Senge Dongma (Sanskrit: Siṃhamukhā or Siṃhavaktrā, Vietnamese: Sư Diện Không Hành Phật Mẫu) otherwise known as The Lion-faced Ḍākinī. In the Nyingma terma tradition, she is considered as one of the many forms of Padmasambhava, specifically a secret form of Guru Rinpoche manifested to avert spiritual obstacles and negativity. Siṃhamukhā is also practiced by other Sarma lineages, based off the Cakrasamvara tantra cycle. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo who formed a special Sarma tradition which combines Nyingma-terma with other lineages such as Sakya and Kagyu. In the Sarma traditions she arises out of the Chakrasamvara cycle of tantras and belongs to the Anuttarayoga ‘wisdom’ classification.
Description of the Ḍākinī Simhamukha from vajranatha.com:
In the sadhana for Vajra Dakini Simhamukha, written by Jamgon Kongtrul, the goddess is described as follows:
“The color of her body is a dark azure, like the dark color of the gathering storm clouds. And she is exceedingly wrathful. She has a single face and two arms. Her lion’s face is white in color and turns slightly to the right. The expression on her face is fierce and wrathful. From her three red eyes come flashes of lightning and her lion’s roar is like thunder. The hair of her head is long and black and made of iron. From this mass of hair that is billowing about everywhere (as if in a storm) is projected miniature phurpas like live sparks. With her right hand she flourished a five-pronged vajra in the sky and with her left hand she holds before her heart a kapala skull-cup filled with blood. She has a khatvanga staff cradled in the crook of her left arm. She girds her loins with a skirt made of a tiger skin and, as a mantle, she wears the hide of an elephant and a flayed human skin. In all respects, she is garbed in the eight-fold attire of the cremation ground. She adorns herself with a long garland of dried and freshly severed human heads, as well as with necklaces of human bone. She is adorned with various kinds of fearful apparitions and at her navel is the sun and moon. Her two legs are extended and drawn up in the dance position of ardhaparyanka, while she stands amidst the blazing masses of the flames of wisdom. At her forehead is the white syllable OM, at her throat is the red syllable AH, and at her throat is the blue syllable HUM. Then from the syllable HUM in her heart center there emanate rays of light, and from the great violently burning cremation ground in the land of Uddiyana, which is in the western direction, is invoked the Jnana Dakini Simhamukha, who is surrounded by retinues of hundreds of thousands of dreadful Matrika goddesses, together with the ocean-like hosts of guardian spirits who are her attendants.”
The Lion-Face Senge Dongma is a powerful ḍākinī particularly effective in repelling obstacles to one’s spiritual practice, including curses and other such calamities. On the ultimate level, she represents the wisdom nature of mind. Padmasambhava manifested in the wrathful guise of Senge Dongma when he accomplished this practice.
Defilements attract the maras of hindrances and enemies just as a magnet attracts iron filings. When you clear away the negativity of your own poisons, there is nothing to attract the maras.
Guru Rinpoche remained in Tibet for 111 years and in his 73rd year there he gave many teachings on Senge Dongma. The practice was transmitted to Yeshe Tsogyal, who is an emanation of Senge Dongma, and with her siddhi of infallible memory, she recorded the text in dakini script and concealed it, to be revealed later by tertöns. This particular treasure was revealed by Dudjom Lingpa, and kept secret for 44 years. When Dudjom Lingpa felt it was the right time, he opened the practice, recorded it in human script and transmitted it to others.
Below is another story of the fierce Lion-Faced Ḍākinī by Life of Lopsided dated August 11’th, 2012.
The story of the Lion-Faced Ḍākinī (Sengdongma)
Maybe it is due to my affinity with Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) that I also feel deeply for the Lion-Faced Dakini (Sengdongma in Tibetan) very much. This dakini and female Buddha is regarded as one of the principal wrathful manifestations of Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche). The Lion-Faced Dakini is also that of Atisha’s teacher in his youth and that of the Dalai Lama incarnations in their pre-Dalai Lama life as Ratnadas. Her lion face demonstrates fearlessness and that all fierce emotions are turned into a constructive activity towards enlightenment.
The Lion-faced Dakini is appropriate for clearing obstacles of the most pervasive and malignant kind, and cutting through the “three poisons” of mind. This ancient practice has been important in Tibetan Buddhism since the time of Padmasambhava.
She is particularly focused on pacifying the destructive influence of the Mamos, the forces of disturbed “yin” or feminine demonic energies. The wanton destruction of the environment and degradation of human culture greatly stirs up and enrages these elemental forces. They retaliate with disease, epidemics, weather disturbances and calamaties on a major scale. This practice is one of the great antidotes for this critical time of the “five degenerations.” As a wrathful dakini, the Lion-Faced Dakini is also one of the Phramenma, a group of female deities from the Bardo Thodol, or ‘Tibetan Book of the Dead’.
At the time of Buddha Amitabha, many aeons even before Shakyamuni Buddha, there was a demon called Garab Wangchuk whose daughter was a lion-faced demoness called Tramen Sengdongma. She delighted in taking the lives of countless beings, and by harming practitioners she increased the negative forces in the world and undermined the Amitabha Buddha’s doctrine.
All the buddhas gathered together and concluded that to tame her they would need to manifest an identical-looking being. The enlightened beings’ collective wisdom arose in the form of a wisdom being – the Lion-faced Dakini, empowered by all the Buddhas of the ten directions with their power and compassion to tame the demoness. The Dakini became far more powerful than the demoness, who then began to lose her strength. While the Dakini was in a deep samadhi of taming the maras, countless dakinis emanated from her and subdued all the demons. Tramen Sengdongma, now pacified, took an oath to serve the dharma and became a protector. The Lion-faced Dakini of Timeless Awareness represents the wisdom that enables one to clear away the negativity of one’s own mind, and through her practice one is imbued with spiritual power to gain mastery over samsara and nirvana.
In the time of the 100-year lifespans, Buddha Shakyamuni appeared in the world and turned the wheel of dharma in many places such as Varanasi, Bodhgaya, Vulture’s Peak, and the charnel ground of Lanka, teaching on many levels including Vajrayana. He said that at that time it was as if the sun was in the center of the sky, and there was no darkness anywhere, but when the sun went down then the darkness of ignorance would arise. But Lord Buddha continued that there would be a method to dispel this ignorance, and so Vajrapani requested that Lord Buddha teach this method. Shakyamuni Buddha rested in the samadhi of taming the maras, and then taught the whole cycle of the Lion-faced Dakini. He taught in many different ways, and these transmissions were concealed by Vajrapani as treasures after he received them.
750 years after Buddha’s Parinirvana, around Bodhgaya there was a king called Suraya Singha who invited 500 panditas – great practitioners and teachers of the Buddhadharma – and made offerings to them. At that time, the power of the Hindus was increasing, and they were destroying holy Buddhist teachings and institutes, so a debate between the Hindu and Buddhist panditas was arranged. Suraya Singha and the panditas prayed single-pointedly to Guru Rinpoche for help and he then appeared and tamed the Hindu teachers through miracles. When the Hindus then started using black magic, Guru Rinpoche revealed the Lion-faced Dakini treasure hidden by Vajrapani, did the practice, and in removing all obstacles he defeated the Hindu panditas.
Guru Rinpoche remained in Tibet for 111 years and in his 73rd year there he gave many teachings on the Eight Command Deities and also on the Lion-faced Dakini. The practice was transmitted to Yeshe Tsogyal, who is an emanation of the Lion-faced Dakini, and with her siddha of infallible memory, she recorded the text in dakini script and concealed it, to be revealed later by tertons. This particular treasure was revealed by Dudjom Lingpa, and kept secret for 44 years. When he felt it was the right time, he opened the practice, recorded it in human script and transmitted it to others.
The practice of the Lion-faced Dakini is said to be a reliable source of protection when obstacles arise…. “Defilements attract the maras of hindrances and enemies just as a magnet attracts iron filings. When you clear away the negativity of your own poisons, there is nothing to attract the maras.”
- ཀརྨ་རྡོ་རྗེ། Karma Dorje compiled this page as a supplemental guide and motivational support for others, please forgive him for any errors.