Buddhist Philosophy

Birth of Guru Rinpoche

On the 10th day of the fifth and sixth months of the Tibetan Buddhist calendar, we celebrate the birth of Guru Rinpoche, the “Precious Master” and Buddha of our time. In Sanskrit his name is Padmasambhava (or Padmākara). In Tibetan we refer to him as Pemajungné. This name translates as “Lotus-born,” which refers to Guru Rinpoche’s miraculous birth from a lotus in Oḍḍiyāna.

In 2011, Phakchok Rinpoche reminded his students on this day that we should give rise to great devotion. He shared a photo of the renowned image of the Guru and wrote,

According to tradition, the anniversary of Guru Rinpoche’s birth is celebrated on this 10th day of the 5th month. Considering the auspiciousness of this, I would like to first share this image below of Guru Ngadrama (Looks Like Me) with you. On seeing this statue at the Great Samye monastery, Guru Rinpoche remarked, “It looks like me”, and then blessed it saying, “Now it is the same as me!”

Also, here is the Seven Line Prayer to the Lotus Born Guru:


Hung, In the north-west of the land of Orgyen,


In the heart of a lotus flower,


Endowed with the most marvelous attainments,


You are renowned as the Lotus-born,


Surrounded by many hosts of dakinis.


Following in your footsteps


I pray to you. Please come to grant your blessings!


Rinpoche continued by advising us to read life stories of Guru Rinpoche like the Namtar Zanglingma (translated into English as The Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava), and the Namthar Sheldrakma. In these, the precious Guru constantly reminds his close students of the importance of prayer (sol dep). To the Great King, Trisong Detsen, the precious Guru says:

The root of the secret mantra path is to keep the samaya commitments.

Devotion and effort are the root of samaya. And the root of these two is prayer.

So, Great King, pray.

And to Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal, the precious Guru affirms:

If anyone who has faith, devotion, and a connection with me prays with yearning, the force of their aspiration will ensure my compassion to reach them in a heartbeat. So pray Tsogyal, continuously and with devotion.

Rinpoche closed his reminder message by encouraging us to repeatedly call to mind this prayer,

Precious Guru,

Grant your blessings that my mind may turn towards the dharma.

Grant your blessings that the dharma brings progress along the path.

Grant your blessings that the path may clarify confusion.

Grant your blessings that confusion may dawn as wisdom.

Prophecies about Guru Rinpoche

Mahayana texts as well as Vajrayana tantras include a number of prophecies and predictions about Padmasambhava and his important role in spreading the Dharma and specifically the Vajrayana.  Perhaps the most frequently cited is from the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra, where Buddha Śākyamuni consoles his attendant Ānanda and other monks who gathered at his side to witness his passing. In the sutra, the Buddha assured them that,

Eight years after my mahaparinirvana, a remarkable being with the name Padmasambhava will appear in the center of a lotus and reveal the highest teaching concerning the ultimate state of the true nature, bringing great benefit to all sentient beings.[1]

Reading Life Stories of Guru Rinpoche for Inspiration

On this occasion, we would like to share the first chapter from the life of Guru Rinpoche as revealed by the Great Tertön Chokgyur Lingpa.

The Wish-Fulfilling Tree: The Life-Story of the Master of Uḍḍiyāna as found in Padmasambhava’s Sevenfold Cycle of Profundity

Emaho. How marvelous!

I, Padma, shall here relate the story of my life –

How I mastered the sacred Dharma of the three vehicles,

How my deeds for beings became a constant flow,

And how I spun the Wheel of Dharma unceasingly throughout the three times.

Each and every sentient being of the six classes

Strays incessantly through samsara due to confused unknowing.

This is especially so in the Age of Strife, the dregs of time,

When, steeped in the five poisons, acting in all errant ways,

Beings are so hard to change. Therefore, so as to inspire them,

The dharmakāya buddhas directed their intention;

The sambhogakāya buddhas asserted their command;

And the nirmāṇakāya buddhas in conference all agreed

That I, the Lotus Master, should appear in this world.

And so, perceived by some, I magically appeared in Uḍḍiyāna’s land

Upon the pistils of a lotus flower in Dhanakośa lake.

Perceived by others, I was the son of Uḍḍiyāna’s king.

Perceived by others still, I descended like a thunderbolt

Upon the peak of Mount Meteoric Iron.

In any case, it was four and twenty years after Śākyamuni’s passing,

That Amitābha, in his bodhisattva form

As the Great Compassionate One (Avalokiteśvara) manifested me, Padma,

From his heart center as the letter HRĪḤ.

I appeared throughout all the worlds,

Like raindrops falling in billions onto countless places.

Since the deeds of the Conquerors surpass the reach of thought,

Who could place a measure on this, or limits?

Nevertheless, this is the tale of how I magically appeared in this world,

Taking on the destiny of the son of Uḍḍiyāna’s king;

How I reigned over the kingdom, turning the Greater Vehicle’s Dharma Wheel,

So that everyone together realized true awakening;

How I journeyed through the lands of India

And learned to perfection the fivefold fields of knowledge

This was the first chapter in Padma’s Wish-Fulfilling Tree, the story of my life, on how I came into this world and trained in the fields of knowledge.[2]

Many other masters have written beautiful life stories of the master. When we feel stuck in our practice, or when we need inspiration, we can return for inspiration to short but profound writings such as Alak Zenkar Pema Ngödrup Rolwe Dorje’s A Synopsis of Guru Padmasambhava’s Life. When we read these precious reminders, we rekindle the faith and devotion that are so crucial to our path.

And now we also have the opportunity to experience the life of Guru Rinpoche in video versions. We hope you enjoy these beautiful chapters of The Life of Guru Rinpoche from Pathgate Theatre.

[1] Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra

[2] https://www.lotsawahouse.org/tibetan-masters/chokgyur-dechen-lingpa/wishfulfilling-tree. Dedicated to the long-life of Kyabjé Tsikey Chokling Rinpoche. Translated by Lhasey Lotsawa, 2016.


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Suggested Reading

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.