The enlightened women or female figures named below all come from Vajrayana or "Tibetan" Buddhism, the school of Mahayana which originated in India and later moved to Tibet and the other Himalayan countries.
Hence, most figures are identified first by their Sanskrit name, with the alternate Tibetan form appearing in parentheses (when it is the other way around, i.e. Achi Chkyi Drolma, Machig Labdron and Palden Lhamo, it is because their practices developed or were practised principally in Tibet).
Deities can be distinguished between four different types:
yidam: an enlightened meditational deity who embodies the union of wisdom and compassion, yet is not separate from the meditator
guru figure: a fully realised being whom one identifies wholly with one's spiritual guide
Dharma protector: usually portrayed as an enlightened being in wrathful form; a protector's primary function is to eliminate the spiritual obstacles hindering the practitioner
historical figure: someone who lived as a female human being on this earth and can be placed historically according to tradition
Pictures of the different deities can be found on the website Himalayan Art Resources.
We recommend the following books:
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