Life and Liberation of Padmākara

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Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye

Guru Padmasambhava

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The Life and Liberation of Padmākara, the Second Buddha

from A Precious Garland of Lapis Lazuli[1]

by Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye

Namo Guru-buddhādi-padmākara-pādāya

Padmasambhava, known as the ‘Second Buddha’, has influenced countless beings through the essential vajrayāna teachings of secret mantra, and especially through his profound terma-treasure activities here in Tibet. This great master was not an ordinary person on the path, nor merely a noble being on one of the bodhisattva levels. Guru Padmasambhava was an emanation of both Buddha Amitābha and the peerless Śākyamuni, and his purpose was to pacify human and spirit beings that were otherwise difficult to tame. Even the great bodhisattvas are incapable of fully telling the story of his life and liberation, yet I shall nonetheless give a brief outline in the pages that follow.

In the dharmakāya realm of ‘Luminous Vajra Essence’, he has been naturally enlightened within primordial purity — the ground of liberation — since the very beginning. There, he is renowned as the original lord, Unchanging Light[2].

In the self-manifest saṃbhogakāya realm known as ‘Resounding Drum of Perfection’, he appears as the boundless array of the five wisdom families of Buddha ‘Immense Ocean,’[3] possessing the five certainties. As the external manifestation of this natural energy, he is perceived by all the bodhisattvas on the ten bhūmis in myriad bodily forms within the buddhafields of the five families, including the semi-manifest, natural nirmāṇakāya realms of Mahābrahma. All of these are the cloudbanks of the Guru’s wisdom display, his ‘inexhaustible wheel of adornment,’ and so he is known as ‘Lotus Who Holds All’.

Out of this, in order to tame beings in the countless worlds of the ten directions, there appears the magical display of his nirmāṇakāya emanations. It is taught that only in this universe, known as ‘Endurance’, does he illuminate the fifty worlds with the teachings of sūtra and tantra, taming beings through his eight supreme manifestations.

In one particular account, it is said that Khandro Yeshé Tsogyal had a vision of the Guru as ‘Immense Vajra Ocean,’[4] manifesting in the east. Each of the pores in his body held a billion realms and in each realm there were a billion world systems. In each of these world systems there were a billion Gurus, each with a billion emanations. Each of these emanations was displaying the activity of taming a billion disciples. She then saw a similar display in all the other cardinal and central directions.

In this world of ours, Jambudvīpa, the Guru is generally known as just one nirmāṇakāya who tames beings, but according to the different capacities and giftedness of people he is perceived in multiple ways. Most Indian sources, along with the Oral Transmission of Kīla,[5] explain that he was born as the son of a king or minister in Uḍḍiyāna, whereas the terma-treasures for the most part state that he was born miraculously. In some texts, he is said to have appeared from a bolt of lightning at the summit of Mount Malaya.[6] There is huge variety in these wondrous accounts of his life and liberation. It is said:

Ten thousand, nine hundred stories of his life Were composed and hidden for future disciples...[7]

As these numbers suggest, this is indeed a topic that lies far beyond the reach of the ordinary intellect. I shall nevertheless present, as a mere nugget, the life of the Guru according to his miraculous birth, as it appears in the terma teachings:

In the oceans that surround the western land of Uḍḍiyāna to the north, south, and east, there lies an island close to the land of the rākṣasas, found to Uḍḍiyāna’s southwest. There, the blessings of all the buddhas took shape in the form of a multi-coloured lotus flower. Moved by compassion at the suffering of sentient beings, Buddha Amitābha, Lord of Sukhāvatī, sent from his heart a golden vajra marked with the syllable hrīḥ, which entered into the bud of the lotus flower. It then miraculously transformed into an eight-year-old child, endowed with all the major and minor marks of perfection, and holding a vajra and a lotus. There the young child remained, instructing the island’s devas and ḍākinīs in the profound Dharma.

Now, it happened that the King of Uḍḍiyāna, Indrabhūti, was without an heir to the throne. Through his great acts of making offerings to the Three Jewels and giving alms to the poor and needy, the king had exhausted his treasury, and had set out on a voyage upon the great lake to find a wish-fulfilling jewel. Upon returning with the jewel, first his minister Triguṇadhara and then the king himself encountered the amazing child. Regarding him as the answer to his prayers, the king took him home to the royal palace, where he was given the name Padmākara, ‘Lotus-Born’, as well as Tsokyé Dorjé, ‘Lake-Born Vajra’. They seated Padmākara on a throne of precious jewels, and all the while the citizens were delighted by the rain of foods, clothing, and precious objects that sprang forth from the magic of the wish-fulfilling jewel.

As the young prince grew up, he brought countless beings to maturation through his youthful sport and games. He married the ḍākinī Prabhāvatī and ruled the kingdom of Uḍḍiyāna according to the Dharma. He was known then as King Tortokchen, ‘The Turbaned King’. Seeing that as a ruler he would be unable to truly serve others and bring about spiritual benefit on a vast scale, he begged his father for permission to abdicate, but was refused. So, in the midst of a dance, he pretended that his trident slipped out of his hand, thus managing to kill the son of a demonic minister and liberate him into the expanse. As a consequence of breaking the law against killing children, Padmasambhava was promptly banished to the charnel grounds. Thus he made his way to Śītavana, ‘Cool Grove’, Nandanavana, ‘Joyful Grove’ and Sosadvīpa, ‘Sosa Land’ where he practiced yogic disciplines. He received empowerments and blessings from the ḍākinīs Mārajītā, ‘Tamer of Māra’, and Śāntarakṣitā ‘Preserver of Peace’, and he brought the ḍākinīs of the charnel grounds under his sovereign command. He was known by the name Śāntarakṣita, ‘Preserver of Peace’.

Returning to the island in Lake Dhanakośa, Padmasambhava likewise brought the ḍākinīs there under his command—through secret mantra practices in the symbolic language of the ḍākinīs. Then, as he was practising in Pārusakāvana, ‘Rugged Forest’, Vajravārāhī appeared to him and blessed him. He subdued the nāgas of the oceans and the planetary spirits of the heavens. Wisdom ḍākas and ḍākinīs granted him supernatural powers. He was known then as Dorjé Drakpo Tsal, ‘Wrathful Vajra Might’.

At the ‘Vajra Throne’ in Bodh Gaya, he displayed all kinds of miracles. People asked, “Who are you?” but when he acknowledged that he was a self-manifested buddha, they could not accept this and instead insulted and defamed him. Seeing the many good reasons for having a teacher, Padmasambhava then made his way to Zahor, where he took ordination from Prabhahasti and was given the name Shakya Sengé, ‘Lion of the Śākyas’. He received the teachings on yoga-tantra from him, eighteen times, and had visions of the deities.

Then he requested empowerment from the nun Ānandā, who was actually the wisdom ḍākinī Guhyajñāna manifest in the form of a nun.[8] She transformed him into the seed syllable hūṃ, swallowed him, and passed him right through her body and out through her secret lotus, granting him outer, inner and secret empowerments, and purifying the three obscurations.

From the eight vidyādharas, he received the teachings on the Kagyé, the 'Eight Pronouncements’. From Buddhaguhya he received the teachings on Māyājāla, the 'Magical Net’, and from Śrī Siṃha he received the teachings of Atiyoga. In this way he studied and received all the sūtras, tantras and sciences from numerous learned and accomplished masters in India. Padmasambhava would master a teaching the first time he encountered it, and he experienced visions of deities without needing to practise. Displaying his attainment of the first vidyādhara level, the stage of ‘the vidyādhara level of maturation’, the Guru was known as Loden Choksé, ‘Wise Seeker of the Sublime’.

Returning to Zahor, Padmasambhava charmed the daughter of King Vihārdhara, the authentic ḍākinī Princess Mandāravā, and took her as his consort. Together they went to the Māratika cave, where for three months they practised the sādhana of longevity. The Buddha of Limitless Life, Amitāyus, appeared to them, empowered them with longevity, and blessed them as inseparable from him. They were given one billion tantras on longevity and they both accomplished the second vidyādhara level – ‘vidyādhara with mastery over life’.

Now that they had attained vajra bodies beyond birth and death, the Guru and Mandāravā went back to tame the kingdom of Zahor. One day, as they were out begging for alms, they were arrested by royal ministers and burned alive, but the Guru transformed the pyre into a lake, and he and Mandāravā were found sitting upon a lotus blossom in its centre. All around were inspired by faith, and thus it was that the Guru and his consort caused the kingdom to embrace the Dharma, establishing its people in the state that is beyond falling back into saṃsāra.

The Guru then returned with Mandāravā to Uḍḍiyāna, to tame that land as well, but once again he was recognized while begging for alms, and once again they were burned on a sandalwood pyre — by the same demonic minister and his henchmen. After some time, the pair were found seated upon a lotus in the middle of a lake, wearing garlands of skulls, as a symbol of their activity of liberating all beings from saṃsāra. Padmasambhava was now known as Pema Tötreng Tsal, ‘Mighty Lotus with Skull-Garland’. For thirteen years, Padmasambhava and Mandāravā remained in Uḍḍiyāna as teachers by royal appointment, establishing the whole kingdom in the Dharma. During this time, the Guru gave the empowerment and teachings for the Kadü Chökyi Gyatso, the 'Ocean of Dharma, the Great Gathering of Transmitted Precepts',[9] through which the king and queen as well as all the destined ones accomplished the supreme vidyādhara level. He was then known as Pema Gyalpo, ‘Lotus King’.

In accordance with a prophecy in the Sūtra on Magical Perception,[10] Padmākara transformed himself into the monk Indrasena in order to bring King Aśoka to the Dharma. He established Aśoka in unwavering faith, after which, in a single miraculous night, the king erected one million stūpas all around the world, all containing the relics of the Buddha.[11]

The Guru went on to defeat some powerful heretic kings who were damaging the Buddhist doctrine, making use of a variety of skilful means, including ejecting their consciousnesses. The Guru was then poisoned by one recalcitrant king. He remained unharmed, though, and when they threw him into the Ganges, he reversed the river’s flow and danced in mid-air, earning the name Khye’u Chung Khading Tsal, ‘Mighty Child of the Garuḍas’.

He manifested in many guises and went by many names, such as the Ācārya Saroruha, founder of the Hevajra tantra; the Brahmin Saraha; the great Ḍombi Heruka; Virūpa; and Kṛṣṇācārya. In great charnel grounds like Kuladzokpa, ‘Perfected in Body’, he taught the secret mantra to ḍākinīs, and he bound outer and inner spirits as protectors of the Dharma. He was then known as Nyima Özer, ‘Rays of the Sun’.

At Bodh Gaya’s Vajra Throne, five hundred heretical teachers had launched an attack on the Buddhist teachings. Padmasambhava met them in a competition of debate and power, and emerged victorious. Some of the teachers then resorted to casting evil spells, whereupon the ḍākinī Mārajītā, ‘Tamer of Māra’, granted the Guru a wrathful mantra with which he caused lightning to strike and thereby liberate the evil schemers. Those who survived were converted to Buddhism, and finally the banner of the Dharma was raised to the skies. Padmasambhava then became known as Sengé Dradrok, ‘Lion’s Roar’. Up to this point, he had exhausted the three defilements and been at the ‘vidyādhara level of life-mastery’, the stage of having fully perfected the supreme path.

Proceeding next to Yangleshö, situated between India and Nepal, the Guru met Śākyadevī, daughter of the Newar king Puṇyadhara, and accepted her as his sādhana support and consort. Together they practised glorious Śrī Heruka, but were hindered by spirits, rākṣasas and magical creatures' intent on creating obstacles — causing a three year drought and, with it, famine and disease. So Padmasambhava sent two messengers to India to ask his gurus for a teaching that would counter them. They returned, laden with the tantras and commentaries of Vajrakīla. The moment they arrived, the obstacles were pacified. It rained, and the drought, disease and famine came to an end. The Guru and Śākyadevī both attained the great accomplishment of the third vidyādhara level, ‘vidyādhara of the great seal, or mahāmudrā’.

The Guru famously recognized that Śrī Heruka is like a merchant engaging in trade; the achievement can be great, but so can the obstacles. Vajrakīla is like the armed escort that is needed to guard the merchant against obstacles and overcome them. The Guru composed many sādhanas of Śrī Heruka and Vajrakīla combined. He also bound under oath all the male and female worldly spirits, such as the sixteen Vajrakīla guardians, and installed them as protectors of the teachings.

Padmākara visited the border regions of Uḍḍiyāna, such as Hurmuju, Sikodhara, Dharmakośa, and Rukma. He also went to Tirāhuti[12] and other regions of the Tharu kingdom[13] as well as other lands such as Kāmarūpa. He taught Dharma according to ability and capacity, benefiting many beings through his display of common siddhis, bringing water where there was none, and even draining great lakes and rivers when necessary. In the south, east, and central parts of India, there were naturally arisen images of a non-Buddhist deities which were causing indescribable harm to the Buddhist teachings. So, the Guru put an end to this through the power of Vajrakīla.

Another story tells how the King of Turkestan had sent invading armies to the kingdom of Kaccha, where Buddhist groups were thriving. As the king's boats entered the Nīli river, the Guru performed the threatening mudrā, sinking five hundred vessels. Thus ended the Turkic peoples' violence.

It is not certain when he went to the land of the Drāviḍa[14], but the Guru gradually tamed the humans and spirits there, including the ḍākinīs, and he built great monasteries as well. Even to the present day, this master’s tradition of instructions for the study, explanation, and meditation of the four classes of tantras — particularly the teachings on Hevajra, the Secret Moon Drop, Śrī Heruka, Hayagrīva, Kīla and Mātṛkā — has remained widespread. Drāviḍian accounts relate that he left from that country for the land of the rākṣasas in the southwest. These are found in Indian sources and are well-known.[15]

Padmasambhava is generally thought to have lived in India for 3,600 years benefiting the teachings and sentient beings. But it seems that learned people consider that number to represent half-years, and accept it simply as an indication of many years.

In order to convert people in Mongolia and China, the Guru emanated in the form of a clairvoyant king and a powerful yogin. Moreover, he appeared in the country of Shangshung as the miraculously-born child Tavi Hricha, who gave the instructions on the hearing lineage of Atiyoga and led many worthy disciples to the attainment of the rainbow body. In this way, Padmasambhava’s activity in leading people to the path of liberation, through appearing in various places and in various forms, and speaking various languages, is indeed beyond all measure.

Now, when the Tibetan king Trisong Deutsen, himself an emanation of Mañjuśrī, was twenty years of age, he formed a strong aspiration to spread the sacred teachings of the Dharma. So he invited ‘Khenpo Bodhisattva’, otherwise known as Śāntarakṣita, from India, and the abbot proceeded to teach dependent origination and the ten virtuous actions. A year later, the foundation was laid for a huge temple, but the indigenous spirits created obstacles and prevented its construction. In accordance with Śāntarakṣita’s prediction, the King sent five messengers to India, to invite the great master Padmasambhava to come.

Guru Rinpoche had foreknowledge of this and was already on his way, gradually traveling from Nepal, and he met them in Mangyul. He then visited the lands of Ngari, Ü-Tsang and Dokham — indeed, there is not a single place within these regions where he did not miraculously tread. At this time the Guru bound the twelve Tenma goddesses, the thirteen Gurlha and twenty-one Genyen, as well as many other powerful spirits, taking hold of their life-force and making them swear allegiance.

Padmsambhava met the king at the Tamarisk Forest at Drakmar, ‘Red Rock’, and then went to the top of Mount Hepori where he brought all the ‘gods and demons’ of Tibet under his command. He successfully laid the foundation for Samyé monastery, and saw it through to completion, even employing the gods and demons who had previously proven troublesome. After five years of work, ‘Glorious Samyé—Inconceivable—Unchanging––Spontaneously Accomplished Temple’ was finished, complete with the three temples of the Queens, all made to resemble Mount Meru, surrounded by the four continents, eight subcontinents, sun and moon, with an outer wall of iron mountains. And so it was consecrated, amidst miraculous and auspicious signs of five kinds.

The King wished to translate the scriptures and establish the Dharma, so he arranged for many intelligent young Tibetans to study to become translators, known as ‘lotsawas’. Inviting other masters of the Tripiṭaka, the ‘Three Baskets’ of the Buddha’s teaching, from India, the king asked the abbot Śāntarakṣita to ordain Tibet’s first seven monks, and thus gradually established an ordained saṅgha. Śāntarakṣita and Padmasambhava, together with the other Indian scholars, and with Vairocana, Kawa Paltsek, Chokro Lu’i Gyaltsen, Shang Yeshé Dé and the other translators, then rendered into Tibetan all the extant Buddhist scriptures of sūtra and tantra, as well as most of the treatises explaining them.

Vairocana and Namkhai Nyingpo, among others, were sent to India, where Vairocana studied Atiyoga with Śrī Siṃha and Namkhai Nyingpo received the teachings on Śrī Heruka from the great master Hūṃkāra. They both attained accomplishment and went on to spread these teachings in Tibet.

King Trisong Deutsen then requested Padmasambhava to give empowerment and instruction in the vajrayāna. So at Chimphu, the hermitage above Samyé, the great master opened the maṇḍala of the Kagyé, into which he initiated nine chief disciples including the King. Each was entrusted with a specific transmission, and all nine attained accomplishment (siddhi) through practicing their respective teaching. Padmasambhava also gave countless profound and extraordinary teachings connected with the three inner tantras to many destined students, chiefly the king, his sons and the twenty-five disciples. This he did in Lhodrak Kharchu, Shotö Tidro and many other places.

The Guru remained in Tibet for a total of fifty-five years and six months. He arrived when the king was a young man of twenty-one and stayed until the king’s death at the age of sixty-nine. He left a few years later, for the land of the rākṣasa demons. It is clear, then, that the Guru stayed in Tibet for forty-eight years while the king was alive and seven years and six months afterwards. Evil ministers fearful of the Guru’s power asked him to leave Tibet. So after eight years at Samyé he appeared to depart by flying from the Mangyul pass — but this was only an emanation.

Instead, the Guru secretly conferred with his patrons, and his actual embodiment, joined by Yeshé Tsogyal and other destined beings, personally visited the twenty snow mountains of Ngari, the twenty-one sādhana places in Ü and Tsang, the twenty-five great pilgrimage places of Dokham, the three hidden lands of Upper, Lower and Middle Tibet, the five ravines, the three realms and the one region. Each of these was blessed by the Guru as a sacred place for practice — glacier, sand, rocks, hills and lakes — like the roots, branches and flowers of a great tree. Indeed, there is not so much as a clod of earth the size of a horse-hoof print that he did not cover.

Knowing that a descendant of the king would later try to destroy Buddhism in Tibet, Padmākara gave many predictions for the future. Conferring with the king and the close disciples, he concealed countless terma-teachings, both named and nameless — although the chief treasures were 'the hundred vital treasures of the king',[16] the five great mind treasures, and the twenty-five profound treasures. The reason these termas were hidden was to prevent the teachings of secret mantra from disappearing, to prevent the vajrayāna from being corrupted or modified by intellectuals, and thus to preserve the blessings, and benefit successive generations of disciples. For each of these hidden treasures, Padmākara predicted the time of disclosure, the person who would reveal the treasure, and the destined recipients who would hold the teachings. In the thirteen places named Taktsang, ‘Tiger’s Lair’ — at Mönka Nering Sengé Dzong and so forth — the Guru manifested in the terrifying wrathful form of crazy wisdom, binding all the haughty spirits great and small, entrusting them under oath to guard the terma-treasures. Then he was known as Dorjé Drolö, ‘Wild Wrathful Vajra’.

To inspire faith in future generations, the Guru and his consorts left their imprints at innumerable places of practice. For instance, he left an imprint of his body at Dorjé Tsekpa in Bumtang, hand prints at Namtso Chugmo, and footprints at Paro Drakar.

The prince Murub Tsepo was sent to attack the Uyghur hermitage. After the prince plundered the buildings of their possessions, the gyalpo spirit Shing Cha Chen pursued him. Padmasambhava manifested in the form of Guru Drakpo, ‘Wrathful Guru’, and bound the spirit under oath, placing him in charge of guarding Samyé’s treasury.[17]

After the death of King Trisong Deutsen, Padmākara placed Mutik Tsenpo on the throne. He performed the drubchen of the Kadü Chökyi Gyatso at Tramdruk, where he entrusted the profound teachings to Gyalsé Lhajé, the second prince, prophesying that he would benefit beings by becoming a revealer of the hidden terma-treasures after thirteen future lives.

It is impossible to count exactly how many students in Tibet received empowerment from Padmasambhava in person, but chief among them were the original twenty-five disciples, the middle twenty-five disciples and the subsequent seventeen and twenty-one disciples. Eighty of his students attained rainbow body at Yerpa, as well as the one hundred and eight meditators at Chuwori, the thirty tantrikas at Yangdzong, and the fifty-five realized ones at Sheldrak. There were the twenty-five ḍākinī students and the seven yoginīs as well. For example, there were Amé Changchub Drekol, Gyü Changchub Shönnu, Rokben Namkha Yeshé, Nyang Deshin Shekpa, Pang Jetsen Trom, Sha Migocha, Ngab Mi and Ngab Dré, Che Gyatso Drak, Dré Sherab Drakpa. There were also those of the blood lines of Lang, Ngok, Khon, Rok, Go, Pang, So, Zur, Nub, Gyu, Kyo — many of which continue to the present day. Thus, many masters of the Sarma ‘New Schools’ also had forefathers connected with the lotus feet of the Great Master.

When the Guru was about to leave for the land of rākṣasas to the southwest, the Tibetan king, ministers and all the disciples tried to dissuade him, but to no avail. To each, he gave extensive heart advice and instruction, and then he left from Gungtang pass, riding upon a horse or perhaps a lion, and all the while accompanied by numerous divine beings making offerings. Reaching Ngayab Ling – the ‘Cāmara continent,’ the Guru went to the summit of Zangdok Palri, ‘the Glorious Copper-Coloured Mountain’, where he liberated Raksha Tötreng, king of the rākṣasas, and assumed his form. He then miraculously created the palace of Lotus Light, endowed with inconceivable adornments, and emanated a replica of himself to reside on each of the surrounding eight islands — the eight kings who teach the Kagyé, the 'Eight Pronouncements’, amongst other teachings. He has thus saved the people of our continent, Jambudvīpa, from mortal danger.

At present the Guru dwells on the ‘vidyādhara level of spontaneous presence’, the path of consummation, as the Vajradhara regent, unshakable for as long as saṃsāra remains. With unbounded compassion he cares for Tibet and constantly sends his emanations. Even after the teachings of the vinaya have perished, his manifestations will appear one by one among tantric practitioners. There will also be many destined disciples who will attain rainbow body. And, in the future, when Buddha Maitreya appears in this world, it is said that Guru Padmasambhava himself will emanate as the bodhisattva Drowa Kundül, ‘Tamer of All Beings’, and will spread the teachings of secret mantra to all those of good fortune.

This short biography is just a partial narration, conforming to the perception of various ordinary students.

| Samye Translations, 2018. (Translated by Peter Woods and Stefan Mang. Edited by Libby Hogg.)


Tibetan Edition

'Jam mgon kong sprul blo gros mtha’ yas. "Zab mo'i gter dang gter ston grub thob ji ltar byon pa'i lo rgyus mdor bsdus bkod pa rin chen baiDUr+Ya'i phreng ba las sangs rgyas gnyis pa pad+ma 'byung gnas." In Rin chen gter mdzod chen mo/. New Delhi: Shechen Publications, 2007–2008. Vol. 1: 341–367.

Secondary Sources


O rgyan gling pa. Pad+ma bka' thang. Khreng tu'u: Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1987.


Boord, Martin. A Bolt of Lightning from the Blue. Berlin: Khordong 2002.

Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Taye. The Hundred Tertöns. Translated by Yeshe Gyamtso. Woodstock: KTD Publications, 2011.

Khyentsé Wangpo. Jamyang Khyentsé Wangpo's Guide to Central Tibet. Trans. Matthew Akester. Chicago: Serindia Publications, 2016.

Ngawang Zangpo. Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times. New York: Snow Lion Publications, 2002.

Rich, Bruce. To Uphold the World: A Call for a New Global Ethic from Ancient India. Boston: Beacon Press, 2010.

Strong, John S. The Legend of King Aśoka: A Study and Translation of the Aśokāvadāna. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014.

Tāranātha. The Origin of the Tārā Tantra. Translated and edited by David Templeman. Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1995.

Tāranātha. "Three Reasons for Confidence". Trans. David Teasdale. Lotsawa House, 2019.

Version: 1.3-20230109

  1. The following short biography of Guru Rinpoche was extracted from the Precious Garland of Lapis Lazuli (Rin chen bai DU r.ya'i 'phreng ba), a collection of life stories of the 108 main tertöns written by Jamgön Kongtrul and found in Volume I of his Treasury of Precious Termas, the Rinchen Terdzö (Rin chen gter mdzod). For a translation of the complete work, see: Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Taye, The Hundred Tertöns, translated by Yeshe Gyamtso, (Woodstock: KTD Publications, 2011).  ↩

  2. That is Samantabhadra.  ↩

  3. That is Vairocana.  ↩

  4. That is Vairocana.  ↩

  5. The Oral Transmission of Kīla (Phur pa bka’ ma) refers to the famous commentary called Phurdrel Bum Nak (Phur ‘brel ‘bum nag, The Black Hundred Thousand Words Commentary on the Kīla), which was written down as the result of Padmasambhava’s meeting with Vimalamitra and Śīlamañju at Yangleshö, in present-day Nepal. For a translation of this life story, see: Martin Boord, A Bolt of Lightning from the Blue, (Berlin: Khordong 2002), 113-128.  ↩

  6. See for example the terma-treasure biography revealed by Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa  ↩

  7. This is found in the Pema Kathang, The Chronicle of Padma, revealed by Orgyen Lingpa (b. 1323). For the Tibetan, see: O rgyan gling pa, Pad+ma bka' thang, (Khreng tu'u: Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1987), 3.  ↩

  8. Also known as the ḍākinī Karmendrāṇī or Khandroma Lekyi Wangmo (mkha' 'gro ma las kyi dbang mo), ‘Ḍākinī Queen of Activity’.  ↩

  9. The Ocean of Dharma, the Great Gathering of Transmitted Precepts (bka' 'dus chos kyi rgya mtsho) is a teaching cycle that focuses on the Kagyé deities. It was discovered as a terma-treasure by Orgyen Lingpa, and it was later rediscovered as a yangter (yang gter) by Jamyang Khyentsé Wangpo.  ↩

  10. The Sūtra on Magical Perception (D 146, spyod yul rnam par 'phrul pa). Its full title is The Sūtra Teaching the Miracles in the Domain of Skillful Means that the Bodhisattvas Have at their Disposition (Bodhisattva­gocaropāyaviṣayavikurvita­nirdeśasūtra, byang sems spyod yul thabs kyi yul la rnam 'phrul bstan pa'i mdo).  ↩

  11. The full story is found in: John S. Strong, The Legend of King Aśoka: A Study and Translation of the Aśokāvadāna, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014): 214-220. This story is also discussed in: Bruce Rich, To Uphold the World: A Call for a New Global Ethic from Ancient India, (Boston: Beacon Press, 2010): 96-111. The name of the monk varies depending on the source consulted.  ↩

  12. Tirāhut (Tirhut) is a name for the old city of the kingdom of Videha, about 175 miles north-west of Vārāṇasī.  ↩

  13. Tharu kingdom may refer to the Tharu tribe now inhabiting the jungle and Terai valleys on the southern borders of West Nepal and India. It is said that the Emperor Aśoka came from this tribe. For more information, see: Taranatha, The Origin of the Tārā Tantra, translated and edited by David Templeman, (Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1995), n. 82 and n. 135.  ↩

  14. That is South India.  ↩

  15. In these last two paragraphs Jamgön Kongtrul refers to two stories told in Tāranātha’s Three Reasons for Confidence.  ↩

  16. Ngawang Zangpo states: “According to Yudra Tulku, ‘the hundred vital treasures of the king’ (rgyal po’i bla gter brgya) were treasures (mainly objects, rather than texts) concealed around the Himalayan region to consecrate the land. They represent the spirit or vital life-force infused in the region by Guru Rinpoché. Unlike other treasures he concealed, these were intended to remain without being retrieved at a later date.” See: Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, (New York: Snow Lion Publications, 2002), 325, note 25.  ↩

  17. Gyalpo Shing Cha Chen (rgyal po shing bya can) was the main ancestral spirit of the hostile Mongols and neighbouring tribes. Through his clairvoyance, the Mahaguru knew of the spirit's dark schemes––plotting to bring Tibet under his rule by influencing the Mongol rulers. Thus the Mahaguru decided to turn the potential attacker into a defender. And so, with the dual purpose of protecting Samyé and preventing future invasions of Tibet by hostile neighbouring tribes, the Guru sent prince Murub Tsenpo with an army to the Uyghur hermitage (bha ta hor gyi sgom grwa) located in the Gansu corridor. Their mission was to provoke Shing Cha Chen into action. To this end, Murub Tsenpo and his men stole the hermitage possessions that Shing Cha Chen had sworn to protect. At this, Shing Cha Chen had no choice but to pursue the invaders back to Tibet, where Guru Rinpoche was already awaiting their arrival. The moment Shing Cha Chen was in sight, the Guru bound him under oath and placed him in charge of Samyé monastery. Gyalpo Shing Cha Chen was then invited to take up residence in Samyé’s Pehar Kordzö Ling temple (pe har / dpe dkar dkor mdzod gling), from which time he became known as Gyalpo Pehar, renamed after the protector’s new residence. For a brief discussion, see: Khyentsé Wangpo, Jamyang Khyentsé Wangpo's Guide to Central Tibet, trans. Matthew Akester (Chicago: Serindia Publications, 2016), 311 fn. 26.  ↩

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