Padmakara has influenced countless beings through the Vajrayana teachings
and in particular through the activity of the profound terma treasures. This
great master was not an ordinary person on the path or just a noble being on
one of the bodhisattva bhumis but an emanation of both Buddha Amitabha and
Shakyamuni who appeared in order to tame the human beings and spirits
difficult to convert. Even the great bodhisattvas are incapable of fully
explaining his life example but in brief I will narrate it as follows:
In the dharmakaya realm of the Luminous Vajra Essence he has by nature
attained perfect enlightenment since the very beginning as the liberated
ground of primordial purity. He is renowned as the original protector,
In the self-manifest sambhogakaya realm of the Thunder of the Drum of
Perfection, he spontaneously manifested as the boundless wisdom array of
the five families of Buddha Immense Ocean possessing the five certainties.
As the external manifestation of this self-appearing display, in the countless
sceneries of bodily forms in buddhafields of the five families comprised of
the semi-manifest natural nirmanakaya realms of Mahabrahma, he appears to all
the bodhisattvas on the ten bhumis. Since these all are the cloud banks
of Guru Rinpoche's wisdom display, the 'inexhaustible wheel of adornment,' he
is known as the All-Holding Lotus.
By the power of these wisdom displays he appears in countless worlds of the
ten directions as the magical apparition of nirmanakayas who tame beings. In
particular, it is taught that only in this Saha world-system he illuminates
fifty worlds with the lamp of the teachings of Sutra and Tantra appearing as
the eight manifestations to tame beings in the different parts of the world.
The Dakini Yeshe Tsogyal had a vision in which she saw a manifestation of Guru
Rinpoche called Immense Vajra Ocean in the direction to the east.
Each of the pores in his body held one billion realms and in each realm there
were one billion world systems. In each of these world systems there
were one billion Guru Rinpoches who each created one billion emanations. Each
of these emanations carried out the activity of taming one billion disciples.
She then saw the same display in each of the other directions and in the
In this world of Jambudvipa, Guru Rinpoche is known as just one nirmanakaya
who tames beings but according to the different capacities and giftedness of
people he is perceived in various ways.
The history of the Oral Transmission of Kilaya and most Indian sources explain
that he was born as the son of a king or a minister in Uddiyana; while the
terma treasures for the most part narrate that he was miraculously born.
In some texts he is said to have appeared from a bolt of lightning at the
summit of Mount Malaya. Each of these wondrous stories differ in many
ways. This is indeed a topic that lies far beyond the reach of an ordinary
I shall now limit the explanation down to a mere seed, the life of Guru
Rinpoche according to miraculous birth as it appears in the terma teachings:
In the land of Uddiyana situated to the west of Bodhgaya there was an island
in a huge lake on which appeared a multicolored lotus flower through the
blessings of the buddhas. Buddha Amitabha sent from his heart center a golden
vajra marked with the letter HRIH into the bud of this lotus flower
which miraculously turned into a small child eight years of age holding a
vajra and a lotus and adorned with the major and minor marks. The child
remained there teaching the profound Dharma to the devas and dakinis on the
At that time Indrabodhi, who was the king of the country, had no sons. He had
already emptied out his treasury by making offerings to the Three Jewels and
giving alms to the poor. As a last resort, in order to find a wish-fulfilling
jewel he embarked on a journey with his minister Krishnadhara on the great
lake. On their return first Krishnadhara and later King Indrabodhi met the
miraculous child. The king regarded him as an answer to his prayers for a son
him to the palace where he was given the name Padmakara, the Lotus
Born. Padmakara was then asked to sit on a throne made of precious gems
and given lavish offerings by all the people.
The prince grew up, bringing countless beings to maturation through his
youthful sports and games. He married Prabhadhari and ruled the kingdom of
Uddiyana in accordance with the Dharma. At that time he perceived that he
would be unable to accomplish the immense welfare of other beings by governing
a country so he asked Indrabodhi permission to leave which was not granted. In
an act of play, he then pretended that his
trident slipped out of his hand. It fell and killed the son of one
of the ministers. He was then sentenced to be expelled to a charnel
ground. He remained in Cool Grove, Joyful Forest and Sosaling, engaging in the
conduct of yogic disciplines. During this time he received empowerment
and blessings from the two dakinis Tamer of Mara and Sustainer of Bliss. When
bringing all the dakinis of the charnel grounds under his command, he was
known as Shantarakshita.
Padmakara returned to Uddiyana, to the island in Lake Danakosha where he
practiced Secret Mantra and the symbolic language of the dakinis through which
he brought the dakinis on the island under his command. He then
practiced in the Rugged Forest and was blessed with a vision of Vajra Yogini.
He bound under oath all the nagas of the lakes as well as the planetary
spirits and was invested with supernatural powers by all the dakas and dakinis.
Thus he became renowned as Dorje Drakpo Tsal, Wrathful Vajra Power.
He then journeyed to the Vajra Throne in Bodhgaya where he showed many
miracles. People asked who he was and when he replied that he was a
self-appeared buddha they did not believe but instead defamed him.
Seeing the many reasons to have a teacher, he went to Zahor where he took
vows of renunciation before Prabhahasti and was given the name Shakya Senge [Lion
of the Shakyas.] He
received the teaching on Yoga Tantra eighteen times and had visions of the
deities. The he went to the female master Kungamo who was the wisdom dakini
Guhya Jńana appearing in the form of a nun. He asked for
empowerment and she changed him into the letter HUNG which she then
swallowed and emitted through her lotus. Inside her body he was bestowed
the entire outer, inner and secret
empowerments and purified of the three obscurations.
Later, he met the eight great knowledge-holders and received the Eight Sadhana
Sections. He received the Magical Net from the great master Buddha Guhya and
Dzogchen from Shri Singha. In this way he studied and received all the
sutras, tantras and sciences from numerous learned and accomplished masters of
India. He became adept by learning a topic just once and had visions of all
the deities even without practicing. At this time he was known as
Loden Choksey and he
displayed the manner of perfecting the vidyadhara level of maturation.
He then went to the country of Zahor where he magnetized Mandarava, a
qualified dakini who was the daughter of King Vihardhara. Taking her as his
sadhana support, they practiced for three months in the Maratika Cave after
which Buddha Amitayus appeared in person, conferred empowerment upon them and
blessed them to be inseparable from himself. They were given one
billion tantras on longevity and accomplished the vidyadhara level of
Having attained the vajra body beyond birth and death, they went
back to teach the kingdom of Zahor. [While] begging for alms, they were arrested
by the king and his ministers and burned alive. The master and his consort
inspired faith by displaying the miracle of transforming the pyre into a cool
lake in the center of which they sat on a lotus flower. They caused all
the people to embrace Dharma practice and established them in the state beyond
falling back into samsara.
Padmakara then returned to convert the people of Uddiyana. While begging for
alms, he was recognized and burned in a huge pyre of sandalwood. The master
and his consort again appeared unharmed on a lotus flower in the center
of a lake wearing a garland of skulls to symbolize liberating all sentient
beings from samsara. Because of showing this miracle he was then renowned as
Padma Tötreng Tsal, Powerful Lotus of the Garland of Skulls.
He remained in Uddiyana for 13 years as the king's teacher and established
the whole kingdom in Dharma practice. During this time he gave the
empowerment and teachings for the Dharma Ocean Embodying All Teachings
(Kadü Chökyi Gyamtso), through which the king and queen as well as all the
destined ones accomplished the supreme vidyadhara level. He was then known as
Padma Raja, the Lotus King.
In accordance with a prophesy in the Sutra on Magical Perception, Padmakara
transformed himself into the monk Wangpo Dey in order to convert King
Ashoka. Having established Ashoka in unshakable faith, during a single night
he erected in this world one million stupas containing the relics of the
Tathagata. He also subdued several non-Buddhist teachers, was poisoned by one
king but remained unharmed. When he then was thrown into the river he
made the river flow upstream and danced about in mid-air. Through that he
became known as Powerful Garuda Youth.
Moreover, Padmakara manifested himself in the form of Acharya Padmavajra,
the master who revealed the Hevajra Tantra, as well as the Brahmin Saraha,
Dombi Heruka, Virupa, Kalacharya and many other siddhas. He practiced in the
great charnel grounds where he taught the Secret Mantra to the dakinis. He
subdued the outer and inner mundane spirits and named them protectors of the
Dharma. At that time he became known as Nyima Özer [Skt. Suryaprabha].
When five hundred Non-Buddhist teachers were about to defeat the Dharma in
debate at Bodhgaya, Padmakara challenged them and was victorious. Some
of the teachers resorted to evil spells, but Padmakara scattered them by means
of a wrathful mantra given by the dakini Tamer of Mara. The rest converted to
Buddhism and the banner of the Dharma was raised to the skies. At that time he
became known as Senge Dradrok [Lion's Roar.] Up to this point he had exhausted the
three defilements and resided on the vidyadhara level of life-mastery, the
stage of having fully perfected the supreme path.
Proceeding to the cave of Yangleshö situated between India and Nepal he met
Shakya Devi, the daughter of a Nepalese King, whom he accepted as his sadhana
support and consort. While practicing Vishuddha Heruka three powerful spirits
created obstacles, preventing rainfall for three years and causing disease and
famine. Padmakara sent messengers to India asking his masters for a teaching
that could counteract these obstacles. Two men returned loaded with Kilaya
scriptures and the obstacles were spontaneously pacified the very moment they
arrived with the scriptures in Nepal. Padmakara and his consort then attained
the supreme siddhi and abided on the vidyadhara level of
Guru Rinpoche perceived that the practice of Vishuddha Heruka brings great
accomplishment. But that practice is like traveling trader who meets with many
hindrances, whereas Kilaya is like an indispensable escort. Due to this
coincidence Guru Rinpoche he composed many sadhanas combining the two herukas.
At this place he also bound under oath the sixteen mundane protectors of Vajra
Padmakara visited other ancient kingdoms where he taught the Dharma:
Hurmudzu in the vicinity of Uddiyana, Sikojhara, Dharmakosha, Rugma, Tirahuti,
Kamarupa, and Kancha, as well as many others. It is not sure when he went to
the land of Droding, but the tantric teachings he gave there on Hevajra,
Guhyachandra Bindu, Vishuddha, Hayagriva, Kilaya and Mamo are still continued
this present day.
Padmakara is generally regarded to have lived in India for 3600 years
benefiting the teachings and sentient beings. But it seems that learned people
accept that to be half-years and simply a generalization.
In order to convert people in Mongolia and China Padmakara emanated in the
form of the King Ngonshe Chen and the yogi Tobden. Moreover, he appeared in
the country of Shangshung as the miraculously born child Tavi Hricha
who gave the instructions on the hearing lineage of Dzogchen and led many
worthy disciples to the attainment of the rainbow body.
In this way Padmakara's activity for bringing people to the path of liberation
by means of appearing in various places, in various forms, speaking various
languages is indeed beyond measure.
Now I will describe how Padmakara came here to the land of Tibet:
When King Trisong Deutsen, himself an emanation of Manjushri, was twenty years
of age he formed a strong aspiration to spread the sacred teachings of the
Dharma. He invited Khenpo Bodhisattva from India who taught about dependent
origination and the ten virtuous actions. A year later the foundation was laid
for a huge temple but the spirits of Tibet created obstacles and prevented the
building. In accordance with the Khenpo's prediction, the king sent five
runners to invite the great master Padmakara to come. Having foreknowledge of
this, Padmakara had already gone to Mang-Yül between Nepal and Tibet.
On the way to Central Tibet, he went via Ngari, Tsang and Dokham and
miraculously visited all of the districts where he bound under oath the 12
Tenma Goddesses, the 13 Gurlha and 21 Genyen as well as many other powerful
At the Tamarisk Forest at Red Rock he met the king of Tibet where he proceeded
to the top of Hepori to bring the gods and demons under his command. He laid
the foundation for Samye and saw it through to completion, employing also the
gods and demons who had earlier hindered the building. In five years the work
was completed for the temple complex of Glorious Samye, the Unchanging and
Spontaneously Accomplished Temple, including the three temples of the queens,
which was built to resemble Mount Sumeru surrounded by the four continents,
eight subcontinents, sun and moon, and the wall of iron mountains.
During the consecration ceremony five wondrous signs occurred. The king
then wished to translate the scriptures and establish the Dharma so he had
many intelligent Tibetan boys study to become translators. Inviting
other masters of the Tripitaka from India, he had the Khenpo ordain the first
seven monks and gradually establish an ordained sangha. The Khenpo Bodhisattva
and Padmakara and the other panditas together with Vairochana, Kawa Paltseg
and Chog-ro Lui Gyaltsen and the other translators then rendered into Tibetan
all the existent Buddhist scriptures on Sutra and Tantra as well as most of
the treatises explaining them.
Vairochana and Namkhai Nyingpo were sent to India where Vairochana studied
Dzogchen with Shri Singha while Namkhai Nyingpo received the teachings on
Vishuddha Heruka from the great master Hungkara. They both attained
accomplishment and spread the teachings in Tibet.
King Trisong Deutsen then requested empowerment and instruction from Padmakara.
At Chimphu, the hermitage above Samye, the great master disclosed the mandala
of Eight Heruka Sadhanas into which he initiated nine chief disciples
including the king. Each of them were entrusted with a specific transmission
and all nine attained siddhi through practicing the respective teaching.
Padmakara gave numberless other profound and extraordinary teachings connected
with the three inner tantras to many destined students headed by the king and
his sons and the 25 disciples in Lhodrak, Tidro and many other places.
Guru Rinpoche remained in Tibet for 55 years and six months; 48 years while
the king was alive and seven years and six months afterwards. He arrived
when the king was 21 (810 A.D.). The king passed away at the age of 69.
Padmakara stayed for a few years after that before leaving for the land of the
Padmakara visited in person the 20 snow mountains of Ngari, the 21 places of
practice in Central Tibet and Tsang, the 25 sacred places of Dokham, the three
hidden valleys, and numerous other places each of which he blessed to be a
sacred place of practice. Knowing that a descendant of the king would later
try to destroy Buddhism in Tibet, he gave many predictions for the future.
Conferring with the king and the close disciples, Padmakara concealed
countless terma teachings headed by the eight personal treasures of the king,
the five great mind treasures, and the 25 profound treasures. The reasons for
hiding these termas were to prevent the teachings of Secret Mantra to be
destroyed, to avoid [...] the Vajrayana's [being] corrupted or modified by
intellectuals, to preserve the blessings and to benefit future disciples.
For each of these hidden treasures Padmakara predicted the time of the
disclosure, the person who would reveal them, and the destined recipients who
would hold the teachings.
He manifested in the terrifying wrathful form of crazy wisdom in the
thirteen places named Tiger's Nest binding all the mundane spirits under oath
to serve the Dharma and entrusted them to guard the terma treasures. At
that time he was named Dorje Drollö.
To inspire faith in future generations, he left an imprint of his body at
Bumtang, handprints at Namtso Chugmo and footprints at Paro Drakar as well as
in innumerable other places of practice.
After the death of King Trisong Deutsen, Padmakara placed Mutig Tsenpo on the
throne. He performed a drubchen at Tramdruk where he entrusted the profound
teachings to Gyalsey Lhaje, the second prince, and gave him the prophesy that
he would benefit beings by becoming a revealer of the hidden treasures in
thirteen future lives.
It is impossible to count exactly how many students in Tibet received
empowerment from Padmakara in person, but the most renowned are the original
25 disciples, the intermediate 25 disciples and the later 17 and 21 disciples.
There were 80 of his students who attained rainbow body at Yerpa and also the
108 meditators at Chuwori, the 30 tantrikas at Yangdzong, the 55 realized ones
at Sheldrag. Of female disciples there were the 25 dakini students and
seven yoginis. Many of these close had bloodlines that have continued
until the present day.
When about to leave for the land of rakshas to the southwest, the king, the
ministers and all the disciples tried to dissuade Padmakara from parting but
to no avail. He gave each of them extensive advice and teachings and departed
from the pass of Gungtang, riding on a horse or a lion, accompanied by
numerous divine beings making offerings. At the summit of the Glorious
Copper-colored Mountain on the Chamara continent he liberated Raksha Tötreng,
the king of the rakshas, and assumed his form. After that, he miraculously
created the palace of Lotus Light endowed with inconceivable decorations and
also emanated a replica of himself on each of the surrounding eight islands
where they reside as kings who teach the eight heruka sadhanas.
At present he dwells on the vidyadhara level of spontaneous presence in the
form of the regent of Vajradhara, unshakable for as long as samsara remains.
Full of compassion he sends out emanations to benefit beings. Even after the
teachings of the Vinaya have perished he will appear among the tantric
practitioners. There will be many destined disciples who attain rainbow body.
In the future, when Buddha Maitreya appears in this world, Padmakara will
emanate as Drowa Kundul and spread the teachings of Secret Mantra to
all worthy people.
This short biography is just a partial narration which conforms to what was
perceived by some ordinary students.
~ Erik Pema Kunsang (trans.)
Dakini Teachings. Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1990.