Great Masters

Legendary and historical figures

The mahasiddha (Skt. maha, ‘great’, and siddha, ‘accomplished one’) is the ideal of Vajrayana Buddhism. The canon records eighty-four mahasiddhas, four of them women. Each one is considered an expert in the practice of a particular spiritual or meditation technique. Mahasiddhas are viewed as ‘awakened beings’, have developed magical powers, and (unlike ordinary mortals) are not subject to the laws of nature. They can fly, for instance, or stop the progress of time, and can perform all sorts of miracles. With their unconventional behaviour, they tend to provoke strong reactions, and not infrequently flout the rules of the day. In doing so, they make others aware of the limited nature of their own perceptions, and that what is considered reality is only an illusion.