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Sukhasiddhi – Tibetan Buddhist Dakini

August 9, 2008

This post is one of a five-part series on women mystics, one from each of the five major world religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. Click here for the full series.

Sukhasiddhi was an eleventh-century Indian sage revered by a Tibetan Buddhist lineage as a founder and ‘dakini’ – a magical being devoted to aiding others on the pathway to enlightenment. Within this lineage, Sukhasiddhi is regarded as proof that anyone may attain spiritual enlightenment, regardless of gender, age, education, social position, or life conditions. She is also seen as an embodiment of kindness and generosity, as her own spiritual journey hinged on two acts of kindness.

The first such act resulted in her being thrown out of her own home by her husband and six adult children at the age of fifty-nine. The family lived in extreme poverty, and one day, when they had only a pot of rice left to eat, the husband and children split up and went in search of food. While they were away, a beggar with even less to eat came to the door and asked Sukasiddhi for food. Thinking that her family would soon return with more, she gave the poor man the rice. When her family returned, they were enraged, and cast her out.

Destitute, Sukhasiddhi decided to head to an area known as the home of many great saints and teachers, as she had always been devout. She managed to acquire a bag of rice on her way, and made beer from it, selling it upon her arrival. With the funds, she acquired more rice, and soon became a local beer merchant. One day, the spiritual student and consort of a powerful Buddhist master came to her to buy beer for him. When the student told Sukhasiddhi who the beer was for, Sukhasiddhi insisted she take her best beer for free – her second pivotal generous act.

The student returned to her teacher and told him what had transpired. He sensed immediately that Sukhasiddhi was a profoundly spiritual soul, and told his student to bring her to him for instruction. Sukasiddhi arrived, overwhelmed with gratitude and devotion. The Buddhist master gave her instruction in meditation and then performed four ‘empowerments’ – Buddhist initiations and blessings to speed her spiritual progress. On the spot, without ever meditating or any formal spiritual practice, Sukhasiddhi attained enlightenment. She was now sixty-one years old.

Sukhasiddhi is one of two women teachers credited with providing founding teachings for the Tibetan Buddhist Kagyu lineage. She is known as a ‘wisdom dakini’, and is still considered exceptionally kind, empowering and aiding any who call upon her as part of their spiritual journey.

For more info on Sukhasiddhi, go to The Sukhasiddhi Foundation, or try Like an Illusion: Lives of the Shangpa Kagyu Masters by Nicole Riggs.

The other posts in this series are on Margery Kempe (Christian), Hannah Rachel Verbemacher (Jewish), Rabia Basri (Islamic), and Mirabai (Hindu). For books on more women mystics, check out the Women’s Spiritual Book List or the Women Mystics page.

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