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The Feminine Principle

Randy Hester
Vajrayogini Stained Glass by Randy Hester

The Feminine Principle

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This month, May 2024, the Digital Library is releasing two seminars that present some of the most profound teachings on the topic of the feminine principle and EVAM. “The Feminine Principle” was the title of a seminar given in 1975 at Karme Choling, Vermont. Although it was offered as a general seminar that anyone could attend, its subject matter was very “tantric”: a discussion of energy and space. These four talks explicate and investigate the qualities of the feminine principle: 1) the mother principle; 2) unborn and unceasing; and 3) with a nature like sky. The final talk is on the dakini principle, the nature of space, and prajnaparamita, the mother of all the buddhas.

The feminine principle, we quickly see, is not about human gender or the qualities of a feminine person. It is a way of talking about space, the fundamental space of mind and the space that gives birth to and contains all phenomena.

Judy Lief, who edited these two seminars, “The Feminine Principle” and “EVAM” into Glimpses of Space (one of four volumes in Glimpses of the Profound), was asked by Chogyam Trungpa to lead a class on “The Feminine Principle” talks, before Trungpa Rinpoche gave his teachings on EVAM in Boulder, Colorado in 1976. One of four teachers selected to present this material, Judy reports that she listened to the recordings to prepare for the class. Trungpa Rinpoche himself came to a number of the sessions, which were required for anyone who wished to come to the EVAM seminar, since these teachings were an important foundation for understanding the EVAM principle.


Design: Molly Nudell. (© Diana J. Mukpo, by permission)
Chogyam Trungpa’s EVAM logo.

EVAM can be translated as “Thus,” and it is the first word in all the sutras of the Buddha, which all begin with the phrase, “EVAM MAYA SHUTRAM.” This Sanskrit intonation means, “Thus I have heard.” For Trungpa Rinpoche’s explanation of this proclamation, watch “Talk 3: Missing the Boat.”

In the EVAM seminar, Rinpoche takes us into the meaning of EVAM in all three yanas, or levels, in the Buddhist teachings. From the hinayana perspective, he also connects it with the basic experience of the sitting practice of meditation. In the first talk of the seminar, he describes the teachers of the Kagyu lineage, the “practice lineage” in which he was enthroned and trained, as astronauts who explored inner space in the same way that astronauts today explore outer space. 

The EVAM Seminar also looks at the interaction between the feminine and the masculine principles. E represents the Feminine, the Mother; and VAM, represents the Masculine, the Son. A logo for EVAM, which is how the word is spelled in Sanskrit, was created by Chogyam Trungpa (see image above). Historically, EVAM was the main symbol and signatory seal of the Trungpa tulkus. Chogyam Trungpa had a ring with the EVAM syllable on it, which he wore throughout his life. And interestingly, Trungpa Rinpoche tells us in his book Journey without Goal that EVAM is also the symbol of the Kalachakra tantra, which is connected with the Shambhala teachings.

Tuning into the Feminine Principle

The environment that he creates in both seminars is similar to the space that he engendered when he taught to tantrikas, or those who have received formal Vajrayana transmission. So it is significant that he presented this material for any and all of us to hear and see. The EVAM seminar was recorded in video, and it is a remarkable experience to watch these recordings. 

Judy Lief also told me, when I interviewed her about this material, that she feels that you need to relax your mind when you listen to and view these talks. Trying to grasp an understanding through pure logic and reasoning will only frustrate us. She recommends approaching these teachings like you are tuning into the mental energies, in order to get a glimpse of the feminine principle which gives birth to all realization. My own experience is that these are powerful teachings to watch and listen to during a period of intensive practice, such as a solitary or group retreat.

Vajrayogini, “The Mother of All the Buddhas”

Vajrayogini Stained Glass by Randy Hester

At the end of this month, another great teacher in the Kagyu lineage, Ringu Tulku, will be presenting the Vajrayogini Abhisheka to around 150 students in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Many of them consider Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche as their main teacher or as a main inspiration for their path. They will be receiving a profound transmission that makes a direct connection to the feminine principle, as embodied in the yidam Vajrayogini, who is herself often called Prajnaparamita or “The Mother of All the Buddhas.” Our release of these recordings is an offering to all those receiving the abhisheka; to the lineage of teachers who have guarded and transmitted these teachings; to Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche himself as guide and inspiration; and to all of you, who are inspired to listen to, learn about, and practice these extraordinary teachings.

The Feminine Principle Playlist

“The Feminine Principle” (Karme Choling, Vermont, 1975. AUdio)

“EVAM” (Boulder, Colorado, 1976. video)

Design: Molly Nudell. (© Diana J. Mukpo, by permission)
Chogyam Trungpa’s EVAM logo.

Bonus Tracks

  • 100,000 Songs of Milarepa, Talk 2: Challenge from a Wise Demoness (Commentary on the yogi-poet’s song about working with the dakini principle of energy — a feminine energy that manifests as destructive or positive.)
  • Tantra: Journey without Goal, Talk 13: Annutarayoga (Introduction to anuttarayoga, one of six yanas of vajrayana, and Kalachakra tantra symbolized by EVAM)
Click here to listen to the full talk: “The Chicken and the Egg”


  • Judy Lief, interview with author, May 6th, 2024. 
  • Lief, Judy. 1999. Editor’s Introduction to Glimpses of Space: The Feminine Principle and EVAM by Chogyam Trungpa. Halifax: Vajradhatu Publications.