13Why is the Lion-Faced Dakini Simhamukha one of the most popular practices in times of peril — especially when facing any crushing supernatural or psychological threat?
Why do many lineages of Tibetan Buddhism turn to her practice in times of disaster, bad luck, illness, or any form of negative karma ripening?
Why is her mantra often the first one chanted when a yogi practitioner feels threatened by any looming or deadly evil, curse, or bad luck, even black magic?
We answer these questions, and more, in this feature presentation on Simhamukha, the great Lion-Faced Wisdom Dakini.
Despite her wrathful, exotic form, Simhamukha, the Snow Lion-Faced-Dakini is a fully enlightened Wisdom Dakini.
Lama Tsultrim of the Tara Mandala International Buddhist Community described Simhamukha “as a powerful remover of obstacles and as Queen of the Dakinis.”
She is among the most popular of the Enlightened Buddhist Dakinis — in part due to her exotic and ferocious appearance — and her rapid activity in helping her practitioners.
Like many wisdom Dakinis, she is a super wrathful form of Wisdom, a fully Enlightened Buddha, and therefore considered ultimately an aspect of Tara.
Her appearance is deliberately ferocious, with a snow-lion face. Why the lion? The lion represents not only courage and ferocious power, but single-pointed concentration and alertness. As the great Sage Milarepa once taught:
When you run after your thoughts, you are like a dog chasing a stick: every time a stick is thrown, you run after it.
Instead, be like a lion who, rather than chasing after the stick, turns to face the thrower.
One only throws a stick at a lion once.
Lion-Faced Dakini is the “only once” deity. Those who call on her only once can be assured of her help. Her help is wrathful, however, so expect an energetic, unexpected result.
But, a definite result.
Both Shakyamuni Buddha and Guru Rinpoche are associated with the “lion.”
Dharma speech is called the “Lion’s Roar.”
There are many profound reasons Simhamukha appears with a lion face, including her mantra, which is like the roar of a lion — powerful and irresistible.
Snow lions are mythically even more profound. They roam freely in the high snow mountains without any fear, symbolising the wisdom, fearlessness and divine pride of those dharma practitioners who are actually able to live freely in the high snow mountain of the pure mind, without being contaminated by delusions.
They are kings or queens of the doctrine because they have achieved the power to subdue all beings with their great love, compassion and wisdom.”
Her mantra’s fourteen syllables averts all evils and obstacles.
Although you can chant her mantra without empowerment, it is helpful to receive transmission from a qualified teacher when you have an opportunity. Generally, to chant her mantra, the main requirement, as always, is Bodhichitta and the intention to benefit all sentient beings.
The mantra is:
ah ka sa ma ra cha sha dah rah sa mah rah yah pat
In Tibetan the last syllable pat is often pronounced pey!
For proper pronunciation in Sanskrit, and a chant along, watch for the Buddha Weekly mantra video with Lion-Faced Dakini’s mantra chanted.
Venerable Zasep Rinpoche explains the meaning of the syllables. After explaining the meaning of the individual vowels, he explains that, in context, the mantra means:
By the power of Simhamukha, all the wicked demons and powers of evil, all maliciousness, and all kinds of evils, negative forces and inner obstacles — all of these are completely eliminated and CUT !
Simhamukha’s ferociousness should not be misunderstood; she lures negativities out of their hiding places so they can be destroyed.
This is why she is considered the supreme remover of obstacles.
It is said that even the mere recitation of her mantra has the power to remove all hindrances from one’s life and path.
Simhamukha’s wrathful appearance is not only designed to strike fear into the hearts of negativities, but also to symbolize her complete victory over them.
In Tibetan Buddhist iconography Simhamukha is typically shown trampling on the Lord of Death, Yama Dharmaraja, under her feet.
Simhamukha is also known as the ‘Queen of Space’ or ‘Dakini of Pure Space’, and her blue skin is said to represent the vastness and clarity of empty space.
Like all Dakinis, she is a powerful symbol of feminine energy, wisdom, and transformation.
One ancient legend of Lion-Faced Dakini’s great power to deflect evil and curses is found in the story of the great translator, the Great Lotsawa Baripa.
The great lotsawa Baripa went to India in order to listen to, study, practice and translate the sūtras and tantras written in Indic languages. During his stay Baripa engaged in dialogue and debate with the heretic teacher Bhavyarāja. Day after day, Bhavyarāja would defeat the Lotsawa and win the debate. Despondent, finally one evening the Lotsawa invoked his gurus and prayed for help. The next morning the Lotsawa triumphed in the debate, with the heretic Bhavya experiencing a devastating loss. Bhavya became furious, and warned Master Baripa, saying,
You’ve slipped into a bad habit!
Now I will cast spells upon you.
You will either be left defeated and humiliated in no more than seven days, or you will be forced by the power of my black magic to accept my teachings!”
The Lotsawa was overwhelmed with fear and rushed back to his teacher. In a trembling voice he recounted this terrible threat. His teacher sent him to the great guru Vajrāsana, with a letter of introduction. Guru Mahāvajrāsana replied,
Do not be afraid of the heretic teacher!
I have a variety of pith instructions for protection and reversal; one in particular is exceptionally profound and acute.
After performing the instructions and offerings, he had a clear vision of Dakinis, chief among them Simhamukha, with a Lion-Face. The Dakini gave him detailed instructions and her mantra.
The Lotsawa then recited the mantra according to the pith instruction, day and night without interruption.
After the sun had set, the Lotsawa managed to avert the cloud of worldly deities and spirits that had gathered. Then the esteemed and foremost wisdom ḍākinī Siṃhamukhā appeared once again in the sky before the Lotsawa and revealed that the threat was averted. The uncommon practice of the wisdom ḍākinī Siṃhamukhā was established. This led many to gain visionary experiences of the deity, while the practice itself brought a constant rain of blessings.
Depending on lineage, some practices of Simhamukha are Highest Yoga practices requiring permission of a teacher. She is a Yidam deity, and a fully enlightened being, rather than a protector. Although her mantra is often chanted without transmission, it requires initiation to fully practice her sadhana or to visualize yourself as the deity. Otherwise, traditionally, you visualize yourself as your regular Yidam — for example Tara — with Simhamukha visualized in front of you when you chant the mantra.
Her mandala palace is surrounded by various wisdom beings, including four other aspects of Simhamukha herself. These four together with the centre sister are known as the Five Sisters, and are the extremely wrathful emanations of the Five Wisdom Dakinis. The deity in the center is Vajra Simhamukha, associated with the Vajra Buddha Family of Akshobhya. Vajra Simhamukha is blue-black like space, and is the central deity. Blue Vajra Simhamukha is for supremely wrathful activities and she helps subdue the poison of anger and hatred. Her wisdom is the wisdom of the Dharmadhatu.
In the east of the mandala is white Simhamukha, of the Buddha Family of Vairochana, for pacifying activities. White Simhamukha’s wisdom is Mirror-Like Wisdom and her activities purify ignorance.
In the south is golden or yellow Ratna Simhamukha, the Lion-Faced Dakini of the Jewel Buddha Family Ratnasambhava, whose activities are empowering and increasing. Her wisdom is the Wisdom of Equality and she purifies greed and encourages generosity.
In the west is red Padma Simhamukha, the Lion-Faced Dakini of the Lotus Family of Amitabha, whose activities are power and magnetizing forces. Her wisdom is Discriminating Awareness wisdom, helping us overcome all our negative attachments and desires.
In the north, ruling over all activities, is Karma Simhamukha, who is green like Green Mother Tara of the Karma Family of Amoghasiddhi, who is the supreme activity aspect of Simhamukha, and helps us overcome the poisons of jealousy with All-Accomplishing wisdom.
Her mandala — and therefore her practice — is very complete, combining all the five wisdoms, the five Buddha families, the five Wisdom Dakinis, in a wrathful form to help us transform all negativities. Always seek the advice of your teacher, but generally, to chant her mantra, the main requirement, as always is Bodhichitta and the intention to benefit all sentient beings.
Meanwhile, Green Tara’s practice and mantra are highly protective and may be practiced by anyone with Bodhichitta intent.
For more information, including links to her chanted mantra, see the top right icon, or see the description links below.
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