You strike terror with your bared teeth shining,
tongue lashing, and glare so violent
As you wield a knife and skull cup in the midst of your dance;
I praise and revere the one who burns with fiery wisdom.
Wearing dry skulls, snakes, and a tiger skin around your waist,
Draped with bone ornaments, with a complete retinue of enlightened females,
Gleeful executioner of all obstructers and destroyers,
I praise and honor the one who holds fast to the fortunate.
Your raging body terrifies the host of detractors;
Your shout, hum! phat ! KILL! destroy! terrifies from afar;
Your diamond like mind penetrates ultimate reality.
I praise and render homage to you, powerful Dakini!
Simhamukha: The Lion Headed Dakini
The female Buddha, Simhamukha is lion faced with the body of a woman. She is a startling awakeness of an enlightened awareness. Her mouth is drawn as roaring with untamable fury and exultant laughter. Her vibrant body dances in the waves of pure, primal power. She embodies the unstoppable energy that is immune to any external forces. Her fiery persona expresses the intensity required to experience ultimate reality. But her rage is not a selfish power. But rather it's her absolute intolerance towards the hindrances in the spiritual path of Enlightenment. As seen in some thangka, the lion-faced female Buddha is accompanied by two attendants. They are the Tiger-faced (Vyagramukha) and Bear-face (Rikshamukha) dakinis. This association shows that she communes with every living being and is kin to all that is sovereign, wild, and free.
Simhamukha As Wisdom Dakini:
Simhamukha, whose name means “Lion-Faced Lady,” is a fully enlightened being. She attained Buddhahood, the state of ultimate wisdom and bliss. Her mind flows in a pure, non-conceptual stream, free from distortion. Thus, she is a “wisdom dakini,” a great victorious mother, and a female who delights in the highest knowledge. She is an enlightened being whose nature is primordial wisdom and ultimate reality.”
Because her mind is completely purified, every experience arising in her mental stream has the essence of supernal joy. She enjoys a continuous flow of spontaneously arising supreme bliss.
Her bliss is spontaneous because it is not dependent on external objects. It is supreme because it can never be diminished or destroyed. It is the primordial nature of the mind. An intrinsic quality of being that naturally arises when all the attachments are severed.
One who has attained this realization is said to dwell in the realm of bliss. This “Realm” is not any worldly paradise or afterlife destination, but rather the same world we live in. But it is experienced with enlightened awareness. In Tantric practice, the world itself becomes a mandala mansion, a palatial abode of shimmering perfection, for those who behold it with pure vision.
Simhamukha’s joyful demeanor and dance portray this sublime enjoyment. Her mind dwells in absolute freedom and her experiential stream is a river of bliss. Her mode of being in the world is one of transcendent playfulness.
In the center of an ocean of blood and fat Is the spontaneously wise dakini, Playfully dancing amidst appearances and emptiness, Here in her pure mansion, the world of ordinary appearances.
Her lion’s head is an expression of humorous delight. Her body form is an artistic medium, that she molds to create astonishing, liberating illusions. Her dancing posture, ornaments, and implements remain the same, but her body hue varies. Her prevalent color is dark blue with a white face. Blue is the color that expresses anger. It transforms into stable wisdom and mirror like clarity in Tantric practice.
The Simhamukha Practice:
The practice of Simhamukha on the Tantric level is the irreducible aspect of the psyche. Enlightenment is not a passionless state, devoid of mental and emotional content. In fact, it is impossible to sustain a condition wherein thoughts and feelings do not occur. Hence, instead of striving to avoid them, one should practice observing each emotion as it arises. And they must refrain from adding a conceptual overlay.
Regardless of many emotions, it is possible to achieve clarity. By pinpointing the attachments that cause pain, one can achieve clarity. The emotion, viewed as solid and unavoidably painful, now dissolves into a luminous dance of energy. When the suffering associated with ego and attachment are eliminated, the practitioner can tap the emotions as a source of energy for meditative transformation.
The tantric practice of Simhamukha is recommended for those with an intensely passionate nature. It is for those with abundant anger, for she represents the enlightened essence of that incendiary energy. She symbolizes the transformation of anger into the clarity of mirrorlike wisdom. She exhibits the quality of anger in its ultimate purity. The term “anger” (dvesa/krodha) encompasses hatred, aggression, and a drive to destroy anything considered a threat.
When the delusory elements are removed, the result is pure anger or transcendent anger. It is devoid of neurotic attachments and reaction patterns. It then becomes a potent source of tremendous energy to overcome mental and emotional obstacles.
Iconography in Simhamukha Thangka and Statue
The following is a song of praise that also describes her iconography, from a Sakya meditation manual:
Your body rises like a dark-blue mountain,
Your lion face glows like moon-crystal,
Your tongue is the vermilion hue of the dawn sky
Amidst the light-garland of your terrifying fangs.
Your laughter resounds from afar: h u m ! p h a t ! p h e m!
Your black iron hair hangs down,
Your bone ornaments tinkle musically,
You dance wondrously, in a heroic mood.
Terrifying female of intensely burning wrath,
With a sharp copper knife in your right hand
And a skull bowl in your left,
Supping the heart-blood of the worst evildoers,
You are a female who delights in highest knowledge;
Your favorite consort is supremely blissful Heruka,
Embraced in the form of a mystical staff.She displays many attributes similar to wrathful deities: such as an angry visage, tiger-skin skirt, and bone ornaments. Her dancing pose, curved knife, and skull bowl are characteristics of female Tantric Buddhas. On one level of interpretation, these features connote overcoming negativity. Simhamukha dances in triumph on negative forces and opposition she has overcome. It is personified by the prostrate corpse beneath her feet.
Her knife “shatters the hearts and heads of those with horrible karma,” and sends them to a higher state. From her skull bowl, she drinks the heart-blood of the worst evildoers.
Her roaring laughter terrifies and repels the evil forces. She brandishes her knife to cut off dualistic thinking from the root and raises her skull cup to drink the nectar of supreme bliss. She laughs loudly as she dances joyfully on the corpse of ego. She is encircled by the purifying flames of wisdom.
Her mystical staff (khatvanga) signifies the traversal of all the stages leading to Buddha hood. Her consort, a male Buddha is equal in attainment to herself. Like her, he is also supremely blissful and yet appears in a wrathful guise. She is envisioned in a cremation ground. The channel ground accords with her fearsome nature.
Source: Buddhist Goddesses of India, Miranda Shaw