Many people are familiar with the names of Niguma and Sukhasiddhi, two of the most renowned dakinis of the Tibetan tradition, who around the 11th century founded a whole lineage of practice called the Shangpa Kagyu. However, no matter how incredible this establishment might sound, the core of their teachings are rarely accessible for women in Himalayan countries. The transmission of their legacy might have been practiced by women, but their female disciples exist nowhere in history. All of the lineage holders along its history have been men. Furthermore, the access to their essential teachings, such as the Five Golden Dharmas of Niguma, is exclusively given in the particular environment of Three-Year Retreats. Nonetheless, there are no Three-Year Retreat premises for women in the entire Himalayan region. With the spread of Buddhism to the West, a Shangpa retreat for women became available for the first time. This is extraordinarily wonderful.
Here we can see the enormous advantages of freedom and equal opportunities for women in contemporary society. It is thanks to the consideration of human rights regardless of gender to a larger effect in Western societies that finally, after nine centuries, the precious teachings from these two Dakinis have been accessible for women. When the first Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche founded retreat centers in Europe and the US, a few female students started to relish the nectar of Niguma and Sukhasiddhi’s instructions. Since then, it has been only in the West where women have the fortune of practicing Niguma and Sukhasiddhi’s precious and profound teachings. Paradoxically, nowadays, the women from the Himalayan regions still lack this opportunity, unless they travel to the West.
Therefore, we can see here the importance of social and cultural freedom for women in every aspect of life, and particularly in the quintessential field of Dharma. If women are not fully supported by communities, they will still find many hindrances in terms of practicing the Dharma. If women are rightfully respected and considered in a society as equal beings capable of receiving and practicing the precious teachings, they can develop their full potentiality. Which is an immense benefit to all.
* Special guest article by Maite Castellano Mentxaka, a dharma student of Tibetan language and translator from Tibetan to Spanish. She has participated in one Three-Year Retreat on Niguma’s lineage in Spain and translated for two!
Just before 3 Year Niguma retreat, Dak Shang Kagyu (top)
Wisdom dakini Niguma
‘In the meditation box’, 3 Year Niguma retreat, Dak Shang Kagyu
Tenga Rinpoche with Niguling group, Dak Shang Kagyu