Dudjom Tersar Chod Practice
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NOTE: The original unbrocaded thangka of this unique composition by Sunlal is for sale, Priced at GBP £2,950.00.
The dynamic figure of Troma Nagmo (Tib. khros ma nag mo), the 'Wrathful Black One' (Skt. Krishna Kali, Krishna Krodhini), dominates the centre of this composition. She is an extremely fierce form of Vajrayogini, youthful and lusty like a sixteen-year-old, and black in colour like the darkness at the end of time. With her right leg drawn up and her left leg bent in 'bow-and-arrow' posture, she dances upon the golden sun and white moon disc of her lotus throne, with her left foot pressing on the breasts and heart of a naked human corpse.
Troma Nagmo's facial expression is ferocious, with three piercing red eyes, a gaping mouth, sharp teeth and fangs, a twisting red tongue, and red facial hair that blazes upwards like fire. Her tawny-orange hair-locks swirl upwards above her five-skull tiara, and from the crown of her head protrudes the wrathful black head of a squealing pig that gazes up into the sky. Troma Nagmo's face represents her single potential and the 'relative truth', while the sow's face represents her perception of emptiness as the 'absolute truth'. Her black colour indicates her unchangeable nature, and her two heads the transformation of ignorance (sow's head) into wisdom or pristine awareness (dakini's head). Her three eyes perceive the three worlds and times; her four sharp canine teeth liberate the four maras or demonic obstructions; her twisting red tongue indicates that she leads beings from cyclic existence; her blazing facial hair indicates her triumph over hopes and fears, and her two legs represent the ultimate purity of both samsara and nirvana.
As upper garments she wears the freshly flayed and bloody skins of an elephant and a human, which are respectively draped around her shoulders and neck to hang behind her back, and around her waist she wears a loosened tiger-skin skirt that reveals her pubic area. These three flayed skins represent her triumph over ignorance (elephant-skin), desire (human-skin), and aggression (tiger-skin). She wears a golden tiara adorned with five jewel-topped dry white skulls; gold earrings, bracelets, armlets, anklets, and necklaces; and the filigree carved bone ornaments of bracelets, armlets, anklets, a vajra-marked bone belt and apron, and a bone necklace with a central wheel emblem that encircles her chest. A long writhing green-black serpent serves as her sacred-thread, and she wears a garland of fifty freshly severed heads that are strung together on a thread of human intestines.
With her right hand she wields aloft the vajra-handled curved knife of the dakinis, which she circles towards the ten directions to terrify all obstructive demons. And with her left hand she holds a skull-cup full of swirling fresh blood in front of her heart. Resting in the crook of her left arm is the long shaft of her tantric staff or khatvanga, which represents the male essence of Heruka, and her ability to perform all kinds of method activities or skillful means. The top of her khatvanga is adorned with a golden crossed-vajra, a golden nectar vase, a billowing white silk ribbon, a freshly-severed head; a decaying head, a dry white skull, and an iron trident. A blazing mass of awareness fire emanates from her body, and behind these orange-red flames appear the radiating golden light rays of her blue aura.
Encircling Troma Nagmo is her mandala assembly of eight directional dakinis, along with the semi-wrathful form of Vajravarahi, who appears directly above Troma's head. Vajravarahi (Tib. Dorje Phagmo), the "Indestructible Sow", is radiant red in colour and appears in a similar form to Troma Nagmo, but is less wrathful and is only adorned with gold and bone ornaments, and a long green silk scarf that billows about her naked body. She likewise has the fierce head of a squealing sow protruding from her crown, and bears the attributes of a curved knife, skull-cup and a khatvanga. She stands in dancing bow-and-arrow posture with her left foot pressing upon the breast of a corpse, and her radiant blue aura is encircled by a blazing mass of awareness-fire.
Four of the other eight dakinis that encircle Troma Nagmo are identical in appearance to her and have the same kind of aura, although they are coloured to correspond to their Enlightened Families and the particular wisdom they embody. Troma occupies the central place as black Buddha-dakini, 'whose innate wisdom of the dharmadhatu overwhelms the ignorance of the gods and demons, who are subdued by her awesome splendor'. While the mirror-like wisdom of white Vajra-Dakini in the east overwhelms their hatred. The wisdom of equanimity of yellow Ratna-Dakini in the south overwhelms their pride. The discriminating wisdom of red Padma-Dakini in the west overwhelms their desire; and the all-accomplishing wisdom of green Karma-Dakini in the north overwhelms their jealousy. "By the blessings of these Five Great Mothers all male and female demons, nagas and earth spirits, and the local spirits of place and body, are all tamed by their awesome splendor".
The other four dakinis are distinguished by their right hand attributes and the appearance of their auras, which like Vajrayogini have radiating gold lines on their blue interior and are encircled by flames. These four wrathful dakinis serve as guardians of Troma Nagmo's four mandala gateways, and respectively hold in their right hands the subjugating attributes of: an iron hook, a rope-noose, an iron-chain, and a bell. White Ankusi guards the eastern gateway, holding an iron-hook (Skt. ankusa). Yellow Pasha guards the southern gateway, holding a rope-snare (Skt. pasha). Red Sphota guards the western gateway holding an iron-chain (Skt. sphota). And green Ghanta guards the northern gateway holding a ritual bell (Skt. ghanta).
Outside the circle of dakinis are the four fierce animal-headed female protectors of Troma Nagmo's mandala, who all wear bone ornaments, human-skin shawls, tiger-skin or leopard-skin skirts, and ride upon their animal vehicles amidst a swirling mass of wind and fire.
In the east is the snake-headed (Skt. nagamukhi) dakini with a white body and the speckled brown head of a snake, who holds an iron-hook and a radiant jewel in her right and left hands. Her vehicle is a blue wolf with a human-skin saddle.
In the south is the lion-headed (Skt. simhamukhi) dakini with a yellow body and the white head of a lion, who holds a vajra-hammer and a blazing jewel in her right and left hands. Her vehicle is a wild light-brown ass with a human-skin saddle.
In the west is the vulture-headed (Skt. gridhramukhi) dakini with a red body and the turquoise head of a vulture, who holds a book and a flower in her right and left hands. Her vehicle is a turquoise vulture.
In the north is the bear-headed (Skt. rikshamukhi) dakini with a green body and the brown head of a bear, who wields a crossed-vajra and a serpent in her right and left hands. Her vehicle is a light brown bear with a human-skin saddle.
Across the bottom of the painting, from left to right, are five Nyingma yidam and protector deities: Yama Dharmaraja, Nagaraja, Rahula, Shri Devi, and Tsiu Marpo.
Yama Dharmaraja, the "Lord of the Dead", is wrathful and blue-black in colour, with two arms, three eyes, a gaping mouth, and upward streaming hair. He wears gold and bone ornaments, a five-skull crown, an elephant-skin shawl, and a tiger-skin loincloth. His vehicle is a brown leopard with a human-skin saddle, upon which he rides amidst swirling clouds and a blazing mass of fire. With his right and left hands he holds his skull-topped 'club of death', and a rope-snare.
The serpent-king Nagaraja (Tib. klu'i gyal-po) is peaceful and white in colour, with two eyes and two arms. His head and upper body are human in form, while his lower body is that of a coiling naga-serpent. He stands amidst clouds as he emerges from the waters of a lake, and as a guardian of the underworld and its treasures, an assembly of jewel offerings appears in front of him. He wears jewel ornaments, a white cotton turban, a long billowing red silk scarf, an apron and a belt, and his head is crowned with a canopy of nine snakes. With his right hand he holds a serpent, and with his left hand a precious gem.
Rahula or Rahu, the "Seizer"and great planetary eclipse deity', is maroon in colour with a stack of nine wrathful heads, which are crowned by the small black head of a terrifying raven. His lower body takes the form of a coiling naga-serpent, which is enclosed within a blood-filled triangular dharmodaya that is adorned with white skulls, jewel-loops and flames. His powerful upper body is endowed with a 'thousand eyes', and the voracious face of a demon appears on his pot-bellied stomach. He is adorned with jewel and bone ornaments, a human-skin shawl and a long billowing green silk scarf, and each of his nine wrathful heads is adorned with a five-skull crown. With his first pair of hands he holds a drawn bow and arrow, and with his second pair of hands he holds aloft a makara-dhvaja or 'crocodile banner' and an iron sword.
Remati or Shri Devi (Tib. dpal-ldan lha-mo), the "Glorious Goddess", is extremely wrathful and blue-black in colour, with three round red eyes, a gaping mouth, upward-streaming hair, and two arms. She rides sidesaddle upon her wild brown mule across an ocean of blood, with a mass of fire surrounding her. The mule's reins are fashioned from poisonous serpents, its saddle blanket is the flayed skin of a raksasa or cannibal demon, with the magical weapons of a 'skin sack of diseases' and 'a ball of variegated thread' hanging from it. Remati is adorned with gold and bone ornaments, a five-skull crown, and billowing robes of embroidered silks. With her right and left hands she holds a curved knife and a blood-filled skull-cup in front of her heart.
In the bottom right corner is Tsi'u Marpo (Tib. tsi'u dmar-po), the chief of the tsen (Tib. btsan) or 'violent demons' that often inhabit mountain passes. Along with his 'Six Blazing Brothers' Tsi'u Marpo was oath-bound by Padmasambhava to serve as both an oracle and as the protector of the treasury at Samye Monastery in Tibet. Tsi'u Marpo is wrathful and red in colour, with three round red eyes, a gaping mouth, sharp fangs, and tawny upward-streaming hair. He rides his brown horse above sharp peaks and swirling clouds, amidst a blazing mass of fire. He wears gold ornaments, a five-skull crown and billowing garments of multicolored silks, and a tiger-skin quiver and a leopard-skin bow-case hang at his right and left sides. With his right hand he hold the shaft of a spear-flag adorned with a billowing red pennon, while with his left hand he casts the 'red snare of the tsen demons' (not shown here), which usually binds the red demon that is shown here in front of his serpent-adorned horse.
The wrathful offerings in the lower area consist of three skull-cups, with the two outer ones containing swirling blue nectar and fresh blood, and the central skull containing a heart, two eyes and a flower. Above is an inverted skull containing an ornate torma or sacrificial offering of the 'five great meats' forbidden for humans to eat, which are represented by the heads of a man, a dog, a horse, an elephant, and a bird (usually a cow). Above again are peaceful offerings of the five sensory objects and other auspicious substances.
The floral profusion that surrounds Vajravarahi's aura extends upwards into the clouds, with some of its large convoluted leaves supporting the seven lineage holders that crown this composition. At the top centre is Samantabhadri (Tib. Kuntuzangmo the white consort of the blue 'Primordial Buddha' Samantabhadra (Tib. Kuntuzangpo), meaning the 'All Good', who is the source of many early tantric transmissions in the Tibetan Nyingma tradition. Samantabhadri's radiant naked white form is unadorned, and she sits in vajra-posture upon a moon-disc and lotus with her hands folded together upon her lap in the dhyana-mudra of meditation upon emptiness.
To Samantabhadri's left is the great Indian mahasiddha and arrow-smith Saraha, who would later incarnate in the forms of both Dudjom Lingpa and Dudjom Rinpoche. Saraha appears in the typical form of an Indian yogin or mahasiddha, with a beard, a loincloth, and a skull adorning his topknot. He sits upon a deerskin and throne as he tests the straightness of the arrow he holds.
Seated upon a lotus-throne to the right of Samantabhadri is Guru Rinpoche or Padmasambhava, who wears his characteristic lotus-hat and the three robes that represent his mastery of the three Buddhist yanas or 'vehicles' of the Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana traditions. He holds a golden vajra in his right hand, while his left palm supports a nectar-filled skull-cup and a long-life vase, and his khatvanga rests in the crook of his left arm.
To Saraha's left is the dakini Yeshe Tsogyal, the principal Tibetan consort of Guru Rinpoche, who wears embroidered silk garments, felt boots, golden ornaments, and a five-jeweled tiara. With her two hands she makes the bindu-kapala-mudra, as she holds a skull-cup filled with nectar in front of her heart.
To the right of Guru Rinpoche is Dudjom Lingpa (1835-1904), who has a topknot like a mahasiddha and wears silk robes as he sits enthroned upon a tiger-skin. With his raised right hand he holds a ritual-dagger or phurba made from meteorite iron, while another phurba is tucked into his belt. Dudjom Lingpa's main disciple, Gyurme Ngedon Wongpo, appears to the left of Yeshe Tsogyal, holding a skull-cup and wearing the robes and the pointed red hat of a Nyingma lama. While Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdral Yeshe Dorje (1904-87), appears below Dudjom Lingpa on the far right, holding a golden treasure vase in his left hand.
© text by Robert Beer