Dakini are regarded as the spirits in Vajrayana Buddhism. Dakinis are often represented as consorts in Yab-Yum representations. Dakinis have appeared in not just Buddhism and its branch but also in other ideologies. In Hindu ideology, the dakini have appeared in the medieval legends in India. They were mentioned in the famous Bhagavata Purana, Brahma Purana, Markandeya Purana and Kathasaritsagara. They were the demons in the train of Kali who feeds on human flesh.
Dakini in Buddhism
Dakini also appears in Vajrayana Buddhism, especially in Tibetan Buddhism besides Hinduism and Bon. Dakinis are regarded as energetic beings in female form, evocative of the movement of energy in space.
Judith Simmer-Brown identifies four main classes of dakini after thorough learning about the dakinis from the tibetan lamas. The four classes of dakini can be categorised as secret, inner, outer, and outer-outer classes of dakinis.
The secret class of dakini is prajnaparamita, the empty nature of reality according to Mahayana Buddhism.
The inner class of dakini is the dakini of the mandala, a meditational deity, and fully enlightened Buddha. They helps the practitioner to recognize their own Buddhahood.
The outer dakini is the physical form of the dakini. It is believed that she have attained this level through completing stages in tantra practices. One of such practices is Six yogas of Naropa, in this practice the practitioner works with subtle winds of the subtle body so that the practitioner's body is compatible with an enlightened mind.
The last class, the outer-outer dakini is a dakini in a human form. The outer-outer dakini is regarded as a yogini but may also be represented as karmamudra, or consort of a yogi or mahasiddha person.
Besides classes, Dakinis can also be classified as per Trikaya or three bodies of Buddhahood. They are the Dharmakaya dakini, the Sambhogakaya dakini, and the Nirmanakaya dakini. The Dharmakaya dakini is also referred to as Samantabhadra who represents the dharmadhatu.
The Sambhogakaya are the yidams which are used as meditational deities for tantric practice.
Finally, the Nirmanakaya dakinis are regarded as the human women who are born with special potentialities. They are realized yoginis, and consorts of gurus.
In the Vajrayana Buddhism, the dakini is regarded as the final stage, and the first one is the guru. The guru helps to corresponds to the initial realization of the true condition of reality. The second one is the devata. It corresponds to the meditation as the devata is the method used for developing the state where initial realization of the true condition of reality is discovered. As already mention, the dakini is the final or third stage. The dakini is the source of the activities based on the realization of the guru and the meditation of the devata.
Likewise, in Dzogchen, these stages correspond to tawa, gompa and chopa. The first one is the direct vision of the true nature of reality rather than an intellectual view of reality. The second one is the continuity of the vision of meditation while third one is the continuity of the vision in everyday activities.
It is believed that in the Anuttarayoga Tantras the dakinis are linked with the revelation of the Anuttarayoga tantra. The Anuttarayoga Tantra represents the path of transformation where the negative emotions is transformed into luminous energy of enlightened awareness. This helps to yield most profound experience of clear light.
It is believed that the concept and figure of dakini have come to japan via kukai's introduction of Tangmi in Shingon Buddhism in the early 9th century. In japan, the iconography is more similar to the dakinis of Hindu iconography than the dakinis in Tibetan Buddhism.
The iconography and the name was localized after the decline of the Heian period. Hence afterward the iconography was mixed with the images of foxes and half-naked women. The names Dakini-ten and Kiko-tenno was used for the dakini.
In the Middle age, it was believed that failure to pay respects to Dakini-ten by the Emperor would cause the immediate ruin of the regime.. Therefore, the Emperor of Japan would chant before the statue of dakini-ten whenever they saw the dakini and during the enthronement.