A dakini (
khandroma, Wylie: mkha' 'gro ma, TP: kanzhoima; Chinese: 空行母) is a tantric deity described as a female embodiment of enlightened energy. In the Tibetan language, dakini is rendered khandroma which means 'she who traverses the sky' or 'she who moves in space'. Sometimes the term is translated poetically as 'sky dancer' or 'sky walker' or 'sky goer'.
The Dakini, in all her varied forms, is an important figure in Tibetan Buddhism. She is so central to the requirements for a practitioner to attain full enlightenment as a Buddha that she appears in a tantric formulation of the Buddhist Three Jewels refuge formula known as the Three Roots. Most commonly she appears as the Dharma protector, alongside a Guru and Yidam, but Judith Simmer-Brown points out that:
“The Dakini, in her various guises, serves as each of the Three Roots. She may be a human Guru, a Vajra Master who transmits the Vajrayana teachings to her disciples and joins them in Samaya commitments (Tantric vows). The wisdom Dakini may be an Yidam, a meditational deity; female Deity Yogas such as Vajrayogini are common in Tibetan Buddhism. Or she may be a Dharma Protector; the wisdom Dakinis have special power and responsibility to protect the integrity of oral transmissions. Simmer-Brown|first=Judith|title=Dakini's Warm Breath:The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism|publisher=Shambhala Publications Inc.|year=2002|isbn=978-1-57062-920-4|pages=139–40}}
Although Dakini figures appear in Hinduism and in the Bön tradition, Dakinis are particularly prevalent in Vajrayana Buddhism and have been particularly conceived in Tibetan Buddhism where the Dakini, generally of volatile or wrathful temperament, act somewhat as a muse (or inspirational thoughtform) for spiritual practice (cultivation). Dakinis are energetic beings in female form, evocative of the movement of energy in space. In this context, the sky or space indicates shunyata, the insubstantiality of all phenomena, which is, at the same time, the pure potentiality for all possible manifestations.
Dakinis, being associated with energy in all its functions, are linked with the revelation of the Anuttara Yoga Tantras or Higher Tantras, which represent the path of transformation, whereby the energy of negative emotions or kleshas, called poisons, are transformed into the luminous energy of enlightened awareness (jnana) yielding rigpa.
When considered as a stage on the Vajrayana Path, the dakini is the final stages: the first is the guru, which corresponds to the initial realization of the true condition of reality, as this is introduced by the guru in the empowerment, if the disciple obtains what the Inner Tantras call peyi yeshe (dpe yi ye shes). The second is the devata, which corresponds to the meditation insofar as the devata is the method we use for developing the state discovered in the initial realization of the true condition of reality. The third stage is the dakini insofar as the dakini is the source of the activities based on the realization of the guru and the meditation of the devata. In Dzogchen these three correspond to tawa (lta ba), gompa (sgom pa) and chöpa (spyod pa): the first is the direct Vision of the true nature of reality rather than an intellectual view of reality, as is the case with the term in other vehicles; the second is the continuity of this vision in sessions of meditation; and the third is the continuity of this vision in the everyday activities. As a tantric practice, imperfections are utilised to make the vision uninterrupted. As the Base, the dakinis are the energies of life; as the Path, they are the activities of advanced practitioners; as the Fruit, they are the actionless activities of realized Masters.<ref name=“Capriles, Elías 2007” />
According to tradition, a Dakini gave a black hat to the third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (1284–1339), when he was three years old.,<ref>A portrait of the 3rd Karmapa</ref> The Black Crown became the emblem of the oldest reincarnating Tibetan lineage.
</ref> identifies four main classes of dakini. These follow the Twilight Language tradition of esotericism in referring to secret, inner, outer and outer-outer classes of dakinis. The secret class of dakini is Prajnaparamita (Tibetan yum chenmo) or voidness, the empty nature of reality according to Mahayana doctrine. The inner class of dakini is the dakini of the mandala, a meditational deity (Tibetan:yidam) and fully enlightened Buddha who helps the practitioner recognise their own Buddhahood. The outer dakini is the physical form of the dakini, attained through Completion Stage Tantra practices such as the Six Yogas of Naropa that work with the subtle winds of the subtle body so that the practitioner's body is compatible with an enlightened mind. The outer-outer dakini is a dakini in human form. She is a yogini, or Tantric practitioner in her own right but may also be a karmamudra, or consort, of a yogi or mahasiddha.
Dakinis can also be classified according to the Trikaya, or three bodies of a Buddha. The Dharmakaya dakini, which is Samantabhadri, represents the Dharmadhatu where all phenomena appear. The Sambhogakaya dakinis are the yidams used as meditational deities for tantric practice. The Nirmanakaya dakinis are human women born with special potentialities; these are realized yogini, the consorts of the gurus, or even all women in general as they may be classified into the Five Buddha Families.<ref name=“Capriles, Elías 2007”>Cf. Capriles, Elías (2003/2007)work in progress 1. Buddhism and Dzogchen://webdelprofesor.ula.ve/humanidades/elicap/en/uploads/Biblioteca/bdz-e.version.pdf, and Capriles, Elías (2006/2007). Beyond Being, Beyond Mind, Beyond History, vol. I, Beyond Being'://webdelprofesor.ula.ve/humanidades/elicap/en/Main/Bb-bm-bh'</ref>
A Daka is the same as a Dakini but in its male embodiment.