Venerable Chöje Lama Namse Rinpoche
Guru Rinpoche - A Short Introduction to His Life & Activities
Presented at Karma Chang Chub Choephel Ling, Heidelberg, in 2007.
This transcript is dedicated
in memory of our precious Root Guru, His Eminence the IIIrd Jamgon Kongtrul,
Karma Lodrö Chökyi Senge (1954-1992) &
to the long life of
His Eminence the IVth Jamgon Kongtrul, Lodrö Chökyi Nyima &
Venerable Chöje Lama Namse Rinpoche.
May their enlightened activities flourish & benefit countless sentient beings.
May I greet you kindly and welcome you. Let us recite "The Dorje Chang Lineage Prayer"
together before I speak about the life-story of Guru Rinpoche. From
among his many names, Guru Rinpoche is best known as Guru
Padmasambhava. I will refer to him as Guru Rinpoche during this
There are many hagiographies of Guru Rinpoche, i.e., biographies of how he attained liberation. Some hagiographies, rnam-tar
in Tibetan, are very long, consisting of many volumes and each having
hundreds of pages. Others are very short, consisting of a few pages and
only using keywords that point to major events in his life. Many of
them even seem to make contradictory statements. It's important to know
that Guru Rinpoche was a highly realized master whose far-reaching
activities continue in modern times, which is the reason it is said
that he is immortal. He was, i.e., he is, so highly realized that he
appeared to living beings in a great number of ways. Therefore, it
isn't surprising that there are two versions about his birth that seem
to contradict each other.
The most popular version
of Guru Rinpoche's birth is based on the recorded words of Lord Buddha
who prophesied that Guru Rinpoche would be the Second Buddha of our
times, that he would be miraculously born on the bud of a lotus flower
and not from the womb of a woman. Other hagiographies state that he was
born to a physical mother. There is a purpose to these two versions.
They are skilful means that serve the needs and capabilities of the
great variety of living beings' propensities. People who reject the one
version can resort to the other and thereby they can gain trust and
have confidence in him. Even though there seem to be these
discrepancies about his birth, the reports about the central events of
his life are the same in all hagiographies, no matter how long or how
short they are.
Lord Buddha prophesied in Sutra the
way Guru Rinpoche would take birth and clearly spoke of his countless
activities for the benefit of all sentient beings. We can rely on the
words of the Buddha and know that Guru Rinpoche is the manifestation of
all Buddha activities that appear in the world for the welfare of
Before looking at the life-story
of Guru Rinpoche, allow me to say that having a text on his life in
one's home is already an extraordinary blessing. Lord Buddha and many
later realized masters said that the immense blessing and profound
inspiration one receives by having such a text in one's home are due to
the fact that Guru Rinpoche continues being the manifestation of the
loving compassion, kindness, and wisdom that the Buddhas of all times
have for all living beings. Merely the presence of a text on his life
in one's home dispels many obstacles.
among the longer and shorter versions of the life-stories of Guru
Rinpoche, there are three main forms. The long versions consist of many
volumes, are very detailed, and are written in poetic verses. The
middle-length versions are more factual and therefore more suitable for
study. The very short versions consist of keywords and are easy to
carry. Since every version deals with the same subject, all of them
equally grant Guru Rinpoche's full inspiration and blessings. Merely
having a version of his life-story in one's home, or reading it alone
or together with one's family members or friends, or just thinking
about a few events in his life dispels one's emotional disturbances,
mind poisons, mental obscurations, etc. that one has accumulated since
time that is without a beginning. It is logical that the blessings one
receives by reading and studying the life-story of Guru Rinpoche are
even more beneficial than owning a text. It is said that due to having
been inspired by his life-story and due to having practiced the
profound methods of Vajrayana that he and his disciples taught, for
hundreds of years many followers generated and developed great devotion
in the Dharma and in the teachers, practiced the path, and thus
attained perfect enlightenment.
It is said that Guru Rinpoche was and is ever-present as
the Dharmakaya aspect of enlightenment. Average people like us, who
haven't even come near the attainment of enlightenment, cannot perceive
the all-pervading Dharmakaya that all Enlightened Beings manifest. It
is also said that Guru Rinpoche was and is ever-present as the
Sambhogakaya aspect of enlightenment. But only practitioners who have
achieved very advanced levels of realization can perceive the
all-embracing Sambhogakaya manifestation of Enlightened Beings. Average
individuals can only perceive a visible and tangible Nirmanakaya aspect
of enlightenment that manifests in the form of a human being to benefit
people like us. All life-stories of Guru Rinpoche - his autobiography,
his disciples' recorded accounts, and biographies that later disciples
wrote - speak about the events and activities of his Nirmanakaya
Guru Rinpoche's Birth & Childhood
The most widely spread accounts of Guru Rinpoche tell us that he was born in a wondrous way in the Kingdom of Oddiyana, O-rgyän
in Tibetan. One can say that the ruler of Oddiyana, King Indrabodhi,
was like an enlightened king whose only concern was the well-being of
his subjects. He wasn't at all arrogant or aggressive. He ruled
peacefully, was in harmony with neighbouring countries, and was always
very generous towards everyone in his land. He only had one problem:
none of his consorts gave birth to an heir. Since King Indrabodhi was
getting older, this worried him greatly. He called all his ministers,
spiritual teachers, and astrologers together and asked for their
advice. They told him that he would accumulate the necessary merit to
have a son if he invited beggars from all the lands to his kingdom,
gave them shelter, clothes, and food for a longer period of time, and
engaged in other welfare activities. The king understood that this was
really good advice and, during special times in the year, he fed,
clothed, and offered living quarters to thousands of beggars and
destitute people who came to his kingdom from near and far. He
practiced in this way for many years, until the treasury of his kingdom
was almost empty and the inhabitants of Oddiyana were impoverished.
Yet, no son was born to him. He became even more worried about an heir
than he had been before.
Indrabodhi again summoned his ministers, spiritual teachers, and
astrologers for a meeting and told them, "For many years I did as you
said. I made offerings to the Three Jewels and helped an immense number
of people in need. Now the treasury is almost empty and no heir has
been born to me. Please tell me what to do, because I cannot continue
in this way much longer." They discussed the situation and many of
those who attended the meeting made rather stark suggestions. Some of
them made proposals on how to boost the economy; others even suggested
invading and robbing neighbouring countries of their wealth. Since
Indrabodhi was a Dharma King who adhered to the teachings of the
Buddha, he rejected such ignoble thoughts. An elderly Brahmin and
priest in the court stepped forward and said to the king, "Last night I
dreamed about an island far away in the ocean that is covered with
jewels. One only has to sail to that island, fill one's cases and
caskets with the precious stones, and sail home again. This would
restore the kingdom's treasury with even more riches than before." The
king liked the idea. He and his ministers boarded the ship that was
anchored in the harbour, set out to sea, reached Jewel Island, filled
all cases and caskets that the group had taken along with the treasures
that were lying around, and sailed home, richly laden. But, while on
the way home, the king wasn't really happy that his kingdom would
flourish again. He knew that political crises and battles among the
ministers would arise if he died without leaving an heir to the throne.
He was very worried that peace in his kingdom would be disrupted if no
heir was born to him.
so happened that the group decided to take another road on their way
back to the palace in the capital of Oddiyana after their ship
anchored. They took a road that led through valleys and across mountain
passes and at one point saw a lake that nobody had ever heard of or
knew about. It was in an area more beautiful than can be imagined -
birds twittered in the trees, rainbows appeared everywhere in the sky,
there were many waterfalls, etc. When they reached its shore, they were
even more surprised at the beauty of the lake that nobody had ever
heard of. They saw a single huge lotus in full bloom right in the
middle of the lake. From where they stood, they saw what appeared to be
an eight-year-old boy seated on the lotus. The child was surrounded by
all kinds of goddesses and Dakinis who were making a great variety of
offerings and were singing songs of praise to him. The king and the
courtiers who witnessed this marvel were completely astonished and
is recorded in a number of Sutras that the Buddha predicted that
shortly after he passed into Parinirvana a Second Buddha would appear
and have the name Padmakara,
‘Lotus-born.' Furthermore, the Buddha said that the Second Buddha would
spread the sacred Dharma and, particularly, he would teach the profound
skilful methods of Secret Mantrayana or Vajrayana. He was none other
than the child that King Indrabodhi and his courtiers saw seated on the
lotus flower in the middle of the lake. The lake has come to be known
as Lake Danakosha. The child would later become known as Guru Padmasambhava, the Sanskrit name for ‘Lotus-born Teacher and Master.' In Tibet he is known as Guru mThso-skyes-rdo-rje.
It is recorded that preceding
the event just described, the Buddhas residing in the Pure Realms
consulted each other on how to best help beings living in the world
mature spiritually by means of the profound, skilful, efficient, and
quick methods of Vajrayana. Buddha Amitabha said, "I will send my
heart-emanation into the world and he will become known as the
Lotus-born Master. He will impart the teachings of the Secret
Mantrayana to beings who are ready to receive them. He will also secure
the teachings so that they remain in the world for the benefit of
future generations and can spread further after he has parted." It is
said that Buddha Amitabha sent a brilliant beam of light from his heart
and had it touch the bud of the lotus flower on Lake Danakosha. In that
moment, the One who would mainly become known as Guru Padmasambhava or
Guru Rinpoche took birth, seated on the lotus flower that was touched
by the radiant light of Buddha Amitabha. At this time, Guru Rinpoche is
referred to as Padmakara, ‘Lotus-born,' Päd-ma-‘byung-gnäs in Tibetan.
he saw the child while standing at the lake's shore, King Indrabodhi
was filled with so much joy and devotion that he fell on his knees and
tears spontaneously flowed from his eyes. He now understood the dream
he had the night before setting out on the road to return to his palace
from Jewel Island. The king had dreamed that he was asleep on a bed
that was set in a huge pavilion that was open on all sides and that was
filled with streaming light. He dreamed that the Enlightened Beings of
all times appeared in the sky and held council on sending a mutual
emanation into the world. They manifested in the form of a 5-spoked
vajra. He felt extremely happy while envisioning light radiating from
the vajra's center and entering his heart. When he woke up the next
morning and remembered his dream, he was certain that all his worries
would end soon. He didn't tell anybody about his dream, though. He knew
that it was auspicious, but didn't know what to really make of it. All
doubts he had about the meaning of his dream vanished and he knew what
he would do the moment he saw what appeared to be an eight-year-old boy
seated on the lotus flower. He knew that he would invite the boy to his
palace, raise him, and give him a good education. He offered all the
riches he had gathered on Jewel Island to the boy and asked him to
accept his invitation. The boy replied, "Yes, Great Dharma King. I
accept your offer and will gladly come with you." In the next moment,
the boy was standing on the shore of the lake, then took seat next to
the king in the richly adorned palanquin, and was brought to the
palace. All worries that King Indrabodhi had about an heir to his
throne were finally over.
and his closest ministers asked Guru Rinpoche, "Where do you come from?
Who is your father? Who is your mother? How is your family? What is the
name of your clan? Tell us, what do you believe in and what do you
practice?" He answered, "I come from nowhere. I have no father. I have
no mother. I have no family and don't belong to a clan. I was born from
the syllable HRIH that emanated from the heart of Buddha Amitabha. I
have come into the world to help living beings, to show them the way,
and to open their eyes."
a festive procession that was led by the king and accompanied by the
royal courtiers, Guru Rinpoche entered the capital and was enthroned as
the crown prince of the Kingdom of Oddiyana. It was obvious to everyone
that he was exceptional and they were certain that he would do many
good things. As of this time, he is called Padmaraja, ‘Lotus King,' Päd-ma-rgyäl-po in Tibetan.
enthronement ceremony he told the king and the assembly, "All these
valuable substances, the silk drapes and cushions studded with jewels,
and the costly throne you have arranged do not flatter me. I am not of
this world and therefore nothing of this world does justice to me."
While all those who were assembled heard this and became bewildered,
Guru Rinpoche snapped his fingers and precious objects, more beautiful
than the ones placed before him and more elaborate than anything anyone
had ever seen, appeared. Everyone who witnessed this momentous event
experienced deep devotion for him and, having seen that he could
perform such wonders at the age of eight, they thought that many more
great things would occur in the future.
For a few years, Guru
Rinpoche enjoyed the education befitting a prince. The king and his
closest advisors, priests, and famous scholars taught him the various
arts and sciences of the times. He led the stately life of a prince,
was always surrounded by servants who fulfilled every wish he had, and
could call everything in the magnificent palace his own. A few
beautiful young girls had already been chosen to become his wives when
he came of age and to later be the queens at his side.
a few years had passed in this way, Buddha Vajrasattva appeared to Guru
Rinpoche and told him, "Great obstacles for your future Dharma practice
and activities, the purpose of your life in Jambudvipa, will arise if
you continue living in this way." Guru Rinpoche understood the
significance of these words and then and there resolved to turn his
back on the convenient but superfluous life he was enjoying. He
contemplated ways to get out of the situation of being a prince and of
becoming a worldly ruler after the king's death.
again the king faced financial difficulties and, aware of the adopted
prince's wondrous abilities, asked him, "What should we do to restore
the treasury and to secure the needs of the people?" Guru Rinpoche
replied, "I own a Wish-fulfilling Jewel. I will give it to you. All
your wishes will come true if you formulate your wishes clearly and
pray to it with one-pointed devotion." He gave the king the
Wish-fulfilling Jewel. The king wrapped it in a precious silk cloth and
placed it on a shrine that he had craftsmen make especially for it. He
placed many offerings in front of the Wish-fulfilling Jewel and for
many days and nights fervently prayed with one-pointed devotion that
the treasury be restored to its previous wealth for the benefit of
everyone. He prayed that none of his subjects suffer from hunger, cold,
or heat and that everyone experience happiness and well-being. Due to
his pure motivation, his wishes came true. The treasury of the kingdom
overflowed with gold, silver, and jewels, the weather was perfect for
the crops to grow abundantly, the crops were harvested on time, it was
never too hot or too cold, and all inhabitants of Oddiyana were happy
and at ease.
Guru Rinpoche realized
that the time had come to begin cultivating his activities for the
greater benefit of all living beings, rather than just working for the
welfare of individuals living in Oddiyana by becoming the king. He left
the palace and fled into the forests and mountains nearby. He meditated
diligently for many months, realized the futility of worldly concerns,
and resolved to live up to the purpose of his life, which was to teach
living beings in accordance with their capabilities the Dharma that
leads to perfect Buddhahood. The ministers, who were less realized and
not convinced of such goals, found Guru Rinpoche in the woods and told
him, "Our king believed in you and there is no other heir to the throne
than you. Therefore, whether you like it or not, you have to return to
the palace with us and live up to your obligations." Guru Rinpoche saw
that he had to obey and returned to the palace. Upon his arrival, he
immediately started teaching the Dharma and many of his disciples
renounced worldly ways, practiced the instructions diligently, and
attained perfect Buddhahood.
After a few years
had passed, Guru Rinpoche left the palace disguised as a wandering
ascetic and walked to India. I cannot go into the details here because
of the time at our disposal during this seminar; you can read about
this in the biographies that have been translated. So, this concludes
the short introduction of the biography I am referring to during this
seminar, which introduces students to Guru Rinpoche's appearance in the
world and to his future activities.
at Tashiding Monastery in Sikkim. It is said that Guru Rinpoche shot an
arrow into the air to select the place where he would meditate. The
place where the arrow landed eventually became the site of Tashiding
Guru Rinpoche's Teachers in India
Guru Rinpoche met
five great masters when he arrived in India. Having received the
transmissions and instructions from them, he practiced and perfected
them in the solitude of forests, jungles, and mountains. He became
known far and wide by many names and everyone knew that he was an
extraordinary master who would benefit beings immensely. At this time,
he came to be known as Guru Shakyasimha, ‘Lion of the Shakyas,' Shakya Seng-ge in Tibetan, and is usually depicted on paintings looking similar to Buddha Shakyamuni.
heard, reflected, and meditated the instructions and empowerments that
he received from the five great Indian masters. In strict solitude, he
perfected the many transmissions that Mahasiddha Prabhahasti had first
imparted to him. Secondly, Guru Rinpoche studied with Mahasiddha
Prahevajra, known as Lobpon Garab Dorje in Tibet; he was the first
human teacher of Maha-Ati, the ‘Great Perfection' that is Dzogchen.
Guru Rinpoche received the heart instructions of Dzogchen from him and,
as before, practiced and perfected the teachings in strict solitude.
Thirdly, Guru Rinpoche received the transmission of the "Guhyagarbha Tantra - The Tantra of the Secret Quintessence"
from Master Buddhaguhya. It is a central Tantra of Vajrayana that Guru
Rinpoche later brought to Tibet. As before, he practiced and perfected
these teachings in solitary retreat. The fourth master who instructed
Guru Rinpoche was Mahasiddha Shri Singha who imparted the "Chemchog Heruka Tantra"
to him. Again, he meditated and perfected these teachings in solitude.
Fifth, Mahasiddha Manjushrimitra imparted the empowerment and practice
instructions of the "Yamantaka Tantra" to Guru Rinpoche, which he also practiced and perfected in retreat.
Mahasiddha Nagarjuna, not to be mistaken with Acharya Nagarjuna who
founded the Middle-Way, imparted all transmissions related to the Lotus
Family to Guru Rinpoche. Shri Hungkara transmitted the entire cycle of
meditation practices and teachings on eight specific meditation deities
to him. The eight, of which he had already received a few earlier,
included the wrathful meditation deities Yamdrak, Vajrakilaya, Mamo
Botong, and others. They all look similar, are winged, have 3 heads and
6 arms, and carry weapons. Shri Vimalamitra, not the master who later
came to Tibet and had the same name, gave him the transmission and deep
meditation instructions of a deity similar to Amrita Kundali. Shri
Dhana Sankrita gave him the empowerments, oral reading transmissions,
and practice instructions of Vajrakilaya and the "Kilabitutara Tantra,"
which has been lost but is the basis of all teachings of Vajrakilaya.
Shri Shantigarbha transmitted the instructions associated with the
wrathful mother goddesses to him. Guru Rinpoche received from many
other masters transmissions and instructions on the three great cycles
of Vinaya, Sutra, Abhidharma, as well as many others. Following, he
went into solitary retreat to deepen and intensify his realizations.
This concludes the second chapter that lists the empowerments and instructions that Guru Rinpoche received from various masters in India and that he studied, practiced, and perfected under the guidance of great teachers.
(Guru Rinpoche's cave in Sikkim)
Guru Rinpoche Received Prophecies & Manifested the Efficacy of the Dharma
Rinpoche went to the eight great charnel grounds in India to meditate
for a longer period of time and on those occasions was crowned with the
reward of seeing the deities face-to-face. Each deity made prophecies
and told him how to spread the respective teachings, which teachings
were appropriate for which disciples, etc. Their instructions are in
the text entitled, "The Eight Transmitted Precepts,"
which also includes the respective oral transmission of the specific
deity, the corresponding rituals, and practice instructions that lead
to liberation. It is the basis of all deity practices in the Nyingma
practiced and perfected for his own benefit all instructions he had
received, the time had come for Guru Rinpoche to manifest his
realizations for the benefit of all living beings, which was his
purpose to appear in the world. To do this, great masters first
demonstrate their abilities to others by engaging in disputations to
defeat opponents or by performing wondrous activities to gain
disciples' trust and devotion. For this reason, Guru Rinpoche went to
Bodhgaya and debated with 500 scholars from other schools of thought.
Of course, he won all disputes. It is reported that Guru Rinpoche was
active in a great variety of ways in different places in India for 500
years. In accordance with their abilities and in order to help them
renounce futile concerns and follow the path of Dharma, he either gave
individuals or groups of people Vajrayana instructions or he manifested
Guru Rinpoche saw that his time
in Central India was over and travelled to the Kingdom of Zahor that is
situated slightly north of India. Word spread that he would arrive, so
the King of Zahor went out to meet and welcome him. The king invited
him to stay, to become his advisor, and to accept the position as one
of the highest ministers in his land. Guru Rinpoche accepted, but had
one condition. He told the king that he had commitments in other parts
of the world and would only stay for a few years, which he did. The
King of Zahor gave him one of his daughters, Princess Mandarava, as
consort. Due to also serving him while he often meditated in retreat,
Princess Mandarava received many transmissions and instructions,
practiced them diligently in solitude, and achieved high realizations
In the meantime,
the great scholar, who would become reknowned as Pandita Shantarakshita
and who would work with Guru Rinpoche in Tibet, was born. He was
already an exceptional child, because he had practiced the Dharma and
had matured spiritually in many past lives. Although they hadn't yet
met, Shantarakshita had received many instructions from the various
visions he had of Guru Rinpoche and practiced them when he was still
Rinpoche saw that it was time to depart, but the King of Zahor would
not allow him and his daughter Mandarava to leave. Guru Rinpoche
performed an action that would enable them to flee but that was
forbidden by law. The couple fled, but they got caught and were
sentenced to be burnt alive at the stake for what was considered a
crime. Approximately 20,000 woodcutters chopped down trees in the
entire land to erect a huge pyre in the mountains. Other workers
collected many inflammable substances that they loaded on the backs of
cows and mules and brought to make the fire burn all the more
forcefully and brightly. Weeks passed for the job to be done. Guru
Rinpoche and Mandarava were brought out from the dungeon where they
were held and tied to the stake on the pyre. The sentence and crime
they had committed were read out loud to the crowd of people who had
come to witness the spectacle. Then the fire was ignited. The pyre
burned for seven days and nights; some accounts say for ten days and
nights. Soldiers guarded the fire continuously to see to it that the
couple did not flee and that nobody helped them escape. During this
time, the king and his ministers stayed in the palace. To end the case,
the king's advisors told the king to publicly announce that the verdict
had been executed. He and his entire court were brought in luxurious
carriages to the site of the pyre and they expected to see a pile of
ashes. They were really surprised that they didn't even smell smoke
while on their way to the site in the mountains. They didn't see a
burned pyre when they arrived at the spot where the fire had burned for
so many days and nights, but they saw a beautiful lake in a valley that
was surrounded by mountains and forests. When they saw Guru Rinpoche
seated with his consort on a lotus in the middle of the lake and
beaming with light, the king and his entire entourage were deeply
moved. They regretted their evil deed, prostrated and made offerings to
Guru Rinpoche and Mandarava, and openly asked them for forgiveness.
This lake is known as Rewalsar, ‘Lotus Lake,' Tso Pema
in Tibetan. It is situated in North India and is to this day a
reknowned pilgrimage site for Buddhist devotees who come from all over
As a sign of his devotion, the
king gave Guru Rinpoche costly apparel, robes, coats, boots, a sceptre,
and a lotus crown. He is depicted on paintings and statues wearing the
presents that the King of Zahor had given him on that occasion. Then
the king asked Guru Rinpoche to accept him as his disciple. The king,
the queen, many ministers, and a great number of subjects took refuge
and became Buddhist practitioners. Through this wondrous event, Guru
Rinpoche accomplished what he wanted: to demonstrate the efficacy of
the teachings and to be able to leave the kingdom without hindrances.
Before he left, though, Guru Rinpoche gave the king and his courtiers
many transmissions and instructions. The king asked him when he would
achieve Buddhahood through his practice. Guru Rinpoche told him, "After
you have died, you will be born many times in the lower realms of
existence, as a frog, a fish, etc., but your karma will eventually be
exhausted and then you will be born in the Land of Snow." Hundreds of
years later, the King of Zahor was born as the first Tibetan king who
wished to have the Dharma brought to Tibet. His name was King Songtsen
Gampo. He was later reborn as King Trisong Detsen who, together with
Guru Rinpoche and others, established the Dharma in Tibet. Guru
Rinpoche also told Princess Mandarava, "Your father is a Bodhisattva
who has advanced on the path, but he still isn't really far on the
Bodhisattva levels of realization. Due to his karma from past lives, he
was reborn for a while in good circumstances and had great power. He
was in a position to do many negative things and he caused others much
suffering. This is why he will have to experience the suffering in
lower realms a few times so that he will seek a way out of the cycle of
suffering." And so, Guru Rinpoche departed from Zahor. It is said that
after he left, he emanated many replicas of himself in the kingdom for
200 years and taught the Dharma to everyone who was a fit vessel there.
Guru Rinpoche and Mandarava practiced alone
as well as together in many caves in the mountains above and around Tso
Pema before the king tried to have them burned at the stake. Some caves
are said to be those where Guru Rinpoche practiced alone, others are
those where Mandarava practiced alone. As said, Tso Pema is a famous
pilgrimage site for Buddhists from around the world, and many sincere
practitioners do longer meditation retreats in the caves there. People
have built huts for themselves in the mountains. It is a place of
immense blessings, so many people go there to practice intensively. If
you have any questions now, please ask.
Questions & Answers
Question: "Then Guru Rinpoche must have become 800 years old."
Lama Namse Rinpoche:
Not only that, but it is said that Guru Rinpoche stayed in Tibet for
300 years before he continued his journey. He is not an ordinary human
being - he is beyond time and age as we know it. It is said that he is
with us today, which means he would be more than 1200 years old. Age,
as we know it, does not apply to him.
Same student: "So he doesn't have different names when reborn and isn't recognized like His Holiness the Karmapa."
That is not the case. Guru Rinpoche never passed away as we perceive
death and therefore was never reborn. His various names are used in
conjunction with his main activities. He has eight names. His names are
the ones mentioned above; furthermore, he is called Guru Ogyen Dorje
Chang, Guru Loden Chokse, Guru Nyima Öser, Guru Dorje Drolo, Guru Senge
Dradrok. Other texts list twelve names that refer to twelve main events
in his life, like the twelve great events in the life of Buddha
Shakyamuni. Guru Rinpoche's different names refer to the various forms
he manifested on different occasions and that have come to be known on
a larger scale, e.g., when he transformed the burning pyre into the
Same student: "Would we recognize him today?"
It is not a matter of how he appears rather of whether he appears to
one. If one has true devotion for him, engages in one of his meditation
practices, recites prayers to him, or repeats his mantra, one can meet
Guru Rinpoche face-to-face. When one does, it is very clear and one has
no doubts that it is Guru Rinpoche. There are many accounts of his
appearance in Tibet hundreds of years after he left. Guru Rinpoche
appeared to great masters and devoted practitioners in their dreams or
they travelled to his Pure Realm that has the name ‘Glorious
Copper-colored Mountain,' met him there, and received transmissions and
instructions from him then.
Same student: "I read that H.E. Tai Situ Rinpoche is the representative of Padmasambhava. Can one see him as an emanation of Guru Rinpoche?"
Yes, one can see Tai Situ Rinpoche as well as many other great masters
as emanations of Guru Rinpoche. It is recorded that eight incarnations
of Tai Situ Rinpoche will have Pema
in their name; the present Situ Rinpoche is the fourth in this line.
The first was the IXth Situ Rinpoche, named Pema Nyingje. The second
was the Xth, Pema Kunzang. The third was the XIth, Pema Wangchuk. And
the present XIIth Situ Rinpoche has the name Pema Donyo Nyingje Wangpo.
According to the prophecy, four more Situ Rinpoches will incarnate as
an emanation of one of the eight main aspects of Guru Rinpoche.
Furthermore, there are many other great masters who are emanations of
Guru Rinpoche. We can assume that there are many more emanations of
Guru Rinpoche that appear in a hidden form and help sentient beings.
There is a prophecy specifically concerning the Situ Rinpoches in one terma found by the Great Tertön Sangye Lingpa, who lived from 1340-1396. Termas,
‘treasure texts,' were concealed by Guru Rinpoche for the benefit of
future generations and are revealed when times are ripe by a tertön, a ‘treasure revealer.' The eight names of the Situ Rinpoches as emanations of Guru Rinpoche are listed in a terma found by Sangye Lingpa.
Guru Rinpoche Perfected Mahamudra & Sojourned North
Amitayus, the Buddha of Long Life, appeared to Guru Rinpoche and
crowned him with 108 transmissions of practices and teachings to attain
the vajra body beyond birth and death. In visions and dreams, Guru
Rinpoche visited the Pure Realms of all Englightened Beings, received
further instructions that lead to liberation, and continued his journey
to the land that is today known as Nepal. He stayed in the cave called
Yangleshö and perfected his pratice of Pälchen Yamdak, one of the eight
meditation deities he had received from his Indian teacher Shri
Hungkara. Thus he spontaneously attained the complete and perfect
realization of Mahamudra. Students can visit this cave that is situated
near Kathmandu and experience it as a symbol of Guru Rinpoche's
attainment of mind's clear nature, Mahamudra.
During the time that
Guru Rinpoche was meditating in Yanglesho Cave, powerful and envious
local spirits created many obstacles for him. They also brought on
negative circumstances and conditions, e.g., draughts, diseases, and
famine in the land. Guru Rinpoche had great compassion for the people
in Nepal and thought it would be best to put an end to their suffering
by engaging in the practice of Vajrakilaya that he had received from
Shri Hungkara and had perfected. He gave two disciples who had
accompanied him all the offerings he had received from students - gold,
silver, jewels, and costly substances - and a letter describing the
situation to give to Shri Hungkara in India, requesting from him the
texts of the "Vajrakilaya Tantra." Shri Hungkara chose the most famous one, the "Vajra Kilabitutara Tantra,"
the one that has been lost. He had it wrapped in silk cloth and brought
from India to Nepal in a very ceremonial procession. It is said that
most negative conditions that had prevailed in the area for three years
ended the moment the messengers who were bringing the sacred text to
Guru Rinpoche crossed the river that marked the border between India
and Nepal. Yet, there were still a few rather stubborn and hard-hearted
spirits who continued causing trouble in the land and, in particular,
tried to obstruct devotees who tried to practice the Dharma. So, Guru
Rinpoche went into the cave called Asura, situated a little bit above
Yanglesho. It, too, is easily accessible and remains a favourite
pilgrimage site for Buddhists from around the world.
in Asura Cave, Guru Rinpoche meditated the Vajrakila text that had just
been brought to Nepal. Three scornful female spirits did magic tricks
to distract and disturb his meditation. Their names were Rimate,
Rimata, and Rimazo and are known as ‘the three sisters of Rimache';
they killed and scalped human beings, ate their flesh, used their skin
as clothing, etc. But due to his realization, he vanquished them by
using his magical power, something nobody else could do. They were
defeated in a mighty battle and requested to become his disciples and
serve him. He bound them under oath to stop their negative actions
right away and to serve the Dharma by becoming protectors. Ever since
then, these three female goddesses are a part of the outer mandala of
Vajrakilaya and are addressed as protectors in a short ritual of the
followers approached Guru Rinpoche while he was practicing in Nepal,
among them two Nepalese women who would become his heart-disciples.
Their names were Shakya Devi and Kalasiddhi. They offered to serve him
in return for empowerments and Dharma teachings. He granted them this
and sent them to practice in various places in the country. They did as
told and attained realization of Mahamudra very fast.
Not leaving his retreat, Guru Rinpoche saw that at the Vajrasana, ‘the seat of Lord Buddha's enlightenment' at Bodhgaya, 500 tirthikas,
‘heretic scholars,' were harassing and pressing Buddhist monks and nuns
through arguments and magical demonstrations to leave the sacred area.
It was the custom during those times to convert non-believers by trying
to defeat them in scholarly debates. If a scholar chosen to represent
one school did not convert to the other belief system after having
lost, he or she had to leave the country. Guru Rinpoche saw that the
Buddhists were about to lose this debate and knew that as a result the
larger number of less educated people would follow the tirthikas. Staying in retreat, he sent an emanation that clearly and definitely vanquished the tirthikas. Not
happy about having lost, they tried to win by resorting to magic. In
that moment, Guru Rinpoche emanated a forceful form that came to be
called Senge-ge-Dradrok, ‘Lion's
Roar.' The many bursted rocks and boulders in and around Bodhgaya bear
testimony to the magical force of the battle that he and the tirthikas fought. Of course, Guru Rinpoche won and therefore Bodhgaya has remained the center of Buddhism to this day.
time wondrous demonstrations like this took place, Guru Rinpoche was
victorious. He didn't force opponents to convert to Buddhism or to
leave the country, rather he clearly showed the foremost rivalling
scholars and academics of other philosophical schools that the Dharma
of the Buddha is the only way that leads to perfect enlightenment
within the span of a single life - if one practices. Thus they won
trust and confidence in the Dharma and took up the practice with joyful
enthusiasm. As said, Guru Rinpoche manifested in different forms when
he displayed his magical abilities on many occasions for the welfare of
sentient beings. His eight or twelve names refer to those events. Let
us now look at the Tibetan landscape before Guru Rinpoche arrived.
Trisong Detsen, ruler of Tibet, was the emanation of an Enlightened
Being and only had one wish, to establish the sacred Dharma teachings
in his kingdom. He had contemplated the philosophies as they were known
and realized that the teachings of the Buddha were the most appropriate
to dispel the darkness of ignorance that caused his subjects to suffer.
He asked his ministers to find the most compassionate Bodhisattva
living in India. They learned that the greatest living Bodhisattva was
Pandita Shantarakshita, Pandita being the Sanskrit title for Khenpo in Tibetan. He happened to be in Nepal at that time, so he was able to accept the king's invitation to come to Tibet.
Shantarakshita was the reincarnation of a highly realized master.
Before going to Tibet, he spent much time studying the Dharma in India
and China. It wasn't the custom for Indian masters to travel north of
the Himalaya Mountain Range because the climate was too harsh for them
and the people and tribes living there had the reputation of being
rough. Since his Indian and Chinese teachers had predicted that his
calling was to bring the Dharma north, specifically to Tibet, Khenpo
Shantarakshita, known as Khenpo Bodhisattva, accepted King Trisong
Detsen's invitation, went to Tibet after having completed his
obligations in Nepal, and immediately started teaching the Dharma to
the king, his family, his ministers and advisors, and to
representatives of the people. Both the king and Khenpo Shantarakshita
saw that their karma was a deep continuation of a long-standing, strong
connection. The king asked Khenpo Bodhisattva, "Can you say something
about our karmic relationship?" Khenpo replied, "Yes, during the time
of the Third Buddha of this eon, Buddha Kasyapa, I sold poultry at a
market in Nepal and had three sons who each had different fathers.
Before dying, I wanted to do something very meritorious and decided to
build a Stupa. I received permission from the king and with the help of
my sons and a few villagers erected the most magnificent Stupa ever
built in the world at Boudhanath." The three sons were reborn centuries
later and would establish the Dharma in Tibet. King Trisong Detsen,
Khenpo Shantarakshita, and Guru Rinpoche were the reincarnations of
these three sons.
Building Samye Monastery
Shantarakshita was teaching Buddhism in Tibet, King Trisong Detson's
strongest wish was to have the first Buddhist monastery built in his
land. He asked Khenpo Shantarakshita to construct the monastery while
he was promoting Buddhism. Khenpo started building the monastery at
Samye, but the building collapsed after they reached a certain stage.
Khenpo told the king, "I am famous throughout India and Nepal for
having much compassion and can therefore lead many beings to
liberation. But I don't have magical abilities to deal with the
malicious spirits and demons living in your land that are obstructing
this project. You should invite the master who can overcome these evil
forces, and nobody is more able to do this than Guru Rinpoche." The
king agreed and sent envoys to find and invite Guru Rinpoche to help
build the monastery at Samye and spread the Dharma in his kingdom.
Next to the malicioius
spirits and demons that obstructed the construction work on the
foundation for the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet by bringing on
earthquakes, floods, and storms, many ministers in the cabinet of the
king who strongly rejected Buddhism also caused problems. There were
many shamans and followers of the indigenous tradition among the
ministers who did everything in their might to stop Buddhism from being
established in Tibet. They schemed and lied about Khenpo Shantarakshita
and the Buddhist masters who accompanied him, spreading rumors like,
"Those Indian people wearing red hats are trying to bring the Dharma to
Tibet and only cause trouble. Just look at what is happening all over
the land ever since they have been trying to build a monastery here."
Even though evil spirits tore many buildings down the night they were
erected, nevertheless the foundation was laid and Khenpo Shantarakshita
was able to consecrate the first buildings of Samye Gompa.
wasn't possible to quell all the difficulties, though, and King Trisong
Detsen knew that if he failed, it would take a very long time for
anyone to even be able to attempt to establish Buddhism in Tibet.
Therefore Khenpo Shantarakshita told him, "Now is the time to invite
Lotus-born Padmasambhava. We have been connected for many lifetimes.
There is a prophecy that states that when we three work together with
the pure motivation and skilful means, then we will be able to easily
establish the Dharma in the northern Land of Snow."
During all those
troubles, Guru Rinpoche was meditating in Asura Cave near Parping in
Nepal. Because he had profound realizations, he knew what was going on
and set out to Tibet before the king's envoys reached him. He met them
slightly north of the Tibetan border. They were a bit perplexed and
asked him many questions to make sure they weren't mistaken about
having met him in their country and not having to continue on to Nepal
in search of him. They were quite astounded to learn the truth, gave
him all the presents that the king had given them for him, and asked
him to accompany them to the palace of the king. Demonic forces tried
to block their way, but of course Guru Rinpoche vanquished them. The
demons and evil spirits converted of their own accord and he bound them
under oath to become Dharma protectors. Then the group continued their
before Guru Rinpoche arrived in the palace, King Trisong Detsen had a
dream. He dreamed that the sun and moon simultaneously rose on the
horizon and that every corner of the dark land became illuminated. He
interpreted his dream to mean that everything would work out fine.
One can read the
various stories about Guru Rinpoche's encounters while he was on the
way to Tibet. The time at our disposal during this seminar is too short
to speak about all of them. I do want to say that many things happened
- he flew through the sky and appeared in forceful forms to frighten
the evil spirits and demons and to vanquish and transform them into
Dharma protectors. His footprints and handprints, just like those of
later Mahasiddhas, are still clearly visible on many rocks and bolders
today, so it is possible to receive their blessings by seeing them.
Rinpoche arrived at the palace, King Trisong Detsen was over-joyous. He
prostrated and gave him many offerings. When the king gave him
gold-dust, which was the currency of those times and the customary
offering for great masters, Guru Rinpoche flung it away and told the
king, "I don't need your gold. The whole world is like gold for me." In
that moment he touched a rock that was lying on the ground with his big
toe and the king and all people who were present experienced that the
entire area seemed to turn into gold.
By appearing in different
forms, Guru Rinpoche first tested whether the Tibetans were ready to
receive and practice the Dharma. He was very pleased that the king and
his courtiers weren't disturbed that he wasn't in need of their
presents. He tested them in more ways, saw that it was time to
establish and spread the Dharma in Tibet, and began his activities.
Again and again evil spirits living in specific areas tried to obstruct
Guru Rinpoche from teaching. There are many testimonies left in
boulders and rocks of him defeating and binding them under oath to
protect the Dharma, such as boulder formations or handprints and
footprints he left in rocks. It is said that mountains were moved and
the course of rivers where shifted when through his magical skills he
fought demons who tried to kill him. Many of these places have again
become favourite pilgrimage sites for Tibetans and foreigners. The
blessings one receives and the inspiration one experiences to intensify
one's practice by visiting these sacred sites are immense. The
obstructive demonic forces weren't only tamed and converted to work for
the welfare of all living beings, but those ministers who still had
doubts saw for themselves the efficacy of the teachings and became Guru
Rinpoche's close disciples, received transmissions, meditated the
instructions, and attained realizations.
Let me say a little
bit more about what took place when Guru Rinpoche and King Trisong
Detsen met for the first time. The king went out to welcome him. It was
the custom to bow to a great king when one met, but Guru Rinpoche saw
that he himself was the mightier king and knew that the arrogant king
expected him to bow. But Guru Rinpoche waited for the king to bow to
him. Both men stood still and nobody budged. The king, who was
extremely proud, was rather perplexed that the great master did not bow
to him. Guru Rinpoche let the king feel that he was the ornament of the
world. After all, the king had asked him to come and do what nobody had
done before, to establish the Dharma in Tibet. While the king became
more bloated with pride, Guru Rinpoche made a small hand gesture and
everybody who was there saw that flames spurted out of his finger and
engulfed the king, even burning him a little bit. Everybody, including
the king, was shocked. He realized how proud and arrogant he had been,
fell on his knees, confessed his negative thoughts, and prostrated to
the Second Buddha of this eon. As of then, Guru Rinpoche was respected
as the greatest master and could start teaching and spreading the
Dharma in the Land of Snow. The king requested to become a disciple and
to serve him from then on. Guru Rinpoche accepted, so the king became
the first of his many disciples in the north.
vanquished and tamed many demons that impeded the introduction of
Buddhism to Tibet, Guru Rinpoche was able to start his work on Samye
Monastery. With his magical abilities, he subdued the earth spirits,
particularly the Nagas in the area, and moved them to promise never to
cause harm again. With the assistance of Khenpo Shantarakshita, he
performed the ritual consecration of the foundation of the monastic
complex. Having committed the spirits to be helpers, they worked on the
construction of the buildings during the night instead of destroying
the work that was accomplished by humans during the day. And so,
construction work on Samye Monastery resumed day and night. The entire
complex consisted of 17 temples and many other buildings and was
completed in 13 years. The complex was built in the form of a Mandala,
i.e., the world-system according to ancient Indian cosmology. The
central and largest temple was built in the form of Mt. Meru, two
temples were built in resemblance of the sun and moon that circle Mt.
Meru, four temples were built to represent the four main continents,
and eight further temples symbolized the eight subcontinents.
Furthermore, many smaller ritual buildings were erected inside the
complex. The top of the temples consisted of three roofs, designed in
the Indian, Chinese, and Tibetan styles, representing the three main
lands where the Dharma was established. The entire complex was
surrounded by a gigantic wall lined with magnificent Stupas.
When Samye Monastery was completed,
Guru Rinpoche and the masters who helped build the monastery performed
the great inauguration ceremony. It was a momentous day. Not only many
people attended the ceremony, but Dakas, Dakinis, and deities appeared
in the sky and strew flowers, recited blessing prayers, sang songs of
joy, and so forth. It was a day of great rejoicing and fulfillment.
Lighting the Lamp of Dharma in Tibet
The Dharma spread in Tibet
in phases. The phase in which King Trisong Detsen wished to establish
Buddhism in his kingdom is seen as the dawning of Buddhism in Tibet, in
that the first rays of light slowly started dispelling the darkness of
ignorance in the minds of people living there. The period in which Guru
Rinpoche and Khenpo Shantarakshita taught the Dharma and inaugurated
Samye Monastery is referred to as the blossoming of Dharma in the Land
greater number of Tibetans didn't know about the Dharma. Since Samye
Monastery was completed, the king feared that Guru Rinpoche and Khenpo
Shantarakshita would return to India. He gave them beautiful offerings
and again and again asked them to stay and to teach every aspect of the
Dharma to all the people in the land. They agreed. It is recorded that
Khenpo Shantarakshita intended to return to India after a while, but he
stayed and taught in Tibet until the end of his life. Actually, the
main part of their work was yet to start. Since Dharma texts were not
available in the Tibetan language, they had to educate a number of
translators who first needed to learn the different Indian languages.
Guru Rinpoche and Khenpo
Shantarakshita requested that the king call together the most
intelligent children in the land so that they could be educated as
translators at Samye Monastery. Many children came and Khenpo
Shantarakshita examined which ones were most capable of learning the
languages of India. He tested them by speaking easy Indian words and
asked the youngsters to repeat them. Everything went wrong. No one was
able to even repeat one or two words correctly. Different tests were
carried out, but capable children weren't found. Khenpo was so
frustrated that he wondered, "How can we teach these barbarians the
languages of India?" Guru Rinpoche and Khenpo discussed the matter and
Guru Rinpoche remarked, "There's no reason to despair. Buddha
Shakyamuni's three main disciples, Ananda, Maudgalputra, and Shariputra
have been reborn. They will be the first translators who in turn will
educate more translators." With his wisdom eye, Guru Rinpoche saw that
they had been born as sons of local chieftains. He and Khenpo went to
each family, told the respective parents who their son was, and asked
for permission to take the boy with them so that he could be educated
for the sake of the Dharma in the Himalayas. All three families had
deep respect for the Dharma and consented.
The boys were first sent to study
with leading scholars in India to learn the various languages spoken
there, seeing the Dharma texts weren't only written in one language.
They also had to practice and realize the instructions of those texts.
They spent 13 years in India and studied with the same masters who had
taught Guru Rinpoche and Khenpo Shantarakshita. The young men had made
a name for themselves by the time they returned to Tibet and would
become the first three of 108 great translators. They were the
unequalled masters Berotsana, Kawa Paltsek, and Chokro Lui Gyältsen.
They had learned the languages of India, knew the meaning of the
profound texts, started translating them into Tibetan, and educated
other translators. It was an enormous task to translate the vast
collection of Dharma texts into the Tibetan language and required the
help of assistants that the three great translators had educated. The
assistants were later able to translate texts on their own.
The first major work that was translated with immense accuracy was all Buddhist religious works of India that were compiled in the "Kangyur - The Translation of Lord Buddha's Words." The "Kangyur"
is a collection of Sanskrit classics that trace their origin to the
spoken word of Buddha Shakyamuni and consists of over 1000 books in
about 100 volumes of woodblock prints. The "Tengyur - The Translations of Teachings"
was then translated. It is a collection of approximately 3,500 books
written mostly in Sanskrit, texts that explain the books of the "Kangyur"
and other subjects such as literature, linguistics, science,
architecture, painting, and medicine. This was the primary work that
was started under the direction of Berotsana and completed by other
problems and obstacles arose, because translators not only had to know
the languages they were translating fluently but also had to have
understood and attained some experiences of the meditation practices
they were translating. It was a very challenging task that didn't
consist of book-learning only but presupposed consistent own practice.
For instance, another problem was that Berotsana, who was a
fully-ordained monk, was extremely handsome, so many queens did
everything they could to attract his attention, which made it hard for
him to concentrate on his work. The disappointed queens created
intrigues against Berotsana, who was innocent of their accusations.
Those who had intrigued against Berotsana forced the king to ban him.
It was the custom to ask where a person chose to go when this sentence
was decreed. Guru Rinpoche and King Trisong Detsen asked Berotsana.
Being a realized master, he knew that he would meet students with whom
he had a karmic connection with from India and who were open enough for
the Dharma so that he could teach them to translate. Therefore he chose
to be banned to Tsawarong in East Tibet. He was able to continue
translating undisturbed and was very productive.
number of Guru Rinpoche's disciples also made a connection with him.
One of his 25 disciples was a young princess who had been promised to
the king. She was known as Princess of Karchen and would become famous
as Guru Rinpoche's most important consort. Her name was Yeshe Tsogyäl.
She, too, became famous for her translation work. She is best known for
having helped conceal sacred texts that Guru Rinpoche had reserved for
the benefit of future generations. They were revealed hundreds of years
later by his reincarnated disciples who disseminated them when times
work was progressing in the Kingdom of Central Tibet, Berotsana was
training disciples to become translators and met his heart-disciple,
the reason he had chosen to be in Tsawarong. He was the son of a
chieftain in East Tibet who had lost his wealth through gambling and
was already a young man when he and Berotsana met. Having experienced
the futility of his family's lifestyle, the young man had already
generated revulsion for samsara. The great translator recognized that
they had a strong connection from past lives and accepted him as his
disciple. His name was Yudra Nyingpo. He studied intensively, practiced
diligently, attained realization very fast, and accompanied Berotsana
to Central Tibet when he was allowed to return. They arrived at Samye
Monastery when the first translations of the "Kangyur" and "Tengyur" were presented to the king in the presence of Guru Rinpoche and Khenpo Shantarakshita.
Vimalamitra, the great translator from Kashmir, was in Tibet at that
time and, just as Guru Rinpoche and Khenpo Shantarakshita, he was
central in disseminating the Dharma in the Land of Snow. Vimalamitra
met Yudra Nyingpo and asked him, "Who are you and where do you come
from?" The young man answered, "My name is Yudra Nyingpo and I come
from the the district called Tsawarong." Vimalamitra asked him, "Who is
your teacher?" He replied, "My teacher is the translator Berotsana. Do
you know him?" Vimalamitra said, "Of course I know him. He is one of my
most important disciples." So, the deep bond between Vimalamitra and
Yudra Nyingpo was established and it would be very, very fruitful.
Vimalamitra had many disciples. He had brought an entire body of sacred
texts to Tibet and was responsible for the translation of specific
teachings into the Tibetan language. It isn't known how long he stayed
in Tibet. It is recorded that Vimalamitra stayed in Tsawarong for a
while, imparted teachings and empowerments to students who came to him
there, and continued his journey to China. As of then, nothing more is
known about him.
Guru Rinpoche stayed in Tibet for many years.
One biography tells us that he stayed for 300 years and that he never
grew tired of spreading the Dharma and teaching students the path to
realization. One of Guru Rinpoche's most important contributions for
future generations of Dharma practitioners was concealing a large
number of treasure scriptures and teachings. He saw that it was too
early to present them to anyone but his heart-disciples, which he did.
Then he buried or hid them in a great variety of forms in the entire
land of the Himalayas. He knew that they would be revealed when
followers were ready to receive them. This was the beginning of what is
known in the Nyingma Tradition as the Terma Tradition, gter-ma meaning ‘treasure' in Tibetan. Masters having the title gter-stön,
‘revealers of concealed treasure teachings,' in their name were Guru
Rinpoche's heart-disciples who had received the transmission from him
personally and reincarnated hundreds of years later. When they found
and revealed the sacred teachings, they were guaranteeing the
well-being of countless living beings.
see that Guru Rinpoche was very, very compassionate and is revered by
Tibetans and followers world-wide as the most important teacher of
Buddhism who appeared on the Tibetan Plateau. One can read about his
many other activities in biographies that have been translated into
Guru Rinpoche Sojourned Southwest & Manifested His Pure Land
A very barbarious tribe of beings populated an island
known as Kumara that was situated in the southwestern ocean. They
threatened to destroy everything that was wholesome and good in the
world. Guru Rinpoche saw that he had to go to Kumara Island and stop
them. He went, vanquished the evil spirits, and brought them to seek
refuge in Lord Buddha's teachings.
Guru Rinpoche manifested his Pure Realm to his faithful disciples and
ever since then continues residing in the Pure Land that is known in
Tibetan as Zangs-mdog-dpäl-ri, ‘Glorious, Copper-Coloured Mountain.'
The Unbroken Lineage
The sacred teachings taught and concealed by Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyäl continued and continue to be present to this day in the Lineage of tertöns,
‘treasure revealers,' who find, bring to light, practice, and spread
them at the right time and in an appropriate manner and place. The name
of each tertön is listed in an autobiography of Guru Rinpoche. In the course of history, 108 tertöns
have appeared and every one had received the transmission of the cycle
of teachings they revealed from him personally. Furthermore, the tertöns
were and are able to recognize and translate the symbolic language and
signs of the original into modern Tibetan so that they can be
understood by devoted practitioners and can help them progress
this way, Guru Rinpoche was exceptionally compassionate, generous, and
kind. He didn't shy away from any hardships to work for the benefit of
the people of Tibet by teaching and establishing the Dharma in the Land
of Snow. He also cared for future generations worldwide by
hiding and burying sacred teachings that have been found and revealed
and that will continue being brought to light when followers are ready
and ripe to benefit from them whole-heartedly.
has been a short introduction to the very eventful life of Guru
Rinpoche. Unfortunately, this seminar is coming to an end, so we cannot
go into more detail. There are many volumes of biographies that each
consists of hundreds of pages that you can read. With the time at our
disposal now, I will gladly try to answer any questions that you might
Questions & Answers
Question: "Where will the 108 tertöns appear now?"
It's hard to say, because there are so many charlatains around
nowadays. This was the case in Tibet, too. Many people pretended to be tertöns and led people astray. Authentic tertöns reveal themselves unmistakably and are recognized by great masters. Guru Rinpoche's 108 tertöns appeared and can take on new rebirths in order to reveal termas
that are still hidden. Just as in the past, it's important to be very
careful and critical, because there are always many charlatains in this
category of incarnations. One needs to check if someone is authentic or
"When King Trisong Detsen and Guru Rinpoche met, both expected the
other to bow to him. It sounds like it was a kind of power-play. Guru
Rinpoche was free of attachment, so why didn't he honour the king? What
was the purpose of waiting for the king to bow to him?"
Since we were not there, we have to rely on interpretations. It is said
that Guru Rinpoche was invited and came to Tibet as a fully enlightened
master to bring the Dharma, which is the most precious treasure ever
brought to the Land of Snow. Therefore, he was much higher than the
king and did not feel necessitated to bow to him. He didn't expect the
king to bow to him, but it was clear that he wouldn't bow to the king.
Furthermore, when they met, Guru Rinpoche saw that a sense of pride
arose in the king, which needed to be dispelled. The king bowed to the
entirety of the teachings that Guru Rinpoche was bringing to Tibet when
he bowed to him. Guru Rinpoche represented the teachings, so bowing to
him symbolized that the teachings of the Buddha had arrived in Tibet.
The teachings are so precious that its representative doesn't bow to
anything lower. One can see it this way. Of course, Guru Rinpoche was
free of self-centered thoughts and the fact that the king bowed meant
nothing to him.
"Demons and evil spirits helped build Samye Monastery, which is why it
was completed faster. Is this meant concretely or is this said so that
the negative, self-centered attitude of the workers is reversed and is
It can be interpreted in different ways. Westerners don't have the same
ideas of ghosts and demons. Ghosts and spirits have a realistic
presence for Tibetans, so one can interpret it to mean to purify
people's self-centered ideas. It's a valid interpretation. -- Thank you
(Guru Rinpoche & Stupas at Lodrö Nyima Rinpoche's Gompa in Qinghai)
"Anyone with faith in me is a fit vessel for my blessings. They are never apart from me.
I am here. I haven't gone anywhere."
-- from "Treasure Biographies of Padmakara and Vairochana"
Through this goodness, may omniscience be attained
And thereby may every enemy (mental defilement) be overcome.
May beings be liberated from the ocean of samsara
That is troubled by waves of birth, old age, sickness, and death.
May bodhichitta, great and precious,
Arise where it has not arisen,
Never weakening where it has arisen.
May it grow ever more and more.
Long Life Prayer for the Dharma Lord Lama Namse,
entitled "Deathless Moon Nectar"
You who took birth in the invincible vajra net of the Three Secrets,
In a mudra dance of the Four Indestructible Vajras,
May your glorious life, like a nectar rain of stable understanding
Be embraced by the anthers in White Tara's heart.
While you place all beings, in their many forms, on the wholesome path of liberation,
The glory of your excellent signs blaze in the midst of millions of Bodhisattvas.
May you let the deep melodious sound of Dharma, the blissful union of the Two Truths
Resound in the nectar residence of the ear of those wishing liberaton.
Through the power of the truth of the Three Roots, the deities, and the whole gathering of yidam deities
May the glorious Lama's lotus feet remain stable for hundreds of kalpas.
May your amazingly wholesome activity flow like a river in a sandalwood tree forest.
May your noble and learned good qualities spread as far as the sky.
His Holiness the XVIIth Gyalwa Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, prayed like this at the request of Khen Loyak. May it be virtuous!
Long Life Prayer for His Eminence the IVth Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche,
Lodrö Chökyi Nyima
May the life of the Glorious Lama remain steadfast and firm.
May peace and happiness fully arise for beings as limitless in number as space is vast in extent.
Having accumulated merit and purified negativities,
May I and all living beings without exception swiftly establish the levels and grounds of Buddhahood.
gratitude to Thomas Roth for his excellent simultaneous translation of
Tibetan into German during the seminar. Translated into English from
the German rendering, edited & arranged by Gaby Hollmann,
responsible for all mistakes. Photos of Guru Rinpoche on the shrine, of
Tingri & of the Tsangpo River near Samye Monastery taken by gh in
1986. Invaluable photos of Guru Rinpoche's cave in Sikkim, of Stupas at
Tashiding Monastery in Sikkim, of the statue of Guru Rinpoche &
Stupas at Lodrö Nyima Rinpoche's Gompa in Qinghai taken &
graciously offered for this article by Lena Fong. Sincere gratitude to
Hans Billing for having made the recording of the seminar available to
us & for managing the website of Karma Chang Chub Choephel Ling
with upright sincerity. Simply saying "thank you" to Lama Dorothea Nett
& everyone who contributed meaningfully for this article does not
suffice. Copyright Chöje Lama Namse Rinpoche, Karma Chang Chub Choephel
Ling in Heidelberg & Karma Lekshey Ling in Nepal, 2009. All rights