Guru Rinpoche: a short biography
Guru Rinpoche (Precious Master) is also known as Padmasambhava (Skt.), or Padmākara. Tibetans consider him the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. For this reason, he is often referred to as the “second Buddha”. Guru Rinpoche was instrumental in bringing the Vajrayāna teachings to Tibet, arriving in the Iron Tiger year of 810 CE. In Tibet, he is famed for taming the local spirits by converting them to be protectors of the Dharma.
We often refer to Guru Rinpoche as Pemajungné (The Lotus Born) or Tsokyé Dorjé, ‘Lake Born Vajra’. He manifested from the heart of Amitabha Buddha. From that miraculous beginning, he appeared on the anthers of a lotus flower in the midst of Lake Dhanakosha in Oḍḍiyāna. The date was the year of the Earth Monkey, on the tenth day of the waxing moon, in the monkey month. As Guru Rinpoche was born, the ḍākinīs praised him. Their spontaneous invocation is now well -loved as the Vajra Guru Mantra.
Guru Rinpoche and Yeshé Tsogyal
Guru Rinpoche and his consort and closest disciple Yeshé Tsogyal traveled throughout the Himalayan regions. During their practice they empowered and blessed the region. They visited twenty snow mountains of Ngari, and the twenty-one accomplishment places of Ü and Tsang. Also, they practiced in the twenty-five great pilgrimage places of Dokham, the three hidden lands, five ravines, three valleys and one region.
Guru Rinpoche made many prophecies about the future. And Yeshé Tsogyal kindly remembered, preserved and concealed innumerable terma teachings. Through this activity, they continue to benefit beings. For each of these terma treasures, Guru Rinpoche predicted the time for its revelation. Additionally, he foresaw the identity of the revealer, and those who would propagate and uphold the teachings.
Suggested reading list
- Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.
- Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.
- Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.
- Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973
- Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.
- Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005
- Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.
- Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).
- Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born—The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.
- ‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.