Padmasambhava and Buddhism in Tibet: Crystal Mirror, Volume 4

Padmasambhava and Buddhism in Tibet

Crystal Mirror, Volume IV


Crystal Mirror is the annual journal of the

Tibetan Nyingma
Meditation Center

2425 Hillside Ave., Berkeley, CA 94704

©1975  Dharma
Publishing (Press)

( permission  to excerpt requested 12/2/99)

ISBN 0-913546-34-6; 0-913546-11-9 (pbk)


[ above: Sakyamuni Buddha.

above center: Amitabha, the Buddha of Boundless Life;

Avalokitesvara (left), the Buddha of Infinite Compassion;

and Padmasambhava (right), the Lotus-born Guru,

who is identical to all the Buddhas of the Ten Directions

and the Three Moments of Time.

Below: Guru Drag-po (left), the inner manifestation of
Padmasambhava representing the male energy which subdues obscurations;

Senge-dong chen-ma (right), the secret manifestation
of Padmasambhava representing the female energy;

three Nyingma Dharmapalas (center), protectors of the



The Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava

Tarthang Tulku

( excerpt )

The Twenty-five Disciples of Padmasambhava

Tarthang Tulku

Buddhism in Tibet: The Early Chronicles

Tarthang Tulku


The Natural Freedom of Mind / Long-chen-pa

Translated by Herbert V. Guenther

Bring the Teachings Alive / Tarthang Tulku


Watching the Watcher

The Enlightenment Mind


Dream Practice


Tibet: The Land, People and Culture

Tarthang Tulku

A Tibetan Buddhist Looks at Christianity

Lama Anagarika Govinda

Pilgrims and Monasteries in the Himalayas

Lama Anagarika Govinda


Opening to the Dharma / Tarthang Tulku

Questions and Answers

Encourage Yourself

Compassion and Self-Healing

The Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava (excerpt)

Tarthang Tulku

When Lord Buddha was about to pass into final

he said to his followers, “This worldly life is transitory

and separation is inevitable. But eight years from now,

the midst of an immaculately pure lake in the northwest

land of Uddiyana, one will appear who is wiser and more

powerful than myself. Born from the center of a lotus

blossom, he will be known as Padmasambhava and will

reveal the teachings of the Secret Mantras to deliver

beings from misery.”

YE-SHEY TSO-GYAL, Padma Thang Yig

Padmasambhava, the renowned saint and scholar of the
eighth century, became a central figure in the shaping of Buddhism’s history
in Tibet. Born from the lotus of compassion and revered as the ‘second
Buddha’, he entered this world to enlighten all beings. As his biography
relates, Padmasambhava is the manifestation of the mind of Avalokitesvara,
the speech of Amitabha, and the body of Sakyamuni Buddha. All the Buddhas
of the Ten Directions and the Three Times of past, present and future are
identical in essence and unitively embodied in Padmasambhava. Just as the
Buddha’s teaching is the same for all but is interpreted variously by those
on different stages of the spiritual path, so Padmasambhava appears in
different ways according to the receptivity of those seeking liberation.

This account of Padmasambhava’s life story operates on
many levels. While his origins as well as various episodes in his career
are shrouded in mystery, we know that he appeared on this earth as a great
seeker and integrator of the Vajrayana teachings. In worldly matters, such
as language, logic, the earth sciences, the fine arts, and even architecture,
Padmasambhava was the quintessence of a true ‘renaissance man’. In his
travels, he exhaustively mastered the teachings of human end ‘non-human’
guides, practiced austerities to subdue the demons of cupidity-attachment,
aversion-hatred and bewilderment-erring, received numerous initiations
and appellations, and, at the time of his invitation to Tibet, was renowned
as the foremost scholar and Tantric master at the University of Nalanda.
Upon his arrival in Tibet, he did not entertain obstacles but instantly
transmuted countless manifestations of negativity and, in a short time,
safeguarded the Tantric teachings in the hearts and minds of the Tibetan

In the grandeur of the mountain highlands, Padmasambhava
encountered numerous capricious spirits, personifications of the emotional
undercurrent of the entire Tibetan civilization. At once he was faced with
the prevailing powers of primitive mythic beliefs, hostile natural forces
and wrathful wielders of destructive magic. His first task, therefore,
was to provide new explanations for ancient understandings and to demonstrate,
in a skillful and unsullied manner, the deepest and most mystic aspects
of human existence. He could not ignore the pre-existing Tibetan predilection
for magic and the world of spirits, for Buddhism has always recognized
that demonic or godlike forms are the expression of our own minds. To subdue
wrathful spirits is to tame our own emotionality, and thus the very obstacles
to our spiritual progress. To some therefore, the magical acts performed
by Padmasambhava may appear to be an ostentatious display of his psychic
accomplishments. However, his miraculous acts were in actuality a pretense
for something else. By encountering these malevolent demons, he not only
transformed their hostile displays into an energetic appreciation for the
Dharma, but entrusted to their charge the responsibility of protecting
and safeguarding the sacred teachings. Similarly, his words and deeds sent
a shaft of fear into the minds of the Tibetans and stirred them with hope,
offering to the king and his subjects a dramatic opportunity to express
their confidence in him. In this way he carefully prepared them to receive
the liberating teachings of the Tantras. Until they sought out the truth
in their own minds, the Guru illustrated that they would remain helpless
against the demons who inflicted wrath upon the country.

As the dispeller of darkness and the immediate expression
of Buddhahood, Guru Rinpoche addresses himself to the consciousness of
all beings. More implicitly, episodes in Padmasambhava’s biography express
meditation experiences through events in the outer world. To some, for
example, he may appear as the wrathful deity, Dorje Drolo, fearlessly treading
underfoot the ever-deceptive ego and severing karmic entanglements by wielding
his three-edged dagger (phur-bu). To others he appears as the central figure
of a radiant Mandala, an all-discerning friend, refuge and inner guide.
By subduing the self-created demons and fascinations of our individual
predispositions, he lays bare the apparitional nature of all eelfish aims
and exposes the mind as utterly pure and ready to receive any content without
bias. He challenges every manifestation of negativity with an attitude
that each situation in life, regardless of its outward appearance, can
prove to be an instruction in truth.

If, in the course of Guru Rinpoche’s biography, certain
episodes seem ambiguous or are couched in metaphorical language, it is
because the essential meaning is revealed in silence, beneath the level
of specific language, such that one is left to measure and test the authenticity
of his own psychological insights from within the meditation.

On the most inner level, Padmasambhava is not intended
to be viewed as a mere historical figure having a psycho-somatic constitution
just like ours, for he is no ordinary being. He is like a rainbow—pure,
transparent, untouchable and clear. He is all-knowing and all beauty—the
Buddhas of the Three Times shine from the pores of his skin. His entire
form is pure light in a world of absolute perfection. He sits on a lotus
seat of compassion and a sun throne of highest wisdom which resides in
the heart of the meditator. From here, the illuminated mind of the Guru
fills the Ten Directions of space like the rays of the sun, the embodiment
of the Tri-kaya: his view is all-embracing, absolute awareness (Dharmakaya),
his thoughts are in perfect attunement with every situation, self-lucent
(Sambhogakaya), and all his actions the on-going expression of the very
nature of the universe (Nirmanakaya). Timeless, ageless and deathless,
unoriginated, not dependent on externals and without suffering, he manifests
through a variety of forms which he assumes at various times-and in this
time-to teach the Diamond Path.

Constant and mindful meditation on the pure essence of
the Guru destroys all selfish desires, inappropriate qualities and unnecessary
delusions, so that one learns to view every situation as the means to attain
Buddhahood in this lifetime. Ordinarily, the mind is diffused and wandering,
but when this meditation is properly enacted, every form which one sees
becomes the body of Padmasambhava, every sound which one hears, the speech
of Padmasambhava, and all action, the mind of Padmasambhava.

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