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History, Legends and the Significance of Different attire of Guru Rinpoche

Chapter-I Buddhism and Guru Rinpoche

A brief historical advent of Buddhism in Bhutan
Most probably, the advent of Buddhism in Bhutan had taken place in two phases. The first advent of Buddhism had taken place in 2nd century AD or it has been in practice even much earlier. However, most historians connote the historical advent of Buddhism taking place with an arrival of great Indian tantric sage Guru Rinpoche (746AD first arrival to Bhutan) in the 8th century AD. By then, Guru Padmasambhava1 had made a notable contribution and had laid down the firm foundation of Buddhism in Bhutan. Guru Padmasambhave is popularly known as Guru Rinpoche (precious master) in Himalayan regions. He is popularly known for the propagation of vajrayana2 (dorji-thegpa) teachings which is the central practice of Nyingma3. He widely propagated the teachings of the highest school of Buddhist Tantra 4(and his twenty-five main disciples were renowned for their spiritual accomplishments). And through a succession of such great holders as Longchen Rabjampa (1308-1363), Jigme Lingpa (1729-1798) and Jamyang Khentse Wangpo (1820-1892) these teachings have been passed on and are still practiced today. Due to his tantric cult, the Buddhism practiced in Bhutan differs significantly in its rituals, liturgy, and monastic orientations. Since the arrival of Guru Rinpoche in Bhutan much historical transactions have taken place. He became an extraordinary historical figure in the Bhutanese theology, whose historical facts and achievements have taken on the dimensions of an epic. Since his arrival, Buddhism has played a predominant role in every tradition and culture of Bhutan. He is known for the supernatural power and revered throughout the Himalayan ranges as a second Buddha by his followers. His legacy is found throughout the region, and the caves he used for meditation can still be seen, leaving behind his handprints and foot prints he impressed into solid rocks, graphic testimony to the extraordinary supernatural power for this tantric yogic. Kurje6 in Bumthang, Singye Dzong7 in Lhuntse and Taktsang8 in Paro are some of the importance sacred sites of Guru Rinpoche. The temples built after his visits were all devoted to honor his works. Gurus images are, therefore, given a central figure in the temples and the paintings.

In most of the Buddhist artistic figures, Guru Rinpoche is always depicted as the central figure in Vajraparyankasana5, the meditative posture with his feet hidden to represent his esoteric nature, surrounded by his disciples and the two principle consorts, and other bodhisattvas of the Nyingma order.

A Brief Life History of Guru Padmasambhava (Lotus Born)

Padma Sambhava was an Indian tantric sage who brought Buddhism from India to Tibet in the 8th Century AD. The Tibetan king Trisong Deutsen( 790-844), second of the third Dharma-kings invited Padmasambhava on the advice of the abbot Shantarakshita9 from India to subjugate the negative forces hostile to the propagation of Buddha-dharma in Tibet and spread the tantric teaching. He converted the entire country and founded the Tibetan Buddhism and who became the patriarch of the Nyingmapa lineage.

Prophesy of Guru Rinpoches Birth

The birth of Guru Rinpoche has been predicted by Shakyamuni Buddha (563-483 BCE)the sage of the shakya, lying under the Sala Grove in the forest near Kusinagara, expires at the age of Eighty. Just before he passes to nirvana, in presence of his disciples he speaks his last words: The world being transitory and death inevitable for all living things, the time for my departure has come but weep not, for 12 years after my departure, from a lotus blossom on a Dhanakosha lake, in the north-western corner of the country of Orgyen (Skt. Uddiyana) there will be born one who will be much wiser and more spiritually powerful then myself. He will be called Padmasambhava, and by him the esoteric doctrine will be established. As predicted by Shakyamuni, Guru Rinpochhe was born miraculously from a lotus in the middle of a lake Dhanakosha, in the country of Orgyen known as Uddiyana, the present Swat province of Pakistan. From then he was known as Guru Padmasabhava (Pema Jungney, meaningborn from a Lotus) Inseparable from the Primordial Buddha Samantabhadra10, the all-pervading Lord of the three jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and master of the three roots of lama11, yidam12, and dakini13, the glorious Guru Padmasambhava should be definitively understood as being the essence of Buddha Amitabha14. In order to propagate and spread the teachings of the Dharma in general, and particularly the secret mantra and Dzogchen15 teachings, he appears to every being of the three thousand billion world systems in a form to benefit them according to their personal karmic vision. In this way Guru Padmasambhava has countless unimaginable biographies, one biography for each being.

Concerning Birth of Guru Rinpoche

Although with the definitive biography of Guru Padmasambhava, the historical figure of Guru Padmasambhavas life-story as known to the common disciples follows that, When the time for Guru Rinpoche to liberate the beings of this world approached, on the tenth day of the fifth month of the Monkey year, he appeared miraculously in the blossom of a lotus in the lake called "Ocean of Milk" in South West Uddiyana, which is also known as Lake Danakosha located on the Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier. The great river Sindhu, one

of the four great rivers that flow from the four directions of Kailash Mountain, flows towards the Western Land of Uddiyana and finally enters into the Arabian Sea. When the river reaches Uddiyana, it forms a lake filled with lotuses. As the lotus roots produce a sweet-milky juice, it is called "Ocean of Milk." However there are different interpretations regarding his birth. Some Indian historians affirm that he was born to a minister or a King of Uddiyana, and some claim that he appeared instantaneously on the summit of Mt. Malaya in Sri Lanka. But Guru Padmasambhavas treasure teachings confirm the version which states that he was born spontaneously from a lotus. Prior to Guru Padmasambhavas birth, in the centre of the lake, a large, fully mature, beautiful, red lotus grew, and from the heart of Buddha Amitabha in space, a red syllable HRIH 16(H is sound of breath, the symbol of all life; R is the sound of fire; I is the intensity which stands for the highest spiritual activity) fell about eight cubits above the collora of the lotus. The syllable dissolved into light and instantly, without depending on the causes and conditions of father and mother, there arose an eight-year-old child perfectly adorned with the characteristic of major and minor marks17. Holding a vajra18 and a lotus in his hands, he immediately began giving teachings to the gods and dakinis of the area.

Guru Rinpoches Adoption

The Second King of Uddiyana, Indrabodhi was residing in his nine-tufted palace with his queen as well as hundreds and thousands of attendents. The king did not have a son and to make a wish, on the full moon day of the fifth summer month; he made great offerings to the Triple Gems and recited the Dharma Cloud Sutra. From the three thousand treasuries he offered alms to the poor until his wealth was exhausted. He then exclaimed, "Beggars have not yet ceased, but I have nothing to grant. When some of the beggars did not receive the alms, they hold on the king and said, If they do not receive alms, whatever was done in the past would be meaningless. The king felt compassionate at them and, inspired to acquire inexhaustive wealth for the beggars, so he travelled to the ocean to procure the wish-fulfilling jewel from the crown of the mystical creature, Charumati, daughter of Naga. He procured the jewel without mishap and sailed back with his boat filled with the seven varieties of jewels. While travelling, the minister, Trig Na Dzin, finds the extraordinary child on the lotus blossom and he narrated the full story to the king. The king was pleased by this news and went to the child and inquired about his genealogy and to which caste and country he belonged. The child exclaimed: My father is the self-arisen Samantabhadra. My mother is the sphere of reality, Samantabhadri. My caste is the union of primordial wisdom and the Dharmadhatu. And my name is the glorious Padmasambhava

The king regarded this as an answer to his prayers and adopted as his son. He was given the name Padmakara, the lotus born. This set the stage of Padmasambhava as prince of Orgyen. After few years later he was married to a beautiful princess named Bhasadhara (Woechangma), the daughter of the King Chandra Kumar of a nearby country in India. He soon realized that there was no real meaning to life based on the exercise of political and other worldly pleasures and happiness. So he renounced the kingdom just as Buddha Shakyamuni had done some twelve years earlier to perform many of the same deeds that Shakyamuni performed as Prince Siddhartha. He undertook a period of extended meditation and learnt the teachings from the numerous masters, the most famous of whom was Prabhahasti, the incarnate emanation of the AdiBuddha (Kuentu Zangpo). Soon he became renowned for his excellence in poetry and philosophy, arts, music and meditation.

End Notes

Guru Padmasambhava- literally means lotus born master, and also popularly known as Guru Rinpoche, the precious master or a teacher.

Vajra-yana (dorji-theg-pa) - the indestructible diamond vehicle (yana-a vehicle or path of realization) or the secret vehicle often synonymous with mantrayana and Tantrayana; it was developed out of Mahayana Buddhism and based on highly developed ritual practices.

Nyingma- it means ancient in Tibetan, the early transmission school or old translation school;referes to teaching brought to Tibet and translated mainly by the great master Guru Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra and Shantarakshita and Vairotsana during the reign of King Trisong Deutsen(790-844) and in the subsequent period up to Rinchen Zangpo in the 9th century.

Tantra- literally means continuity, the secret teaching in vajrayana, a term for various kinds of texts, generally containing the vajrayana system of meditation, or the secret teaching of a lineage passed from the Buddha to the present lineage holders without interruption.

Vajrapayankasana- the meditative posture usually seen Guru Rinpoche with his feet hidden to represent his esoteric nature

Kurje literally means body print, after defeating the Seljing Karop, the local deity of Kurje Guru Rinpochhe has meditated in the cave Drakmar Dorji Tshegpa for a period of three months and had left a body print, thus the place came to be known as Kurje


Dzong- literally means fortress, the dzongs were built during the time of the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, either to celebrate the victory over the defeated internal and the external enemies or as a monastic centers.
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Taktsang- literllay means tigers nest

Shantarakshita (Tib. Shyiwa Tsho) - he is also called Khenpo Bodhisattva, Bodhisattva Abbot. This great Indian pandita of the Mahayana school was abbot of the Buddhist university of Nalanda. He was invited to Tibet by King Trisong Detsen where he founded the temple and monastery of Samy and ordained the first seven Tibetan monks, thus establishing the Tibetan Sangha, according to Nagarjunas Sarvastivadin tradition.

Samantabharda (Tib. Kuntuzangpo) In the Dzogchen teachings, our true nature, that state of the Ground, is given the name the 'Primordial Buddha'. His name means always good', always well or unchanging goodness. What this signifies is that unchanging goodness, or fundamental goodness, is our ultimate nature. Samantabhadra, the primordial Buddha is pure omniscience, the essence of the enlightened mind of all the Buddhas. Embracing Samantabhadri, the female primordial Buddha, their union represents the fusion of wisdom and compassion, the ultimate indivisibility of samsara and nirvana and the potential for Buddhahood inherent in all sentient beings. Samanta means, "Universally extending." Bhadra means "great virtue." Samantabhadra means to extend such great compassion that every sentient being is benefited and to practice so extensively and profoundly that all virtue is perfected.


Lama- the spiritual master or guru in Tibetan Buddhism, venerated by students, but its now used as a polite form of addressing any Tibetan monk, regardless of the level of spiritual development.

Yidam (skt. Istadevata) - one of the three roots (lama, yidam, khandro), the tutelary or chosen meditation deity, which is the root of spiritual accomplishment According to the Vajrayana, the lama is seen as the Buddha, the yidam as the Dharma, and he khandro as the Sangha. As it says in the Longchen Nyingtik Ngndro Refuge Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are in reality lama, yidam and khandro.

Dakini (Tib. Kandro) - Khandro literally means sky-goer, indicating one who traverses the 'sky' of the expanse of wisdom a female embodiment of enlightened energy. Sometimes refers to as female dharma protector. It is also used as a title for the spiritual consort of enlightened masters.

Amitabha- Buddha of infinite light; red in color, he is associated with the western direction, belonging to the Padma or Lotus family. The practices related to Amitbha are able to transform the poison resulting from desire into discriminating wisdom.


Dzogchen- Dzogchen is an abbreviation of the Tibetan word Dzogpachenpo, where Dzogpa means complete, or the end; and chenpo means great, so literally it means Great Perfection, or Great Completeness. Traditionally Dzogchen can be traced to two original Sanskrit term; Mahsadhi or Atiyoga. Mahasandhi means the gathering of all or the quintessence, signifying that Dzogchen is the very essence, the cream and the heart juice of all teachings. Hence many of the teachings are known as Nyingtik or Heart Essence, for example the Longchen Nyingtik, and the Sanskrit term Atiyoga means primordial yoga; Ati indicates the topmost, summit or zenith.


Major and minor marks-The major and minor marks of a Buddhas body are a description of his special physical characteristics. There are 32 major and 80 minor marks.


Vajra (Tib. Dorji) - meaning thunderbolt which is an irresistible force, and diamond which can cut any substance but not be cut itself. It represents the adamantine, diamondlike, spiritual power of enlightenment. This is often represented by the scepter held by a practitioner in his or her right hand in a ritual practice, together with a bell held in the left hand; this symbolizes the union of compassion (vajra) and wisdom (bell).