“As spiritual practitioners we receive encouragement and inspiration by reading the lifestories of great and sublime teachers, and the inspiration we receive from their exemplary lives allows us to progress more swiftly along the path to liberation. Because the appearance of everything we can know and experience depends on causes and circumstances, ordinary individuals embarking on the path must do so through a gradual process. Princess Mandarava, however, already liberated from the cycle of suffering and perfectly omniscient, was not an ordinary individual. She intentionally emanated into realms of ordinary existence in order to inspire beings and lead them through this gradual process, teaching them how to practice through her example. … The accounts of Mandarava’s remarkable lives illuminate the experiences of a great wisdom dakini who inspired everyone she met, turning their minds irrevocably toward liberation.
In the thirty-eight chapters of this revelation [‘The Lives and Liberation of Princess Mandarava‘ is a treasure of Padmasambhava], one comes to know a nirmanakaya (emanated manifestation) dakini who chose numerous times to enter the world as an aristocrat. The purpose of this depiction is not to show us that only those of high status or wealth are fortunate enough to have such opportunities, but to reveal that Mandarava was able and willing to renounce that which is most difficult to renounce, namely attachment to the so-called pleasures of worldly life. In each of her lifetimes, she unflaggingly forsakes fame and pleasures to work for the benefit of others through example and skillful means. Her abandonment of the temporary pleasures that steal away precious time and opportunities for spiritual development mirrors the struggles facing modern day Dharma practitioners. Although Mandarava was a famous female practitioner, she ultimately defies gender distinctions, and her enlightened activities are timeless. The Dharma that Mandarava – and all sublime teachers like her – teach is the path that transcends all relative distinctions made by ordinary individuals based on the ordinary habits of dualistic mind.
The notion that Vajrayana Buddhism is male-oriented is misleading. Still, many women attempting to pursue the path may naturally become discouraged when they encounter the strong Tibetan cultural influence. The more Dharma takes root in the West, however, the easier it becomes to relate directly to the Dharma, which is perfectly pure and free from biased distinctions, rather than focusing on the habits of ordinary individuals from foreign cultures. It is my prayer that this book may be of some benefit in encouraging the many excellent female practitioners in the world to cultivate their noble qualities and, through the force of their practice, go on to become fully qualified teachers themselves. May this work bring immeasurable benefit to all living beings, who are all equal and able to realize their precious buddha nature.”
~ Sangye Khandro: From her preface to her translation of ‘The Lives and Liberation of Mandarava‘
*Image: ‘Mandarava’ by Dru-gu Choegyal Rinpoche