Padmasambhava

ca. 730 - ca. 805

The Sanskrit name of this famous Great Guru translates as "Lotus-born", which is sometimes taken to indicate a miraculous, non-human birth. However, according to other sources, he is said to be the son of Indrabhuti - another famous sage involved with the spreading of Tantra in Tibet - and to have been born in Uddiyana where he was raised by the local royal family.

Also in the Bön tradition, Tibet's old and indigenous religion, Padmasambhava is clearly regarded as historical human being.

When traveling through Tibet in order to subdue all local and fierce demons (that is, non-Buddhist deities) of the then-prevalent shamanic Bön religion, Guru Pema - as Padmasambhava is often called - sometimes resorted to female "manifestations" of himself, for example as the lion-headed Simhamukha.

At other times, the hero himself felt that he needed certain initiations and knowledge that was possessed by Tibet's female adepts, and he did not shrink from actually begging for it, as the fascinating story of Suryachandrasiddhi shows quite clearly.

As a true Tantric, the master initiated, and in turn was initiated as well, (by) a number of ladies; and he took care that all the countries he wanted to enlighten (i.e. turn to his brand of Buddhism) were represented in his choice of women. These his main partners, each of who is regarded as an emanation/incarnation of Vajravarahi, are often referred to as the Five Consorts.

Although Padmasambhava is generally regarded as the historically identifiable founder of Tibetan Buddhism, or Vajrayana, and is held in high esteem by all Tibetan schools, he is especially venerated by the Nyingmapa, where he is regarded as a second Buddha.

The exact year of his birth is not on record but must have been quite some time before 757, the year of his arrival in Tibet (after his departure from India's famous Nalanda University). After having founded the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery at Samye (in 779), he left Tibet in 804 - after which the records remain quit.

The biography of Padmasambhava, written by Yeshe Tsogyal, is known as Padma Kathang.