An interview with Chöying Khandro on the Dakini's journey in the contemporary world

- through Francois Leclercq

Published on

During the pandemic, Chöying Khandro, Dakini's Whisper lineage holder and teacher, took to writing Dakini journey in the contemporary world, which has had two volumes completed so far. volume two, Cho's Heartexposes her deepest teachings on the Buddhist feminine: the intensely personal yet universal encounter with the Dakini as "a paradox of reality" who embodies "emptiness in action" (34), but also with the Five Elemental Dakinis who embody the Buddha nature itself, while Dakini is the Great Mother, Prajnaparamita.


Through 400 pages of a very unique book, Chöying Khandro set out to explain the many manifestations and meanings of Dakini. Yet his volume does more: it sums up his teachings in a profound way. It certainly features a feminine theme, although it is absolutely relevant to men. It goes far beyond feminism: it affirms women at the ultimate level, which is asexual. It asserts shamelessly, while transcending qualitatively.

"I like to say that the essence of Dakini is like chocolate," she said. “How can you capture the taste of this delicious food without tasting it for yourself? There is certainly an embodied and sensual dimension to Dakini, in the sense that she is fully embodied and encompasses the human body physics– after all, each individual encounter with Dakini is unique, depending on each of our inclinations, karma and baggage. “I find the Vajrayana concept of Dakini has become too mystified, and the underlying theme of my book is to inspire people with an accessible expression of Dakini. Dakini is absolutely accessible, even if its depth makes it ambiguous.

What does Dakini look like to different people? And its perfume? What about his voice? His touch? The essence of Dakini is none other than who or what we really are, Khandro-la said. We can all access it, regardless of our religious affiliation, social origin or other personal background. Khandro-la was keen to emphasize that the essence of Dakini is not only within her, but also within everyone. This is not something reserved for elite masters.

Choying Khandro. From

One of her most important paragraphs in this book is about how she defines " dakini journey” – an odyssey, a pilgrimage, to achieve insight, but without spiritual bypass. It is the one who embraces the whole person:

“The Dakini journey has been an invitation to live and dance our own Dakini dance with compassion and emptiness – two sides of the same coin. It is an invitation to experience our own compassionate and colorful dance as Dakini in the endless expanse of the sky. We have seen this beautiful and harmonious union in Dakini, the paradox dancer. As our Dakini eyes have been opened, it may seem that our journey as Dakini into the world of joy and sorrow, passion and horror, has just begun. But having felt the awakened qualities of Dakini such as gentleness, tenderness, richness, spontaneity, courage, confidence, fearlessness and ferocity within, we are now ready to integrate, embody, express and celebrate Dakini around the world. It's time to fully show our Dakini selves to the world!


The whole person, to avoid spiritual circumvention, must meet the Dakini on his own terms. It means entering the charnel ground, which the early Tantric Buddhists, in their wisdom, identified as the mythical place that represents vulnerability, our shadow, the side we don't want to see. (138) Khandro-la said, “Vulnerability is what connects us to human beings. When we express something fragile about ourselves, we enter the charnel ground. It is a very valuable experience. This is where we meet Dakini. We cannot meet her in a normal, comfortable place. We must enter his house. And, of course, Dakini can manifest fiercely, but she always comes from a place of compassion.

The charnel ground has many dimensions: the literal place as described by tantric masters, our shadow which is made up of insecurities, fears and bad memories, and finally the deeply rooted and conditioned subtle grasping which betrays our samsaric condition. This resonated especially with men, as male vulnerability has often been hidden, shamed or ignored in modern society. Men in particular are conditioned to fear not just letting go of their attachments – accumulations, wealth, status, etc. — but also their dislikes, including what they consider unforgivable, unattractive, or unpleasant about themselves. They must let go of what prevents them from having an innate self-compassion. “Ultimately, Dakini herself is also asexual, because when we become one with her, we enter the subtle body, which men and women share. As she writes:

“Exhale and see if you can allow this burden of the struggle in the charnel ground to dissolve into the great space of an open heart, spacious as the sky of the Great Mother (Prajnaparamita). We are not doomed forever. We are made of love and gentleness. Perhaps you can send forgiveness and kindness to yourself and to all others like you.


Forgiveness, love, gentleness: Khandro-la plays with these gendered — outwardly feminine — terms to help students realize that they can react in happiness or in fear. For those who react with fear, it is because they are in the twilight realm of charnel ground and vulnerability. They feel this samsaric and primal fear of empty space. Giving up everything can be terrifying to our ego. However, this is not the beginning of non-existence, but of learning to fully incarnate. For those who are able to open up to relax on the Great Mother's bare knees, they will feel something sweet and familiar: the realization of homecoming. As Khandro-la says, “We are coming home to a place we have never left. »


As the encounter with Dakini is experiential and personal, we have to engage with our body, which is made up of the five elements. We have come to disassociate our body from religious experience, but instead we can attain insight through the five elemental dakinis, who are personifications of the buddha nature. They are: Ratna Earth Dakini, Vajra Water Dakini, Padma Fire Dakini, Karma Wind Dakini and Buddha Space Dakini. (298–364) The five elemental dakinis are the female counterparts of the five Dhyani Buddhas. They do not appear in orthodox Tibetan Buddhist texts, although Khandro-la has stated that, as fundamental manifestations, they are not invented.

“They are ambiguous, difficult, stimulating, but significant characters. These are the five energies of the inner awakening, or Buddha nature. This approach complements but is quite different from the classical understanding of the Five Dhyani Buddhas. The five elemental energies can be found in Dzogchen as well as Bon and Tibetan native traditions. When Buddhism arrived it became much more systematized and organized.

The Five Elemental Dakinis are, according to Khandro-la, the personification, expressions, manifestations of these Five Energies as articulated by the ancients. However, it is important not to “solidify” them. "We don't want to commodify the Padma Fire Dakini or the others by attributing its characteristics to our personalities. We must remain open to the mystery of Dakini – be present with the dynamic play of the five elemental energies.

It's not just Dakini's journey. Khandro-la is convinced that it was Dakini who launched her on her own journey to write and publish this book. We come full circle to Dakini's invitation, which was never an invitation in the mundane sense, a request from someone outside of us. The invitation was always within us, an inner dialogue, our taking charge of our own enlightenment. Dakini is therefore nothing less than liberation, the one who encountered the Buddha himself 2 years ago.


Choying Khandro. 2023. Dakini journey in the contemporary world. The Heart of Chö: Volume 2. Oregon: Dakini's Whisper Media.

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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