sarma traditions. He translated many works on secret mantra, some of which are preserved in the Tengyur and some of which did not survive. As well as his remarkable scholarship, he also manifested many signs of his deep realization. The historian Gö Lotsawa said of him: “In this snowland of Tibet no scholar has appeared who has been his equal.” Atisha recognized Rongzom as an emanation of the Indian mahasiddha Krishnacharya. For more on his life and background see here. Widely known as Rongzom Mahapandita, Rongzom Dharmabhadra, or simply as Rongzompa, was one of the most important scholars of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. Together with Longchenpa and Ju Mipham, he is often considered to be one of the three “omniscient” writers of the school.
This re-discovered terma cycle contains eight texts, which can all be read in Tibetan here. The empowerment given in Siliguri was this one, Melody of Joyful Great Bliss (pad+ma mkha’ ‘gro ma rig byed rtsal gyi bsnyen sgrub phrin las kyi byang bu dbang bskur dang bcas pa bde chen dgyes pa’i dbyangs snyan)པདྨ་མཁའ་འགྲོ་མ་རིག་བྱེད་རྩལ་གྱི་བསྙེན་སྒྲུབ་ཕྲིན་ལས་ཀྱི་བྱང་བུ་དབང་བསྐུར་དང་བཅས་པ་བདེ་ཆེན་དགྱེས་པའི་དབྱངས་སྙན་ ). There is also an edition available on TBRC, W20578 here.
In terms of the visual appearance of Kurukulla, there are various descriptions of her, as detailed here in this online resource about the goddess and the Nyingma Terma tradition:
“In the Nyingmapa Terma tradition, she occurs in her two or four-armed form. In the Terma cycle of Chogyur Lingpa (1829-1870), she appears in her conventional four-armed form. In the Terma of Apong Tulku, one of the sons of the famous 19th century Terton Dudjom Lingpa, she occurs in a two-armed form, sitting at ease, appearing much like the more usual form of Green Tara. She holds in her right hand a vase filled with amrita nectar and in her left hand before her heart the stem of a lotus and on the blossom itself by her ear is a miniature bow and arrow. In this guise she is specifically called Red Tara (sgrol-ma dmar-mo). In the Terma cycle of Dudjom Lingpa (1835-1904), Kurukulla represents the inner aspect of Dechen Gyalmo, the yogini form of Yeshe Tsogyal, the consort of Guru Padmasambhava. Moreover, it is interesting that in many Nyingmapa Terma texts, including Chogyur Lingpa and Dudjom Lingpa, the Hindu god Mahadeva (or Shiva) and his consort Uma are closely associated with Kurukulla as guardian deities (srung-ma) with the magical function of enchantment. Mahadeva and Uma are offered a red torma cake and charged to fulfill the task of bringing others under one’s power.”
In the Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo terma, Kurukulla is red in colour and holds a bow and arrow of uptala flowers in her upper two arms. In the lower left hand, resting on her hipbone, she holds a skull cup filled with blood, representing her robbing their will and subjugating beings of three realms. In the lower right hand, she holds and bangs a small damaru drum, that causes all three realms of beings to tremble and shake.
None of these texts in this cycle have yet been translated into English, but I may try and start working on some of these in the near future. There is a Short Tsok Offering to the Powerful Lady Kurukullā ( ༄༅། །རིགས་བྱེད་དབང་མོའི་ཚོགས་མཆོད་མདོར་བསྡུས་ནི། ) by Jamyang Khyentsé Wangpo, which has been already translated into English and is available for free download on Lotsawa House here.
Photos of that day of the Siliguri empowerment can be seen here.
- Beyer, Stephan (1978). The Cult of Tara: Magic and Ritual in Tibet. University of California Press. pp. 301–310. ISBN 0-520-03635-2.
- Dharmachakra Translation Committee (tr.) (2011). The Practice Manual of Noble Tara Kurukulle (PDF). 84000. Retrieved 2015-03-22.
- Reynolds, John Myrdhin. “Kurukulla: The Dakini of Magic and Enchantments”. Vajranatha.com. Retrieved 2016-05-28.
- Donaldson, Thomas E. (2001). Iconography of the Buddhist Sculpture of Orissa: Text. Abhinav Publications. pp. 298–301. ISBN 9788170174066.
- Shaw, Miranda (2006). “Krukulla: Red Enchantress with Flowered Bow”. Buddhist Goddesses of India. Princeton University Press. pp. 432–447. ISBN 978-0691127583.
- Vessantara (2003). “Kurukulla and the Rite of Fascination”. Female Deities in Buddhism: A Concise Guide. Windhorse Publications. pp. 79–81. ISBN 9781899579532.
- Kurukulla Main Page at HimalayanArt.com
- The Practice Manual of Noble Tara Kurukulle – translated from the Tibetan canon – at 84000.
- Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche on Kurukulla and Magnetizing Practice
Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 14th February 2020.