Oftentimes, we hear the stories of Enlightened Masters in such a beautiful and inspiring language of the Outer Tantras where the Enlightened Masters are described in such extraordinary almost supernatural form or even supernatural form with magical powers and they're just perfect beings who never make mistakes and, I know for me, I get so much inspiration from reading the life story of Yeshé Tsogyel and really learning about the mistakes that she made and the difficulties she had and the hardships she faced. That is a really bold communication to me of the Nature of Mind and it's a slightly different view.
It's not that one is better than the other and I don't want to say that one way of telling the biography of Enlightened Masters is better. They're just different. One is from the view of Outer Tantras. The other from the view of Inner Tantras where ordinariness is not seen as separate than from Buddha Nature.
For me, one of the most inspiring things about her life is that she had faced many obstacles and difficulties and including many difficulties that were really particular to being a female Practitioner.
She told Padmasambhava:
'Inadequate women like me with little energy and inferior birth incur the whole world's hostility. When we go begging, the dogs are hostile. If we possess food or wealth, then thieves molest us. If we are attractive, then we are bothered by fornicators. If we work hard, then the country people are hostile. If we do nothing at all, the tongues of malicious gossip turn against us. If our attitude is improper, then the whole world is hostile. Whatever we do, the lot of a woman on the Path is a miserable one. To maintain our Practice is virtually impossible and even to stay alive is difficult.'So this is something really powerful for me about Yeshé Tsogyel's life story is the acknowledgment that she has of what it is to be a female Practitioner and the difficulty that is unique to that situation of being female in a gendered society.
But Yeshé Tsogyel's way of dealing with this is a really extraordinary instruction. Her Teaching was that, if we have nothing to fear within our own mind, within our own inner-space, then nothing else externally can harm us. That, what manifests in our external world becomes workable if we have that workable relationship and fearless relationship with our own mind and our own state of being.
And Yeshé Tsogyel embodied this Teaching in her life. She embodied it even in the worst circumstances. She was beaten. She was harassed. She was kidnapped.
One time, she was traveling alone to Nepal and she ran into seven thugs who were in the wilderness and traveling themselves. And they saw her and they saw that she was alone and they stalked her.
Imagine what that must have felt like! There was no one around for miles so, even if she yelled for help, no one would come. She was miles away from any place or any town so, even if she ran, there was nowhere to run.
Realizing that they were going to steal her gold or worse, she did something so extraordinary. She sat down right where she was. She invoked her Teacher and began doing her Yidam Practice. She began to do her Practice of the Buddhist Tantras. She sang a song and she took out her gold and she arranged it in front of her like a Mandala Offering. And, in the song, she said:
'Let karmic misadventure be swiftly transformed. May people find freedom through generosity.'And, with this song, she invited them and offered them the gold.
This was so shocking to them that it stunned them and their aggression was suspended. And, just not really sure what was happening, they asked her; 'Who are you? Where are you from? Who is your Teacher?' She responded to them by Teaching them the transformation of the mind poisons into the nectar of the mind's intrinsic enlightened qualities. So this became her Teaching of transforming the five poisons into the five wisdoms. The seven thugs who heard this were transformed and changed and they became her students.
Another time, Yeshé Tsogyel was already an established and prominent Buddhist Teacher, giving empowerments and initiations, and, where she lived, there were a group of bandits who robbed her and raped her. Afterwards, she spoke with them about transforming their lust into joy and actually gave them instructions on how to transform the encounter that they had with her. She taught them about transforming aggression into lovingkindness. She talked with them about extinguishing the division between self and other and she taught them how to discover the open-dimension, emptiness (shunya), through the experience of pleasure.
And so here it was that these men had beat her and robbed her and raped here and she taught them. It's said that they heard her instruction and became Mahasiddhas and spent their life helping others after that.
Certainly, it's not something that just anyone can do but, in this case, her sanity and her clarity and her openness and the power of her realization was able to use even this worst situation in a way that brought people to the Dharma and brought forth an extraordinary opportunity for awakening.
So Yeshé Tsogyel, the female Tantric Buddha, she is an example of what's possible for human beings. That we can, in whatever situation we find ourselves in, maintain our openness, maintain our sanity, and maintain our compassion and clarity. When I think of the slogan that 'Every moment is an opportunity for Practice,' it's really her life. That is just the extraordinary embodiment of how true that can be even when we are in situations that we think could never be that."
~ Excerpted from the Teaching "Lineage of Enlightened Women" by Lama Nyima (Troma Rinpoche)