pastel on paper
38 x 27” (sheet)
41 x 30” (frame)
Vajravarahi is a wrathful deity from the Vajrayana tradition depicted as a 16-year-old girl. She symbolizes triumph over ignorance as she dances on the corpse of the defeated ego. She wears a garland of fifty severed fresh human heads that are dripping with blood and symbolize the severed ego passions. The warriorlike, fearsome implements that she holds represent her ability to assist the devotee in overcoming imperfections. In her right hand she holds a chopper (kartrika). In her left hand she holds a skull cup (kapala) containing blood or amrita. Tucked in the crook of her left arm is a ceremonial staff (khatanga). She wears a crown of skulls.
Varahi means cow or boar, indicating that Vajravarahi is a cow goddess, which is shown by the head of a cow emerging from just above her right ear. While cows usually symbolize ignorance because they eat whatever is in front of them without discrimination, the Vajrayana system reverses this interpretation by asserting that it symbolizes the meditative state known as one taste (ekarasa). In this state, every phenomenon encountered is accepted without labeling it as attractive or repellant, which liberates the practitioner from habitual patterns of reaction.
Vajravarahi’s form was determined by the 10th century saint Tilopa who had a vision of her and received teachings from her. The ninth-century saint Luipa also received direct transmissions from Vajravarahi.
Vajravarahi is usually visualized in the center of her mandala which is a six-pointed star. The practitioner visualizes the mandala unfolding within his or her heart. The six-pointed star symbolizes the union of male and female energies, the upward pointing triangle representing the male, and the downward pointing triangle representing the female. The numerous deities represented in the mandala represent her assembly of assistants who reside with her in her in Mahasuka, the Great Bliss realm located at the periphery of the cosmos. This image was taken from a 13th century Tibetan painting.