Debunked: "Buddha said, 'Enlightenment is found in the Yoni'"


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In some New Age circles I've been in, I've encountered people claiming that the Buddha once said, "Enlightenment is found in the Yoni" (or "Buddhahood/Liberation/Nirvana is found in/resides in the vagina/womb/female sexual parts"). I thought: that doesn't sound like Buddha, I thought he was totally against all that. Indeed, in the Vinaya Pitaka, he's quoted as telling a monk that "it would be better if he put his penis in the mouth of a viper than in a woman's vagina." So some debunking is clearly in order.

It seems the quote appeared in a few New Age blogs in 2012, which appear to have taken it from a website called "Health - Science - Spirit" written by a chap called Walter Last:
Enlightenment is in the Vagina

You may think I try to be cheeky or provocative with the statement: ”Enlightenment is in the vagina”, but this is one of the authenticated sayings of the Buddha, and it leaves us with the problem of how to understand or interpret this. It seems to turn our usual understanding of enlightenment on its head.
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This is from 2007, and there is one earlier 'modern source' I was able to find, which dates back to 2005, and a collection of Tantric source materials:
Finally, Buddha himself said:

Enlightenment resides in the sexual parts of women. ("Buddhatvam Yosityonisamasritam.")
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While other sources in this article/collection are referenced, this one isn't. Whether it's taken from an earlier online source or not, I'm not sure. Though I suspect the woman who wrote it there - Marnia Robinson - came across it in John Stevenson's "Lust for Enlightenment: Buddhism and Sex" and simply forgot that it wasn't Buddha who said it, but rather, some Buddhists.
"The natural coupling of male and female is an adornment of Buddhahood. Sexual intercourse is the highest, not the lowest form of human activity. Buddhahood resides in the yoni of a woman." That was the message of the Tachikawa-Ryu, a school of Japanese Tantra established in the middle ages.
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Now this is where it gets interesting, for rather than Buddha's staunch and steadfast attitude to sex, the Tachikawa-Ryu were a medieval Japanese esoteric cult whose practices were deemed so outlandish and depraved that they were outlawed and basically erased from history. I won't write about their practices here - but, needless to say, it's likely any unsuspecting New Ager misattributing her chat-up line to the Buddha would run a mile at the thought of some of the things they got up to.

In a nutshell: not Buddha, medieval Japanese sex cannibals. Okay?
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The Buddha talked about a middle way instead of the extremes of abstinence or indulgence. In the scriptures of Tantric Buddhism we see that the energy contained within the sexual force can be harnessed for enlightenment instead of the feeding of desire. Here are some interesting readings on this subject.
"Sensuality is enervating; the self-indulgent man is a slave to his passions, and pleasure-seeking is degrading and vulgar. But to satisfy the necessities of life is not evil. To keep the body in good health is a duty, for otherwise we shall not be able to trim the lamp of wisdom, and keep our minds strong and clear. Water surrounds the lotus flower, but does not wet its petals. This is the middle path, O bhikkhus, that keeps aloof from both extremes."
"For Buddhists, sexual intercourse can be used in the spiritual path because it causes a strong focusing on Consciousness if the practitioner has firm compassion and wisdom. Its purpose is to manifest and prolong deeper levels of mind (described earlier with respect to the process of dying), in order to put their power to use in strengthening the realization of the emptiness. Otherwise, mere intercourse has nothing to do with spiritual cultivation. When a person has achieved a high level of practice in motivation and wisdom, then even the joining of the two sex organs or so-called intercourse, does not detract from the maintenance of that person’s pure behavior..."


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I think when we talk about Buddha's 'Middle Way' these days it's to conveniently justify certain things that we want. ;)

In my reading of 'The Sermon at Benares' Buddha is saying the middle way [to enlightenment, not just general day-to-day life] is somewhere between "mortification of the flesh" and "self-indulgence." He's saying starving and torturing yourself isn't where it's at. Sex doesn't really come into it.

"Keeping the body in good health" probably refers to at least feeding it ("the necessities of life"), and not weakening it to the extent that spiritual and mental practise becomes difficult.

What Tibetan Buddhism, or Tantric Buddhism, or the Dalai Lama (an abstinent monk) says about sex is a whole other matter, and not so closely related to the historical Buddha's teachings as perhaps we'd like to believe.

The most interesting thing about "the middle way", for me, is why Buddha preached it when his own life and path was anything but 'balanced'. But that's a whole other matter.

PS Here are some more of the Dalai Lama's actual genuine words on sex:

Dalai Lama on sex.jpg
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It's relevant to look into Tantric Buddhism. There are quite a few different schools within Buddhism and they all claim to follow what the Buddha taught. That doesn't automatically imply a contradiction since there are multiple turnings of the wheel of dharma and different teachings from the Buddha himself. Vajrayana, or Tantrayana, is the third turning of the wheel. In order to reconcile the contradictions, it's important to look more deeply into what this path is. I'm not talking about the "middle way" to justify what I want. The "middle way", "keeping the body in good health," etc.; all these statements don't mean what you're suggesting. In Tantrism ("Alchemy" in western esotericism), the sexual energy is used to liberate oneself from desire. It is an act of renunciation. I think the right response to what I'm saying is to investigate for oneself. There are some interesting resources here: I can provide more if you find this page inadequate.


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In some ways I agree with you, in others not. But, really, the point here is that Buddha isn't recorded as saying the original quote, and is actually recorded as saying things diametrically opposed to it.

All else is probably discussion for another day. ;)


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"The natural coupling of male and female is an adornment of Buddhahood. Sexual intercourse is the highest, not the lowest form of human activity. Buddhahood resides in the yoni of a woman." That was the message of the Tachikawa-Ryu, a school of Japanese Tantra established in the middle ages.
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Now this is where it gets interesting, for rather than Buddha's staunch and steadfast attitude to sex, the Tachikawa-Ryu were a medieval Japanese esoteric cult whose practices were deemed so outlandish and depraved that they were outlawed and basically erased from history. I won't write about their practices here - but, needless to say, it's likely any unsuspecting New Ager misattributing her chat-up line to the Buddha would run a mile at the thought of some of the things they got up to.


In a nutshell: not Buddha, medieval Japanese sex cannibals. Okay?

This one actually goes further back than "Lust For Enlightenment." I've found "Buddha-hood abides in the female organ" in a 1992 book, "Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics" (Suffering-Zwingli, page 196). The Sanskrit there is "Buddhatvaṁ yoṣidyonisamāśritaṁ." (I hope those diacritics come through.) It comes, apparently, from Buddhist Tantric scriptures that purport to have been taught by the historical Buddha, although they're very late works and very much contradictory to what he taught.

So this wasn't just one wacko Japanese cult (although, man, were they weird!) but a fairly common statement to be found in a whole class of late Buddhist writings.


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Nice find. :)

The 'Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics' is actually a volume of twelve books (plus index volume) written and published between 1908 and 1926 (or 1927).

"Suffering - Zwingli" is the title of Volume XII, and looks to contain the quote. Wikipedia says has all twelve volumes available to view online for free (registration required) but I could only access Volume I (which is also at

I guess that since you noted the page number (196, of Volume XII) you came across one of the various citations, such as in Lorenzen (1972), which puts Louis de La Vallée-Poussin as the author of that particular entry ("Tantrism - Buddhist").

There are lots of his texts at

There is also a 1974 book by Robert Hans van Gulik, which seems to be a source for one thread of this 'quote'; his reference is to Cecil Bendall "quoting the Subhashita Sangraha in Museon, 1903-04" (which may be the edition available here, or perhaps this one here).

Bendall and de La Vallée-Poussin were apparently associates; the latter inheriting at least some of Bendall's texts upon his death.

I've also seen some ascribing thoughts similar to this to the Candamaharosana Tantra; though I couldn't see this exact quote.

And I did also notice that it's mentioned in 'The Vagina Monologues' (ascribed to "Tantric Buddhism" rather than Buddha).

I'll come back to this later, when I've a bit more time.
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Okay, I believe I've found the source for the "Tantrism - Buddhist" entry in the 'Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics': possibly it's this short chapter written by de La Vallée-Poussin and included in 'Actes du Onzième Congrès International des Orientalistes, Section 1' (1897):

The relevant passage seems to be this one (translated and abridged):
Taranatha teaches us that there are four classes of tantras: kriyatantras, charyàtantras, yogatantras, and the anuttarayogatantras, of more modern origin, in which the feminine rites take a leading place.

There are five anuttarayogatantras, and around each of these books schools formed. Of these five schools the most important, or at least the best known, is the school of Guhyasamàja.

The key thesis of Guhyasamàja is the doctrine of the triple secret: the identity of the body; the voice and the thought of any being within the body; and the voice and the thought of all Tathāgatas. Nothing is easier than to manifest this identity: it suffices to be aware of it; but it is good to practice the various ceremonies which perfect the body, the voice and the thought.

The Shaktist theory, adopted by both Buddhists and Shaivites, states that the happiness of God depends on the possession of the Shakti or female energy; a theory clearly distinguished because the initial formula of the sutras is repeated: “bhagavān…bhagavatibhagesu vijahāran”. One becomes Buddha by the ritual practice of sexual union (“maithuna”): “buddhatvaṃ yoṣidyonisamāśritam”.
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I thought that de La Vallée-Poussin was referring to chapter 16 of the 11th century (though maybe as old as the 8th) Caṇḍamahāroṣaṇatantra, which I believe he was the first person to translate. He writes about that here:

The relevant quote, however, isn't contained therein; instead, in chapter 10:
caṇḍaroṣapadaṃ dṛṣṭvā yoṣidyonisamāśritam:

"The seat of Caṇḍaroṣa is nestled within the vulva of a woman."
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Chapters 9 and 10 are devoted to the union of male and female, and, in particular, devotion of the male to the female, in order to attain enlightenment:

“A yogin should place the woman in front
And look deeply in her eyes.
He should make his body straight
And meditate with one-pointed mind.


“Having abandoned all activity,
Wholly devoted to serving women,
One should remain with one’s mind focused solely on pleasure,
Until one attains accomplishment.


“With big effort, the bliss is intense—
For this is the nature of things.
Whoever can engender this bliss
Through regular practice,


“Will become glorious Caṇḍamahāroṣaṇa
In this very life.”

[Candarosa is then asked if it is possible to attain to his level "without a woman" - he replies "it is not." He continues:]


“The highest awakening is not attained
Merely by the arising of bliss.
Only by the arising of a particular kind of bliss
Can it be reached, not otherwise.


“And this bliss is not felt without doing what needs to be done—
It is produced only through the right cause.
And the cause is union with a woman;
There is no other cause, ever."


“Those who are wholly devoted to desire
Serve their lovers regularly.
Having seen that the seat of Caṇḍaroṣa
Is nestled within the vulva of a woman."
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So that's where I currently believe the root of the quote comes from. I have no idea where de La Vallée-Poussin found either “buddhatvaṃ yoṣidyonisamāśritam" or “bhagavān…bhagavatibhagesu vijahāran”. I've looked through both the Caṇḍamahāroṣaṇatantra and the Pratītyasamutpāda - as well as elsewhere - and have come up empty-handed. My best guess for the primary quote is that he misinterpreted the reference to Candarosa - "Lord of Incessant Bliss" (and presumably an enlightened being) - as referring to the Buddha.

As for the Japanese sex cannibals, I guess they had their own misinterpretations of the Caṇḍamahāroṣaṇatantra: though there are quite a few references to vulvae, semen, skulls, and menstrual blood, they really took it a bit further than necessary.

It's still not much to do with the actual Buddha, but a more palatable origin story than I first thought.

(E&OE. Corrections welcome. A rough translation, as well as the original French, of 'Une Practique des Tantras' by de La Vallée-Poussin attached.)


  • Une Practique des Tantras - French.doc
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  • A Practice of Tantras - English.doc
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Nice find. :)

The 'Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics' is actually a volume of twelve books (plus index volume) written and published between 1908 and 1926 (or 1927).

"Suffering - Zwingli" is the title of Volume XII, and looks to contain the quote. Wikipedia says has all twelve volumes available to view online for free (registration required) but I could only access Volume I (which is also at

Indeed. It was the 12th volume I was looking at.

I guess that since you noted the page number (196, of Volume XII) you came across one of the various citations, such as in Lorenzen (1972), which puts Louis de La Vallée-Poussin as the author of that particular entry ("Tantrism - Buddhist").

I found Volume XII on Google Books. I hadn't realized de la Vallée-Pousin was the author. Thanks for that info.

At some point I'd like to see the quotation in the context of a Tantric text. Tantrism, by the way, is totally not my bag in terms of Buddhist practice!


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At some point I'd like to see the quotation in the context of a Tantric text.

Me too! It seems that it ought to be easier to find: but I've got no idea which text de La Vallée-Poussin is referring to with the two Sanskrit quotes he included in his 1897 piece.

I did just convert a pdf of Bendall's Subhasita-Samgraha to OCR (attached), but it wasn't in there - though there must be something of a fruity nature in it:
Though a considerable portion of the contents of the present book will be distasteful and even sometimes repulsive to modern readers, its publication seems necessary and at the present time specially appropriate for the due understanding of the history of Buddhism in India.

Much (perhaps too much, in proportion to the published material) has been written about the glorious and vigorous youth of Indian Buddhism; something about its middle age of scholasticism and philosophy; but next to nothing about its decay, decrepitude and dotage, as shown in the Tantra-literature.
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That's from Volume 4-5 of Le Museon; I also checked the text available at scribd (Volume 22-23) but it's just the same as that one, plus some works by other authors.

I'm going back now to Stevens, van Gulik, and the Tachikawa. Stevens talks a lot about them, and states that the quote could be found in their texts - but what are their texts?

Here's a bibliography of works talking about the Tachikawa-Ryu:

The same writer also states that:
The Tachikawa saying that Buddhahood resides in the yoni of a woman is not their own invention; it occurs in a much earlier collection of Sanskrit verses by the name of Subhasita Samgraha.
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Which seemingly leads back to van Gulik and Bendall - yet I'm pretty sure it's not in the attached pdf.


  • Subhashita Samgraha Cecil Bendall.pdf
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Not sure why it was so hard for me to find de La Vallee-Poussin's piece in ERE; it's right there at The relevant parts are:


Turns out it's not the same piece as was featured in 'Une Pratique des Tantras' - though it does reference it - and, again, he refers to Bendall's translation of the 'Sabhasitasamgraha' (different spelling), as well as another of his own pieces, 'Note sur le Pancakrama', (1895) which can be found here.

Neither that, though, nor de La Vallee-Poussin's 'Bouddisme, Etudes et Materiaux' (1898) contain either of the above quotes.

I'm coming down even heavier on him having lost something in translation along the way: in the snippet above, he claims the Candamaharosa Tantra shows Sakyamuni - Gautama, the historical Buddha - discovering the "truth" of buddhatvaṃ yoṣidyonisamāśritam "in the harim".

This is very clearly an error, given that the relevant chapters (as posted above) - as well as the text as a whole - are referring to Candarosa, not to Sakyamuni/Gautama/Buddha.
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Further (final?) digging...

There are two other Tantric texts which pre-date the Candamaharosanatantra (CMT), and which shine a light on how de La Vallée-Poussin may have arrived at his understanding.

The first passages of both the Hevajratantra (HV) and the Guhyasamājatantra (GS) are identical not only to one another, but, apart from the odd word, to the CMT. The GS is referenced in Christopher S. George's translation of the first eight chapters of the Candamaharosanatantra (1974), which features (more or less) the other hitherto unreferenced quote de La Vallée-Poussin mentions:
The "quaint beginning" of the GS, as Battacharya refers to it, viz., evam mayā śrutam | ekasmin samaye bhagavān sarvatathāgatakāyavākcittahṛdayavajrayoṣidbhageṣu vijahāra is nearly identical to the beginning of the CMT both in form and meaning.

Christoper S. George, The Candamaharosana Tantra - Chapters I-VIII (1974)
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The HV was translated into English by David Snellgrove and published in 1959. The quote in Sanskrit above is, word for word, the same in the HV, with the only difference to the openings of the two manuscripts - and the CMT - being found in the preceding sentence. In the HV this is "Oṁ namaḥ shri Hevajrāya" ("Salutations to the Divine Hevajra") while in the GS it is "Oṁ namaḥ shri Vajrasattvaya" ("Salutations to the Divine Vajrasattvāya"). Likewise, the CMT opens with "Oṁ namaḥ caṇḍamahāroṣaṇāya".

Working out whether de La Vallée-Poussin was referring to the CMT or the (earlier) GS/HV when he quoted "bhagavān.....bhagavatībhagesu vijahāran" in 'Une Pratique des Tantras' is not straightforward.

On the one hand, the GS/HV reads "bhagavān...bhageṣu vijahāra" while the CMT has "bhagavān...bhage vijahāra". The difference there, though, may be down to interpretation of the Sanskrit, or to the source texts themselves (Snellgrove notes a variant manuscript which uses "bhaga" instead of "bhageṣu").

Also, none of the romanised versions of the manuscripts I found include de La Vallée-Poussin's word "bhagavatī" ("Goddess"); this may be explained by his own interpretation of the original Sanskrit, wherein either the GS/HV's "vajrayosid" ("Diamond maidens") or the CMT's "vajradhātvīśvarī" ("Queen of the Diamond Realm") are roughly equivalent.

More telling as to de La Vallée-Poussin's source may be his writing in ERE, posted above, where he interprets the term "Vajrasattva" as referring to "the body of bliss" (according to others, it is actually the name of a boddhisatva/deity). And while it does appear in the opening salutation of the GS, one imagines his interpretation owes more to its place in the subsequent passage, which is exclusive to the CMT:
evaṃ mayā śrutam | ekasmin samaye bhagavān vajrasattvaḥ sarvatathāgatakāyavākcittahṛdayavajradhātvīśvarībhage vijahāra
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My guess, then - given the other evidence, such as his translation of chapter 16 - would be that de La Vallée-Poussin was working from the CMT, and that we should find evidence of him extracting "buddhatvaṃ yoṣidyonisamāśritam" from there.

Before moving on, though, it's worth dwelling on what the above passage, as featured in the three different manuscripts, actually means, with interpretations diverging widely:
  • "Thus have I heard—at one time the Lord dwelt in bliss with the Vajrayogini who is the Body, Speech, and Mind of all the Buddhas" - Snellgrove (1959)
  • "Thus have I heard: once the Blessed One was dwelling in the vagina of the Vajra Consort of the Essence of the Body, Speech and Mind of all the Tathāgatas" - Fremantle (1971)
  • "Once upon a time the Lord of all Tathāgatas...was dwelling in the vulvae of the vajra-women" - Lorenzen (1972)
  • "Thus by me it was heard—upon an occasion—the Lord was dwelling in the bhagas of the diamond ladies of the heart belonging to the Body, Speech, and Mind of all the Tathāgatas” - Wayman (1977)
  • "Thus have I heard. At one time the Bhagavān, dwelling in the most secret of all secret thing, in adamantine yosidbhagesu, the body, speech, and mind of all Tathāgatas, produced a subtle samādhi." - Willemen (1982)
  • "Thus I have heard: At one time Bhagavan dwelt in the wombs of the Vajra Lady which are the Body, Speech and Mind of all the Buddhas" - Farrow & Menon (1992)
  • "Thus have I heard at one time. The Reverend Lord dwelt in the female organs of the adamantine ladies who are the hearts of the bodies, speech and minds of all the tathāgatas" - Tsuda (1995)
  • "... the Lord dwelt in the vagina of the Adamantine Lady..." - Reynolds (1996)
  • "Thus have I heard. At one time, the Lord was residing in the vaginas of the women who are the adamantine body, speech, mind, and heart of all the Tathāgatas" - Davidson (2002)
  • "Thus was it heard by me, on one occasion the bhagavān was dwelling in the vajra-women's bhagas, the matrix of the body, speech, and mind of all ones-gone-thus" - Hopkins (2006)
  • "Thus have I heard at one time. [The Lord] dwelt within the vulva of the goddess of the Vajra Realm, which is the essence of body, speech, and mind of all tathāgatas" - Dharmachakra Translation Committee (2016)
Aside from the opening sentence, typical of Buddhist sutras - there has always been discussion as to whether "at one time" (ekasmin samaye) belongs with the sentence preceding or the sentence following (see Silk, 1989) - the prime variation is in the interpretation of (one of) "hṛdayavajradhātvīśvarībhage" or "hṛdayavajrayoṣidbhageṣu". Roughly speaking:
  • hṛdaya = heart
  • vajradhātvīśvarī = Queen/Goddess of the Diamond Realm, consort of Vajrasattva/Caṇḍamahāroṣaṇ
  • vajrayoṣid = diamond maidens, adamantine ladies
  • bhage(u) = good fortune, love, sexual passion, vulva(e) (and possibly "pure place")
Many different interpretations are possible. Personally, I'm with Davidson in placing hṛdaya with the text preceding - "kāyavākcitta", to read "...body, speech, mind and heart..." - and freeing it from vajradhātvīśvarī, where it seems both clumsy and redundant (though the triumvirate of "body, speech and mind" are common throughout the scriptures), and for including "at one time" with "Thus I have heard" (cleverly bypassed by Wayman).

As for whether "vulva" (et al.) is intended, other translations call this into question. Tsuda couples yoṣid with bhageṣu and translates it as "female organs"; though this makes little sense, given that yoṣid here substitutes for dhātvīśvarī, and "female" is unnecessary. Others offer more abstract interpretations, such as "the void", "place of wisdom", or "supreme truth", while there are those, as quoted in Willemen, who either abstain from translation, and transcribe the Sanskrit instead, or render yoṣidbhageṣu as "palace" or "pure place".

These last interpretations are from the Chinese texts, where the character "宮" appears, meaning "palace", "temple", or, indeed, "womb".

The point here is not to propose a definitive translation of this passage, or to denigrate any previous translation, but to suggest that de La Vallée-Poussin's own intrepretation of "bhagavān.....yoṣidbhageṣu vijahāra" is no more likely to be accurate than any other - and, indeed, given the era he was working in, at the very dawn of Tantric scriptural analysis, understandably more likely to be wayward.

That he alone uses "bhagavatī" and "vijahāran" while all others use the terms above should also strengthen the case that "buddhatvaṃ yoṣidyonisamāśritam" is, likewise, as proposed, a slight misinterpretation of the CMT. ("Buddhatvaṃ" does appear three times in the CMT, but as noted in the post above, "yoṣidyonisamāśritam" appears only once, in chaper 10, verse 24, in conjunction with "caṇḍaroṣapadaṃ".)

In summary...
  • Having undertaken an exhaustive search of Tantric scriptures and Sanskrit texts, I can find zero mention of the quote in question, other than in de La Vallée-Poussin's 'Une Pratique des Tantras' and in his entry in the ERE. Where he got it from I have no clue (I still need to double check his 'Etudes et Materiaux')
  • All current evidence appears to point to him having misinterpreted the Candamaharosanatantra
  • Despite what van Gulik asserts, I can find no related quote in Bendall's translation of the Subhashita Samgraha
  • van Gulik may be the modern source for the resurgence of the quote (first published 1961)
  • Joseph Campbell also repeats the quote - slight variation: "Buddhatvam yoṣidyonisaṁśritam" - without citation in The Masks of God, Volume II: Oriental Mythology (1962)
  • John Updike's 'S' (1988), a fictional account of a New Age Tantric experience, has the exploitative 'guru' - perhaps based on Osho/Rajneesh - telling his devotees, "For Buddha and his followers, woman is the portal of release. She is the living wonder of the world. The mounds of her body are like temple-mounds; they symbolize nirvana. 'Buddhatvam yoshidyonisamsritam.' That is a very important saying. It means, 'Buddhahood is in the female organ.' The yoni."
  • From van Gulik and Campbell I imagine it was a mere hop skip and a jump to Robinson, Last, and the world of blogs, facebook, and user-friendly quotes from authority figures 'encouraging' us to do what we want to do in the first place
  • Finally, there are two much older texts - the Mahāvairocana Tantra (Vairocanābhisaṃbodhi Sutra) and the Guhyagarbha Tantra - whose opening passages also bear striking resemblance to the GS, the HV, and the CMT. The Sanskrit versions of these did not survive, so modern translations are taken from the later Tibetan and Chinese. The MVT begins with essentially the same passage as those related above, but this time the Buddha resides not in an adamantine woman, but "in an adamantine palace" (Giebel, 2005); and the GT has him in Akaniṣṭha - "highest heaven" or "pure abode" (Chonam & Khandro, 2011).
In conclusion...

We began with a supposed Buddha quote. That it was fake was immediately obvious. But now what I'm thinking is it's a fake fake Buddha quote - that it never existed in the Tantras to begin with.
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Some more:

1. Robinson

I've been in touch with Marnia Robinson and she tells me she may have taken her quote from Yolin and Phelan's 'Sex and Yoga' (1967). It was only 50p on Amazon so I've got that on the way. My prediction is that, if it's in there, they took it from either van Gulik or Joseph Campbell, and probably didn't reference it.

2. Stevens #1

I've finally located a copy of John Stevens's 'Lust for Enlightenment', which has been helpful. In that he writes:
...women are worshiped unconditionally in the Buddhist tantras—one text declares openly, “Buddhahood resides in the female sex organs..."
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I'd seen that before, but I didn't know his sources. These are given as:
Dasgupta, Introduction to Tantric Buddhism, pp. 102ff., and R. H. van Gulick, Sexual Life in Ancient China (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1974), p. 342.
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So van Gulik appears again, along with one of the three sources van Gulik cites. Yet they're both secondary sources, and Stevens' bold assertion that a specific scripture "declares openly" is seemingly done so on faith, and is no help in telling us which text, if, indeed, there is one.

Still, following his lead to Dasgupta, which I hadn't looked at till now, I find something enlightening, if a little complex:
In the Subhāṣita-Sagraha we find a discussion as to whether Buddhahood is to be attained only through Prajñā or only through Upāya. The answer is that Buddhahood is to be attained neither through Prajñā alone nor through Upāya; but if the essence of both Prajñā and Upāya becomes of the same nature - if the two become inseparably connected - become united into one, then and then only a Sadhaka becomes entitled to the highest reality which is at once enjoyment and liberation.
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In a nutshell, he seems to be saying that the Buddhist ideals of compassion (upāya or karuṇā) and wisdom (prajñā or śūnyatā), seen as the two attributes which must be both fully developed and brought into perfect union in order to attain enlightenment, were symbolised in tantras such as the HV with imagery of the "yogin" (sprititual practitioner) and the "great woman, goddess, or even vulva" respectively. Their "union" is that which leads to Buddhahood. One without the other won't do the trick.

Like both van Gulik and de La Vallée-Poussin, he references Bendall - but this time he supplies a page number, which leads us to the relevant passage:
idānīm vicāryate | prajñayā kevalayā kim buddhatvaṁ syān na ced upāya-mātra-karmeṇā'pi | ucyate ce'da, na kevala prajñā-mātrena buddhatvaṁ nā'py upāya-mātreṇa, kintu yadi puna prajño-pāya-lakaṇau samatā-svabhāvau bhavata etau dvayā-bhinna-rūpau bhavata ekākārau bhavata tadā bhukti-mukti iti.

- Bendall's Edition, p. 32
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In this passage - which Dasgupta has rendered slightly differently to Bendall; perhaps with the benefit of a further half-century of scholarship - we find two of the seven instances of "buddhatvaṁ" in Bendall's transcription; and, I imagine, what could, at a stretch, be most closely associated with "buddhatvaṃ yoṣidyonisamāśritam", if "prajñā" is considered equivalent to "yoni".

I think it's difficult to make a case for this, though, and I therefore question why van Gulik referenced Bendall when he wrote that "most texts state that [the merging of prajñā and upāya] must [take place] with a real woman, stating plainly that 'Buddha-hood resides in the female organ,'" followed by the quote from de La Vallée-Poussin's earlier work, which is not referenced.

Could it be that van Gulik also errs here, quoting de La Vallée-Poussin and confusing this with Bendall, due to de La Vallée-Poussin citing Bendall in ERE (above)? There, though, he is not quoting "buddhatvaṃ yoṣidyonisamāśritam", but rather directing the reader to Bendall's description of "the maithuna rites" - and, of course, de La Vallée-Poussin first mentions "buddhatvaṃ yoṣidyonisamāśritam" several years before Bendall's transcription of the Subhāṣita-Sagraha; so we know this is not the source for his reference.

Perhaps most likely is that van Gulik read "buddhatvaṃ yoṣidyonisamāśritam" in ERE, saw the reference to Bendall, and figured that by citing Bendall directly he was 'shortcutting' to the original source.

3. Back to the Caṇḍamahāroṣaṇatantra

Further evidence for de La Vallée-Poussin having made an error can perhaps be found by reading the verses in the CMT surrounding 10.24:

"In order to destroy the wickedness of the world,
The son of Māyādevī, the wise teacher
Abandoned his 84,000 wives
And his entire harem
And went to the bank of Nairañjanā.
He manifested the accomplishment of a buddha
By turning away the advancing Māra,
But this was not so from the perspective of the absolute truth.
This was not so, since it was in the female quarters that the Buddha,
Experiencing pleasure in the company of Gopā, became accomplished.
It is from the union of the vajra and the padma
That true pleasure is derived.
Awakening is attained through pleasure,
And there is no pleasure in being separated from women."


Then the blessed lady Prajñāpāramitā said,
“Who is that blessed one, the son of Māyādevī, and who is Gopā?”
The blessed lord said: “I am the son of Māyādevī,
Who has now become Caṇḍaroṣaṇa.
And you are the blessed lady Gopā,
In the form of Prajñāpāramitā."
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Explanation: Following the assertion that "Caṇḍaroṣa-hood is found in the yoni" (10.24, where the suffix -padam is equivalent to -atvam), we hear of "the son of Māyādevī" abandoning his harem and going to the River Nairañjanā, where he attains enlightenment - not, as tradition has it, by transcending desire, but through the hitherto unrevealed experience of uniting with a woman, Gopā (10.31 explains why this was kept secret).

Caṇḍaroṣaṇa then reveals that he is "the son of Māyādevī", and that Prajñāpāramitā, his consort, is "Gopā" - both, presumably, reincarnated.

  • Māyādevī - the Buddha's mother, Māyā
  • Nairañjanā - a river now known as the Lilajan or Falgu, located at Bodh Gaya, traditional site of the Buddha's enlightenment
  • Māra - demon who tempted Buddha just before his enlightenment (really our own internal desires)
  • Gopā - another name for Buddha's wife, Yaśodharā
  • vajra - thunderbolt, diamond, upāya - or, as is clearly meant here, penis
  • padma - lotus, prajñā, vagina
Taking all this into account, we see that Caṇḍaroṣaṇa - in his own head, at least, and according to the text - is synonymous with "Buddha", and that "caṇḍaroṣapadaṃ" is therefore equavalent to "buddhatvam".

dLVP's "buddhatvaṃ yoṣidyonisamāśritam" is therefore a misinterpretation of chapter 10, verse 24 of the CMT.

Further evidence for his misinterpretation, and his source being the CMT, is found in comparing his writing in ERE (above) - "Śākyamuni conquered Buddhahood by practicing the Tantrik rites in the harim" - to more modern translations, which state that "the son of Māyādevī abandoned his harem, and found enlightenment with his wife."

4. Stevens #2

Back to Stevens and his writing on the Tachikawa-Ryu - as quoted in the OP - where I can now see his sources:
Texts such as Yoshinshū, Sangai Isshin-ki, and Hōkyōshū Sangen Menjū, and the following modern studies: G. Mizuhara, Jakyō Tachikawa Ryū (Kyoto: Toyama Shobō, 1968); S. Moriyama, Tachikawa Jakyō to sono Shakaitekina Haikei no Kenkyū (Tokyo: Shikano-en, 1965); R. Sasama, Sei no Shūkyō (Tokyo: Daiichi Shobō, 1988); and T. Utagawa, Shingon Tachikawa Ryū no Hihō (Tokyo: Tokuma Books, 1981).
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I also notice that the wikipedia entry for the Tachikawa-Ryu has been expanded, and now includes the text for the so-called 'Sutra of Sacred/Secret/Great Bliss' (or 'Sutra Proclaiming the Secret Method Enabling a Man and a Woman to Experience the Bliss of Buddhahood in This Very Body').

The only source I can find for this sutra, however, is in a semi-fictional book written by Stevens. I have doubts, therefore, about its legitimacy.

I'm chasing that one up, just for satisfaction, but, ultimately, I don't think it's related to de La Vallée-Poussin's quote.

5. Stevens #3

His take on the opening of the GS/HV, to add to the above: "Thus I have heard: When the Buddha was reposing in the vagina of his consort he delivered this discourse...” (his ellipsis)

6. Paper

It occurs to me that there's the basis for an academic paper in all of this; I therefore feel it necessary to point out that I've made errors along the way, and hope these will be looked at. I called Stevens "Stevenson" in the OP. I wrongly concluded that Japanese sex cannibals were the source for the quote. I've missed half the diacritics from the Sanskrit. Thoughts have been developed and superceded. And all the quotes will need double checking - which ought to go without saying, in such a thread.

7. Documents

I made a google drive documents folder for anyone who's interested in easy access to all these texts.

8. Guhyasamājatantra

Chapter 18 of the GST - also known as the Samajottara - seems related. The text of verse 125 states:
nānyopāyena buddhatvaṃ tasmād vidyām imāṃ varām

There is no other means to Buddhahood than with [the teacher's] best consort.
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So the sentiment isn't unique to the CMT - but, on current information, I do think this is the most likely source for dLVP's quotation.
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I've been in touch with Marnia Robinson and she tells me she may have taken her quote from Yolin and Phelan's 'Sex and Yoga' (1967).

It wasn't in there, and Robinson wrote me again to say she originally found it in Dr John Mumford's 'Ecstasy Through Tantra' (1988):
As in Tantra, the physical bodies of the participants are regarded as altars or tabernacles made ready by
the pure intent of the couple and sanctified by the presence of the Shekinah [...] This is reminiscent of a popular Buddhist Tantra quotation that enlightenment resides in the sexual parts of women ("Buddhatvam Yosityonisamasritam").
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Again, though, this presents Buddhatvam Yosityonisamsritam as "a popular Buddhist Tantra quotation", rather than "the authenticated words of the Buddha" - so where this assertion came from is still unclear.

Robinson also pointed out that Buddhatvam Yosityonisamsritam appears in Aldous Huxley's 'The Island' (1962):

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Interesting to note the alternative spelling, as well as the proximity in time to both van Gulik (1961) and Updike (1962).