About the Artwork

This thangka depicts the secret dakini aspect of White Khechari, whose practice is associated with the eleventh century Indian yogini Sukhasiddhi. Sukhasiddhi lived in Kashmir and was the kind but impoverished mother of six children. One day she gave the last of her rice away to a wandering beggar, and was chased away from her home by her own family. She then traveled to Uddiyana in the west of India, where she began to earn a living as a brewer of rice beer. And it was here that she gained the allegiance of a female disciple of the famous Indian mahasiddha Virupa, to whom she anonymously supplied free beer. When Virupa learned of Sukhasiddhi's kindness he summoned her to his forest hermitage, to which she came bearing offerings of beer and pork. Impressed with her great generosity, Virupa immediately bestowed some of his most profound teachings upon this kindly old woman, who was sixty-one years old at this time. It is said that Sukhasiddhi attained full realization on that very same night, and spontaneously assumed the guise and appearance of a beautiful young girl.

Sukhasiddhi (Tib. rnal-'byor-ma bde-ba dngos-grub), meaning 'blissful-accomplishment', is shown here in her secret yidam aspect as White Khechari, whose visualization practice as an enlightened consort is used to transmute the raw energy of sexual desire into an intense yearning for enlightenment. For obvious reasons the secret 'sky-going' (Skt. khechari; Tib. kha-cho karmo) form of this erotic yidam goddess first became popularly known when a drawing of her appeared in Gega Lama's book, "Principals of Tibetan Art." This beautiful painting by Sunlal Ratna is based upon Gega Lama's drawing, which shows how she should actually appear.

With an expression that combines the sentiments of passion and wrath, White Khechari floats in space with her legs spread wide and her feet lifted to the level of her ears, as she shamelessly reveals her aroused breasts and open red vagina. Her naked body is adorned with the dakini's five filigree bone ornaments, a garland of fifty freshly severed heads, and a necklace, belt, bracelets, armlets and anklets fashioned from small red flowers and leaves. She has three piercing eyes and her slightly wrathful mouth reveals her white teeth, four sharp fangs, and twisting red tongue. With her right hand she holds a vajra-handled curved knife, which she circles towards the ten directions to terrify all demons and maras. And with her left hand she holds a skull-cup full of blood. She abides within a circular orb of radiant red light with an outer ring of scrolling golden parawa patterns, while her white moon disc and multicolored lotus rest upon the triangular rock formation behind her.

In the sky above her is four-armed Sadaksari Avalokiteshvara, the embodiment of compassion, whose famous 'six-syllable' (sadaksari) mantra is OM-MA-NI-PA-DME-HUM. Below her is a group of four tormas or sacrificial cake offerings, which are made from dyed butter and barley flour. The turbulent waters of the two lakes on either side of these offerings are colored blue and red to represent the male (method) and female (wisdom) energies.

© text by Robert Beer

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