Dharmodaya: The Source of Reality

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Dharmodaya: The Source of Reality

Lyudmila Klasanova

The six-pointed geometric star or hexagram is considered one of the most ancient spiritual symbols in the world and has a deep meaning in Tantric Buddhism. In Vajrayana it appears as ritual diagram and symbolic emblem of the female deity Vajrayogini (Tib. Dorje Naljorma) who is emanation of the perfect state of Buddha in the female form. She can be seen depicted with one triangle or two intertwined two-dimensional or three-dimensional triangles. When the triangle is one, it is facing down and, as in the Hindu tradition, symbolizes the feminine principle. When there are two triangles, usually they form a tetrahedron, which in Tantric Buddhism is called dharmodaya (Tib. chojung). The terms translates as “the source of reality”, “the source of phenomena” or “the source of truth” and is associated with a continuous source of femininity.

2. Tibetan thangka of Vajrayogini in uion with Chakrasamvara, Dimitrovgrad Historical Museum in Bulgaria. Image courtesy of the author

In Tantric Buddhist symbolism dharmodaya is associated with the cosmic womb and the female sexual organ. As divine vagina, dharmodaya represents the source of reality, from which everything is born and dies in an endless cycle. The womb of Vajrayogini, depicted symbolically by this sign, embraces all worlds, creates and devours everything that exists. The three angles of dharmodaya are perceived in Tantric Buddhism as the three absolute aspects of the mother principle, associated with the space. The all-encompassing space is related with the source of reality and also with the sphere of reality, called dharmadhatu (Tib. cho kyi ying), which is the essence of everything and synonymous with Buddha nature.

The female essence of the Vajrayogini, symbolizing the space and emptiness cannot be fully realized if it is not in a union with the male principle of skillful methods, compassion or great bliss. Together they represent the inseparability of subject and object, the principle of nonduality expressed through the union of bliss and emptiness (Tib. detong). This union is expressed through the sign of dharmodaya, and also through the embrace of Vajrayogini and Chakrasamvara.

Dharmodaya, as a source of absolute truth, reveals the most profound transcendent reality of the union of bliss and freedom. This freedom is attained when we realize that all things are devoid of absolute and fixated essence. When we discover the infinite interconnection with all beings and things, this blissful freedom allows us to play harmoniously with all other relational things.

3. Ritual objects for dakini initiation. Image courtesy of the author

Wisdom that realizes emptiness
And bliss that dissolves all conceptions.
Enter in the holy land of this union.
Enter in the holy triangle
Reaching the point of total dissolution.
The triangle gate in the female body
Is a bridge from this world to the world beyond.
Enter through this gate and reach the state of total bliss and equanimity.
To pass through this gate is not the final aim but one step towards it.
“Buddhahood is obtained from bliss, and
Apart from woman there will not be bliss” (Candamaharosana Tantra).
Enter the triangle and reach the fertile land
From where Bodhicitta – the Awakened mind will be born
For the benefit of beings.

4. Dharmodaya made by red powder on a mirror for initiation. Image courtesy of the author

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