THE SAKYA JEWEL-HOLDERS: LION-FACED DAKINI, ONE HUNDRED SADHANAS OF BARI, LAMDRE AND PARTING FROM THE FOUR ATTACHMENTS. The connection and transmissions of Bari Lotsāwa and his student Sachen Kunga Nyingpo 2nd Sakya Trizin, Bari Lotsāwa and his student 3rd Sakya Trizin, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo’s connection and transmissions


For the new moon of the 11th Tibetan month (21st January 2023), the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Water-Rabbit year, and the anniversary of Sakya lineage master, the 37th Sakya Trizin, Kunga Nyingpo Samphel Norbu (1850-1899), as an offering to the Sakya lineage, here is a short piece on another Kungpa Nyingpo, together with one of his most important teachers, (sometimes referred to as the 2nd Sakya Trizin) Bari Lotsāwa, a renowned translator and tantric practitioner, who also was given the Lion-Faced Ḍākinī (Siṃhamukhā) transmission directly, and is one of the main lineage holders of that tradition. Bari was one of the few Sakya lineage holders who was not a member of the prominent Kohn Family. [1]

Having recently written about Sakya Avikrita Vajra Rinpoche’s teachings on Lama Dampa Sonam Gyeltsen’s letter to his students, and the teaching that Tārā gave Sakya Paṇḍita directly, today I also launch a new section of the website here, dedicated to articles and translations connected to the Sakya Trizin (throne holders) and other Sakya lineages and texts.  

First, I give some background on Sachen Kunga Nyingpo and his connection to Bari Lotsāwa. Then, I go on to explain Bari Lotsāwa’s background, including his renowned collection of One Hundred Sadhanas (Bari Gyatsa) and the history behind his revelation and practice of the Lion-Faced Ḍākinī mantra. Finally, I consider some of the Lion-Faced Ḍākinī works by lineage-holder Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and some Lion-Faced Dakini texts by Karma Chagme and Jetsun Tāranātha I have translated that are available for free download.

Music? Listen to the Lion by Van Morrison, and Can you Feel the Love Tonight? from The Lion King….roar 🙂

Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 21st January 2022.

Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158)
3rd Sakya Trizin, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158). Source: HAR.

According to the Treasury of Lives biography by Dominque Townsend:

“Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (sa chen kun dga’ snying po) was the son of Khon Konchok Gyelpo (‘khon dkon mchog rgyal po, 1034-1102), the first Sakya throne holder and the founder of Sakya monastery. Sachen’s mother was known as Machik Zhangmo (ma gcig zhang mo, d.u.). Sachen’s father oversaw his early education and transmitted the three Hevajra Tantras to him as a young child. In addition to his father, Bari Lotsāwa (ba ri Lo tsa ba rin chen grags pa, 1040-1112), the second Sakya throne holder and a great translator, was an important early teacher for Sachen. Khon Konchok Gyelpo passed away when Sachen was eleven, at which time Bari Lotsāwa took the Sakya throne since Sachen was too young to replace his father.

At the age of twelve, under Bari Lotsāwa’s guidance, Sachen did a six-month retreat on Mañjuśrī and reported a remarkable vision that inspired the now longstanding and widely practiced teaching known as Parting from the Four Attachments (zhen pa bzhi bral).

Just before passing away in 1111, Bari Lotsāwa passed the position of throne holder on to the twenty-year old Sachen, who continued to study with various masters after assuming the throne.”

Sachen also received the full transmission of Lamdre from Zhangton Chobar. When the teachings were complete, Zhangton advised Sachen not to teach Lamdre for eighteen years, after which time he could teach and write about it freely. These teachings would become the core of the Sakya tradition:

“Sachen followed this advice and over the course of the next eighteen years he meditated intensively on the sequential transmission he received from Zhangton Chobar. At the age of forty-six he had a vision in which Virūpa bestowed a direct transmission of the Lamdre. In 1141 he began teaching and writing on both the sequential and direct transmissions of the Lamdre.”

Sachen had many prominent students, including Pakmodrupa (phag mo gru pa rdo rje rgyal po, 1110-1170). His eleven closest disciples are remembered for having either continued Sachen’s oral Lamdre teachings, for writing commentaries on his writings, or for becoming great teachers. His sons Sonam Tsemo and Drakpa Gyeltsen, who followed Sachen as the next Sakya throne holders and patriarchs, were two of his closest disciples.”

For more on the transmissions he received from Bari Lotsāwa, see below.

Bari Lotsawa (1040-1111) and the One Hundred Sadhanas of Bari (Bari Gyatsa)
This Ushnishavijaya Stupa which is believed to have survived the destruction of the North Monastery was discovered under the rubble of the roof and walls. It is the stupa in which the mortal remains of Bari Lotsawa were placed after his death and considered one of the four precious and sacred sights of Sakya Town.

Bari Lotsāwa (ba ri lo tsA), ‘the translator of Bari’, (Rinchen Drak (rin chen grags) (1040-1111) was the second throne holder of Sakya school. At the age of 63, he retained the seat of Sakya for a period of eight years (1102-1110).  There is no biography for him on Treasury of Lives.  He is one of the few Sakya throne holders who was not a member of the prominent Khon family.

He is one of the main lineage figures in the transmission and translation of the White Tara practice and tantras that originate from the Indian master Vagishvarakirti. Perhaps his outstanding legacy has been the famous collection of deity-meditations known as the One Hundred Sadhanas of Bari (Bari Gyatsa) which has been preserved into modern times where it still forms a vital part of contemporary vajrayana practice. More on that in another post!

Bari Lotsāwa (ba ri lo tsA), ‘the translator of Bari’, (aka Rinchen Drak (rin chen grags) (1040-1111)

According to one online biography:

“Bari Lotsawa was born in Kham in 1040 AD. His personal name was Rinchen Drakpa. Having studied the dharma in his childhood, by the age of fifteen Bari Lotsawa had decided to travel to India. His ambition was to train as a translator in the footsteps of such luminaries of the ‘new translation era’ as Rinchen Zangpo and Drokmi Lotsawa.

On the way Bari met Atisha at Nyethang shortly before the latter’s death. During this meeting Bari was advised to study in India with Dorje Denpa, a great master of vajrayana and disciple of such siddhas as Jetari.

Bari Lotsawa made two extensive visits to India, where he received innumerable initiations and teachings from Dorje Denpa and other masters. He experienced a number of visions of his yidams Chenrezik and Tara at whose prompting he performed acts of considerable kindness such as ransoming those unjustly imprisoned. Subsequently in Ngari, Western Tibet, he received teachings on the five principal works of Nagarjuna from the scholar Parahita.

Having achieved realisation through intensive study and practice, Bari Lotsawa gathered many disciples throughout Tibet. In 1103, following the death of Khon Konchok Gyalpo, the founder of Sakya, some of the latter’s disciples invited Bari Lotsawa to Sakya. Their plan was for him to act as tutor for Konchok Gyalpo’s son, Kunga Nyingpo, who was then only 11 years old. It is said that it was only after sorcery was performed towards him that Bari Lotsawa acceded to this request. Bari Lotsawa took charge of Sachen Kunga Nyingpo’s training and acted as the ‘throne holder’, or head of Sakya, until his own death in 1111 at which time he was succeeded by Sachen himself.

During these years Bari Lotsawa bestowed various mahayana teachings upon his young disciple but most importantly transmitted a host of tantric teachings to him. These included The One Hundred Sadhanas, a collection of teachings that he had received in India from Dorje Denpa and other panditas, the Guhyasamaja tantra, the Yamantaka tantra and the three tantras of Hevajra. One of the four sources of Mahakala Gonpo Gur in the Sakya tradition derives from Bari Lotsawa’s bestowal of the relevant initiation upon Sachen Kunga Nyingpo. Furthermore, four of the famous esoteric teachings, known as The Thirteen Golden Dharmas, viz. Kurukulla, Kamaraja, Simhamukha and Black Manjushri, were transmitted to Sachen by Bari Lotsawa.

The Hundred Sadhanas of Bari in particular became one of the most famous cycles of vajrayana practices in the Sakya tradition and attracted many adherents from other schools. It is an incomparable repository of deity meditations drawn from all four sets of tantras though possessing a particular emphasis on Kriya and Charya tantras. Thus it contains many techniques for acquisition of both mundane and transcendental accomplishment. Within the collection are many sadhanas of deities bestowing wisdom such as Manjushri and Prajnaparamita, and numerous sadhanas of compassion bestowing deities such as Chenrezik, longevity bestowing deities as represented by White Tara and Namgyalma, while wealth-bestowing deities include Dzambala and Vasudhara. There are Guhyasamaja tantra, the Yamantaka a number of sadhanas of magnetising deities such as Kurukulla found in the collection as well as wrathful deities like Yamari and Hayagriva. Deities bestowing fearlessness such as Marichi and the ‘five protection goddesses’ are also contained in the hundred sadhanas as well as deities providing remedial help for particular disturbances such as Parnashavari and Achala.

The Hundred Sadhanas of Bari has been transmitted in an unbroken lineage within the Sakya school down to this present day. At the end of the 19th century Jamgon Loter Wangpo included the collection in his monumental compendium The Collection of All Sadhanas (Drubthap Kundu). Loter Wangpo bestowed the Bari sadhanas and the rest of the compendium upon Dakshul Thinley Rinchen, the then Sakya Trizin, and grandfather of His Holiness, the present Sakya Trizin. Thinley Rinchen (after whom our centre is named) then bestowed them upon his sister Pema Thinley Dudul Wangmo, who in turn transmitted them to Zimok Tulku from Nalendra monastery, the headquarters of the Tsharpa sub-sect in central Tibet.”

Bari Lotsāwa and the Revelation of the Lion-Faced Ḍākinī

I have written about the Bari Lotsāwa tradition of Lion-Faced Ḍākinī before here, and translated a brief daily sadhana text of Bari Lotsāwa’s Lion-faced Ḍākinī by Karma Chagme, published and available for free download on the same page.  The empowerment and transmission for this text was given by HE Gyaltsab Rinpoche in Sikkim, 2019 (for more information about that event, see here).

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo wrote a history of the hearing lineage of Siṃhamukhā, which has been translated and published in English online here. According to that biography:

“The great lotsawa Baripa of Dring Tsam went to India in order to listen to, study, practice and translate the sūtras and tantras written in Indic languages. Afterwards he travelled to Nepal, where he received teachings from Chiterwa the Newar, and trained and conversed with him. During his stay in Nepal, Baripa engaged in dialogue and debate with the heretic teacher Bhavyarāja. Day after day, Bhavyarāja would defeat the lotsawa and win the debate. Despondent, finally one evening the lotsawa invoked his gurus, iṣṭadevatās and especially Acala and prayed to them for help. The next morning the lotsawa triumphed in the debate, with the heretic Bhavya experiencing a devastating loss. Bhavya became furious, and warned Master Baripa, saying, “You’ve slipped into a bad habit! Now I will cast spells upon you. You will either be left defeated and humiliated in no more than seven days, or you will be forced by the power of my black magic to accept my teachings!”

 In terror, Baripa requested his teacher Chiterwa for help who advised him to go to India to meet with spiritual master Vajrāsana (Dorje Denpa), who advised him to propitiate the Dakinis with puja offerings and pray for their help:

Guru Mahāvajrāsana replied, “O lotsawa! Do not be afraid of the heretic teacher! I have a variety of pith instructions for protection and reversal; one in particular is exceptionally profound and acute. In order to retrieve it, first you must prepare an excellent torma of flesh and blood on the evening of the tenth day of the month. While offering it, one-pointedly invoke and pray to the assembly of the Three Jewels and your gurus, iṣṭadevatās and ḍākinīs. Then at dawn you will receive a prophecy from the ḍākinīs.”

So the lotsawa prepared a gaṇacakra using four sang of gold and undertook the invocation. The gurus, iṣṭadevatās and ḍākinīs paid heed and as a result granted him the following prophecy, proclaiming, “O lotsawa! Do not be afraid of the heretic! We will grant you protection!”

The principle ḍākinī of this assembly was the esteemed wisdom ḍākinī Siṃhamukhā, who counselled him, saying, “The supreme among all pith instructions, combining the red, black and mottled like an ocean of amṛta which annihilates all, lies hidden about one krośa to the south of the Vajra Throne. Search there for an iron boulder that looks like a dead yak. Beneath it you will find black earth in the shape of a triangle. If you dig there you will find a small sealed chest covered by charcoal. Inside of this there is a rhinoceros leather chest. Inside of this there is a chest made of the bodhi-tree wood. This chest contains a silver chest. Within the silver chest is a precious chest of gold. Within the gold chest is a turquoise chest. Inside the turquoise chest is a lapis-lazuli chest. Within this is a ruby chest, within which, wrapped in maroon-coloured silk and human skin, you will find ‘the fourteen-syllable fierce averting mantra’, written with the heart-blood of all ḍākinīs; it does not begin with oṃ, and it does not end with svāhā. It is ornamented by neither i’s nor u’s, neither o’s nor e’s. It is written without spaces between the syllables in one single continuous line. Once you have uncovered it, recite it every day twenty-one times, and you will be protected from all evil spells; you will avert all that is harmful, pacify all adversities and obstacles, and all siddhis and all that is favourable will come to you. If you recite it twenty-one times in the morning and strong disturbing negative thoughts arise, do not recite it any more!”  With those words, Siṃhamukhā vanished without a trace, like a rainbow into thin air.

So the lotsawa left before the break of dawn, carrying with him a large red torma as an offering. Soon he reached a yak-shaped boulder. As instructed, he dug where he found triangular-shaped black earth, and first came forth the charcoal. Then, as the prophecy foretold, he took out the chests, and so he revealed the life-force mantra of all the ḍākinīs, the pith-instruction which is like an ocean of amṛta. In exchange for the treasure, the lotsawa placed a precious golden text in the chest and then hid it again just as he had found it. The lotsawa then recited the mantra according to the pith instruction, day and night without interruption.

Eventually, Bari succeeded in hurling all the negative energy back at its source in Nepal. The rebound was so strong that it killed the sorcerer. On hearing this, Guru Vajrāsana ordered Bari to do penance and purification practices in order to cleanse the negativity of his act:

The great Vajrāsana replied, “It would have sufficed merely to wear the mantra I have spoken of on your body, but you have recited the mantra day and night without interruption! Thus you have accumulated the fault of killing. Now you must exert yourself in purifying this bad deed. Do not return to me until definite signs arise that it has been purified.”

For one whole year, then, the lotsawa exerted himself in purifying this evil, during which time he did not have a single opportunity to meet his guru, the great Vajrāsana. The close disciples of Vajrāsana, without any signs of pride, treated Baripa with great kindness, bringing him food and liquor[22] when possible, along with anything else he needed, all without the guru’s knowing. When signs finally arose that Baripa had purified his evil deeds, and his guru’s command, his wish, had been accomplished and fulfilled, he was once again able to meet his guru.

Returning to Tibet, Bari conferred the Lion-Faced Ḍākinī practice upon Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (Sa-chen kun-dga’ snying-po, 1092-1158), both the oral instructions and the magical rituals. In this way, the Lion-Faced Ḍākinī from Bari Lotsawa become one of the Thirteen Golden Dharmas (gser chos lugs) of the Sakyapa tradition. These teachings descended to Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, who was himself a Sakya Lama.”

The Bari lineage is Vajradhara, Simhamukha, Vajrasana, Bari Lotsawa Rinchen Drag, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158) and the five Founders of Sakya onwards. It also continued into the Kagyu and Gelug lineages.

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s Excellent Vase of Precious Jewels sadhanas and commentary
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1st incarnation)

The most extensive Tibetan commentary on Siṃhamukhā practice is that by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892). The text is entitled “The Excellent Vase of Precious Jewels” (Rin-chen bum bzang). This text draws on both the Nyingmapa tradition, where the Dakini is associated with Padmasambhava and on the traditions of the Newer Schools, especially the Sakyapa and the Bodongpa. 

Here are found a number of sadhanas and magical rites connected with Siṃhamukhā, as well as a history of the revelation of the practices connected with Bari Lotsawa and Sangye Gonpo. The text compiled by the first Khyentse Rinpoche is mainly based on the teachings of Sangye Gonpo, but the former collected many different texts and put them together in a single volume. It can be read in Tibetan on TBRC 21807, Volume 12, Pages 143 – 326. 

Khyentse Wangpo gives three sadhanas for the outer, inner, and secret forms of Simhamukha, composed by Padma Gargyi Wangchuk (Padma gar gyi dbang-phyug), also known as Jamgon Kongtrul (‘Jam-mgon kong-sprul, 1813-1899). I hope to translate these sadhanas in the future.

Lion-Faced Ḍākinī Translations

I myself have received several Lion-Faced Ḍākinī empowerment and transmissions, including twice from HE 12th Gyaltsab Rinpoche (at Bokar Monastery, 2018 and Ralang Monastery, 2019). I have also received the transmission of the Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo sadhanas and texts on Lion-Faced Ḍākinī during the transmissions of his Collected Works by HE Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche, Siliguri India, 2020.

Lion-Faced Ḍākinī sadhana by Karma Chagme. Translated and edited by Adele Tomlin. Dakini Publications 2018. Free download here.

Lion-Faced Ḍākinī sadhana by Jetsun Tāranātha. Translated and edited by Adele Tomlin. Dakini Publications 2018. Free download here.

Short recitation of Lion-Faced Ḍākinī by 13th Karmapa, Dudul DorjeTranslated and edited by Adele Tomlin. Dakini Publications 2020. Download text here.

Shower of Vajras: the Bari Tradition Blue Lion-Faced Ḍākinī and Retinue sadhana by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. Translated and edited by Adele Tomlin. Forthcoming Dakini Publications.


[1] Eminent scholar, Jorg Heimbel helpfully pointed out to me on the FB post of this article that the title Sakya Trizin was not used in those early days though, and generally applied afterwards to these teachers and that the online standardisation of these terms “lacks a proper treatment of the development of terms used for the heads of the Sakya school and the implications those terms have had. There is also another term for the first Sakya Khön masters, which is more commonly employed in secondary sources:་ sa skya gong ma rnam lnga, the five supreme masters of Sakya, the five Sakya forefathers, or the five Sakya founding fathers. (Still these days the present Sakya Trichen is referred to as Gong ma Rin po che.) These five were Sa chen Kun dga’ snying po (1092–1158), Slob dpon bSod nams rtse mo (1142–1182), rJe btsun Grags pa rgyal mtshan (1147–1216), Sa skya Paṇḍita (1182–1251), and ’Phags pa Blo gros rgyal mtshan (1235–1280).”

Further Reading/Sources

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