As taught by Padmasambhava from Orgyen
Padmasambhava, the Lotus-Born Guru, widely known in Tibet as Guru Rinpoche, the Precious Guru, is the great Indian master that brought Buddha's teachings to Tibet during the eight century of our era. Although he is the central figure of the Old School of Tibetan Buddhism, the Nyingma School, he is universally worshipped by the followers of all the Buddhist Schools in the Himalayan area. Most of the great siddhas and vidyadharas of India and Tibet are considered to be his emanations. Within the Kagyu School, it is said that Tilopa, Marpa, Gampopa and all the Karmapas are emanations of him.
Padmasambhava is the atemporal figure of the perfect tantric master, the embodiment of the spirit of the whole tantric movement. His life story is a mix of symbolic and real facts depicting the ideal tantric practice, realization and activity as incarnated by all the great siddhas and vidyadharas of India and Tibet.
At the level of the dharmakaya, the absolute dimension of enlightenment, he is the primordial buddha himself: the liberated ground of primordial purity, the essence of all the Buddhas of past, present and future, and of our own indestructible, enlightened buddha nature, present from the very beginning.
At the level of the sambhogakaya, the glorious dimension of enlightenment, he spontaneously manifests as the boundless array of all the enlightened qualities represented by the five buddha families and, as external manifestation of this self-appearing display, he appears to all the Bodhisattvas on the ten bhumis as countless sceneries of bodily forms in the visionary buddhafields of the five families.
By the power of this wisdom display he appears in countless worlds of the ten directions as the magical apparition of wisdom incarnations in order to tame beings. So, he represents particularly the perfect Nirmanakaya, the incarnated dimension of all the Buddhas of past, present and future, of which our Root Lama is (own to be) the living example and presence. As such, he manifests in every place and at all times in order to teach (especially) the Vajrayana, the supreme, ultimate Vehicle of Fruit.
For these reasons, Guru Rinpoche is also famous as the 'Second Buddha', or the Buddha for our times. It is said that in this Dark Age, afflicted by the three calamities of sickness, famine and warfare, when human beings, despite their arrogant belief in their so-called 'civilization', are overcame by all kind of negativities, the ordinary spiritual paths are often ineffective in neutralizing their delusion. This is the reason for which all the Buddhas of the three times manifest under the form of Padmasambhava in order to teach the extra-ordinary path of Vajrayana.
In particular, it is said that, when asked to teach the Tantras, the Buddha Sakyamuni prophesized that, twelve years after his parinirvana (after his death), he would manifest again in a miraculously borne form in order to teach the profound path of Vajrayana.
At that time, the land of Uddiyana, Orgyen in Tibetan – which some modern scholars identify with the valley of Swat, at the borders of the now a days Afghanistan and Pakistan – was ruled by the Buddhist Dharma-King Indrabodhi. Indrabodhi was blind, had thousand queens but couldn't have any child. To get an heir, he emptied out his treasury by making offerings to the Three Jewels and giving alms to the poor. As a last resort, he embarked on a journey on the Dhanakosha Lake, in the northwestern region of the land of Orgyen, in order to find a wish-fulfilling jewel. Thanks to this wish-fulfilling jewel, he found the light from one eye, but he was still blind from the other one and without heir. On his return, at the sunrise of the tenth day of the sixth lunar month of the monkey's year, a red syllable HRI, emanated from the heart of the Great Compassionate One, the form taken by the Spirit of Enlightenment conceived by the Buddha of Boundless Light – the primordial Buddha himself, the Dharmakaya, the full enlightened state, the essence of all the Buddhas of past, present and future, and of our own indestructible buddha-nature – appeared over a red lotus floating in the middle of the great lake. The syllable HRI, in a flash of light, turned into a eight years old child, adorned with all the major and minor marks of perfection of a Buddha, dazzling with limitless light and surrounded by a retinue of countless Dakinis, feminine celestial beings, embodiment of the enlightened wisdom of the Buddhas that, it is said, are the holders and messengers of all the tantric teachings.
Someone takes this story literally and maintains that Guru Rinpoche really appeared in this world in such a miraculous way.
Others interpret it metaphorically. In fact, the lake, like the sea, has always been a symbol of the feminine. The lotus, in Vajrayana, is, between other, a symbol of the womb, while the sun and the moon, which appear over the lotus in most of the tantric visualizations, represent the pure aspect of the feminine and masculine elements coming from our parents, i.e. the egg and the sperm. The seed-syllable, from its side, represents the consciousness that enters the womb and unites with the egg and the sperm to form the fetus of the new to-be-born person. From another point of view, the lake represents the primordial wisdom expanse. The lotus, which is born from the lake, is the enlightened mind. The sun is its wisdom, the realization of the absolute truth. The moon is the great compassion, which arises for all beings that, not realizing this, are bounded to the unending ocean of suffering of samsara. The seed-syllable is the essence of this enlightened awareness, the non-dual union of wisdom and compassion, which results in an enlightened presence in this world that benefits beings until they have all reached enlightenment and samsara is totally emptied. So, metaphorically – like the lotus, that has its roots in the mud, grows throughout the water and blows, unstained, on the air over it – all this process symbolize the spontaneous and primordially pure expression of our own enlightened potential which, unstained by the veils that accompany our 'entering' in this world, manifests within samsara and shows the extra-ordinary path toward enlightenment.
For this reason, some even claim that Guru Rinpoche is a purely symbolic figure, a mythical personification of the whole tantric movement that, according to this account, started with the very first realization happened to the great tantric master and king Indrabodhi, continued with its development and spreading in India and Tibet, and reached until our days through an ever-growing net of tantric yogins and yoginis.
Whatever the case, it is said that Guru Rinpoche appeared in this world in such a miraculous way and became famous as the Lotus-Born Guru, Padmasambhava.
At its view, king Indrabodhi, overwhelmed by joy, recovered the sight from both eyes and toke him at the palace as his heir. Guru Rinpoche grew up, married the princess Prabhadhari and ruled his kingdom, spreading the teachings of the Dharma of the Great Vehicle until all his subjects attained perfect enlightenment.
After that, he left from his country and, as the Buddha Sakyamuni itself, become a wandering yogi.
From Ananda, the main disciple of the Buddha, he received the Sutra transmission. After being ordained by the great master Prabahasti, he practiced and accomplished all the teachings of the Small and Great Vehicles. From the great masters Garab Dorje, Buddhaguhya, Shri Singha, Manjushrimitra, Nararjuna, Hungchenkara, Vimalamitra, Dhanasamskrita, Prabhahasti, Shantimgarbha and many others, he received the initiations, the transmissions and the explanations of countless tantric teachings of the Vajra Vehicle with, first of all, those of the Great Perfection. After that, he meditated in the eight great charnel grounds and other sacred places – the frightening places of our deluded emotions – where, subjugating the power of evil by detachment, his practice culminated in the revelation of many auspicious signs of achievement.
When the fear of heterodox teachers arose in Vajrasana, the modern Bodhgaya, India's most holy place, he vanquished their contentiousness with his miraculous powers. The five hundred scholars who were there became his disciples and the Buddha's doctrine was preserved in Vajrasana for long.
Then, living the great scholar Vimalamitra as his representative, he journeyed to the country of Zahor where he met the princess Mandarava who became his spiritual consort. Misunderstood by the king, they were to be burned alive but, upon unleashing his miraculous powers, Padmasambhava transformed the fire that was to consume them into a lake, Rewalsar, known in Tibetan as Tso Pema. The country of Zahor became studded with yogins and the Buddha's doctrine remained there for long.