Padmasambhava ("Born from a Lotus"; Sanskrit: पद्मसम्भव, IAST: Padmasambhava ; Tibetan: པདྨ་འབྱུང་གནས།, Wylie: pad+ma 'byung gnas (EWTS); Mongolian ловон Бадмажунай, lovon Badmajunai ; Chinese: 莲花生大士; simplified Chinese: 莲花生大士; traditional Chinese: 蓮花生大士; pinyin: Liánhuāshēngdàshì), also known as Guru Rinpoche (गुरु रिनपोचे), incarnated as a fully enlightened being, as foretold by Buddha Shakyamuni.[1] Padmasambhava is considered the Second Buddha by the Nyingma school, the oldest Buddhist school in Tibet known as "the ancient ones". Around 767 he came to Tibet and helped construct Samye Monastery, the first Buddhist and Nyingma monastery in Tibet. Padmasambhava then revealed the Vajrayana of Tibetan Buddhism, with scholars, translators, and masters.[2] His students in Tibet include the great master Yeshe Tsogyal and the "Twenty-Five King and Subjects".[3]

A number of biographies describe Padmasambhava's life and deeds. The Nyingma scholar Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche explains of his birth:

There are many stories explaining how Guru Padmasambhava was born. Some say that he instantly appeared on the peak of Meteorite Mountain, in Sri Lanka. Others teach that he came through his mother's womb, but most accounts refer to a miraculous birth, explaining that he spontaneously appeared in the center of a lotus. These stories are not contradictory because highly realized beings abide in the expanse of great equanimity with perfect understanding and can do anything. Everything is flexible, anything is possible. Enlightened beings can appear in any way they want or need to.[1]

In addition to the Nyingma school, Padmasambhava is also widely venerated as a second Buddha by Buddhists in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, the Himalayan states of India, and in countries around the world.[4][5] Buddha Shakyamuni predicted Padmasambhava's coming and activities in 19 Sutras and Tantras, stating he would be an emanation of Amitaba and Avaloketishvara. Other accounts maintain Padmasambhava is a direct reincarnation of Buddha Shakyamuni.

For the most part, Buddha Shakyamuni taught Hinayana and Sutra Mahayana, and only taught Vajrayana to select students privately. As a reincarnation, Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche states that Padmasambhava "revealed the Vajrayana teachings in their entirety."[1] The Vajrayana is also known as Tantra, and is based on the Mahayana.

In Tibetan Buddhism, the Vajrayana revealed by Padmasambhava has an oral Kama lineage, and a hidden treasure Terma lineage that was founded by Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal.[6] The Terma are discovered by fortunate beings and Tertöns when conditions are ripe for reception. The Nyingma Dzogchen lineage has its origins in Garab Dorje through a direct transmission to Padmasambhava.[7]

Padmasambhava appears to Tertöns in visionary encounters, and his form is visualized during guru yoga practice, particularly in the Nyingma school. The Nyingma school considers Padmasambhava to be a founder of their tradition.[8] Padmasambhava established Vajrayana Buddhism and the highest forms of Dzogchen (Mengagde) in Tibet and transformed the entire nation.

Yeshe Tsogyal said there are nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine biographies of Padmasambhava.[1] They are categorized in three ways: Those relating to Padmasambhava's Dharmakaya buddhahood, those accounts of his Sambhogakaya nature, and those chronicles of his Nirmanakaya activities.[1]

One of the earliest chronicle sources for Padmasambhava as a historical figure is the Testament of Ba (dating to the 9th or 10th centuries), which records the founding of Samye Monastery under the reign of king Trisong Detsen (r. 755–797/804).[9]

Other chronicle texts from Dunhuang evidence that Padmasambhava's tantric teachings were being taught in Tibet during the 10th century. New evidence suggests that Padmasambhava already figured in spiritual hagiography and ritual, and was already seen as the enlightened source of tantric scriptures, as many as two hundred years before Nyangrel Nyima Özer (1136-1204)[10] the primary source of the biography of Padmasambhava.

Khenpo Nyangrel Nyima Özer (b.1124/1136 - d.1192/1204), abbot of Mawochok Monastery, is responsible for revealing the terma of "The Copper Palace" (bka' thang zangs gling ma), a complete biographical narrative on Padmasambhava which was located near Mawochok, in Lhodrak, Tibet. The narrative was also incorporated into Nyangrel Nyima Özer's history of Buddhism, the .[11] The Copper Palace narrative forms the beginning at least of the hagiographical tradition of Padmasambhava, according to Janet Gyatso.[12]

"Flower Nectar: The Essence of Honey" (chos 'byung me tog snying po sbrang rtsi'i bcud)

Guru Chöwang (1212–1270) was the next major textual source contributor on Padmasambhava, and may have been the first full lifestory biographer of Yeshe Tsogyal.[12]

In the eleventh and twelfth centuries there were several parallel narratives of Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra, Songtsän Gampo, and Vairotsana.[13] At the end of the 12th century, there was the "victory of the Padmasambhava"[14] narrative, which details the greater role of Padmasambhava in the introduction of Vajrayana to Tibet,[15] as revealed by Khenpo Nyangrel Nyima Özer's Copper Palace.

Most biographical accounts of his nature state Padmasambhava consciously incarnated as an eight-year-old child appearing in a lotus blossom floating in Lake Dhanakosha, in the kingdom of Oddiyana.

Padmasambhava became the adopted child of King Indrabhuti of Sambalak. Laxmikara, the sister of King Indrabhuti, was a master of Tantric Buddhism and spread Buddhist Tantra when she married in Subarnapur. It may be assumed that Padmasambhava learned Tantric Buddhism from his aunt Laxmikara and later, when he left Sambalak, he transferred the knowledge of Tantric Buddhism learned from his aunt Laxmikara within different Himalayan states such as Nepal, Bhutan, Himachal Pradesh, Tibet, and Sikkim.[16]

Several scholars locate Oddiyana in the Swat Valley area of modern-day Pakistan. A minority theory developed on literary, archaeological, and iconographical grounds locates Oddiayna at Thankosh, near the modern-day city of Sambalpur in Odisha, India.[17] Subarnapur may also be the modern-day Sonepur district of Odisha.

Padmasambhava's special nature was recognized by the childless King Indrabhuti of Oḍḍiyāna, and he was chosen to take over the kingdom. Instead, Padmasambhava left Oddiyana for northern parts of India.[18][19] Padmasambhava's choice in departing the kingdom is in parallel with the Shakyamuni Buddha's choice in departing his own father's kingdom.

In Himachal Pradesh, India at Rewalsar Lake, known as Tso Pema in Tibetan, Padmasambhava secretly gave tantric teachings to princess Mandarava, the local king's daughter. The king found out and tried to burn both him and his daughter, but it is said that when the smoke cleared they were still alive and in meditation, centered in a lotus arising from a lake. Greatly astonished by this miracle, the king offered Padmasambhava both his kingdom and Mandarava.[20]

Padmasambhava left India with Mandarava and travelled to the Maratika Cave[21] in Nepal to continue practicing secret tantra. They had a vision of buddha Amitāyus and achieved what is called the "phowa rainbow body," (Wylie transliteration: 'pho ba chen po, pronounced Phowa Chenpo) a very rare type of spiritual realization (Wylie: 'ja' lus, pronounced Jalü). Both Padmasambhava and his consort Mandarava are still believed to be alive and active in this rainbow body form by Buddhists.

There is a huge 64 feet tall golden statue of Padmasambhava, to the right of Shakyamuni, in the Amidev buddha Park located at the foot of the hill which houses Swayambhu Mahachaitya. The Park was built in 2003 which acts as the entrance for the pilgrims visiting the Stupa on top.

Padmasambhava's main consort Yeshe Tsogyal, also known as Karchen Za, became his student while living in the court of Tibet's King Trisong Deutsen.

Padmasambhava was given Yeshe Tsogyal, one of Trisong Deutsen's queens, as a spiritual consort.[22] Together, they began the Nyingma school and Yeshe Tsogyal is called the "Mother of Buddhism". She was also among Padmasambhava's three special students (the King, Karchen Za, and Namkhai Nyingpo)[12] and among Padmasambhava's "Twenty-five King and Subjects".

Yeshe Tsogyal became a great master with many disciples. Padmasambhava hid numerous Termas in Tibet for later discovery with her aid, while she compiled and elicited Padmasambhava's teachings through the posing of questions, and then reached Buddhahood in her lifetime. Many thangkas and paintings depict Padmasambhava with consorts at each side, Mandarava on his right and Yeshe Tsogyal on his left.[23]

Guru Senge Dradrog, a wrathful manifestation of Padmasambhava. (Painting in Tashichho Dzong)

The Eight Manifestations are also seen as Padmasambhava's biography that spans 1500 years. As Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche states,

When Guru Padmasambhava appeared on earth, he came as a human being. In order to dissolve our attachment to dualistic conceptions and destroy complex neurotic fixations, he also exhibited some extraordinary manifestations.[1]

In accord, Rigpa Shedra also states the eight principal forms were assumed by Guru Rinpoche at different points in his life. Padmasambhava's eight manifestations, or forms (Tib. Guru Tsen Gye), represent different aspects of his being as needed, such as wrathful or peaceful for example.

The Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava belong to the tradition of Terma, the Revealed Treasures (Tib.: ter ma),[1][24][25] and are described and enumerated as follows:

Padmasambhava's various Sanskrit names are preserved in mantras such as those found in the .[clarification needed][26][27]

Yang gsang rig 'dzin youngs rdzogs kyi blama guru mtshan brgyad bye brag du sgrub pa ye shes bdud rtsi'i sbrang char zhe bya ba

The treasure Terma revealed by Nyangrel Nyima Ozer entitled "The Copper Palace", provides scholars with the basic narrative on Padmasambhava's time in Tibet, and is supported by The Testament of Ba. In Copper Palace and the Testament, King Trisong Detsen, the 38th king of the Yarlung dynasty and the first Emperor of Tibet (742–797), invited the Nalanda University abbot Śāntarakṣita (Tibetan Shiwatso) to Tibet.[28] Śāntarakṣita started the building of Samye,[28] but the work collapsed repeatedly. It was ascertained that local spirits, or demonical forces, were hindering the construction and introduction of the Buddhist dharma. Padmasambhava was invited to Tibet to subdue the demonic forces.[29] The demons were not annihilated, but were obliged to submit to the dharma.[30] The subjection of concurring deities and demons is a recurrent theme in Buddhist literature, as noted also in Vajrapani and Mahesvara and Steven Heine's "Opening a Mountain".[31]

This was in accordance with the tantric principle of not eliminating negative forces but redirecting them to fuel the journey toward spiritual awakening. Padmasambhava successfully tamed the spirits, and the construction of Samye recommenced. The success increased the levels of respect for Padmasbhava, and supported the continued revelations of Vajrayana teachings in Tibet.

King Trisong Detsen ordered the translation of all Buddhist Dharma Texts from Sanskrit into Tibetan. Padmasambhava, Shantarakshita, 108 translators, and 25 of Padmasambhava's nearest disciples worked for many years in a gigantic translation-project. The translations from this period formed the base for the large scriptural transmission of Dharma teachings into Tibet. Padmasambhava supervised mainly the translation of Vajrayana Tantra teachings; Shantarakshita concentrated on the Mahayana Sutra teachings.

Padmasambhava, with King Trisong Deutsen as a patron, spread Vajrayana Buddhism to the people of Tibet, and specifically introduced its practice of Tantra.[30][32]

Padmasambhava is regarded as the founder of the Nyingma school. The word "Nyingma" literally means "ancient," and is often referred to as "Nga'gyur" "Tibetan: སྔ་འགྱུར།, Wylie: snga 'gyur, ZYPY: Nga'gyur, "school of the ancient translations", or the "early translation school" since the first translations of Buddhist teachings and discourses from Sanskrit into Tibetan were prepared by early Nyingma school teachers and students. The Tibetan script and grammar were actually created for this endeavour.

The Nyingma school has a Kama lineage, based on an oral transmission lineage, and a Terma lineage, based on revealed hidden terma treasures, which are found and disseminated when conditions are ripe for the reception of the treasures.[7] The Kama lineage traces its origins to Padmasambhava together with other early translation school masters Shantarakshita, Vimalamitra, and Vairochana. Its Dzogchen lineage traces its origins to Garab Dorje through Padmasambhava.[6] The origin of its Terma lineage is traced to Padmasambhava and Yeshe Ysogyal, while the Terma lineage is based on the Kama lineage.[7]

All people in Tibet that became enlightened from the 8th century to the 11th century did so through practicing the Nyingma school's Kama lineage.[7] The Nyingma is the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism, the other three being the Kagyu, Sakya and Gelug.

Originally, Nyingma teachings were propagated orally among a loose network of lay practitioners. Yogis, lay practitioners and vow-holding Ngakmapa practitioners were generally the earlier practitioners, while ordained monks and nuns and monasteries developed later.[33] Padmasambhava is regarded as the founder of Samye Monastery, the first Buddhist monastery and Nyingma monastery in Tibet.[34] Later, the Nyingma school's Six Mother Monasteries were built. Many of the Nyingma monasteries were destroyed before and during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and most recently demolished as at Larung Gar and Yarchen Gar.

The Nyingma school's lineage in Tibet remains centered in Kham in eastern Tibet, and monasteries founded by exiled Tibetan lamas are located in Nepal and throughout India. The Tibetan diaspora has caused the Nyingma school to flourish in Europe and in the Americas, and to spread most recently into Russia.

Bhutan has many important pilgrimage places associated with Padmasambhava. The most famous is Paro Taktsang or "Tiger's Nest" monastery which is built on a sheer cliff wall about 900m above the floor of Paro valley. It was built around the Taktsang Senge Samdup (stag tshang seng ge bsam grub) cave where he is said to have meditated in the 8th Century. He flew there from Tibet on the back of Yeshe Tsogyal, whom he transformed into a flying tigress for the purpose of the trip.[citation needed] Later he travelled to Bumthang district to subdue a powerful deity offended by a local king. According to legend, Padmasambhava's body imprint can be found in the wall of a cave at nearby Kurje Lhakhang temple.[citation needed]

The khaṭvāńga is a particular divine attribute of Padmasambhava and intrinsic to his iconographic representation. It is a danda with three severed heads denoting the three kayas (the three bodies of a Buddha, the dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, and nirmanakaya), crowned by a trishula, and dressed with a sash of the Himalayan Rainbow or Five Pure Lights of the Mahabhuta. The iconography is utilized in various Tantric cycles by practitioners as symbols to hidden meanings in transmitted practices.

There are further iconographies and meanings in more advanced and secret stages.[citation needed]

His Pureland Paradise is Zangdok Palri (the Copper-Coloured Mountain).[39]

My father is the intrinsic awareness, Samantabhadra (Sanskrit; Tib. ཀུན་ཏུ་བཟང་པོ). My mother is the ultimate sphere of reality, Samantabhadri (Sanskrit; Tib. ཀུན་ཏུ་བཟང་མོ). I belong to the caste of non-duality of the sphere of awareness. My name is the Glorious Lotus-Born. I am from the unborn sphere of all phenomena. I consume concepts of duality as my diet. I act in the way of the Buddhas of the three times.

I am sustained by perplexity; and I am here to destroy lust, anger and sloth.

The Vajra Guru (Padmasambhava) mantra Om Ah Hum Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hum is favoured and held in esteem by sadhakas. Like most Sanskritic mantras in Tibet, the Tibetan pronunciation demonstrates dialectic variation and is generally Om Ah Hung Benza Guru Pema Siddhi Hung. In the Vajrayana traditions, particularly of the Nyingmapa, it is held to be a powerful mantra engendering communion with the Three Vajras of Padmasambhava's mindstream and by his grace, all enlightened beings.[40] In response to Yeshe Tsogyal's request, the Great Master himself explained the meaning of the mantra although there are larger secret meanings too.[41] The 14th century tertön Karma Lingpa has a famous commentary on the mantra.[42]

The Seven Line Prayer to Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) is a famous prayer that is recited by many Tibetans daily and is said to contain the most sacred and important teachings of Dzogchen. It is as follows:[43]

Hūṃ! In the north-west of the land of Oḍḍiyāna (hung orgyen yul gyi nubjang tsam)

Endowed with the most marvellous attainments, (yatsen chok gi ngödrub nyé)

I pray to you: Come, inspire me with your blessing! (jingyi lab chir shek su sol)

Jamgon Ju Mipham Gyatso composed a famous commentary to the Seven Line Prayer called White Lotus. It explains the meanings, which are embedded in many levels and intended to catalyze a process of realization. These hidden teachings are described as ripening and deepening, in time, with study and with contemplation.[44] Tulku Thondup says:

Enshrining the most sacred prayer to Guru Padmasambhava, White Lotus elucidates its five layers of meaning as revealed by the eminent scholar Ju Mipham. This commentary now makes this treasure, which has been kept secret among the great masters of Tibet for generations, available as a source of blessings and learning for all.

There is also a shorter commentary, freely available, by Tulku Thondup himself.[45] There are many other teachings and Termas and widely practiced tantric cycles incorporating the text as well as brief ones such as Terma Revelation of Guru Chöwang.[46]

Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal also hid a number of spiritual treasures (termas) in lakes, caves, fields and forests of the Himalayan region to be found and interpreted by future tertöns or spiritual treasure-finders.[47]

According to Tibetan tradition, the Bardo Thodol (commonly referred to as the Tibetan Book of the Dead) was among these hidden treasures, subsequently discovered by a Tibetan terton, Karma Lingpa.

Tantric cycles related to Padmasambhava are not just practiced by the Nyingma, they even gave rise to a new offshoot of Bon which emerged in the 14th century called the New Bön. Prominent figures of the Sarma (new translation) schools such as the Karmapas and Sakya lineage heads have practiced these cycles and taught them. Some of the greatest tertons revealing teachings related to Padmasambhava have been from the Kagyu or Sakya lineages. The hidden lake temple of the Dalai Lamas behind the Potala called Lukhang is dedicated to Dzogchen teachings and has murals depicting the eight manifestations of Padmasambhava.[48] Padmasambhava established Vajrayana Buddhism and the highest forms of Dzogchen (Mengagde) in Tibet and transformed the entire nation.

Many of the students gathered around Padmasambhava became advanced Vajrayana tantric practitioners, and became enlightened. They also found and propagated the Nyingma school. The most prominent of these include Padmasambhava's five main female consorts, often referred to as wisdom dakinis, and his twenty five main students along with king Trisong Detsen.

Padmasambhava had five main female tantric consorts, beginning in India before his time in Tibet and then in Tibet as well. When seen from an outer, or perhaps even historical or mythological perspective, these five women from across South Asia were known as the Five Consorts. That the women come from very different geographic regions is understood as a mandala, a support for Padmasambhava in spreading the dharma throughout the region.

Yet, when understood from a more inner tantric perspective, these same women are understood not as ordinary women but as wisdom dakinis. From this point of view, they are known as the "Five Wisdom Dakinis" (Wylie: Ye-shes mKha-'gro lnga). Each of these consorts is believed to be an emanation of the tantric yidam, Vajravārāhī.[49] As one author writes of these relationships:

Yet in reality, he [Padmasambhava] was never separate from the five emanations of Vajravarahi: the Body-emanation, Mandarava; the Speech-emanation, Yeshe Tsogyal; the Mind-emanation, Shakyadema; the Qualities-emanation, Kalasiddhi; and the Activity-emanation, Trashi [sic] Chidren.[50]

While there are very few sources on the lives of Kalasiddhi, Sakya Devi, and Tashi Kyedren, there are extant biographies of both Yeshe Tsogyal and Mandarava that have been translated into English and other western languages.

Padmasambhava has twenty five main students (Tibetan: རྗེ་འབངས་ཉེར་ལྔ, Wylie: rje 'bangs nyer lnga) in Tibet during the Nyingma's school's Early Translation period. These students are also called the "Twenty-five King and subjects" and "The King and 25" of Chimphu.[52] [53] In Dudjom Rinpoche's list,[54] and in other sources, these include:

In addition to Yeshe Tsogyal, 15 other women practitioners became accomplished Nyingma masters during this Early Translation period of the Nyingma school:[54][7]