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Padmasambhava

By Devik Balami at
padmasambhava

Padmasambhava was an eighth-century Indian Buddhist master. He is also regarded as Guru Rinpoche and he is paid homage as the second Buddha across South-east Asia. Even though there is little known about him, there are numerous mythological legends that circulate around his life and works. He is believed to be an emanation of Amitabh Buddha and focuses guru yoga practice particularly in the Rime schools.

It is recorded in the Testament of Ba that he helped to build the first ever Buddhist monastery, Samye Monastery, in Tibet at Samye during the reign of Trisong Detsen. Other texts from Dunhuang show that during 10th century Padmasambhava's tantric teachings were being taught in Tibet. Later accounts of Padmasambhava's story became highly mythologized and mainly focused on Tantric rituals.

Life of Padmasambhava

It is believed that Padmasambhava was incarnated as an eight-year-old child. He appeared on a lotus blossom which was floating in Lake Dhanakosha, in the kingdom of Oddiyana. While some scholars argue this kingdom to be in the Swat Valley area of modern-day Pakistan while others argue to be in the state of Odisha in India. The local king of Oddiyana was childless and when he observed Padmasambhava's special nature, he wishes him to be the future king of the Oddiyana. Padmasambhava didn't accept the offer and left for northern parts of India.

Legends say that in Rewalsar, Padmasambhava secretly taught tantric to Princess Mandarava. Later King found out and he was against it. So, he ordered his men to burn Padmasambhava alive. When the smoke cleared, to their surprise, he was there alive. Nothing had happened to him. He was in deep meditation. Following this miracle, the king offered him both his kingdom and Mandarava.

Padmasambhava didn't accept the kingdom but he left with Mandarava and went to Maratika cave in present day Nepal to practice secret tantric consort rituals. It is believed that they had a vision of Amitabha Buddha and achieve a very rare type of spiritual realization, called the rainbow body. They are believed to be alive and active in this rainbow body form.

The story of Padmasambhava from 12th century portrayed with a much greater role in the introduction of Tantric Buddhism to Tibet. He was given credit to convert the local spirits of the country to Buddhism. In one story, Padmasambhava was invited to Tibet by King Trisong Detsen, the 38th King of Yarlung dynasty. The main purpose of the invitation was to subdue the demonic forces who were making hard to build a monastery in the Samye. The monastery was been built by Santaraksita, an Indian Buddhist Brahmin and an abbot of Nalanda University.

Padmasambhava made the demons obliged to submit to the dharma. This was the main principle of Tantrism, not to destroy negative forces but to accept them and redirect them to fuel the journey towards spiritual awakening.

After the establishment of the monastery, King Trisong Detsen ordered to translate all Buddhists Dharma texts into Tibetan. For this purpose, he again took help of Padmasambhava and Shantaraksita, other translators and disciples. This formed foundation for the scriptural transmission of Dharma teachings into Tibet. In this project, Padmasambhava supervised the translation of Tantra while Shantarakshita focused on the Sutra teachings.

While living in Tibet, Padmasambhava introduced the practice of Tantric Buddhism to the people of Tibet. This helped to established Nyingma tradition which is oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

Iconography

While depicted in buddha statues, images; Padmasambhava is shown seated on a lotus with his two feet in the royal posture. His complexion is white with a tinge of red. He has one face and two hands. On his head, he wears a five petal lotus hat with his two eyes wide open. His right hands hold a five-pronged vajra and his left-hand rests in the gesture of equanimity. In other times, his left-hand holds a skull-cup. He also holds three-pointed Khatvanga by his left hand. The three points of Khatvanga is represented by the essence, nature and compassionate energy.

Antique Buddha Statues of Padmasambhava

135ft tall Buddha statue of Padmasambhava is located at Samdruptse in South Sikkim. The statue is made up of copper and cement. It is one of the pilgrimage sites for the Buddhists.

123 ft. tall Buddha statue of Padmasambhava is located in the hills of Rewalsar, India. It is recorded that Rewalsar is a hometown of Mandarava, one of the Consorts of Padmasambhava.

Likewise, there is a statue of Padmasambhava in the meditation cave at Yerpa, Tibet.

Pharping town of Nepal is considered holiest place associated with Padmasambhava. It is believed that Padmasambhava meditated in one of the hills of Pharping. Legends say that there is an imprint of his hands, head, and legs near the cave where he meditated.