The Lives and Liberation of Princess Mandarava

The Lives and Liberation of Princess Mandarava:

The Indian Consort of Padmasambhava

( Bsam-Gtan-Glin-Pa Phrin-Las-Gro-Dul-Las-Rab-Bde-Ba-Rtsal

Translated by Lama Conam and Sangye Khandro

Intoduction by Janet Gyatso



This lucid translation of a rare Tibetan treasure
text makes available for the first time to Western readers the remarkable
lifestory of Princess Madarava. As the principal consort of the eighth-century
Indian master Padmasambhava before he introduced tantric Buddhism to Tibet,
Mandarava is the Indian counterpart of the Tibetan consort Yeshe Tsogyal.
Lives and Liberation recounts her struggles and triumphs as a Buddhist
adept throughout her many lives and is an authentic deliverance story of
a female Buddhist master. Those who read this book will gain inspiration
and encouragement on the path to liberation.

 “An extraordinary story from the heart of Tibetan
religious culture…replete with messages of encouragement…[that] presents
its readers with a complex image of a woman engaged in a difficult process
of self-cultivation.”—Janet Gyatso, Amherst College

Lama Chonam, born in Golok in eastern
Tibet, is an ordained master teacher of the Nyingmapa school of Vajrayana

Sangye Khandro is a noted translator
of Tibetan Buddhist texts. She resides in Oregon.

Janet Gyatso is a professor of religion
and Indo-Tibetan studies at Amherst College in Massachusetts.


 Translator’s Preface

 Introduction by Janet Gyatso

 1. Daughter of the King of Zahor, Princess Mandarava

2. The Daughter of King Indradeva

3. Marrying Prince Suryagarbha

4. In the Kingdom of Kanaka

5. In the Kingdom of Damaru

6. Enlightening the Kingdom of Damaru

7. In the Realm of the Gods

8. In the Naga Realm of Black Chandala

9. Daughter of the Demigod King

10. Shri Sagara

11. The Twenty-Five Manifestations

12. Blessings from the Dakinis

13. Seeing the Country of Her Birth

14. Choosing Her Mother and Father

15. Entering Her Mother’s Womb

16. Paying Homage to Her Father and Mother

17. Aversion to Samsara

18. Perfecting the Outer Sciences

19. Liberating the Heretic Kyabsal Nagpo

20. Leading Three Hundred Noble Women to the Path of

21. The Death of Prince Pawode

22. Setting Five Hundred Women on the Path to Liberation

23. The Sacred Flesh of a Bodhisattva

24. A Vision of Vajrasattva

25. Taking Vows and Training in the Dharma

26. Meeting Master Padmasambhava

27. Subduing the King with Miracles

28. Freed from Imprisonment

29. Abandoning Samsara

30. Accomplishing Longevity in Maratika Cave

31. Subjugating Heretics in the Kingdom of Kotala

32. Conquering Elementals at the Charnel Ground

33. Bringing the Cannibals of Chamara to the Dharma

34. Eight Miracles in Eight Countries

35. Turning the Wheel of Dharma in Oddiyana

36. Turning the Wheel of Dharma in Shambhala

37. Becoming the Wisdom Dakini

38. Supplication to Mandarava’s Emanations


 Table of Equivalents


About the Contributors

Translator’s Preface   (complete)

 As spiritual practitioners we receive encouragement
and inspiration by reading the lifestories of great and sublime teachers,
and the inspiration we receive from their exemplary lives allows us to
progress more swiftly along the path to liberation. Because the appearance
of everything we can know and experience depends on causes and circumstances,
ordinary individuals embarking on the path must do so through a gradual
process. Princess Mandarava, however, already liberated from the cycle
of suffering and perfectly omniscient, was not an ordinary individual.
She intentionally emanated into realms of ordinary existence in order to
inspire beings and lead them through this gradual process, teaching them
how to practice through her example. The pages of this book present, for
the first time, an English translation of the precious treasure text of
Padmasambhava called The Lives and Liberation of Princess Mandarava. The
accounts of Mandarava’s remarkable lives illuminate the experiences of
a great wisdom dakini who inspired everyone she met, turning their minds
irrevocably toward liberation.

Princess Mandarava of Zahor is often depicted at the side
of Guru Padmasambhava opposite his other principal consort, Kharchen Yeshe
Tsogyal. Princess Mandarava was instrumental in the guru’s accomplishment
of immortality, and, as a result, she is usually depicted holding a long-life
vase and arrow. Because of his relationship with Mandarava, Padmasambhava
was able to extend the duration of his enlightened activities in this world
and thus travel to the snow land of Tibet, where, according to Je Mipham
Rinpoche, he remained some fifty-four years.

In the thirty-eight chapters of this revelation, the reader
comes to know a nirmanakaya (enlightened manifestation) dakini (goddess)
who chose numerous times to enter the world as an aristocrat. The purpose
of this depiction is not to show us that only those of high status or wealth
are fortunate enough to have such opportunities, but to reveal that Mandarava
was able and willing to renounce that which is most difficult to renounce,
namely attachment to the so-called pleasures of worldly life. In each of
her lifetimes, she unflaggingly forsakes fame and pleasures to work for
the benefit of others through example and skillful means. Her abandonment
of the temporary pleasures that steal away precious time and opportunities
for spiritual development mirrors the struggles facing modern day Dharma
practitioners. Although Mandarava was a famous female practitioner, she
ultimately defies gender distinctions, and her enlightened activities are
timeless. The Dharma that Mandarava—and all sublime teachers like her—teach
is the path that transcends all relative distinctions made by ordinary
individuals based on the ordinary habits of the dualistic mind.

Great importance is placed on the purity and authenticity
of lineage in the Vajrayana tradition. The great female practitioners within
these lineages deserve our recognition. This can be accomplished by translating
more of the lifestories of great female practitioners and important classical
texts and commentaries written by women into the English language. The
project of translating this particular text was originally inspired by
the devotion of several disciples of Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo. Jetsunma is
the spiritual director of Kunzang Palyul Choling in Poolesville, Maryland
and is an American woman recognized as an emanation of a famous dakini
from Tibet by H.H. Penor Rinpoche, the present head of the Nyingma School
of Tibetan Buddhism. Anxious to make the lifestory of Mandarava available
to English language readers, Thubten Rinchen Palzang found the Tibetan
text at the Library of Congress. Special thanks go to Susan Meinheit who
lovingly cares for the vast Tibetan collection at the Library and helped
locate the original text. My translation of this text would not have been
possible without generous sponsorship provided by Thubten Jampal Wangchuk,
Noel Jones, Sarah Stevens, W.W. and Eleanor Rowe, as well as dozens of
others from the KPC Sangha. Since this text is written in the Ume (dbu
med) Tibetan script and possesses many abbreviated words as well as spelling
errors, the translation would not have been possible without the kind assistance
of Lama Choying Namgyal, better known as Chonam, who tirelessly worked
with me, going through the text line by line. Lama Chonam’s knowledge of
the Dharma, Buddhist history, and the Tibetan language was indispensable
in completing this difficult task. The rough draft was initially reviewed
by W.W. and Eleanor Rowe, who spent countless hours meticulously editing
the initial translation. Thubten Konchog Norbu coordinated the translation
project and oversaw many of the small details. Because several years transpired
since our initial efforts, Lama Chonam and I again reviewed the entire
text for accuracy. Despite our best efforts, there may still be errors
in the translation. For any such errors we offer our apologies and welcome
any corrections or improvements that scholars may detect. I would like
to acknowledge and express my gratitude to Arthur Azdair, who has been
indispensable in these final stages of the preparation of the manuscript
by overseeing, editing, and skillfully inputting all of our revisions and
corrections. Finally I feel I must mention that the views and comparisons
presented in the introduction that follows do not completely reflect my
views and reasons for translating this precious revelation treasure. The
basis for the difference of opinion centers around the interpretation of
the feminine principle and how it pertains to the path of Vajrayana Buddhism.

 The notion that Vajrayana Buddhism is male-oriented
is misleading. Still, many women attempting to pursue the path may naturally
become discouraged when they encounter the strong Tibetan cultural influence.
The more Dharma takes root in the West, however, the easier it becomes
to relate directly to the Dharma, which is perfectly pure and free from
biased distinctions, rather than focusing on the habits of ordinary individuals
from foreign cultures. It is my prayer that this book may be of some benefit
in encouraging the many excellent female practitioners in the world to
cultivate their noble qualities and, through the force of their practice,
go on to become fully qualified teachers themselves. May this work bring
immeasurable benefit to all living beings, who are all equal and able to
realize their precious buddha nature.

 Sangye Khandro

Tashi Choling

Ashland, Oregon 1998

Introduction   (complete)

 The Lives and Liberation of Princess Mandarava is
an extraordinary story from the heart of Tibetan religious culture about
the Buddhist liberation of a woman.1 Recounted from the magisterial perspective
of a female buddha—Pandaravasini—and her emanations in the world, the story
tells of life after life of compassionate manifestations in samsaric trouble
spots, where the heroine uses her splendor, magical powers, and often her
feminine charms to tame demons and teach the Buddhist messages of impermanence,
compassion, and enlightened insight to all. This superwoman’s story has
a fairytale quality that is counterbalanced by the real-life problems of
women in Indian and Tibetan society that the work repeatedly addresses:
the assumption that all women must marry, their control by the men in their
lives, and the lack of respect for them in society at large. In the final
long episode of the heroine’s life as the consort of Padmasambhava, these
themes are writ large in her struggles with her parents and her censure
by those around her on account of her controversial relationship with the
tantric master. She is finally victorious in these struggles, but only
after an arduous path of self-cultivation and self-expression.

 The version of the story translated in this book
dates from the turn of the twentieth century, but the figure of Mandarava
has long occupied a chapter in the larger narrative of Buddhism’s introduction
of in Tibet, in which Padmasambhava plays such a leading role. But like
its counterpart, the lifestory of the famous Tibetan female saint Yeshe
Tsogyal (who also became a consort of Padmasambhava), the tale of Mandarava
and her previous lives goes far beyond its significance for Tibetan national
history and identity.2 It is replete with messages of encouragement for
women of many Buddhist traditions. In order to appreciate the meaning that
its exceptional, proto- femininist themes might have had for its traditional
audience—that is, its readers, male and female alike, as well as the auditors
of its oral renditions—some general background in the lifestory tradition
in Tibet and in Buddhist literature might be helpful to convey a sense
of the history and religious practices of the cultural milieu from which
the work originates.

 All lifestories in Buddhist literature model themselves
on the lifestories of the Buddha, which began to be written by the first
century B.C.E. Most importantly, the plot of Shakyamuni’s lifestory, his
steps to buddhahood and his enlightened activity thereafter, set the standard
for all exemplary Buddhist lives. Mandarava’s own story shares this basic
orientation. The work translated here recounts how she first achieved enlightenment
in the distant past as the buddha Pandaravasini (chapter 2). The process
seems to be repeated in her last lifetime as Mandarava when she achieves
the status of an immortal awareness holder (vidyadhara, rig ’dzin) after
rigorous training at Maratika (chapter 30) and then wins the ultimate rainbow
body at death (chapter 37). The explanation for the repetition may be that
Mandarava’s second enlightenment was meant as a display or model for others
on the path. In any event, it is the lifestory of Mandarava that is recounted
in most detail in this book and that serves most prominently as an exemplary
life for the student. Many of its moments repeat similar moments in the
lifestories of the Buddha: her deliberate choice of parents; the auspicious
dreams of parents and other significant indications at her conception;
her precocious words and signs of advanced realization at birth; the sights
of old, sick, and dead people that disillusion her and inspire a renunciatory
attitude; her escape from the palace and periods of ascetic practice; her
later efforts to teach and train. The parallel of her story with that of
the Buddha is especially obvious in the overview summary that the text
itself provides at the close of chapter 1. When the reader recognizes these
elements as typical themes in the lifestory of a Buddhist saint, it becomes
an important sign that the life being told is going in the same direction
and that the protagonist too is a Buddhist saint. Such conventions structure
the large proportion of hagiographical and biographical literature in Tibet—a
genre that, significantly, is labelled “full liberation [story]” (rnam
thar). Hundreds of such works were produced in Buddhist Tibet; it is important,
first of all, to place the work translated in this book within that tradition.

 The impact that the story of liberation has on its
readers and hearers has been given paramount importance since the inception
of lifestory literature in Buddhism. The point was made early on in this
tradition that the entire purpose of the Buddha’s life was to demonstrate
to others the paradigmatic steps on the path to enlightenment. The Buddha’s
own life in fact was characterized as repeating a basic pattern already
in place in the lives of buddhas of past eras. In turn, it was projected
that others who reached his level of buddhahood would subsequently go through
much the same process. This expectation is then confirmed when elements
in his lifestory are repeated in the lifestories of so many saints in Buddhist
literature, as we see in the present work.

 In Tibetan literature, the lifestory of an enlightened
master is also said to have a positive impact by causing marvel and wonder
in the reader. This is the expected response to narratives of fantastic
powers, intergalactic travel, and scintillating meditative experience.
Such features were well known in Indian story literature and became prominent
in the Mahayana sutras and the Puranic renditions of the exploits of the
Hindu deities and their avatars. Much of the cosmic, miraculous quality
of Mandarava’s story can be understood as influenced by this large and
heterogenous tradition, as are many other Tibetan narrative cycles. Stories
of the founders of lineages are particularly likely to contain such marvelous
dimensions; they are certainly central to the cycle of stories surrounding
Avalokiteshvara and his manifestations in Tibet, as well as to the lifestory
tradition of Padmasambhava, with which the Mandarava story is directly
connected.3 The idea is that the spectacular vision of a magnificent cosmic
heritage will inspire faith in the religious practices the story represents.

 But confidence (yid ches, or nges shes), a special
notion often invoked in Tibetan discussions of the benefits of reading
lifestory narratives, is equally induced by another corner of the biographical
tradition in Tibet—namely, that which tends more toward the everyday. Connected,
to be sure, to the miraculous tale tradition in Tibet just discussed, some
biographical and especially autobiographical writing in Tibet achieves
an exceptional level of candor and historical specificity that becomes
the source of a different sort of confidence for the reader: it assures
one that that one’s difficulties are not unique to oneself, and it gives
some indication of ways to overcome such obstacles on the religious path.
Some of the realistically portrayed family and social problems that the
various heroines in Mandarava’s stories endure present such role models.
Even the most realistic biographical writing in Tibet may strike Western
minds as fantastic, not infrequently referring, for example, to the protagonist’s
past lives, as well as recounting special dreams and epiphanies. Reading
this literature always impresses upon the modern student how differently
the line between psychic and material realities is construed in Tibetan
Buddhist culture than it is in the contemporary West.

A lifestory such as that of Mandarava is seen to possess
efficacious powers of its own. The text serves ritual functions; reading
or chanting it as a liturgy is an act of devotion to Mandarava, and is
even used to invoke her visualized presence. Rehearsing the story enables
one to visualize its characters and their world, and this act of imagination
in turn evokes important experiences and opportunities for cultivation
on the part of the reader/listener. Some sense of the expected effects
of such transformations may be gained from pp. 201–2, where it is maintained
that, as a result of reading the story of Mandarava, one’s wishes will
be fulfilled, one will be protected on journeys, evil spirits will be subdued,
animals and agriculture will flourish, and even that disease and war will

 What has been said so far describes the traditional
views on virtually all hagiographical or biographical work in Tibetan religion.
But what is distinctive about the particular work at hand, the account
of the past and present lives of Mandarava? One of its most important features
is that it is a story about a female. This can be said of only very few
of the hundreds of lifestories in Tibetan literature. Indeed, the principal
reason that Mandarava is important to Tibetans at all has to do precisely
with her gender. She is never even said to have been in Tibet; her claim
to fame, rather, is that she was a consort of Padmasambhava. And since
Padmasambhava is probably the most important Buddhist teacher in Tibetan
history, we need to note, first of all, that it is the lore surrounding
Padmasambhava that provides the basic framework for the story of Mandarava.

Invited to Tibet to tame its wild demons by the eighth-century
King Trisong Detsen, Padamsambhava was a tantric master from an area of
northwest India commonly called Oddiyana. Although several previous Tibetan
kings had established some connections with Indian, Chinese, and other
traditions of Buddhism, the powerful ruler Trisong Detsen is said to have
been bent upon establishing it as the state religion. However, the scholarly
Indian abbot Shantarakshita whom the king invited to Tibet was unable to
impress and convert the anti-Buddhist factions (especially those in the
spirit world) that opposed this conversion. The story goes that the learned
abbot then recommended Padmasambhava as a master with the right charisma
and power to handle the volatile Tibetan situation. Padmasambhava’s hagiography
is replete with graphic descriptions of his suppression and taming of Tibet’s
fierce spirits as he crosses the border from Nepal, not to mention his
subsequent wrangles with the conservative Tibetan aristocracy. He finally
succeeds in initiating the king and some of his retinue in several key
tantric traditions and leading them through a series of esoteric meditations
at the mountain cave retreats in central Tibet. Some of these meditations
involve sexual yoga, and Padmasambhava takes as his principal consort and
disciple in these yogas the Tibetan lady Yeshe Tsogyal, who had been one
of King Trisong Detsen’s own queens. It is also Yeshe Tsogyal who helps
Padmasambhava hide many treasure texts (gter ma) in Tibet, earmarked for
future generations, before the master at last leaves Tibet.

 Mandarava plays little part in these events, but
her story is sometimes told in the earlier chapters of Padmasambhava’s
lifestory, when she was his consort in India, prior to his sojourn in Tibet.4
Since she has no apparent relation to Tibetans, one might wonder why her
story is told at all, and particularly how she came to be the protagonist
of the elaborate version of her present and past lives that is translated
in this book; many other characters appear in the story of Padmasambhava
whose full lifestories never appear. A significant part of the answer to
this question revolves around the fact that Mandarava is female. Even if
we were to regard her story only as an embellishment of the Padmasambhava
narrative cycle, the fact that what provides this embellishment is female
is most striking.

 Many contemporary scholars are coming to believe
that much of the impact that Padmasambhava is portrayed as having in Tibet
relates to his transmission of the controversial techniques of tantric
yoga to Tibetans; and a large part of what Padmasambhava represents to
Tibetans has to do with his virtuosity in the practices of consort yoga.
In particular, his liaison with the Tibetan queen Yeshe Tsogyal importantly
sets the stage for the subversion of the traditional forms of patriarchy,
kinship structures, and power relations that ensued as tantric religion
gained sway in Tibetan culture. And although for Tibetans Padmasambhava’s
relationship with Yeshe Tsogyal is one of the primary markers of this cultural
transformation, the fact that he also is depicted as having taught and
practiced consort yoga with many other women only reinforces his image
as the master of this esoteric tradition. As a very common Tibetan prayer
says, Padmasambhava ever has “many dakinis circling around him.” Dakini
is a polysemous category of female figures, sometimes referring to goddesses,
sometimes to human women, in tantric Buddhism. Mandarava, devoutly called
the “head of one hundred thousand dakinis” in the opening to the current
work, is the other main consort of Padmasambhava, the Indian counterpart
of Yeshe Tsogyal. This is a key element of Mandarava’s claim to fame in

 However, the Tibetan reader’s interest in the story
of Mandarava and her status as a dakini is not particularly motivated by
a desire to glorify the legacy of Padmasambhava; her female gender has
a great significance of its own. That is, Mandarava is a female heroine
in her own right, and it would be accurate to say that her connection with
the famous Padmasambhava serves to enhance her image, rather than vice
versa. The function of Mandarava as a female heroine is most appropriately
understood in light of the large numerical gap between the precious few
female Buddhist heroines in Tibetan literature and lore and the much more
numerous male heroes. Like the separate lifestory of Yeshe Tsogyal, the
story of Mandarava translated in this book helps fill that gap by providing
detailed narratives of what the life of a female Buddhist practitioner
might entail and what a powerful female saint is like.

The female model presented by the story of Mandarava differs
in significant respects from that of Yeshe Tsogyal. The latter, by virtue
of being Tibetan and, relatively speaking, a much more historically locatable
figure than Mandarava, is a more accessible role model with whom Tibetan
female readers might identify than is the foreign and—certainly in this
version of her story—far more deified figure of Mandarava. In some respects
we might compare Mandarava’s story more profitably to that of the female
bodhisattva Tara. That narrative places at its the center the possibility
of female enlightenment, as a counter to the view prevalent for several
centuries in many sectors of the Buddhist world that buddhahood was limited
to males.5 Clearly in protest of that view, Tara constructs her initial
vow to achieve buddhahood specifically to include the rider that in all
of her future lives on the way to this goal she will always be female and
attain the final fruit in a female body.6 Mandarava’s story of past and
present lives instantiates this same goal: in all of the incarnations recounted
here she is always a female, often struggling with typical female problems
on the path, achieving enlightenment as a female buddha, and then manifesting
herself as a female goddess/buddha to accomplish her many compassionate
projects to help other sentient beings. In many ways, then, we can say
that the Mandarava story, like that of Tara, has universal messages for
all Buddhist women and is less tied to a specifically Tibetan cultural
matrix than is the story of Yeshe Tsogyal, even though the latter also
has universal messages for women as well. But in other respects the Mandarava
and Yeshe Tsogyal stories have more in common, both going a great deal
further than the story of Tara in drawing out the particular problems of
female life on the one hand and in suggesting ways to capitalize on distinctive
female virtues for Buddhist purposes on the other. The Mandarava and Yeshe
Tsogyal stories also share a deep root in tantric practice and mythology,
with very particular lessons to teach their readers about the nature of
the dakini figure and her relation to her teachers, her consorts, and her

In considering all of these questions about the models
and messages of a work like the lifestory of Mandarava, we must continue
to wonder to what degree those messages were meant to inspire a female
audience in particular, and whether the story’s images were fashioned specifically
as models for female identification, and to what extent, on the other hand,
these served to edify all readers, regardless of gender. Such a question
cannot be answered precisely for a variety of reasons, not the least of
which is the current lack of sufficient historical and sociological information.
But we can at least be sure that, given the many feministic themes in the
work, the creators of the story of Mandarava clearly had gender-related
issues in mind.

 The work translated in this book is classed as a
treasure text, a genre that has been fostered by a long tradition of treasure
discoverers (gter ston). Such visionaries claim to recover works that were
previously concealed by Padmasambhava and several of his close disciples
back in the late eighth or early ninth century. This particular text’s
status as a treasure is made explicit at the beginning and end of the work
(see pp. 19–21, 203), where it is stated that Mandarava’s story was originally
conveyed by Padmasambhava to Yeshe Tsogyal, King Trisong Detsen, and his
court. Yeshe Tsogyal in turn records and hides the work, as she is said
to have done for most of Tibetan treasure literature.7 On the occasion
of the burial of a treasure, a prophecy is typically uttered regarding
its future revelation. In the present case, several versions of the treasure
are mentioned, each of which is predicted to be discovered by a particular
discoverer. The discoverer of this particular version (the “intermediate
version:” see p. 204) is a yogin named Samten Lingpa, who probably was
born in 1871 (the “iron sheep year”). Unfortunately there is not much information
available about his life, but it is known that soon after his revelation
of the story of Mandarava, he appeared in the village of the family of
the maternal grandmother of Khanpo Palden Sherab and Khanpo Tsewang, two
scholars from Riwoche in eastern Tibet now living in the United States.
His treasure text was later edited by Dorshul Tsewang Tendzin (mentioned
on p. 205), at the time the main lama of Gochen Monastery, which is also
the home monastery of the Khanpos. The relationship between that lama and
the treasure discoverer is described briefly at the end of this work.

 As already indicated, however, stories about Mandarava
had long been in circulation before the revelation of this particular version.
They are often recounted in the course of relating the life of Padmasambhava.
One of the earliest summaries of her lifestory is given in the 12th century
treasure discoverer Nyangral Nyima Ozer’s hagiography of Padmasambhava.
Other material can be found in the treasures of Orgyan Lingpa and Sangye
Lingpa (both fourteenth century) and Padma Lingpa (fifteenth century);
several other versions are referred to in the final pages of the current
work.8 Scholars have not recognized any independent evidence from Indian
sources of a woman named Mandarava, not to mention any of the previous
lives that are detailed in the current version of her story. Nonetheless
the text contains allusions to a fascinating array of places and persons—some
historical, some mythological—in the Indian subcontinent, and for the careful
historian this work would surely provide many hints about the sacred geography
and political actors of India’s tantric Buddhist period.

Although the known versions of the lifestory of Mandarava
from the Tibetan treasure tradition follow the same overall outline, details
vary. Few contain the accounts of her previous lives that are provided
by Samten Lingpa’s version. This narrative, spanning eons (see the summary
of the episodes on pp. 195–201), is framed as the enlightened emanations
of the female buddha Pandaravasini (Tib. Gökarmo), “She in White Garments,”
the consort of the famous buddha of the Western Paradise, Amitabha. In
an important sense Pandaravasini is the true identity of Mandarava, although
on occasion this strict identity is blurred when, for example, in chapter
22 Mandarava encounters an epiphany of her enlightened side as Pandaravasini,
seemingly a separate figure.

 The first eleven chapters of the work describe various
previous lives of Mandarava, including the one in which she originally
attained enlightenment as a buddha, followed by subsequent emanations in
a variety of realms to teach a variety of types of beings. Many other lives
than could be detailed are alluded to in the eleventh chapter, including
a life as the goddess Singmo Gangadevi during the time of Shakyamuni.

The remainder of the text describes the life in which
she is Mandarava, the consort of Padmasambhava. It would have taken place
not long before the text’s imputed recording by Yeshe Tsogyal. The account
commences in chapter 12 by returning to the grand purpose of Mandarava’s
existence, which, significantly, is connected both to Buddha Shakyamuni
and to the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet. It is ultimately related
to the emanation activity of Pandaravasini’s consort, Amitabha. The conditions
of her particular life as Mandarava are traced to a prophecy by Kashyapa
(a disciple of Shakyamuni), who predicts his own future life as Padmasambhava,
and for whom Pandaravasini is aroused and consecrated so as to emanate
herself as Mandarava. She is in this way cast as the true mother of herself,
since her grand union with Amitayus produces a seed that descends upon
the royal couple in the land of Zahor who are to become her human parents.

Zahor is an area in northeast India, also famous in Tibetan
lore as the birthplace of Shantarakshita, and associated with some of the
early origins of tantric Buddhism. The beautiful princess Mandarava, who
is born to a royal couple in that land, is portrayed here as wise and virtuous.
She eschews her many suitors, however, and wishes only to practice Buddhism,
for which she finally wins her parents’ consent. While in retreat she is
visited by the tantric master Padmasambhava and becomes his devoted disciple.
Although she and Padmasambhava are persecuted by the conservative countryfolk
and Mandarava’s parents alike for their seemingly scandalous behaviour,
the couple finally vindicate themselves by displaying their magical powers.
The final chapters of Mandarava’s lifestory recount her sojourns around
the Indian religious landscape. She continually cultivates her yogic virtuosity
and Buddhist realizations further under the tutelage of Padmasambhava.
She also continues to hone her skills in taming beings, just as she had
done in her past lives, in places such as Padmasambhava’s birthplace, Oddiyana,
and the hidden country of Shambhala. On the eve of Padmasambhava’s trip
to Tibet, she finally passes away after conveying final teachings to her

 A closer look at a few of the details of this story
as they are rendered by Samten Lingpa can provide insight into the work’s
messages about the path of female practitioners of Buddhism, its conceptions
of female glory and power, its feminine and in some cases feminist sentiments,
and its portrayal of the particular problems that females face in the world
of Buddhism.

 Perhaps most striking of all the positive images
of the female that the work provides is the exceptionally positive characterization
in chapter 2 of the womb and the experiences of the fetus therein. In marked
contrast to a very standard strain throughout Buddhist literature that
pictures the womb as dirty and the source of stain and pain for both mother
and child,9 the current text has the fetus speaking from her mother’s womb,
attesting to her experiences of bliss, conceiving of her mother’s body
as a pure realm and the placenta as a source of bliss, warmth, and softness.
Attention might be called to the literal meaning of “Pandaravasini” itself,
which names the very same “covering of white silk” that here euphemizes
the placenta. The meaning of Pandaravasini’s name thus suggests a powerful
affirmation of the birthing process.

Certainly there is no discomfort with, and indeed a straightforward
valorization of, feminine beauty throughout the story of Mandarava. Although
she frequently has to take on a wrathful or frightening demeanor in her
activities to subdue evil and to teach, her default countenance is one
of classical feminine beauty. There seems to be a deliberate point in the
repeated references to this virtue, as in chapter 3, where the princess
Natyendri is said to have “gentle beauty, smiling face, and melodious speech,”
to be “lovely to behold,” “exquisitely beautiful,” and so on. Similar attributes
are ascribed to other outstanding female characters throughout the work.
A woman who turns out to be the prior incarnation of the famous female
Nepalese teacher Shakyadevi is bedecked in jeweled ornaments, the first
teacher of Mandarava is characterized several times as a beautiful woman,
her precocious fellow female student is a dakini in the form of a youthful
maiden, and Pandaravasini herself appears as an intoxicatingly beautiful
goddess when she decides to reveal herself as an epiphany to her own emanation,

The very fact that Mandarava has many accomplished and
serious female companions, teachers, and mentors itself makes an important
set of womanist points. These come out most clearly in the protagonist’s
own accomplishments. Surely one of the most basic purposes of the work
is to show how women can achieve anything—just as well, if not better than—men
usually do in Buddhist hagiography. The female incarnations of Pandaravasini
are teachers, debaters, and conquerors, overpowering enemies and binding
demons by oath—not only by virtue of her wisdom and skill but also through
her charisma and even brute strength. This is not to say, however, that
all female figures in the text are characterized positively. The work personifies
evil in both male and female form; the latter appear in the form of blood-thirsty
mamos (an ancient Indic class of terrifying “mother” spirits), cannibal
queens, evil dakinis, and other monstrous females. Still, positively portrayed
female characters far outnumber their evil counterparts in the work, which
outstrips virtually any other example of Buddhist literature in its emphasis
upon wise and powerful female figures.

 The positively imaged male figures in the story
are few. The most prominent one of course is Padmasmabhava himself, and
in fact it is in the context of Mandarava’s relationship with him that
a few hints of womanish weakness on her part can be discerned. For example,
when she begs him to take her with him to Maratika, he feels he must warn
her that she will need to be strong and courageous enough to retain her
“pure vision” even when traveling in frightening environments (chapter
29). Feminine vulnerability in fact sometimes becomes a special burden,
and she must even overcome foes who challenge her power by raping her (chapter
32). Still, Padmasambhava continues to assign her realms which it is her
special duty to “tame,” and several of the final chapters of the work seem
to be precisely about her cultivation of the powers and skill to tame such
realms effectively. But her precocious abilities, surpassing those of the
more conventional heroes in the tale, are already more than evident in
her early years. One striking example is found in chapter 22, when her
wise comments not only convince her father to realize the futility of a
war in which he is engaged, but even inspire him to write a letter that
ends up causing all of the feuding parties to disarm.

The text’s pro-female orientation prefigures what in modern
times would be called feminist. On several occasions, wittily playing on
the widely-acknowledged preference for sons over daughters in Indian society,
the text portrays the birth of a child attended by all the auspicious signs
that lead everyone to assume that a son has been born. But no, it turns
out that the child is a girl (chapters 4, 16). In another life, the parents
even perform rituals so that they will have a son, but they too end up
with a daughter—albeit one who clearly is just as blessed and saintly as
any boy would be (chapter 10). The text nonetheless overtly recognizes
the special limits upon females in samsara (see p. 106–7). Most remarkably,
this work rejoins the lifestory of Yeshe Tsogyal in courageously engaging
the too-often repressed topic of rape. In the case of Yeshe Tsogyal, the
heroine transforms her rape by seven brigands into an opportunity to teach
them about the tantric transformation of bliss.10 Mandarava instead takes
a more defiant stance by deliberately provoking the ridicule and aggression
of a group of butchers, displaying herself as a beautiful but husbandless
vagrant. When they taunt and then try to rape her, this becomes the excuse
for her to manifest herself as a wrathful dakini in order to extract their
vow to stop taking the lives of others and to enter the Buddhist path (chapter
34). In addition to showing the heroine as capable of overcoming her male
tormentors, this episode subverts the stereotype of the vulnerability of
any woman who lacks a husband.

 In any event, a strong critique of the conventional
institution of marriage pervades the entire text, particularly the section
on Mandarava. This theme is, of course, directly indebted to the monastic
orientation of Buddhism overall, evident with respect to women as early
as the Therigatha.11 Like many of the women featured in that Pali account
of the first Buddhist nuns, as well as many other female Buddhist heroines,
Mandarava’s rejection of marriage in favor of her desire to practice Buddhism
is resisted by her parents. Thus her propensity for the Dharma simultaneously
becomes the occasion for her separation from her parents. It also becomes
the occasion for Mandarava to lecture her maidservants on the uselessness
not only of husbands, but also of class status and wealth—again very much
in line with the overarching anti-materialist stance of the ascetic strand
in Buddhism (chapter 20).

Mandarava eventually wins her father’s approval to be
a nun (her mother supports her daughter’s wishes more readily), but only
after escaping from her parents’ home and finding a master to ordain her
on her own. Her father still attempts to control Mandarava and to enforce
conventional morality by virtually imprisoning her in a retreat house,
surrounded by nun attendants but strictly guarded against any male intrusions.
The castle is nonetheless penetrated by Padmasambhava, and for the rest
of her life she follows the tantric path, rather than one of strictly celibate
monasticism. Messages that subordinate the importance of family continue
throughout the narrative, as when Padmasambhava lectures on the superiority
of the Dharma over blood relatives (chapter 28). This irreverence for conventional
norms and sexuality becomes almost humorous when, criticized again in another
context for not having a husband, Mandarava’s mocking response is to create
a multitude of manifestations of herself, all of whom proceed to join in
sexual union with all of the men in her presence.

 Despite the work’s critique of worldly family ties,
the religious milieu represented here resolutely affirms the value of tantric
consort yoga. The transformation from the celibate to the esoteric path
in Mandarava’s story is in fact typical of the tantric approach in Buddhism,
which insisted that students at the advanced level should cultivate meditative
awareness not only in isolated states of purity, but rather in every conceivable
activity in the world. Hence tantric practices such as consort yoga are
not only permissible for qualified practitioners, but are even said to
be necessary on the path to enlightenment. This is one of the primary reasons
for the tantric path’s notable inclusion of female figures, in stark contrast
to the exclusions of male-dominated institutions in most forms of monastic
Buddhism. It is important to note, however, that the esoteric practices
of consort yoga cannot be equated with conventional sex; and as already
noted, the temporary partnerships entailed by the practice are also not
to be conflated with the more worldly institution of marriage.

 Nevertheless, the ethos of consort yoga sometimes
does seem to translate into a greater valorization of couplehood. Several
illustrations of this view are found in the stories of Mandarava’s past
lives, where royal couples are conceived of as acting in enlightened concert
to benefit their subjects. In one past life, Mandarava exploits the acceptability
of couplehood to achieve her own Buddhist aims, using her feminine charms
to convert the prince who has fallen in love with her and promising to
marry him only if he would change the evil ways of his kingdom. But the
most sustained defense of the value of enlightened couplehood is found
in Mandarava’s own story, indeed in the explicit context of consort yoga.
Although the text clearly acknowledges the disapproval that most conventional
Buddhists would have had for her daring relationship with Padmasambhava,
the cowherd who reports the couple’s activities and the king who attempts
to punish them are humiliated and shown to have been in the wrong. Mandarava
is especially furious with her father for not recognizing the holy character
of her tantric mate, to whose male body and beauty she defiantly sings
an elaborate song of praise.

 Mandarava goes on to receive detailed instructions
in all of the relevant techniques of tantric yoga in Maratika cave in Nepal.
The realizations she achieves in accordance with Padmasambhava’s instructions
are at the heart of the demonstrations of skill, charisma, and power that
she displays in the final chapters of the work. In the end, her story presents
its readers with a complex image of a woman engaged in a difficult process
of self-cultivation. That the story is mythologized and deifies its characters
reflects the religious vision of which it is a part. What would have been
most striking to its traditional readers is the strength of its resolutely
feminine heroine, who carved out a distinctive way to travel on the classical
tantric path. Although we lack precise knowledge about the community of
practitioners in the circle of Samten Lingpa, the discoverer of this work,
we can assume that both the men and the women who were in that tantric
circle took special inspiration from the exceptional hagiography revealed
by their master.

 Janet Gyatso

Department of Religion Amherst College

Chapter 18   Perfecting the Outer Sciences  

 From then on the princess stayed in the upper chambers
of the palace, immersing herself in all aspects of literature and composition
under the guidance of the excellent sage Kamalashri. She studied until
she thoroughly understood the five major, eight minor, and one hundred
branch and auxiliary texts. Then she mastered the languages of eastern
and western India, Oddiyana, Maruta, Nepal, Raksasa, Dakini, all the border
lands, Singhala, and Yangchen Üpa, plus the language and written script
of the kingdom of Shambhala and many others. Not only did she master these
languages, but she also learned the local dialects perfectly. She became
a scholar without rival.

 The heretic Atashi entered the Buddhist path and
became a spiritual teacher himself. He was invited to the palace. The princess
studied the ten non-Buddhist subjects of learning, such as poetics, logic,
and grammar. She studied the great sutras such as the King of Samadhi and
others. She received all the teachings and transmissions of the Buddha’s
spoken teachings and contemplated them thoroughly. At that time, she developed
perfect comprehension of twenty-five sutras. She also studied all there
was to know about the subject of chanting and spiritual melodies.

 One day, as the princess was looking out from the
window of the palace, she saw a large gathering of women by the southern
fence. A beautiful woman sat at their head, addressing the group. She held
an arura sprig and was explaining the many qualities of the plant. A woman
seated upon a tree refuted her, saying that except for its bitter flavor
the arura possessed no significant qualities. The beautiful woman replied:
“The arura is the seed of origination, and, as the golden precious jewel
of plants, it was blessed by the Buddha. A is the unborn jewel of perfect
purity. Ru is the unobstructed explanation of the illnesses that affect
beings. Ra is the fruition of compassion. The eight edges of the plant
symbolize the eight-fold path of the aryas. The eight facets symbolize
the cleansing of the eight passions. The fine root symbolizes that the
phenomena of existence can be extinguished! The broad top indicates expansive
noble qualities. The outer bark, astringent and bitter, eliminates all
types of poisonous properties. The inner bark is sour, eliminating all
illness. This is a substance that delights the minds of all the victorious
ones. The innermost trunk of the plant is hollow, indicating that the absolute
meaning of all relative dharmas is emptiness. The trunk of the plant is
wide and the bark is layered, indicating that the dharmas of samsara must
be gradually eliminated. The ample blooms symbolize the fact that wisdom
permeates all dharmas. In these many ways, the arura plant embodies sublime,
noble qualities, and has many medicinal properties!”

 Asked about the worth of the plant, she replied
that, if sold, it would be as valuable as gold—yet, if one possesses gold
without cherishing it as wealth, this is a sign of small-minded ignorance.
Upon hearing this, Mandarava knew that it was time for her to study the
science of medicine. She began at once. The doctor Ratna was invited to
the palace to become her teacher. First, she made a thorough investigation
of the medical tantras. Then she studied the four seasons, the eleven changes
in the five elements, the twenty-one thousand six hundred vital energies,
and all corresponding root and branch texts, including the Four Cycles
of Mother and Son, the extraordinary Seven Roots, and so on. Her studies
were extensive and thorough. With regard to the science of weather, she
studied light, clouds, moisture, atomic particles, colors, and the cycle
of tides. She studied some eighteen tantras in all dealing with this subject.
She also studied the causes, conditions for, and process of fetal development
in the womb. The Katitsa and other texts explaining the solid and hollow
organs were investigated. She thoroughly comprehended all one hundred chapters
of the root tantra. Then she learned the tantras on pointing-out instructions
concerning the corresponding accomplishment practices. Other scriptures
on the subject of medicine that she studied included the five hundred Auxilliary
Scriptures of the Sages, the Ajita medical scripture in one hundred chapters,
and the five texts on abandonment. She became a great scholar of the science
of medicine.

 Early one morning, when she went to the top of the
palace, she saw people of many cultures gathered in the western garden.
Among them was a poorly dressed monk holding a staff. His name was Arnapa.
Many people began asking him questions. Some could not figure out what
he was saying; others clearly understood him. The discussions kept leading
to more confusion, and clarification was not forthcoming.

A young girl asked the monk where he had trained to develop
his knowledge. He replied that he had studied almost every subject, but
in particular he showed her many pages of an astrological text, explaining
that he had studied this subject in particular detail. He told the girl
that if she was intelligent, she should also study in this way. The girl
replied that this was something she already knew. She had thoroughly studied
the cycle of the four seasons, the correspondence of the twelve months
to the male and female genders, the twenty-four hour cycle of the day,
the dissolution of time, and how the cycle of the twenty-one thousand six
hundred breaths is complete. She went on to say that she had also studied
the white and black cycles of astrology51 in their entirety.

 All this displeased the monk. He denounced the girl
for rambling like a magpie. He accused her of falsifying her comprehension
and blasted her for speaking too much, which was proof that she could not
possibly have mastered such topics. To his verbal abuse, the young girl
responded, “The esoteric instructions on astrology are just like a wish-fulfilling
treasury. How could someone like you—with no qualifications at all—claim
to know anything about it? Within the wisdom text of Sarasvati, there are
the extraordinary instructions on astrology, which clarify the karmic results
of relative truth, while the Kalachakra tantra discusses the subject of
unchanging absolute truth. This wisdom text of Sarasvati is as melodious
as the sound of the vina. The composition is as beautiful as a dance of
art upon paper. This great treatise clarifies both the excellent and the
negative and is famous in a thousand ways. It is an ornament of the most
fortunate minds; if one is without protection, wandering vulnerably in
the state of delusion, to simply make contact with this great wealth of
scriptures is to perfect transcendent primordial wisdom. After all, isn’t
this the precious doctrine of the Buddha?” After she thus spoke, the monk
became infuriated and replied, “Who knows if the doctrine of the Buddha
would be given to someone like you?” Then he quickly went on his way.

 Mandarava then told the queen what she had seen
and heard. “In the garden to the west of the palace, many people were gathered.
Among them was a youthful maiden. Her qualities are so astonishing that
I feel a strong need to meet her.” The queen gave her permission, and Mandarava
went immediately to find the girl. Upon meeting her, Mandarava said, “You
are a girl of great intelligence. Who are your parents, what is your caste,
and why have you come here?” The girl replied, “My father’s name is Rigche
Dawalha. My mother is Lhamo Yukye. My lineage is that of the Mingpo Dawa
gods. I am sixteen years of age, and my name is Palmo Shonu. When I turn
seventeen I will live in the western region of Zahor, near the city of
the Nectar Garden.” Mandarava asked the girl to teach her everything she
knew. The girl replied: “Although my training in Dharma is weak, I have
had an opportunity to study the sacred literature on the subject of astrology
from my father. I have achieved a strong sense of confidence in my studies.
But, aside from that, I know very little. Goddess, it is doubtful that
I am a suitable candidate to be your teacher. If you insist, however, I
will do my best to offer you what I can.”

 Mandarava returned to the queen. “O daughter of
my heart,” said the queen, “with whom have you been speaking?” Mandarava
answered: “Mother, there is an amazing girl who is the daughter of Rigche
Dawalha, of divine lineage. Her name is Palmo Shonu. She debated with a
monk on the subject of astrology and defeated him. She has previous training
in the scriptures and is highly learned in astrology. I requested her to
be my teacher in that subject.” The queen replied that she thought the
king would never allow a common person to instruct his daughter, and it
might be better to invite a scholar of astrology to come to the palace
instead. Mandarava replied, “The male teachers are so strict and overbearing,
it is difficult to learn from them. I prefer a female teacher, who would
be more gentle.”

 Then the queen went off to speak to the king. She
told him how Mandarava desired to study astrology and wished to have permission
to invite this young woman to be her teacher. Indeed, the king felt strongly
that the princess’ teacher must be equal to her in status and caste. He
decided to invite a holy man to the palace for consultation. After carefully
examining the situation, the holy man proclaimed that the daughter of Rigche
Dawalha was a manifestation of a dakini and that it would be good for her
to remain permanently with the princess Mandarava. She was destined to
eventually become Manda-rava’s main disciple. After this prophecy, the
girl Palmo Shonu was invited to the palace. She became a member of Mandarava’s
entourage and taught the princess everything she knew about astrology.
After some time, Palmo took the vows of ordination and remained close to
Mandarava thereafter.

 At this time, there were many heretics in the land
of India, so the king ordered Mandarava to study the art of logic. He requested
her previous teacher, Atashi, to return to teach dialectics to both Manda-rava
and Palmo. He was a master of both the outer and inner teachings on the
five sciences. Mandarava studied until her noble qualities were unsurpassed
by any other. She also studied arts and crafts and sorcery. Mastering every
science that existed in India at that time, she became a scholar without


 This completes the eighteenth chapter of

The Lives and Liberation

of the Princess of Zahor, Mandarava,

called A Precious Garland,

Explaining how she perfected her studies of the outer

Chapter 26   Meeting Master Padmasambhava  

 The time arrived for Vajra Guru Padmasambhava to
tame the kingdom of Zahor, including Princess Mandarava and her assembly.
Light radiated from his heart and entered the three doors of Mandarava
and her assembly, bestowing profound blessings.

 That night she had the following dream: In the space
before her, within an expanse of five-colored light rays, there appeared
a golden flower with a red stamen. Upon the flower appeared a nirmanakaya
manifestation of a buddha. She prostrated and supplicated with devotion.
Then this buddha spoke: “O maiden of perfect noble qualities, Princess
Mandarava, I am an emanation of Avalokiteshvara. Tomorrow, on the tenth
day of the monkey month, come to the top of the grassy hill to meet me.
I shall bestow upon you the pointing-out instructions that bring about
liberation in one lifetime.” After thus speaking, he dissolved into space.

 Mandarava awoke from her dream ecstatic at the prospect
of meeting such a sublime manifestation. The next morning, while giving
her Dharma discourse, she said to the five hundred attendants who had gathered:
“E ma! Last evening I had a most remarkable dream. Today we shall go out
for a stroll and meet an enlightened being who will bestow upon us the
pointing-out instructions that bring liberation in one lifetime.” Mandarava
and her virtuous attendants went to the grassy hill that was adorned with
flowers fragrant as incense. Suddenly, in the space before them, appeared
the great Vajra Guru Padmasambhava, radiating wondrous rainbow-colored
light. At the moment they beheld him, Mandarava and her assembly were overcome
with irreversible faith. The princess spoke: “E ma ho! Crown jewel heart
son of the buddhas of the three times! Having fulfilled your destiny, you
work only for the welfare of others. With your hook of loving compassion,
you constantly gaze upon all sentient beings, nourishing everyone with
the medicine of your boundless love. Display your joyful, radiant countenance
and deliver us all to the shore of liberation upon the vessel of equanimity.
Look upon those of us who are blind and lost, unable to find the way! We
implore you to come to our palace and turn the wheel of Dharma!”

 The guru promised to come. Mandarava and her assembly
quickly returned to the palace to prepare for his imminent arrival. Some
prepared the outside, others the inside. Some arranged his teaching cushion,
while others prepared the food. Some held up offerings of incense. When
all the preparations were complete, the guru arrived. They closed and sealed
the doors, and the guru took his teaching seat. They offered the five precious
jewels, various dry substances, grains, liquor, wine, and beverages to
quench his thirst. Presenting all these substances as a mandala offering
to the guru, Mandarava supplicated: “E ma! One like you, whose face represents
the buddhas of the three times, where could you possibly have been born?
What could be your caste and the class of your parents? O precious one,
please bestow upon us the nectar of your sacred words!”

 Then the guru replied: “E ma! Amazingly beautiful
maiden Manda-rava, captivator of the mind’s attention! I am fatherless—as
my birthplace is the empty nature of truth. The womb of my mother is the
wisdom of emptiness. I arose from within a lotus in the center of lake
Dhana-kosha. I am from the family that is free from the limitation of both
existence and quiescence. I myself represent the spiritual attainment of
self-originating bliss. “In the sublime realm where the minds of sentient
beings are tamed, a buddha appears who meets the needs of each and every
being. Although these emanations have different names and modes of appearance
throughout the three times, ultimately they are nondual. In the past, the
Buddha of Boundless Light, Amitabha, created Mount Potala, the paradise
of Avalokiteshvara.

Avalokiteshvara then manifested as Padmasambhava in Lake
Dhanakosha. In the sphere of truth, he is the primordial buddha Samantabhadra;
in the Realm of Dense Array, he is the buddha Vajradhara; and in the vajra
seat Bodhgaya, he is the enlightened one, Lord Buddha.

I too am this spontaneous presence, appearing indivisible
as the Lotus-born, Padmasambhava. The inconceivable blessings that arise
in response to the needs of sentient beings further emanate as the eight
male buddhas and their eight consorts, the eight places and eight supreme
power spots, the eight great charnel ground practice places, and the eight
manifestations of the guru, which are the pure display of the eight groups
of consciousness. In addition there are the manifestations of the eight
vajra masters and the eight emanations, the eight glorious ones and the
eight accomplishment herukas, the eight great accomplishments of perfected
union and liberation, the eight tantras of the approaching stage, as well
as the eight aspects of miraculous enlightened activity. These eight buddhas
have perfected the two accumulations and all noble qualities in the past,
present, and future. With supreme heirs manifesting themselves from this
base, inconceivable emanations are present throughout the past, present,
and future, always raising the victory banner of the doctrine in the ten

 Hearing his words, Mandarava and her assembly were
overcome with joy. Under the guru’s guidance they began training day and
night in the Dharma of secret mantra. They were taught the three outer
tantras of Kriya, Charya, and Yoga, and the three highest tantras of father,
mother, and nondual. They also studied the one hundred classes of secret
mantra vehicles. In accordance with these classifications of inner tantra,
they received teachings on the generation stage with elaboration, as well
as on the thousands of major tantras dealing with the energy channels,
essential winds, and fluids. They received all the principal teachings
in their entirety on the path of secret mantra.


 This completes the twenty-sixth chapter of

The Lives and Liberation

of the Princess of Zahor, Mandarava,

called A Precious Garland,

Explaining how, according to the

prophecy, Mandarava met Vajra Guru Padmasambhava and
how she received

the stages of spiritual transmission.

About the Contributors   (complete)

Lama Chonam is an ordained Khenpo
in the Nyingma school of Vajrayana Buddhism. He was born in Golok as the
son of a nomadic family and joined the monastery in his early teens. His
root teacher was the late Khenpo Munsel, one of the revered senior teachers
of the Great Perfection Tradition. He left Tibet in 1991 and was invited
to come to the U.S. in 1992. He serves as an authority and interpreter
of the epic of Gesar of Ling, which he is translating with colleagues at
the Tibetan Institute of Literary Studies. He is an advisor to the Nalanda
Translation Committee and works closely with Sangye Khandro in the translation
of many important texts.

Sangye Khandro has been a student
and practitioner of Buddhism since 1972. She has dedicated her life to
the study and practice of Vajrayana Buddhism for the last twenty-six years
and has served as a world-reknowned translator for many great senior Tibetan
teachers over the last eighteen years. In 1979 she met H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche,
who became her root teacher. Prior to that she also met the Venerable Gyatrul
Rinpoche and became his spiritual companion. Under the guidance of H.H.
Dudjom Rinpoche and his family, Gyatrul Rinpoche and Sangye Khandro helped
establish the Yeshe Nyingpo Dharma centers in America and build Tashi Choling
retreat center in southern Oregon. Her recent translations include Perfect
Conduct, a translation of one of the most important Vajrayana texts on
the subject of the three vows and commentaries found in the new treasures
of Dudjom Rinpoche. In addition, she is one of three scholars engaged in
the lengthy translation of the classical epic of King Gesar of Ling.

Janet Gyatso is Associate Professor
of Religion at Amherst College. She has studied with many Tibetan teachers
and has received her doctorate in Buddhist studies from the University
of California at Berkeley. Her recent research interests have focused on
Tibetan visionary practices, lifestories, diaries, and female religious
masters. Her most recent book is Apparitions of the Self: The Secret Autobiographies
of a Tibetan Visionary (Princeton, 1998).

information and order from:
| * | barnes
and noble
| * | powells

| * | others