The Vajrayogini – The Trauma Goddess

The Vajrayogini – The Trauma Goddess.

I am not suited to polite society
To social striving, upward mobility, and making good impressions
I am radically honest, sensitive, brilliant, and blunt
I hold up a mirror to the best and worst facets of human life.


Gender equality in Buddhism

Buddhist Teachings which Promote Gender Equality

Traditional Buddhist teaching naturally lends itself to the idea of gender equality. For instance, the idea of anatta (non-self) breaks down the divisions between male and female. Gender is often defined according to a fixed idea of what is considered masculine and feminine and as such male and female roles in society. These fixed ideas are often the cause of sexual stereotypes. However, if one has no fixed ‘self’ then such gender definitions become ambiguous (although this is not to say that there are no men and women!). In many respects the removal of divisions between men and women is also at the heart of Feminism which seeks to raise the status of women in a world which, according to them, has been shaped by men and male interests.

At the heart of Buddhism is the problem of dukkha (suffering). This is not only physical but also involves much emotional and psychological suffering caused through bad actions or attitudes. An example of how dukkha may arise in relation to women is if they are denied opportunities due to being discriminated against on the basis of their gender (E.g. Women should not be mechanics because that is a man’s job). Combined with this is the idea of compassion which is the promotion of respect and dignity for all living things. Clearly, if women are not being treated equally then compassion is not being demonstrated.

Although the third precept challenges the sexual relationships of men and women, once again it is the first precept which encourages the development of wholesome attitudes by men and women towards each other (‘I undertake not to take life’). This precept does not just involve the literal physical taking of life but anything which promotes attitudes that deny people a quality of life. Thus it is vital for Buddhists that society is seen to protect and promote equal opportunities for both men and women.

It should be remembered that despite these teachings traditional Buddhists believe that, although men and women are equal, they have different roles. They believe it is the role of the man (husband) to provide for the family whilst it is the role of the woman (wife) to care for it (for more on this see Buddhism, Marriage and Divorce). This attitude can also be seen in the separation of monks and nuns (also for reasons discussed earlier – and maybe the practical purpose of protecting both from breaking the third precept (‘I undertake to avoid sexual misconduct’)).

In Vajrayana Buddhism there are many female Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The most well known is Green Tara whose name means ‘She who saves’. There is also the Bodhisattva Kuan Yin, whose name means ‘Compassion’ as well as Prajnaparamita who is known as the mother of all Buddha’s because she represents anicca (the fundamental truth of life). This shows that the truth of Buddhism can be represented to people in both male and female forms.

Zen Poetry 2

South of my house and north – all spring there is water.
Day after day I watch flocks of gulls return.
Fallen petals on my path are never swept for guests,
And only now is the thatched gate opened – for you.
Food so far from market must be simple;
The wine in this poor house is home brewed.
If you are willing, we’ll drink with my old neighbor.
Let me call across the fence before we drain the last cup.

– Du Fu

Zen poetry

Once in a while
I just let time wear on
Leaning against a solitary pine
Standing speechless,
As does the whole universe!
Ah, who can share
This solitude with me?

– Ryokan

A brief exposition of Buddhist Philosophical Schools

Buddhist philosophical views are classified, at least by Tibetan Buddhists in general, into four main categories: Vaibhasika, Sautrantika, Yogachara, and Madhyamika.

1. Vaibhasika has been called “direct realism.” It is similar to the first few of the Indian views that see the World of Experience as composed of various physical elements that interact with the components of beings.

2. Sautrantika considers that awareness is merely representational. These first two schools consider that there are two kinds of interactors: Physical aspects, ie. skandhas of which one, rupa comprises the traditional elements, and the Mental aspects including consciousness (vijnana), sensation (vedana) which contributes to pain/pleasure, cognition (sanjna) and the impressions derived from experience (samskara.). The 12 Links of Causality go into this in more detail.

3. Chittamatra/Yogachara sometimes referred to as the Knowledge Way or Vijnanavada. It has also been called Subjective Realism, acknowledging that individual factors including karma contribute to an experience of reality that must be different for every being. It mentions the idea of “Buddha nature.” Vasubandha and Asanga finally adopted this position.

4. Madhyamika basically holds that there is no ultimate reality in the sense that something exists apart from the experiencer, but that this does not mean that there is nothing at all. It turns around the definition of Shunyata and therefore has been called Sunyatavada. Nagarjuna and Aryadeva are the main proponents. Chandrakirti expounds upon Nagarjuna.

The Madhyamika view has given rise to two particular schools of thought: Svatantrika and Prasangika, which is the school that i adhere to. According to the Prasangika school, the object of refutation (or negation, gag-cha)* is an extremely subtle object that is ever so slightly more than—a little over and above—what is merely labeled by the mind.

The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso Rinpoche in The World of Tibetan Buddhism: An Overview of Its Philosophy and Practice. Boston: Wisdom Pub., 1995. (49-54):

“According to the explanation of the highest Buddhist philosophical school, Madhyamaka-Prasangika, external phenomena are not mere projections or creations of the mind. External phenomena have a distinct nature, which is different from the mind.

The meaning of all phenomena being mere labels or designations is that they exist and acquire their identities by means of our denomination or designation of them. This does not mean that there is no phenomenon apart from the name, imputation, or label, but rather that if we analyze and search objectively for the essence of any phenomenon, it will be un-findable.

Phenomena are unable to withstand such analysis; therefore, they do not exist objectively. Yet, since they exist, there should be some level of existence; therefore, it is only through our own process of labeling or designation that things are said to exist.

Except for the Prasangika school, all the other Buddhist schools of thought identify the existence of phenomena within the basis of designation; therefore, they maintain that there is some kind of objective existence.

Since the lower schools of Buddhist thought all accept that things exist inherently, they assert some kind of objective existence, maintaining that things exist in their own right and from their own side. This is because they identify phenomena within the basis of designation.

For the Prasangikas, if anything exists objectively and is identified within the basis of designation, then that is, in fact, equivalent to saying that it exists autonomously, that it has an independent nature and exists in its own right.

This is a philosophical tenet of the Yogacara school in which external reality is negated, that is, the atomically structured external world is negated. Because the proponents of the Yogacara philosophical system assert that things cannot exist other than as projections of one’s own mind, they also maintain that there is no atomically structured external physical reality independent of mind. By analyzing along these lines, Yogacara proponents conclude that there is no atomicly structured external reality.

This conclusion is reached because of not having understood the most subtle level of emptiness as expounded by the Prasangikas. In fact, Yogacarins assert that things have no inherent existence, and that if you analyze something and do not find any essence, then it does not exist at all.

Prasangikas, on the other hand, when confronted with this un-findability of the essence of the object, conclude that this is an indication that objects do not exist inherently, not that they do not exist at all. This is where the difference lies between the two schools.”

* Object of Refutation: one possible technique for searching for truth is to employ the process of elimination, and see what is left. Therefore, the principle or topic under consideration may be called the object of refutation which helps keep in our mind the notion that the thing is not to be assumed to exist. It is merely a target, so to speak.

this link has some very good information for the interested reader:

According to the listing in the previous post, in the Tibetan tradition, the 4 schools each teach the Three Vehicles of Hearer, Solitary Realizer and Bodhisattva.

The 4 philosophical schools correspond to the Hinyana and Mahayana view Vaibhasika and Sautrantika are Hinyana schools whereas the Chittamatra and Madhyamika correspond with the Mahayana. In this post i shall explain our view of the two Hinayana schools.

According to Vaibhasika and Sautrantika, Hearer and Solitary Realizer Foe Destroyers (Arhan) are lower than a Budda. All three are equally liberated from cyclic existence and all will equally disappear upon death with the severance of their continuum of consciousness and form. However, while they are alive, a Bodhisattva at the effect stage is called a Buddha whereas the others are only called Foe Destroyers – those who have destroyed the foes of the afflictions, mainly desire, hatred, and ignorance – because a Buddha has special knowledge, more subtle clarivoyance, and a distinctive body. A Bodhisattva accumulates merit and wisdom for three countless aeons, thus attaining the greater fruit of Buddhahood. For Vaibhasika and Sautrantika, a person treading the path of Buddhahood is very rare.

Both Hinyana tenet systems present three vehicles which they say are capable of bearing practitioners to their desired fruit. Both present an emptiness that must be understood in order to reach the goal, and in both systems this emptiness is the non-substantialiy of persons. They prove that a person is not a self-sufficient entity and does not substantially exist as the controller of mind and body, like a lord over it’s subjects. Through realizing and becoming accustomed to this insubstantiality, the afflictions and thereby, all sufferings are said to be destroyed. According to the Hinyana tenet systems the path of wisdom is the same for Hinyanists–Hearers and Solitary Realizers–and for Bodhisattvas. The length of time that practitioners spend amassing meritorious power constitutes the essential difference between the vechiles.

Hearers and Solitary realizers all eventually proceed to the Bodhisattva path. After sometimes spending aeons in solitary trance, they are aroused by Buddhas who make them aware that they have not fulfilled even their own welfare, not to mention the welfare of others. Thus, though there are three vehicles, there is only one final vehicle.

As i said in a previous posting regarding the differences in Buddhist philosophy, the best way to get an understand of the different schools is by understanding their view of emptiness

each school asserts a certain view of selflessness and proceeds from Hinyanaist schools Vaibhasika and Sautrantika to Mahayanist schools Chittamatra, Svatantrika and finally, Pransangika.

Selflessness is divided into two types: of persons and of phenomena. The selfless of persons is also divided into two: coarse and subtle. Vaibhasika and Sautrantika do not assert a selflessness of phenomena because, for them, phenomena truly exist and are other entities from a perceiving consciousness.

With regard to the personal selflessness, all systems present a subtle and coarse view. According to the non-Pransangika systems the coarse is the emptiness of a permanent, partless, independent person. The misconception of such a self is only artificial, not innate — it is based on the assumption of a non-Buddhist system. In other words, we do not naturally misconceive the person to have the three qualities of permanence, partlessness and independence.

perhaps, this will help show the matter in another way:

Vaibhasika and Sautrantika:

selflessness asserted: selflessness of persons. coarse: lack of being a permanent, partless, independent self. subtle: lack of being a self-sufficient person.


selflessness asserted: selflessness of persons. coarse: lack of being a permanent, partless, independent self. subtle: lack of being a self-sufficient person.

selflessness of phenomena: subtle: lack of a difference in entity between subject and object and lack of naturally being a base of a name.

Madhyamika (Savtantrika and Prasangika):

selflessness asserted: selflessness of persons. coarse: lack of being a permanent, partless, independent self. subtle: lack of being a self-sufficient person.

selflessness of phenomena: coarse: lack of a difference in entity between subject and object (though this is properly Yogachara)
subtle: lack of being an entity not posited through appearing to a non-defective consciousness.

selflessness of persons. coarse: lack of being a permanent self-sufficient entity. subtle: lack of inherent existence of persons

selflessness of phenomena: subtle: lack of inherent existence of phenomena other than persons

(please note, the use of the term Hinyana is to denote the historical schools which used to exist in this Vehicle. in modern Buddhism, the only extant school of Hinyana Buddhism is Theraveda. thus, we simply call it Theravedan Buddhism today)

The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theraveda Buddhism

in the Pali Canon, there is a section of the Tipitaka called the Dhammapada. this section of the Sutra contains many stories of the Buddhas past lives… from animals to humans to, in his last life, Bodhisattva.

the presence of the bodhisattva ideal in the Theraveda Buddhist Pali canon is primarily restricted to Gotama Buddha. the use of the term “bodhisattva” occurs in a number of the suttas (Skt: sutra) in the Majjhima, Anguttara, and Samyutta Nikaayas where the Buddha is purported to have said: “Monks, before my Awakening, and while I was yet merely the Bodhisatta [Skt: bodhisattva], not fully-awakened….” in addition to referring to the present life of Gotama, the term “bodhisattva” is also used in relation to the penultimate life of Gotama in Tusita heaven, as well as his conception and birth.

in the Pali canon, the term “bodhisattva” is also used in reference to other previous buddhas. For instance, in the Mahaapadaanasutta of the Digha Nikaaya, the notion of past buddhas (and hence past bodhisattvas) is elucidated. In the beginning of this sutta, the six buddhas who preceded Gotama are mentioned as well as their names, the eons when they became buddhas (i.e., when they attained enlightenment and taught), their caste, their clan, their life span, the trees where they attained enlightenment, the number of their disciples, their personal attendants, and their parents. (1) After briefly outlining the lives of these six buddhas, Gotama begins an in-depth recollection of the first buddha, Vipassii, from his life in Tusita Heaven until he dispersed his monks for the purpose of spreading the teachings. In this narration, the Buddha not only refers to Vipassii up to his enlightenment as a bodhisattva, (2) but also takes the life events of Vipassii as the example for all future bodhisattvas and buddhas, including (retroactively) Gotama himself. (3)

another section of the Sutta-pitaka where the term “bodhisattva” pertains to each of the six previous buddhas is the Samyutta Nikaaya. For instance, in the fourth section of the second book, we find the phrase “To Vipassi, brethren, Exalted One, Arahant, Buddha Supreme, before his enlightenment, while he was yet unenlightened and Bodhisatta, there came this thought….(4)” This same phrase, then, is used in conjunction with the other five previous buddhas in the following verses: Sikhi, Vessabhu, Kakusandha, Konaagamana, and Kassapa.

1. – Diigha Nikaaya 2:1-7

2. – For instance, we find: “Now Vipassii, brethren, when as a Bodhisatta, he ceased to belong to the hosts of the heaven of Delight, descended into his mother’s womb mindful and self-possessed” (Diigha Nikaaya 2:12).

3. – In many of the following paragraphs, for instance, we find the phrase “It is the rule, brethren, that….” (Ayam ettha dhammataa) used to refer to the paradigm set by Vipassii.

4. – Samyutta Nikaaya 2:4 ff.

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