Vajrayogini and the Karmapas

Source Himalayan Art

The Karmapas are lineage holders of the practice of Vajrayogini as passed down from Nāropa to Marpa to Milarepa to the 1st Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa onwards. As I wrote about here, it is not correct to say that Nāropa did not pass the lineage to Marpa, although some online sources do. What they actually mean is that the lineage the Karmapas received from Marpa is different to the Khacheri Vajrayogini lineage passed down from Nāropa mainly to Sakya masters. Translator-scholar, Sarah Harding, also wrote an interesting Tsadra Foundation blog post about a historical contention that Marpa does not have the Vajravārāhı transmission, something that Marpa himself clearly disagrees with, and one of Marpa’s texts on Vajrayogini practice is included in the 6th Karmapa’s Collected Works (see below)[1].

Vajravarahi Five Deity Mandala, (Tibetan: dor je pag mo lha nga kyil khor). This painting is dated to the early 16th century because of the presence of seven images of Karmapa wearing the characteristic black hat. The 7th Karmapa Chodrag Gyatso lived between 1454-1506. The composition can be dated to circa 1500 or even a little earlier. https://www.himalayanart.org/items/94

There is still not much available in English on the Karmapas and their works on Vajrayogini (or it is hidden away in obscure academic books/articles, that I have yet to read!).  In any case, here, I offer an excerpt from my translation of Praise to Illuminating Wisdom, White Vārāhı  by the 3rd Karmapa (hidden away in his Collected Works)[2] and have compiled a short catalogue/overview of the texts and sadhanas about Vajrayogini/Vārāhı composed by the Karmapas in their Collected Works. This is not final. At the moment, due to virus lockdowns and location, I am unable to go to any libraries and check other hard-copy Collections (not available on TBRC). However, these are the published texts I was able to find online.  

Karmapas Works on Vajrayogini
Source Himalayan Art

The 1st, 3rd and 6th Karmapas in particular have the most numerous and varied Vajrayogini texts in their works. In terms of the 1st Karmapa there are eleven texts including the Five Forms of Vajravārāhı from the 1st Karmapa’s Five Sets of Five, a four-faced, two-faced and one-faced Vajrayogini practices. The 2nd Karmapa has one text and instruction on the one-faced Vajrayogini.  The 3rd Karmapa’s works have ten texts focused on the Innate Lady Goddess (lhan skyes jo mo) and also several on White Vārāhı (phag mo dkar mo).  The 4th Karmapa contains an instruction text on Vajrayogini.  The 6th Karmapa has the most numerous texts. Including one on the outer history of Vajrayogini and a Vajrayogini practice composed by Marpa. The 8th Karmapa has a Praise to Vajrayogini. There are currently no texts from the 9th to the 14th Karmapa on Vajrayogini.

Source Himalayan Art

The 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje, also performed the Vajrayogini puja in 2013 at the Vajra Vidya Institute.

17th Karmapa, Vajrayogini puja, India 2013.

There is clearly a lot more research and translation that can be done on this topic. For now, I hope this whets people’s hearts and minds to find out more about the glorious Vajrayogini and her forms and practices and the Karmapas.

Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 5th September 2020.

[1]As for the Blessing of Vajravārāhī, Marpa Lhodrakpa does not have it.” WTF? https://www.tsadra.org/2011/03/25/as-for-the-blessing-of-vajravārāhı-marpa-lhodrakpa-does-not-have-it-wtf/

[2] This small praise is contained within bka’ bzhi brgyud pa’i gsol ‘debs/: v. 5, in the Collected Works, TBRC W30541.


PRAISE TO WHITE VĀRĀHI by 3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje

White Varahi

མ་དཔེ་ལས་མི་གསལ་པའི་ལྷ་ལ་ཕྱག་འཚལ་ལོ། ། 

རང་བྱུང་སྟོང་ཉིད་ཡེ་ཤེས་རྡོ་རྗེ ་ཡིས།              རང་གཞན་སྒྲིབ་པའི་བྲག་རི་འཇོམས་བྱེད་ཅིང༌། 

རང་བཞིན་རྟོག་བྲལ་ཕག་མོར་བརྟག་ཁྱོད་ལ།        རང་གཞན་ཀུན་མཁྱེན་ཐོབ་ཕྱིར་བསྟོད་པར་བགྱི། 

Naturally arisen emptiness, vajra primordial-wisdom

Smashing down stony mountain obscurations of self and others

Nature, free of concepts, Vārāhı

I praise you, so myself and others attain omniscience!

མ་རིག་མཚན་མ་རྣམ་དག་ཡེ་ཤེས་སྐུ།    མ་ལུས་རྒྱལ་བའི་ཡུམ་གྱུར་ཕ་རོལ་ཕྱིན།

མ་ལྟར་རྩེ་བས་འགྲོ་ལ་ཉེ་བའི་ལམ།       མ་ནོར་ཇི་བཞིན་སྟོན་མཛད་ཁྱོད་ལ་འདུད། 

Mother of awareness, completely pure primordial wisdom kāya

Mother whose victorious body has become perfection.

Mother whose love is the direct path for beings

Mother wish-fulfilling jewel teacher, I bow down to you!

རྣམ་དག་ཉེས་པའི་སྐྱོན་བྲལ་ཆུས་སྐྱེས་དབུས།        རྣམ་གཡེང་སྒྲིབ་སེལ་ཉི་མའི་གདན།

རྣམ་རྟོག་དབྱིངས་དང་རོ་གཅིག་བམ་ཆེན་སྟེང༌།     རྣམ་ཤེས་ཡེ་ཤེས་གནས་གྱུར་ཁྱོད་ལ་བདུད།

Complete purity, whose core generates water free from polluted faults

Unwavering, whose sun seat shines away obscurations

On top of a huge  corpse, the realm of concepts

Transfoming consciousnesses into primordial wisdom, I bow down to you!

སྤྲིན་བྲལ་ཟླ་འདྲ་ཞལ་གཅིག་ཕྱག་གཉིས་མ།  སྤྲོས་པའི་མཚན་མ་གཅོད་བྱེད་གྲི་གུག་གཡས།

སྤྲས་པའི་རྒྱན་མཆོག་ཐོད་ཁྲག་གཡོན།     སྤྲུལ་པའི་རྣམ་འཕྲུལ་དཔག་ཡས་ལ་ཕྱག་འཚལ།

Like a moon free of clouds, one face, two arms

Right hand, a hooked knife that severs conceptual elaborations

Left hand, a skull-cup supreme, embellished adornment

To the miraculous, limitless emanation, I pay homage!

འཇིག་བྱེད་ཁྲོ་མོའི་ཚུལ་འཆང་གཞོན་ནུ་མ།          འཇམ་མཉེན་སྐུའི་དབྱིབས་སྡུག་ནུ་འབུར་མཛེས།

འཇིགས་རུང་ཐོད་འཕྲེང་རུས་པའི་རྒྱན་གྱིས་སྤུད།           འཇོ་སྒེག་སྒྱུ་མའི་རོལ་གར་མཛད་ལ་འདུད།

Wrathful, terrifying goddess with youthful appearance.

Soft, supple body of gorgeous shape and beautiful bosoms

Adorned with bone ornament necklace of skulls

To the playful dance display of erotic illusory goddess, I bow down!

ཅི་སྙེད་ཅི་བཞིན་གཟིགས་པ་བརྩེ་བའི་ཐུགས།        གང་ལ་གང་གིས་འདུལ་བའི་སྣ་ཚོགས་སྐུར།

དེ་ཡིས་དེ་ཉིད་སྒྲོལ་བའི་གསུང་མཆོག་གི །             སྐྱེ་བ་སྐྱེ་མེད་ཐོབ་མཛད་ཁྱེད་ལ་འདུད།

Seeing whatever appears or ‘as it is’, with a loving heart

Manifesting various forms to tame whoever needs to be tames,

With supreme speech that liberates into suchness

Attainer of born and unborn, to you I bow down!

—Excerpt from ‘Praise to Illuminating Wisdom Varahi by 3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje

Translated and compiled by Adele Tomlin, September 2020.

CATALOGUE OF WORKS BY KARMAPA ON VAJRAYOGINI

FIRST KARMAPA

TBRC W23651

Volume One

Indian Root Text of the Exalted Lady from the Section on the Five Forms of Vajravārāhı from Master Düsum Khyenpa’s Five Sets of Five (rje dus gsum mkhyen pa’i lnga tshan lnga las phag mo lha lnga’i skor las rje btsun ma’i rgya gzhung)

Practice of the Five Forms of Vajravārāhı (phag mo lha lnga’i sgrub thabs)

From the Section on the Five Forms of Vajravārāhı from the 1st Karmapa’s Five Sets of Five

Empowerment Ritual of the Five Forms of Vajravārāhı (phag mo lha lnga’i dbang mchog)

Empowerment of the Five Forms of Vajravārāhı.


The Yidam of the Precious One, the Four-faced Vajrayogini
(rin po che’i thugs dam phag mo zhal bzhi ma)

On the Four-faced Vajrayogini

Section on the Four-faced Vajrayogini (rdo rje rnal ‘byor ma zhal bzhi ma’i skor)

On the Four-faced Vajrayogini

Secret Vajrayogini practice (dpal rdo rje rnal ‘byor ma’i gsang sgrub kyi skor)

On the secret Vajrayogini practice.

Volume 2
Praise of Vajravārāhı – The Joyful Garland (phag mo’i bstod pa rol pa’i phreng ba)

The Visualisation Instruction of the Two-faced Lady (zhal gnyis ma’i mngon rtogs)

Practice Guide of the Glorious Vajrayogini and the Story of the Exalted Sahaja Lady and others (dpal rdo rje rnal ‘byor ma’i sgrub thabs dang rje btsun ma lhan skyes jo mo’i lo rgyus sogs kyi skor)

Vajrayogini practice and the story how Marpa met Niguma.

Practice and Empowerment of the Two-faced Vajravārāhı Together with Empowerment (phag mo zhal gnyis ma’i sgrub thabs dbang bskur dang bcas pa)

Practice of the One-faced Lady, Together with the Fire Puja of Four Activities and the Completion Phase (zhal gcig ma’i sgrub thabs las bzhi sbyin sreg rdzogs rim dang bcas pa’i skor)

Vajravārāhı practice together with Fire Puja of Four Activities and Completion Phase (In-line title: Tib. rdo rje phag mo’i sgrubs thab; Skt. Vajravārāhısadhana).

SECOND KARMAPA

Protection Circle and Instructions of the One-faced Vajrayogini (zhal gcig ma’i bsrung ba dang gdams pa)

Subchapter of spyi lan ring mo.

THIRD KARMAPA

Volume  10
Concise Meaning of the Stainless Instructions on the Innate Lady Composed by Rangjungpa (rang byung pas mdzad pa’i lhan skyes jo mo’i zhal gdams dri med don ‘dus)

Short text connected with the Vajravārāhı cycle.

Instructions, Recitation Stage and Yogic Exercises of the Innate Goddess Composed by the Precious Rangjungpa (lha skyes jo mo’i zhal gdams bzlas rim ‘khrul ‘khor rin po che rang byung pas mdzad pa)

Instructions connected with the Vajravārāhı cycle.

Amendment and Confession for the Exalted Vajrayogini (rje btsun rdo rje rnal ‘byor ma’i bskang bshags)

ritual connected with the invocatory practice of vajrayogini

Volume 11

The Practice of Prajnaloka – The White Vārāhı (shes rab snang ba’i sgrub thabs phag mo dkar mo bzhugs so)

The Practice of the Prajnaloka (shes rab snang ba’i sgrub thabs)

Several small works connected to Vajrayogini practices.

Fire Offering to the White Vajravārāhı (phag mo dkar mo’i me mchod)

FOURTH KARMAPA
Jewel Garland of Essential Instructions of Venerable Vajrayogini – The Wishfulfilling Tree (rje btsun rdo rje rnal ‘byor ma’i man ngag nor bu’i phreng ba dpag bsam ljon shing).

FIFTH KARMAPA

None listed.

SIXTH KARMAPA

Volume 1
Talk on Lineage and Outer Story to Venerate the Authenticity of Vajrajogini

dpal rdo rje rnal ‘byor ma’i khungs btsun par bya ba’i phyir lo rgyus dang brgyud pa’i khung gleng ba

The outer history of Vajrayogini.

Practice of Vajrayogini, Acting on One’s Being by Means of Body, Speech and Mind

sku gsung thugs kyis rgyud mdzad ma’i sgrub thabs

Vajrayogini practice.

Practice of the Exalted Vajrayogini Composed by the Master Marpa Chökyi Lodrö

rje btsun rdo rje rnal ‘byor ma’i sgrub thabs mnga’ bdag mar pa chos kyi blo gros kyis mdzad pa

Vajrayogini practice composed by Marpa.

Volume 2
Secret Practice on Glorious Vajrayogini Composed by Venerable Marpa to Benefit Milarepa

dpal rdo rje rnal ‘byor ma’i gsang sgrub rje mar pas mi la’i don du mdzad pa

Secret practice of Vajrayogini.

Secret Practice on Bhagavati Vajrayogini

bcom ldan ‘das rdo rje rnal ‘byor ma’i gsang sgrub

Secret practice of Vajrayogini.

Brief Instruction and Protective Circle of Vajrayogini

rdo rje rnal ‘byor ma’i gdams pa phran dang bsrung ba’i ‘khor lo

Protective Circle of Vajrayogini.

Instruction on the Innate Lady Composed by Rangjungpa – The Concise Meaning of the Stainless Daily Practice

rang byung pas mdzad pa’i lhan skyes jo mo’i zhal gdams ngag ‘don dri med don ‘dus

The text of the Third Karmapa. Instructions, Recitation Stage, and Yogic Exercises of the Innate Lady Composed by the Precious Rangjungpa

Secret Practice of the Exalted Vajrayogini – Indian Root Text Including Notes From Düsum Khyenpa’s Own System

rje btsun rdo rje rnal ‘byor ma’i gsang sgrub mtshur phu pa’i rang lugs kyis zin bris de dang ‘brel ba’i rgya gzhung

The Indian original text together with notes from Düsum Khyenpa’s system. mTshur phu pa is the toponymical name of the 1st Karmapa.

Garland of Gems, the Essential Instructions of the Exalted Vajrayogini – Wish-Fulfiling Tree

rje btsun rdo rje rnal ‘byor ma’i man ngag nor bu’i phreng ba dpag bsam ljon shing

Essential instructions on Vajrayogini.

Notes on the Secret Practice of the Exalted Lady

rje btsun ma’i gsang sgrub kyi zin bris

Short description:

Notes on the Secret Practice of Vajrayogini.

Volume 3

The Practice of Essential Instructions and the Mandala Ritual of the Glorious Sahaja Vajrayogini – Guide Elucidating the Swift Path of the Great Highest Secret

dpal ldan lhan cig skyes ma rdo rje rnal ‘byor ma’i man ngag gi sgrub thabs dkyil ‘khor gyi cho ga gsang chen mchog gi myur lam gsal ba’i ‘dren pa

EIGHTH KARMAPA

Volume 3

Praise to Vajrayogini

rdo rje rnal ‘byor ma’i bstod pa/

NINTH KARMAPA

No texts listed. Many of the texts are about mahamudrs or Dharma protectors.

TENTH KARMAPA

None listed.

ELEVENTH KARMAPA

Collected Works not available online.

TWELFTH KARMAPA

Collected Works not available online.

THIRTEENTH KARMAPA

None listed.

FOURTEENTH KARMAPA

None listed.

FIFTEENTH KARMAPA

Ganapuja and amendment ritual addressed to varayogini and five deity retinue

rdo rje rnal ‘byor ma lha lnga’i sgrub thabs tshogs mchod bcas nyung ngur bsdebs pa ye shes char rgyun/.  11 ff. (pp. 819-840)

One thought on “Vajrayogini and the Karmapas

  1. Vajravarahi transmission were held as chikgyuma -one teacher-student transmission until 10th Karmapa . Anyone outside the line of transmission could not simply know . It’s not about some partial texts here and there. Back then it was rather sectarian bragging about transmissions. Even today when practising Vajravarahi one copy the text by hand only.

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