Cynthia Moku


The Dakini Map

acrylic and chalk on paper
“Show this [map] to many, many people. Then they will be inspired to go on pilgrimage, make offerings, and initiate auspicious connections for lifetimes.”

–Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche

During sixteen summers I directed mural painting projects for the three major public stupas along the Rocky Mountains, those large enough to contain interior shrine rooms. The Sante Fe Bodhi Stupa, the Kagyu Mila Guru Stupa in northern New Mexico and the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya in north central Colorado (see the Dakini Map).

I came to relish these journeys, driving along the Rocky Mountain Range and passing through high mesas of pinon, sage and chamisa, to high mountain passes of aspen, ponderosa and juniper forests.

The wide expanses, dynamic skies with their changeable weather, and the dark evergreen forests contrasted against snow covered mountain peaks. These beautiful environments are home to antelope, elk, buffalo and wild horses. Such abundance allured and delighted me. This extensive travel spoke strongly of sacred world. With every journey, I felt a deep sense of an underlying vibrant order within such profound changeable beauty.

One day in my studio I realized that this drive was definitely a sacred corridor that might show signs of alignment with the tigse or proper proportions of a buddha. The route’s length and subtle curves reminded me of the dakini sky-dancer, so I began to experiment. I purchased detailed sections of topographical maps, arranging them in a long vertical column on the 18’ high studio walls. I set up scaffolding between two ladders and started drawing. I made many, many sketches of the dakini on long rolls of tracing paper, hanging them over the 15’x7’ map, adjusting her size while always staying true to the proportions of a buddha figure. Until one afternoon I discovered it -the correct size of the dakini. The stupas and spiritual centers aligned to the chakras of her form -centered tips of her hair, crown, forehead, throat, heart, naval & secret centers, soles of her feet, center of her sun disc, and center of her lotus throne. The Dakini Map was born. It verified my initial perceptions. I was stunned at the pure, undeniable, and conclusive alignment that was revealed.

Geography of the Dakini’s Heart Center

The Dakini Map shows us the location of stupas and pilgrimage sites along the spine of the Rocky Mountains: the eastern flank from the tips of the dakini’s flaming hair (Drala Mountain Center Stupa) continuing south to her throat center, and the western flank from the dakini’s throat center continuing further south to the center petal of her lotus throne (Sante Fe Bodhi Stupa).

The Dakini Map covers just over 500 miles, or one-sixth the entire length of the Rocky Mountain chain. It encompasses the southern section of the Rocky Mountains -which in their entirety begin in the northernmost reaches of British Columbia, Canada, near the border of the Yukon Territories, and end at the Rio Grande River in northern New Mexico. It includes the entire length of the state of Colorado and the northern half of New Mexico.

I studied the geography and social history of this 500mile area, noted the sacred sites and retreat centers and visited most of them. I drove many miles into sometimes very remote areas, discovering the beauty and stark wildness in many places of this “Pilgrimage Dakini.” My youngest son, Sean, would sometimes accompany me, and always our family’s beautiful and serene canine, Gaia.

Over the years I showed the map, in a smaller version that I carried with me, to many spiritual leaders -Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, Khandro Rinpoche, Ponlop Rinpoche, and Kobun Chino Roshi. It was Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche who directed me to paint this “Dakini Map.” He said:

“Show this [map] to many, many people. Then they will be inspired to go on pilgrimage, make offerings, and initiate auspicious connections for lifetimes.”

An excerpt from the Artist’s Journal

The Drive North was majestic, as always, and also magnetic. The sky and varied horizons played together in unusual ways. I had not seen these types of cloud formations before.

The mountaintops seemed to be pulling sheer strands of cloud fabric towards them. Like dark blue-gray strings of cotton candy pulled from the main body of a silvery-threaded mass. The eye could perceive and nearly touch the magnetic attraction between the clouds and the land.

In many places, distant over the vast landscape, pockets of rain-like mist touched the earth. And where wind was whipping up the dust, the two inductions created a sheer electric force, unifying in such a way, that the rain took on a glowing golden-beige colour. Amazingly, in some of these erratic watery columns, a small whirlwind seemed to illuminate the center, then disappear. The natural world’s atomic power and innate beauty was nothing short of spectacular.

Quite remarkable and strange all at the same time, was my continued experience as I headed further north through three mountain passes and three valleys -one particular vast open expanse being the highest in Colorado. Along this 800km (500mi) geographic route in tandem with the south-central spine of the Rocky Mountains, there rests a solitary cone-shaped peak, bare of trees and shrubs, with foot and pack access only from the east. I am reminded as I pass along the western border of this general area, that this naked peak sits centered within a cloistered landscape. Hidden from view by an elongated volcanic ridge, its base is pocked with near-surface mountain aquifers.

This is the heart center of the dakini sky-dancer.

Evening and hours later, arriving in Boulder, rain is coming down steadily, while at dusk, climbing Kenosha Pass just an hour-and-a-half earlier, snow flurries tantalized thoughts of a bigger storm moving in. By the next morning, I know that this intermontane plateau of the sky dancer’s torso –that wide alpine valley surrounded by mountain peaks and holding her heart center, the great meadow of spaciousness– is now evenly blanketed in fresh, silent-white snow.