About the Artwork

This painting shows the secret dakini aspect of Vajrayogini as Red Khechari, whose practice is associated with the great eleventh century Indian yogini, Sukhasiddhi. Niguma and Sukhasiddhi were the two yogini teachers of the Tibetan master Khyungpo Naljor (10th-12th century), the founder of the Shangpa Kagyu tradition, who considered Sukhasiddhi to be both his kindest teacher and his secret consort. The Shangpa Kagyu lineage is renowned for its unique Highest Yoga Tantra doctrines, known as 'The Six Doctrines of Sukhasiddhi' and 'The Six Doctrines of Niguma'. In appearance Sukhasiddhi is traditionally depicted as a peaceful white yogini who holds a skull-cup and points to the sky, while Niguma is represented as a semi-wrathful brown dakini who holds a skull-cup, a damaru, and a khatvanga. The 'Five Golden Doctrines' of the Shangpa Kagyu tradition are: The Six Doctrines of Niguma (the Root); Mahamudra (the Trunk); the Three Aspects of Bringing to the Path (the Branches); White Khechari and Red Khechari (the Flowers); Deathlessness and Non Deviation (the Fruit).

In the Newar Buddhist tradition the images of Red Khechari and White Khechari as the 'Red and White Flowers' of the Shangpa Kagyu tradition have recently become popular, with paintings and statues of Vajrayogini in her secret form as Mahasukhasiddhi being painted or cast. This painting was made by the Newar artist Raj Prakash Tuladhar, who has painted both the red and white forms of this 'Bliss Accomplishing' dakini goddess. Essentially Red Khechari represents the wisdom teachings of Sukhasiddhi, while White Khechari represents the path of method or skillful means.

With her legs raised wide and upwards she blissfully dances amidst the fiery aura of her innate wisdom-awareness, like a 'sky-going' (Skt. khechari; Tib. Naljorma) dakini who abides in space or emptiness. She is youthful, passionate and extremely beautiful, and leans towards the left as she shameless reveals her vagina, full breasts and aroused nipples. Her naked and radiant red body is adorned with a long and billowing blue silk scarf, a loosened tiger-skin loincloth, a long garland of severed heads, a garland of flowers, and the heavy golden ornaments of bracelets, armlets and anklets, an ornate neck choker, and jeweled earrings. She has a sweetly smiling face with three piercing and intoxicated eyes, and her head is adorned with a five-skull crown that is sealed with five jewels and silver Newar kikinpa blades. Her tawny hair is coiled up into a mass of curls above her crown, with the fiery orb of her halo blazing above. With her outstretched right and left hands she holds the two principal dakini attributes of a vajra-handled curved knife and a skull-cup full of blood.

The intricate and blazing mass of her fiery aura merges into the smoky haze of the sky, with the forms of blue Vajradhara and his white consort appearing at the top center. And directly below Sukhasiddhi are the two skeletal forms of Citipati, the 'brother and sister' protectors of the charnel ground, who dance in bow-and-arrow posture with their legs and arms interlocked as they respectively stand upon a white conch and a cowry shell. Each skeleton has three eyes and is adorned with a five-skull crown, rainbow-colored ear ornaments, a billowing silk scarf, a tiger-skin loincloth, and each holds a skull-topped club and a blood-filled skull-cup in their right and left hands. Their twin-aura is surrounded by a blazing mass of fire, while their lotus pedestal rests upon a rocky outcrop at the center of a lotus lake. Amidst the foliage and rock formations on the left side of the lake is an ornate Newar stupa, and on the right bank is the Indian Mahasiddha Tilopa, who sits on a tiger-skin and holds the attributes of a fish and a skull-cup in his right and left hands.

© text by Robert Beer

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