Yeshe Tsogyal: Sex and Initiation

Sometime in the eighth century A.D., Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) the Indian Master of Tantra, gave the following teaching to his consort and disciple Yeshe Tsogyal. Though this text is very esoteric and difficult to fully comprehend, it is highly valuable. In particular, this passage stands out, but must be understood in context; in Tantra, bodhichitta is an esoteric term for sexual energy.

"If there is leakage of bodhichitta, the Buddha Unchanging Light is slain, and since there is no superior presence to whom such a crime can be acknowledged and thus atoned, such karma as that of the Avichi Hell results. Therefore, with the power of retraction, drawing up 'love' with the base energy of life-force, I held it in the pot of my belly, and maintaining the recollection of pleasure uncontaminated by lust, divesting myself of mind-created samadhi yet not slipping into an instant of torpor, I experienced the ascent of Awareness."

In other words, by retaining the sexual energy, consciousness is awakened.

Yeshe Tsogyal relates her experience and the instructions she received as follows:

The Third Initiation

Obeying the Guru's instruction, sealing my body as a lighted butter-lamp, I applied myself to meditation until Awareness, the value of the initiation, had become strong. Initially, I was oppressed by anxiety, but later the sounds of the syllables in the focal points of the psychic nerves resonated spontaneously; I gained full awareness and perfect control of my vital breath and energy flows, and instinctive and immediate knowledge of how to employ them; I attained intuition of the meaning of seed-essence as mahamudra; and the potential of the warmth of transcendent delight was fully realised. Thereafter, the capricious movements of karmic energy subsided, the energy of Awareness injected into the medial nerve; and a few signs of mastery occurred.

However, the Guru enjoined me 'not to eat the barley until it was ripe', that my initiations were not yet complete. So with greater faith in Guru Rimpoche than the Buddha himself, I addressed him thus:

0 Venerable Orgyen Rimpoche,
Superior to the Buddhas past, present and future,
To myself and other mean and lowly beings
I beg you to grant the Supreme Initiation.

Then the Guru appeared as the mandala of the Red Heruka, and from the syllable HUNG in his heart extremely fierce beams of red light radiating and again concentrating in his mandala, he took up the Absolute Heruka in his hand like a spear, and he replied:

Listen without distraction,
Dakini Tsogyelma, Queen Kuntuzangmo, listen
If you wish the seed to infuse your inner mandala,
Offer your mandala of mystic delight.
If you speak of this method your Samara is broken.

I, the girl Tsogyel, sank beneath mundane appearances, and having slipped into the nakedness of pure pleasure, I anointed my mandala of delight with the five sacred substances, and made further petition:

Buddha Hero of Pure Pleasure, do as you will.
Guru and Lord of Pure Pleasure,
With true energy and joy, I implore you to inject
The seed into the inner mandala.
And I will guard the secret of the method with my life.

Then with three fingers stirring the pollen dust of the lotus, I offered my mandala to the mandala of the Guru's Body with an intense snake-like dance. The mandala of dynamic space having gathered into itself the nature of the Great Pema Heruka himself by means of the hook of the lower member's focal point, the Absolute Heruka, his magnificent flaming vajra [editor: phallus] in a state of rapacity and violent abuse, his wrinkles uncreased, projecting his full emanation, took command of the lotus throne [editor: vagina] with a roar of scornful laughter that flooded appearances with glory, transmuting them into pure pleasure. Thus he revealed to me the Mandala of the Blazing Sun of Radiant Inner Space, conferring power upon me.

In this mandala of mystic union, Skilful Means and Insight, in this radiant mandala of Pure Being and Light Seed - the Pure Being of the Sublime Pure Land of the Four Herukas, the masters of the four focal points, and the Light Seed that is the actuality of a hundred million seed syllables - I was conferred the initiation and empowerment of the four joys.

Out of the bliss-waves of the forehead centre of our union, in the sphere of intense experience of Awareness of joy, arose a white paradise divided into thirty-two lesser pure lands. In each of these pure lands was a white Heruka in mystic union with his Consort surrounded by hundreds of thousands, an incalculable number, of Herukas and their Consorts identical to the principal. In the centre of this vast mandala was the Master of all the Herukas, the principal Heruka and Consort into whose Awareness of joy I received initiation. Through this joy the passion of anger was purified, the body cleansed of all traces of habitual action and reaction patterns, insight was gained into the elements of the path of application, and I was enabled to act for the benefit of the seven worlds of the ten directions. At this level I was conferred the secret initiatory name, Tsogyel the White Goddess of Pure Pleasure (Dechen Karmo Tsogyel).

Accordingly, in the throat centre was a yellow paradise divided into sixteen pure lands in each of which was a yellow Heruka in union with his Consort surrounded by hundreds of thousands of identical Herukas as in the forehead centre. In the middle of this mandala was the master of all the yellow Herukas, Ratna Vira and Consort, from whom I received initiation into all the infinite potentialities of superior joy. Thus the passion of desire was purified, all traces of action and reaction patterns were eradicated, and I gained insight into all the elements of the path of accumulation, obtaining the ability to assist the twenty worlds of the ten directions. Here, I received the secret name Tsogyel the Quality Increasing Yellow Goddess (Yonten Gyeje Sermo Tsogyel).

In the same way, in the blue-black paradise of the heart centre comprised of eight lesser pure lands were eight blue-black Herukas in union with their Consorts surrounded by innumerable likenesses as above. In the centre was the master of all the blue-black Herukas, the principal Heruka, Buddha Vira and Consort, who initiated me into the mahamudra of supreme joy. Thus all the seeds of passion inherent in the mind were eradicated, and I gained insight into the elements of the path of liberation and the ability to assist the twenty-six worlds of the ten directions. I was given the name, Liberating Samaya Tsogyel (Drolje Damtsik Tsogyel) at this time.

Accordingly, in the red paradise of the gut centre, in the sixty-one lesser pure lands, were sixty-one Herukas in mystic union with their Consorts, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of identical forms, in the centre of which was the principal of them all, the Red Heruka and Consort, into whose Awareness of innate joy I received initiation. Thereby, all traces of emotional clinging and the action and reaction patterns of undifferentiated body, speech and mind were eradicated, and with insight into the elements of the path of utter purity I gained ability to benefit the infinite unbounded universe. Here, I received the secret name, Boundless Awareness Tsogyel (Taye Yeshe Tsogyel).

Then the Guru instructed me to practise in this manner: 'In the Ultimate Mandala of the Four Joys bestow upon yourself the four initiations and empowerments into the four levels of Awareness for seven days. Then visualise the ascent of "love" as Awareness.'

So maintaining unimpaired the progression of the four joys through the love-Awareness that is the value of this initiation, my experience intensified, increasing from height to height. If there is leakage of bodhichitta, the Buddha Unchanging Light is slain, and since there is no superior presence to whom such a crime can be acknowledged and thus atoned, such karma as that of the Avichi Hell results. Therefore, with the power of retraction, drawing up 'love' with the base energy of life-force, I held it in the pot of my belly, and maintaining the recollection of pleasure uncontaminated by lust, divesting myself of mind created samadhi yet not slipping into an instant of torpor, I experienced the ascent of Awareness.

Binding recollection of the bodhichitta in the womb's lotus, all ignorance was purified, and suppressing the thousand and eighty movements of karmic energy at the first juncture the Awareness of the dual omniscience of quantity and quality became the path of seeing, and I attained the first degree of enlightenment and certain extra-sensory powers emerged. Then the bodhichitta was drawn up and bound in the secret energy centre and motivation and volition were purified, and inhibiting the energy flows of the second juncture I gained the second degree. Then binding the bodhichitta between the secret and the gut centres consciousness was purified, and blocking the energy flows of the third juncture I gained the third degree. In the same way, the bodhichitta bound at the gut centre, name and form were purified, and when the energy flows of the fourth juncture had been stopped I attained the fourth degree; and the mind capable of both samsara and nirvana, and Awareness and innate joy, purified, I accomplished the Buddha's essentiality of being. Binding the bodhichitta between the gut and the heart chakras the six sense-fields were purified, and the energies of the fifth juncture blocked I attained the fifth degree. Then binding the bodhichitta in the heart centre, purifying sensory contact, the energy flows of the sixth juncture were stopped and I reached the sixth degree; ordinary sleeping mind and special joy purified, I attained the goal of the Buddha's absolute, empty being. Between the heart and the throat centres the bodhichitta was bound and feeling was purified, and stopping the energy flows of the seventh juncture I reached the seventh degree. Then binding the bodhichitta in the throat centre purifying craving and clinging, the energy flows of the eighth juncture stopped I reached the eighth degree; dream and supreme joy purified, I reached the goal of the Buddha's being of consummate visionary enjoyment. Binding the bodhichitta between the throat and forehead centres sensual enthralment was purified, and inhibiting the energies of the ninth juncture I attained the ninth degree. Binding the bodhichitta in the forehead centre transmigratory existence was purified, and obstructing energy outflow at the tenth juncture I attained the tenth degree; when consciousness of the five sensory doors upon waking from sleep, the body's veins and nerves and Awareness of joy had been purified I reached the goal of the Buddha's stainless apparitional being. Then binding the bodhichitta between the forehead and the crown centres rebirth was purified, and the energy flows of the eleventh juncture contained I reached the eleventh degree. Then retracting and binding the bodhichitta at the crown centre the entire twelve interdependent elements of samsara, including old age and death, were purified, and stopping the twenty-one thousand energy flows of the twelfth juncture, lust, sleep, dream and waking - the four impure states of mind -were purified, and having purified the mind's psychic nerves, energy flows and seed-essence, together with the four joys, I reached the twelfth degree.

Thus I was endowed with the Buddha's Pure Being and all the qualities of Buddha: I was transformed into the Pure Being that functions to imbue all creatures of the infinite universe with the value and meaning of existence, and I gained the innate ability to understand and employ any of the qualities of Buddha at will.

Within six months I had attained the purpose of the three initiations, and my Guru instructed me further:

Human woman and Dakini,
Maiden with perfectly matured body,
A fortunate body endowed with the ten and twice times
six conditions of ease.
An enduring and courageous body,
Great Mother of Wisdom, Sarasvati,
Sow-faced Dakini, Mistress of the Mysteries,
Now that the elixir of self and others has brewed,
And the door of the maturing mysteries has been
opened to you,
O Great Being, take a consort!

But I prepared a ganacakra offering with my body and possessions, and rendered it to Guru Rimpoche with this petition:

Venerable Lord of Orgyen, Skull-Garland Skill,
Stem of the Mysteries, Vajradhara,
Your vast generosity is beyond gratitude;
Whatsoever will give you joy
I swear to give you heedless of body or life.
Please grant me the final initiation,
The Word Empowerment of Dzokchen -
Let the Guru confer the Fourth today!

'The time is not ripe for you to practise the effortless method of Ati,' Guru Rimpoche replied. 'Persist in your practice on the path of the mahayana mysteries. Now, girl, without a consort, a partner of skilful means, there is no way that you can experience the mysteries of Tantra. It is rather like this: if a pot is unfired it will not bear usage; in an area without wood a fire will not burn; if there is no moisture to sustain growth it is useless to plant a seedling. So go to the Valley of Nepal where there is a sixteen-year-old youth with a mole on his right breast, who is an emanation of the Buddha Hero Hayagriva called Atsara Sale. He has wandered there from Serling in India. Find him, and make him your ally, and you will soon discover the realm of pure pleasure.'

So, having received my Guru's prophetic injunction, with a golden begging bowl and a pound of gold dust, I set out alone for the Valley of Nepal.

Quoted from "Sky Dancer: The Secret Life and Songs of the Lady Yeshe Tsogyel" by Keith Dowman (Penguin Books - 1989) (Fruition and Buddhahood, pp.155-7); The biography of Yeshe Tsogyel (Bod kyi jo mo ye shes mTsho rgyal gyi mdzad tshul rnam par thar pa gab pa mngon byung gyud mangs dri za'i glu 'phreng), a revealed text (terma) attributed originally to Gyelwa Jangchub and Namkhai Nyingpo and revealed by Taksham Nuden Dorje; translated by Keith Dowman and Choepel Namgyel.

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