“Your compassion knows no distance and embraces all equally.
You guide fortunate persons on the path to the celestial realms. Your loving face wears the conscientious smile of compassion.
Friend to all beings, to you I pray.”
– Jamgon Kongtrul
The Shangpa lineage was founded by Khyungpo Naljor. He had 150 teachers, but of these Sukhasiddhi and Niguma were primary. Most of the practices and teachings in the Shangpa come from one of these fully and completely awakened women. These, as well as the entirety of the Shangpa practices, are engaged as part of the long-term practice programs at Sukhasiddhi Foundation.
Excerpted from Timeless Rapture, by Ngawang Zangpo:
Both Sukhasiddhi and Niguma were born in Kashmir, although there is no record of any meeting between them. They are cited together only as teachers of the same disciple, Kyungpo Naljor, yet according to the Nyingma tradition, they are related from past lives. Jamgon Kongtrul writes in The History of the Sources of the Profound Treasures and the Treasure Revealers (p. 32b), that Niguma in a past life was none other than Mandarava, Guru Rinpoché’s foremost Indian disciple. The identification of Sukhasiddhi with Yeshé Tsogyal, Guru Rinpoché’s foremost Tibetan disciple, and with her reincarnation as Machik Labdrön, is well known.
Sukhasiddhi arrived at tantric Buddhism late in life. She lived as an impoverished housewife and mother of six children until the age of fifty-nine. She was thrown out of her home by her husband and children, who were irate at what they considered her misplaced generosity to a stranger who came begging at their door. She wandered westward to Oddiyana (Swat Valley in modern Pakistan), where she acquired a measure of grain, with which she made alcohol. Her business proved a modest success, and she allowed herself to again be generous, this time to a female adept referred to as Avadhuti-ma, who regularly bought alcohol for her companion, an adept in retreat. Sukhasiddhi’s gift of free alcohol intrigued the adept, Virupa, who asked whether his surprising benefactor wanted to receive Buddhist teaching. She did. Sukhasiddhi’s story relates that she brought as offerings to Virupa two containers of alcohol and some pork. Although this meeting predates the Muslim domination of India, pork and alcohol were far from what would have normally constituted suitable offerings for spiritual teaching, even to tantric masters. Nevertheless, Virupa was no normal master, and Sukhasiddhi would prove an exceptional disciple.
Upon receiving empowerment and instruction from Virupa, Sukhasiddhi, then a sixty-one-year-old, attained full enlightenment that very evening. Like Niguma, her body became rainbowlike. Niguma is remembered as a wrathful, dark-brown woman who wore bone ornaments, whereas Sukhasiddhi is portrayed as a peaceful, light-skinned sixteen-year-old.
Niguma’s teachings make up the bulk of the Shangpa Instruction Lineage’s meditation practices, yet it is Sukhasiddhi who occupies the center of the sacred circle when Kyungpo Naljor’s masters are recalled. Kyungpo Naljor himself testified to her central position, as quoted in The Story of the Wisdom Dakini, Sukhasiddhi, Whose Other Name [in Tibetan] is Déwé Ngödrub [Accomplishment of Bliss]:
Among my four principal spiritual masters, Niguma, Rahula, the hidden yogi [probably Métripa], and Sukhasiddhi, the kindest was Sukhasiddhi. Her first great kindness was the bestowal of many transmissions. Her later great kindness was to be my secret consort and to grant me every empowerment. Her final great kindness was to give me directions for giving empowerment, along with profound instruction in meditation. Moreover, she said she would remain inseparable from me throughout India and Tibet, a very great kindness, and that meditators in future generations would gain accomplishment by experiential cultivation of this secret meditation she taught.
– The Collection of Shangpa Masters’ Biographies, pp. 56-57
In fact, Sukhasiddhi kept her promise to appear to future lineage holders, notably to each of the first four lineage holders after Kyungpo Naljor, and has thereby revitalized and added to the Shangpa teachings over the centuries.
The Melody of Great Bliss: A Supplication to the Wisdom Dakini Sukhasiddhi
by Jamgon Kongtrul
Bestower of uncontaminated, coemergent bliss;
Radiant with the full splendor of sixteen-year-old youth;
Leader of every assembly of dakinis in the three locations—
Venerable Accomplishment of Bliss [Sukhasiddhi], to you I pray.
You manifested in a pauper’s home in Kashmir
And trained in realization on the path.
Having completed the force of faith and great compassion,
You diligently gave gifts without attachment; to you I pray.
Millions of eons ago, you perfected the cultivation of merit and wisdom
And the result of your training manifested.
The awakening of your karmic connections
Made you renounce home life; to you I pray.
In the land of Oddiyana, source of great mysteries,
Men were spiritual warriors; women, female warriors.
Just by your reaching the center of that gathering,
The power of your enlightened potential awakened; to you I pray.
You demonstrated the skillful means of illusory conduct as a vendor of delicious alcohol.
You gave twice-strained rice alcohol to a female adept.
This created a connection through faith
With a tantric practitioner in the forest; to you I pray.
Noble Virupa accepted you as his disciple
And gave you the full four empowerments into secret practice.
Instantly, your ripened karmic body of sixty-one years
Became that of a sixteen-year-old maiden; to you I pray.
Taking the inner path, you truly traversed in a single moment
The major vajra stages of awakening,
And you appeared in an uncontaminated, vajra rainbow body.
Powerful one of the celestial realms, to you I pray.
You became the manifest form of coemergent wisdom, Buddha Selfless One,
To remain until the end of cyclic existence.
You watch over the three realms’ beings during the six periods of day and night.
Honored female buddha, to you I pray.
You manifestly bless those who pray to you
And lovingly watch over your children who preserve your lineage, never parting from them.
You bestow common and supreme accomplishment in a matter of months or years.
Powerful one of great compassion, to you I pray.
Vajra Yogini, perfection of transcendent knowledge,
You appear to help beings in a body that has form.
The exquisite flower of your body, which one never tires of seeing,
Blooms with the marks and signs of physical perfection; to you I pray.
In the Teaching’s infinite gates, which have the nature of emptiness,
You speak according to beings’ dispositions.
Your speech, invincible sweet sound in every situation,
Flows imbued with the sixty tones of Brahma’s voice; to you I pray.
Inseparable bliss and emptiness, the true vajra of space,
Pervades all animate and inanimate life.
Your sublime enlightened mind of luminous Great Seal
Is coemergent and uncontaminated; to you I pray.
Epitome of the qualities of freedom and maturity,
You have an inconceivable life.
Just hearing your voice inspires uncontaminated bliss.
Sublime wish-fulfilling jewel, to you I pray.
You unite in pleasure with all victors and bodhisattvas.
Your emanations reach the four elements’ limits.
Like an excellent vase, a gem, or a wish-fulfilling tree,
Your enlightened activity is spontaneously present; to you I pray.
Your compassion knows no distance and embraces all equally.
You guide fortunate persons on the path to the celestial realms.
Your loving face wears the conscientious smile of compassion.
Friend to all beings, to you I pray.
To your child who preserves the lineage and who prays to you,
Show your loving face and joyfully grant me your supreme prophecy.
Bestow the empowerment of great vajra wisdom,
And bless me that I merge inseparably with you.
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