Milking the Sky: Songs of Realization by Female Indian Mahasiddhas



Every Tibetan Buddhist knows the life story and the songs of realization of the great Tibetan yogī Milarepa. The many songs of awakening by his Indian predecessors, the most famous among them the eighty-four mahāsiddhas, are much less known but equally profound, beautiful, and inspiring.

Even less known are the songs and life-stories of their numerous female counterparts.

Join in person or via webcast on Friday, October 4, 2019 from 7:00 am – 9:00 pm and Saturday, October 5, 2019 from 10:00 am – Noon, 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm with Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl at Nalanda West in Seattle. 

Most of these songs were uttered spontaneously on the spot, and many betray quite unconventional if not outrageous thinking and conduct. They often use a rich symbolism with profound metaphors, and their style sometimes sounds more like modern poetry or song lyrics than traditional Buddhist texts, creating a certain atmosphere or being evocative rather than systematically didactive. Many of them use a rhetoric of paradox, attempting to beat the dualistic mind with its own weapons and point to something beyond our usual black-and-white thinking. It is a scent of boundless freedom, openness, and bliss, paired with a deep caring for suffering beings, that wafts through these songs as expressions of supreme awakening.

During this weekend, we will explore the life stories of a number of female mahāsiddhas and yoginīs (such as Niguma, Sukhasiddhi, the crazy princess Lakṣmī, and Ḍombiyoginī), as well as their relationships to their male counterparts, and sing a selection of their songs.

 

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The Paramita of Prajñā — with Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl

Prajñā does not refer to passive knowledge, such as knowing stuff on Wikipedia or knowing how to get from Vancouver to Halifax. Prajñā is the active inquisitiveness of our mind, its basic curiosity of wanting to find out how things really are. If we look at the Buddha’s own career, this is exactly how he started. He did not start with the answers or by following some religion, tradition, or code of behaviour. He started with questions. As Prince Siddhārtha he lived in his sheltered existence in the palace of his parents, who wished to protect him from the bad world (as most parents do). However, eventually he got out with his charioteer and saw things he had never seen before, such as an old person. He asked his charioteer, “What is that?” “This is an old person.” “Does this happen to everyone?” “Yes, even to you.” The same exchange took place when Siddhārtha saw a dying person and a sick person. When he finally saw a meditator under a tree, the charioteer explained, “This guy tries to overcome all the problems that you saw before.” Every time, Siddhārtha realized, “I do not really know what is going on here,” so he tried to find out, which is now known as the Buddhist path.

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