A Short Biography
Jamgon Kongtrul the First
Now follows a short life story of Guru Rinpoche, also
known as Padmakara or Padmasambhava, extracted from the Precious
Garland of Lapis Lazuli, a collection of life stories of the 108
main tertons written by Jamgon Kongtrul the First and found in Volume
I of his Treasury of Precious
Termas – the Rinchen Terdzo:
Padmakara has influenced countless beings through
the Vajrayana teachings and in particular through the activity of the
profound terma treasures. This great master was not an ordinary person
on the path or just a noble being on one of the bodhisattva bhumis but
an emanation of both Buddha Amitabha and Shakyamuni who appeared in
order to tame the human beings and spirits difficult to convert.
Even the great bodhisattvas are incapable of fully explaining his life
example but in brief I will narrate it as follows.
In the dharmakaya realm of the Luminous Vajra Essence he has by nature
attained perfect enlightenment since the very beginning as the liberated
ground of primordial purity. He is renowned as the original protector,
the self-manifest sambhogakaya realm of the Thunder of the Drum of Perfection,
he spontaneously manifested as the boundless wisdom array of the five
families of Buddha Immense Ocean possessing the five certainties.
As the external manifestation of this self-appearing display, in the
countless sceneries of bodily forms in buddhafields of the five families
comprised of the semi-manifest natural nirmanakaya realms of Mahabrahma,
he appears to all the bodhisattvas on the ten bhumis. Since these all
are the cloud banks of Guru Rinpoche's wisdom display, the 'inexhaustible
wheel of adornment,' he is known as the All-Holding Lotus.
By the power of these wisdom displays he appears in countless worlds
of the ten directions as the magical apparition of nirmanakayas who
tame beings. In particular, it is taught that only in this Saha world-system
he illuminates fifty worlds with the lamp of the teachings of Sutra
and Tantra appearing as the eight manifestations to tame beings in the
different parts of the world.
The Dakini Yeshe Tsogyal had a vision in which she saw a manifestation
of Guru Rinpoche called Immense Vajra Ocean in the direction to the
east. Each of the pores in his body held one billion realms and in each
realm there were one billion world systems. In each of these world systems
there were one billion Guru Rinpoches who each created one billion emanations.
Each of these emanations carried out the activity of taming one billion
disciples. She then saw the same display in each of the other directions
and in the center.
In this world of Jambudvipa, Guru Rinpoche is known as just one nirmanakaya
who tames beings but according to the different capacities and giftedness
of people he is perceived in various ways. The history of the Oral Transmission
of Kilaya and most Indian sources explain that he was born as the son
of a king or a minister in Uddiyana; while the terma treasures for the
most part narrate that he was miraculously born. In some texts he is
said to have appeared from a bolt of lightning at the summit of Mount
Malaya. Each of these wondrous stories differ in many ways. This is
indeed a topic that lies far beyond the reach of an ordinary person's
I shall now limit the explanation down to a mere seed, the life of Guru
Rinpoche according to miraculous birth as it appears in the terma teachings.
In the land of Uddiyana situated to the west of Bodhgaya there was an
island in a huge lake on which appeared a multicolored lotus flower
through the blessings of the buddhas. Buddha Amitabha sent from his
heart center a golden vajra marked with the letter HRIH into the bud
of this lotus flower which miraculously turned into a small child eight
years of age holding a vajra and a lotus and adorned with the major
and minor marks. The child remained there teaching the profound Dharma
to the devas and dakinis on the island.
At that time Indrabodhi, who was the king of the country, had no sons.
He had already emptied out his treasury by making offerings to the Three
Jewels and giving alms to the poor. As a last resort, in order to find
a wishfulfilling jewel he embarked on a journey with his minister Krishnadhara
on the great lake. On their return first Krishnadhara and later King
Indrabodhi met the miraculous child. The king regarded him as an answer
to his prayers for a son and brought him to the palace where he was
given the name Padmakara, the Lotus Born. Padmakara was then asked to
sit on a throne made of precious gems and given lavish offerings by
all the people.
The prince grew up, bringing countless beings to maturation through
his youthful sports and games. He married Prabhadhari and ruled the
kingdom of Uddiyana in accordance with the Dharma. At that time he perceived
that he would be unable to accomplish the immense welfare of other beings
by governing a country so he asked Indrabodhi permission to leave which
was not granted. In an act of play, he then pretended that his trident
slipped out of his hand; it fell and killed the son of one of the ministers.
He was then sentenced to be expelled to a charnel ground. He remained
in Cool Grove, Joyful Forest and Sosaling, engaging in the conduct of
yogic disciplines. During this time he received empowerment and blessings
from the two dakinis Tamer of Mara and Sustainer of Bliss. When bringing
all the dakinis of the charnel grounds under his command, he was known
Padmakara returned to Uddiyana, to the island in Lake Danakosha where
he practiced Secret Mantra and the symbolic language of the dakinis
through which he brought the dakinis on the island under his command.
He then practiced in the Rugged Forest and was blessed with a vision
of Vajra Yogini. He bound under oath all the nagas of the lakes as well
as the planetary spirits and was invested with supernatural powers by
all the dakas and dakinis. Thus he became renowned as Dorje Drakpo Tsal,
Wrathful Vajra Power.
He then journeyed to the Vajra Throne in Bodhgaya where he showed many
miracles. People asked who he was and when he replied that he was a
self-appeared buddha they did not believe but instead defamed him. Seeing
the many reasons to have a teacher, he went to Zahor where he took ordination
from Prabhahasti and was
given the name Shakya Senge. He received the teaching on Yoga Tantra
eighteen times and had visions of the deities. The he went to the female
master Kungamo who was the wisdom dakini Guhya Jñana appearing
in the form of a nun. He asked for empowerment and she changed him into
the letter HUNG which she then swallowed and emitted through her lotus.
Inside her body he was bestowed the entire outer, inner and secret empowerments
and purified of the three obscurations.
Later, he met the eight great knowledge-holders and received the Eight
Sadhana Sections. He received the Magical Net from the great master
Buddha Guhya and Dzogchen from Shri
Singha. In this way he studied and received all the sutras, tantras
and sciences from numerous learned and accomplished masters of India.
He became adept by learning a topic just once and had visions of all
the deities even without practicing. At this time he was known as Loden
Choksey and he displayed the manner of perfecting the vidyadhara level
He then went to the country of Zahor where he magnetized Mandarava,
a qualified dakini who was the daughter of King Vihardhara. Taking her
as his sadhana support, they practiced for three months in the Maratika
Cave after which Buddha Amitayus appeared in person, conferred empowerment
upon them and blessed them to be inseparable from himself. They were
given one billion tantras on longevity and accomplished the vidyadhara
level of life-mastery. Having attained the vajra body beyond birth and
death, they went back to teach the kingdom of Zahor. When begging for
alms, they were arrested by the king and his ministers and burned alive.
The master and his consort inspired faith by displaying the miracle
of transforming the pyre into a cool lake in the center of which they
sat on a lotus flower. They caused all the people to embrace Dharma
practice and established them in the state beyond falling back into
Padmakara then returned to convert the people of Uddiyana. While begging
for alms, he was recognized and burned in a huge pyre of sandal wood.
The master and his consort again appeared unharmed on a lotus flower
in the center of a lake wearing a garland of skulls to symbolize liberating
all sentient beings from samsara. Because of showing this miracle he
was then renowned as Padma Totreng Tsal, Powerful Lotus of the Garland
of Skulls. He remained in Uddiyana for 13 years as the king's teacher
and established the whole kingdom in Dharma practice. During this time
he gave the empowerment and teachings for the Dharma Ocean Embodying
All Teachings (Kadu Chokyi Gyamtso), through which the king
and queen as well as all the destined ones accomplished the supreme
vidyadhara level. He was then known as Padma Raja, the Lotus King.
In accordance with a prophesy in the Sutra on Magical Perception, Padmakara
transformed himself into the monk Wangpo Dey in order to convert King
Ashoka. Having established Ashoka in unshakable faith, during a single
night he erected in this world one million stupas containing the relics
of the Tathagata. He also subdued several non-Buddhist teachers, was
poisoned by one king but remained unharmed. When he then was thrown
into the river he made the river flow upstream and danced about in mid-air.
Through that he became known as Powerful Garuda Youth.
Moreover, Padmakara manifested himself in the form of Acharya Padmavajra,
the master who revealed the Hevajra Tantra, as well as the Brahmin Saraha,
Dombi Heruka, Virupa, Kalacharya and many other siddhas. He practiced
in the great charnel grounds where he taught the Secret Mantra to the
dakinis. He subdued the outer and inner mundane spirits and named them
protectors of the Dharma. At that time he became known as Nyima Özer.
When five hundred Non-Buddhist teachers were about to defeat the Dharma
in debate at Bodhgaya, Padmakara challenged them and was victorious.
Some of the teachers resorted to evil spells, but Padmakara scattered
them by means of a wrathful mantra given by the dakini Tamer of Mara.
The rest converted to Buddhism and the banner of the Dharma was raised
to the skies. At that time he became known as Senge Dradrok. Up to this
point he had exhausted the three defilements and resided on the vidyadhara
level of life-mastery, the stage of having fully perfected the supreme
Proceeding to the cave of Yanglesho situated between India and Nepal
he met Shakya Devi, the daughter of a Nepalese King, whom he accepted
as his sadhana support and consort. While practicing Vishuddha Heruka
three powerful spirits created obstacles, preventing rainfall for three
years and causing disease and famine. Padmakara sent messengers to India
asking his masters for a teaching that could counteract these obstacles.
Two men returned loaded with Kilaya scriptures and the obstacles were
spontaneously pacified the very moment they arrived with the scriptures
in Nepal. Padmakara and his consort then attained the supreme siddhi
and abided on the vidyadhara level of mahamudra.
Guru Rinpoche perceived that the practice of Vishuddha Heruka brings
great accomplishment. But that practice is like traveling trader who
meets with many hindrances, whereas Kilaya is like an indispensable
escort. Due to this coincidence Guru Rinpoche he composed many sadhanas
combining the two herukas. At this place he also bound under oath the
sixteen mundane protectors of Vajra Kilaya.
Padmakara visited other ancient kingdoms where he taught the Dharma:
Hurmudzu in the vicinity of Uddiyana, Sikojhara, Dharmakosha, Rugma,
Tirahuti, Kamarupa, and Kancha, as well as many others. It is not sure
when he went to the land of Droding, but the tantric teachings he gave
there on Hevajra, Guhyachandra Bindu, Vishuddha, Hayagriva, Kilaya and
Mamo are still continued this present day.
Padmakara is generally regarded to have lived in India for 3600 years
benefiting the teachings and sentient beings. But it seems that learned
people accept that to be half-years and simply a generalization.
In order to convert people in Mongolia and China Padmakara emanated
in the form of the King Ngonshe Chen and the yogi Tobden. Moreover,
he appeared in the country of Shangshung as the miraculously born child
Tavi Hricha who gave the instructions on the hearing lineage of Dzogchen
and led many worthy disciples to the attainment of the rainbow body.
In this way Padmakara's activity for bringing people to the path of
liberation by means of appearing in various places, in various forms,
speaking various languages is indeed beyond measure.
Now I will describe how Padmakara came here to the land of Tibet. When
King Trisong Deutsen, himself an emanation of Manjushri, was twenty
years of age he formed a strong aspiration to spread the sacred teachings
of the Dharma. He invited Khenpo
Bodhisattva from India who taught about dependent origination and
the ten virtuous actions. A year later the foundation was laid for a
huge temple but the spirits of Tibet created obstacles and prevented
the building. In accordance with the Khenpo's prediction, the king sent
five runners to invite the great master Padmakara to come. Having foreknowledge
of this, Padmakara had already gone to Mang-Yul between Nepal and Tibet.
On the way to Central Tibet, he went via Ngari, Tsang and Dokham and
miraculously visited all of the districts where he bound under oath
the 12 Tenma Goddesses, the 13 Gurlha and 21 Genyen as well as many
other powerful spirits.
the Tamarisk Forest at Red Rock he met the king of Tibet where he proceeded
to the top of Hepori to bring the gods and demons under his command.
He laid the foundation for Samye and saw it through to completion, employing
also the gods and demons who had earlier hindered the building. In five
years the work was completed for the temple complex of Glorious Samye,
the Unchanging and Spontaneously Accomplished Temple, including the
three temples of the queens, which was built to resemble Mount Sumeru
surrounded by the four continents, eight subcontinents, sun and moon,
and the wall of iron mountains. During the consecration ceremony five
wondrous signs occurred.
The king then wished to translate the scriptures and establish the Dharma
so he had many intelligent Tibetan boys study to become translators.
Inviting other masters of the Tripitaka
from India, he had the Khenpo ordain the first seven monks and gradually
establish an ordained sangha. The Khenpo
Bodhisattva and Padmakara and the other panditas together with Vairotsana,
Kawa Paltsek and Chog-ro Lui Gyaltsen and the other translators then
rendered into Tibetan all the existent Buddhist scriptures on Sutra
and Tantra as well as most of the treatises explaining them.
Vairotsana and Namkhai
Nyingpo were sent to India where Vairotsana
studied Dzogchen with Shri Singha
while Namkhai Nyingpo received the teachings on Vishuddha Heruka from
the great master Hungkara. They
both attained accomplishment and spread the teachings in Tibet.
King Trisong Deutsen then requested empowerment and instruction from
Padmakara. At Chimphu, the hermitage above Samye, the great master disclosed
the mandala of Eight Heruka Sadhanas
into which he initiated nine chief disciples including the king. Each
of them were entrusted with a specific transmission and all nine attained
siddhi through practicing the respective teaching.
gave numberless other profound and extraordinary teachings connected
with the three inner tantras to many destined students headed by the
king and his sons and the twenty-five
disciples in Lhodrak, Tidro and many other places.
Guru Rinpoche remained in Tibet for 55 years and six months; 48 years
while the king was alive and seven years and six months afterwards.
He arrived when the king was 21 (810 A.D.). The king passed away at
the age of 69. Padmakara stayed for a few years after that before leaving
for the land of the rakshas.
Padmakara visited in person the 20 snow mountains of Ngari, the 21 places
of practice in Central Tibet and Tsang, the 25 sacred places of Dokham,
the three hidden valleys, and numerous other places each of which he
blessed to be a sacred place of practice. Knowing that a descendant
of the king would later try to destroy Buddhism in Tibet, he gave many
predictions for the future. Conferring with the king and the close disciples,
Padmakara concealed countless terma teachings headed by the eight personal
treasures of the king, the five great mind treasures, and the 25 profound
treasures. The reasons for hiding these termas were to prevent the teachings
of Secret Mantra to be destroyed, to avoid that the Vajrayana is corrupted
or modified by intellectuals, to preserve the blessings and to benefit
future disciples. For each of these hidden treasures Padmakara predicted
the time of the disclosure, the person who would reveal them, and the
destined recipients who would hold the teachings. He manifested in the
terrifying wrathful form of crazy wisdom in the thirteen places named
Tiger's Nest binding all the mundane spirits under oath to serve the
Dharma and entrusted them to guard the terma treasures. At that time
he was named Dorje Drollo.
To inspire faith in future generations, he left an imprint of his body
at Bumtang, hand prints at Namtso Chugmo and footprints at Paro Drakar
as well as in innumerable other places of practice.
After the death of King Trisong Deutsen, Padmakara placed Mutig Tsenpo
on the throne. He performed a drubchen at Tramdruk where he entrusted
the profound teachings to Gyalsey Lhaje, the second prince, and gave
him the prophesy that he would benefit beings by becoming a revealer
of the hidden treasures in thirteen future lives.
is impossible to count exactly how many students in Tibet received empowerment
from Padmakara in person, but the most renowned are the original twenty-five
disciples, the intermediate 25 disciples and the later 17 and 21
disciples. There were 80 of his students who attained rainbow body at
Yerpa and also the 108 meditators at Chuwori, the 30 tantrikas at Yangdzong,
the 55 realized ones at Sheldrag. Of female disciples there were the
25 dakini students and seven yoginis. Many of these close had blood
lines that have continued until the present day.
When about to leave for the land of rakshas to the southwest, the king,
the ministers and all the disciples tried to dissuade Padmakara from
parting but to no avail. He gave each of them extensive advice and teachings
and departed from the pass of Gungtang, riding on a horse or a lion,
accompanied by numerous divine beings making offerings. At the summit
of the Glorious Copper-colored Mountain on the Chamara continent he
liberated Raksha Totreng, the king of the rakshas, and assumed his form.
After that, he miraculously created the palace of Lotus Light endowed
with inconceivable decorations and also emanated a replica of himself
on each of the surrounding eight islands where they reside as kings
who teach the eight heruka sadhanas.
At present he dwells on the vidyadhara level of spontaneous presence
in the form of the regent of Vajradhara, unshakable for as long as samsara
remains. Full of compassion he sends out emanations to benefit beings.
Even after the teachings of the Vinaya have perished he will appear
among the tantric practitioners. There will be many destined disciples
who attain rainbow body. In the future, when Buddha Maitreya appears
in this world, Padmakara will emanate as Drowa Kundul and spread the
teachings of Secret Mantra to all worthy people.
This short biography is just a partial narration which conforms to what
was perceived by some ordinary students.
Translated by the Erik Pema Kunsang, and included in
© Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1990.
about or by Padmasambhava, the Lotus-Born Master of Uddiyana
about or by the Lotus-Born Master of Uddiyana
Other names: Pemajungney (Skt. Padmakara, the "One
Originated from the Lotus"), Totrengtsal,