Manibhadra, the Happy Housewife, the Indian yogini siddha of the 11th century
When my mind was enshrouded in ignorance
Critical thought attended every sound;
When reality was revealed as my own nature
The nature of whatever appeared was reality itself.
In the town of Agarce there lived a wealthy householder, who had a thirteen year old daughter. She was betrothed to a man of her own caste, and as was the custom the young woman lived in her parents’ house until she was old enough to be her husband’s wife. During this period the Guru Kukkuripa came to her house begging food.
“What a fine handsome man you are!” the girl told him. “Why do you wear patched robes and beg your food when you could take a wife and live comfortably?”
“I am terrified of the wheel of rebirth, and I am trying to find the great joy of liberation from it,” Kukkuripa told her. “If I do not take this opportunity, in my next life I may not be so lucky. This human birth is really a precious chance, and if I break my vows of chastity by taking a wife, all my hopes and aspirations will be shattered and I’ll be afflicted with many kinds of grief. When I realized that, I gave up the pursuit of women.”
The girl was impressed by Kukkuripa and trusted him. After she had offered him good food, she said, “Please show me the way to liberation.”
“I live in the cremation ground,” Kukkuripa replied. “If you so desire, come to me there.”
Preoccupied with the significance of the Guru’s words, Manibhadra, for that was her name, neglected her work for the rest of the day, and then at nightfall she went to the cremation ground. Kukkuripa recognized her spiritual maturity and gave her the Samvara initiation and empowerment together with instruction in the union of creative and fulfillment meditation. Thereafter she remained in solitude for seven days, establishing herself in the practice of her sadhana. But when she returned home her parents beat her and reviled her.
Manibhadra defended herself, “There is no one in the universe who has not been either father or mother to me,” she said. “Besides, a pure blood line and a good family upbringing does not free a girl from the grip of samsara. So relying upon a Guru I have decided to practice a sadhana that can bring me liberation. I have already begun.”
Her words mollified her parents, who could find nothing to answer her with, and putting all thought of her housework out of her mind, Manibhadra began to practice her sadhana one-pointedly. After a year, when her betrothed came to take her to his own house, she accompanied him without demur. In her new home she performed everything that was expected of her cheerfully and uncomplainingly, always speaking modestly and sweetly, thus controlling both her body and speech. In good time she gave birth to a son and a daughter and brought them up in an exemplary manner.
Twelve years had passed since she met her Guru and formed her aspiration, then one morning as she returned from the stream with a pitcher full of water, she tripped over a root and fell down, breaking her pot. In the afternoon, after she had been missed from the house, her husband came looking for her and found her gazing fixedly at the broken pitcher. When he asked her what was the matter, she continued to stare, evidently not having heard him. All her family and neighbors came to try to distract her, but she remained silent and unmoving until nightfall, and then she expressed her realization in these words:
Sentient beings from beginningless time
Break their vessels, their lives ended,
But why do they return home?
Today I have broken my vessel
But abandoning my samsara home
I go on to pure pleasure.
The Guru is truly wonderful!
If you desire happiness, rely on him.
So saying, Manibhadra floated into the sky and taught the people of Agarce for twenty one days. Thereafter she attained the Dakini’s Paradise.
From Keith Dowman, ‘Masters of Mahamudra: Songs and Histories of the Eighty-Four Buddhist Siddhas’