Padmasambhava means ‘Lotus-Born’, which refers to Guru Rinpoche's birth from a lotus in the land of  Oddiyana. Guru Rinpoche, the ‘Precious Master’, is the founder of Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet and the Buddha of our time. Padmasambhava came into this world to teach the tantras. Padmasambhava personifies the guru principle, the heart of  Vajrayana Buddhism.


Miraculous Birth of Padmasambhava. 
In the north-western part of the land of Oddiyana, on an island in the lake of Dhanakosha, the blessings of all the buddhas took shape in the form of a multi-coloured lotus flower. Moved by compassion at the suffering of sentient beings, the Buddha Amitabha sent out from his heart a golden vajra, marked with the syllable HRIH, which descended onto the lotus blossom. It transformed into an exquisitely beautiful eight year old child, endowed with all the major and minor marks of perfection, and holding a vajra and a lotus. At that moment all the buddhas of the ten directions, together with hundreds of thousands of dakinis from different celestial realms, invoked the blessings and the incarnation of all the buddhas for the benefit of beings and the flourishing of the secret mantra teachings. Their invocation is known as ‘The Seven Verses of the Vajra’, or ‘The Seven Line Prayer’.


My father is the pure awareness of rigpa, Samantabhadra,
My mother, the space of all things, Samantabhadri,
My line, the indivisibility of awareness and space,
My name, the glorious Lotus Born,
My homeland, the unborn
My sustenance, consuming dualistic thoughts,
My destiny, to accomplish the actions of the buddhas of past, present and future. 

~Guru Padmasambhava~

8 Manifestations of Padmasambhava
quoted from: Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava, Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche.  translated by the Venerable Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche


Guru Rinpoche incarnated as a fully enlightened being. Through his form, primordial wisdom manifested in the world to benefit all sentient beings.

Buddha Shakyamuni actually predicted Guru Padmasambhava's appearance in several different sutras and tantras contain clear predictions of his coming and activities.In the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, Buddha Shakyamuni announced his parinirvana to the students who were with him at the time. Many of them, particularly Ananda, the Buddha's cousin and personal attendant, were quite upset upon hearing this. So Buddha turned to Ananda and told him not to worry. "Eight years after my parinirvana, 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. Buddha Shakyamuni also said Padmasambhava would be an emanation of Buddha Amitabha and Avalokitésvara and referred to him as the embodiment of all the buddhas of the three times. Many prophecies indicate that Guru Rinpoche would be a fully enlightened buddha, appearing in this world to help sentient beings.

For the most part, Buddha Shakyamuni presented Hinayana and Sutra Mahayana teachings, while Guru Padmasambhava taught the Vajrayana. Both revealed the complete and perfect path to awakening so that individuals of all capacities would be able to benefit. The absolute level of the Buddha's teaching is beyond conception. If it did not go beyond the conceptual level, there would be no need to change our normal way of understanding things. To help us realize the primordial nature, Buddha Shakyamuni taught again and again that we must transcend clinging to ordinary dualistic conceptions, narrow attitudes, close mindedness, traditional rules, beliefs and limitations.

The ultimate meaning of the highest teaching is not readily understood by sentient beings. This is why Buddha Shakyamuni kept silent for forty-nine days after his enlightenment. He thought, "I have realized the most profound and subtle dharma, the clear light free of all complexity. However, this is much too deep for normal people to understand. Therefore, I will remain silent." He knew how hard it would be to communicate the truth of his insight. Although he eventually taught tirelessly for forty-five years, his first thought reflects the extraordinary nature of the state into which he had awakened relative to mundane ideas and conceptions.

Sutra is a Sanskrit word meaning "condensed or summarized." Scripture bearing this title indicates that these teachings were directly communicated in the world in order to provide a clear understanding of both the relative and absolute aspects of our existence. They provide knowledge with which a practitioner can realize buddhahood.

Most of Buddha Shakyamuni's teachings address ordinary beings and offer a direct means of understanding the nature of our experience. It is a non-esoteric view which appeals to common logic, with tenets that can be verified by close observation of the elements which constitute our everyday world. With this knowledge, you can move toward enlightenment. This is the basic intention of Sutra Mahayana.

The Vajrayana is also known as Tantra. Tantric teachings are based upon the Sutra Mahayana, but offer additional means and methods. Vajrayana practices encourage us to take a deeper look at our perceptions, to understand the primordial nature and learn to maintain mind in that state. The Sutras may be called general teachings which clarify the nature of conditional mind and perception, while the Vajrayana reveals the secret structure of phenomena and is for more advanced practitioners. Although they share the same foundation, the Vajrayana goes further toward understanding transcendental reality. To practice both Sutra and Tantra together can bring enlightenment within this life, even within a very short period of time. Such acceleration distinguishes Vajrayana techniques.

The Buddha only gave Vajrayana teachings privately, to select groups of disciples. Because the essence and even the form of these higher teachings is beyond common conception, they are also known as secret teachings. After the Buddha entered mahaparinirvana, these secret doctrines were preserved by a host of wisdom dakinis.

When Guru Rinpoche appeared, he revealed the Vajrayana teachings in their entirety. This is why Guru Rinpoche is known as the Buddha of the Vajrayana.

On the dharmakaya level, Guru Rinpoche is known as the primordial buddha, Samantabhadra. Inseparable from Buddha Shakyamuni and all fully enlightened beings, he lives as those who are never obscured or deluded, always free in the ultimate sphere of dharmakaya. He is our true nature, which is also known as all-pervading primordial wisdom because it suffuses every external and internal object in the ten directions unceasingly and is known as the dharmakaya Guru Padmasambhava. Fully awakened, this great equanimity is completely free of all conditional marks or complexities.

The dharmakaya continuously emanates five wisdoms in all directions. These appear as the five dhyani buddhas or the families of wrathful, semi-wrathful, and peaceful conquerors and their retinues. All these buddhas are Guru Padmasambhava in sambhogakaya form, emanating wisdom light to liberate all sentient beings in the six realms. Different emanations of Guru Rinpoche appear in each of the six realms as well as in every direction within those realms to teach sentient beings according to their capabilities and gradually lead them all to enlightenment. There are one hundred million Guru Padmasambhavas' helping sentient beings throughout the universe.

These represent his nirmanakaya aspect. Guru Rinpoche may take any number of forms within any realm. He is not limited to appearing in any particular guise. His character and way of teaching will vary depending on the sentient beings to be instructed.

In the mundane sense, Guru Padmasambhava's activities are called "miraculous," but from the viewpoint of absolute reality, these are not unusual phenomena. They are the natural, spontaneous activity of the true nature. From the perspective of realization, our normal, everyday activities are somewhat odd and unnatural. In this sense, we are great magicians, conjuring up something totally unreal.

When Guru Padmasambhava appeared on earth, he came as a human being. In order to dissolve our attachment to dualistic conceptions and destroy complex neurotic fixations, he also exhibited some extraordinary manifestations. If we try to compare our situation and capacities with that of Guru Padmasambhava and other realized beings, we will run into some difficulty. Our actions are based in dualistic ideas and habit patterns while Guru Padmasambhava's activities arise spontaneously out of the great equanimity of the true nature. Non-dual activities are incomprehensible within the scope of dualistic understanding.

There are many stories explaining how Guru Padmasambhava was born. Some say that he instantly appeared on the peak of Meteorite Mountain, in Sri Lanka. Others teach that he came through his mother's womb, but most accounts refer to a miraculous birth, explaining that he spontaneously appeared in the center of a lotus. These stories are not contradictory because highly realized beings abide in the expanse of great equanimity with perfect understanding and can do anything. Everything is flexible, anything is possible. Enlightened beings can appear in any way they want or need to.

Our own world is divided into six realms; gods, asuras, humans, animals, hungry ghosts and hell realms. To help liberate all sentient beings, there is a special buddha as well as eight emanations of Guru Padmasambhava, in each of those realms. That is, there are eight emanations of Guru Padmasambhava in the god realm, eight in the asura realm, and so on. Each emanation displays unique qualities in relation to the beings to be served and might be unrecognizable by any outer signs. In the human world he displayed one hundred and eight activities. These are summarized within his twenty emanations and are most easily comprehensible as the eight manifestations of Guru Padmasambhava. I

Now you might wonder, "Why are there eight emanations instead of seven or nine?" Eight is a very special number in Buddhist philosophy. There are many meanings associated with the number eight. In a geographic sense, the eight emanations symbolize that Guru Padmasambhava offers assistance to all sentient beings in the eight directions. According to the abhidharma, the elements which make up both the external universe and the inner dimensions of sentient beings are based on eight original, very subtle atoms. These are the foundation our world is constructed on. Even the finest particles consist of aggregations of these eight. Four are known as the atoms of fire, water, earth and wind. These comprise the desire realm. Because our world has qualities of the form realm as well, there are another four atoms having to do with the aspects of shape, smell, the past and the present. Although they are very small, all eight of these hold together and give rise to coarse atoms and molecules. Nobody created these things, no one ordered them to be like this. They are just part of the natural formation of the world. There is not much more that can be said about them.

On the inner level, there are the eight consciousnesses. Five are related to the sense organs; eye, ear, nose, tongue and body. The sixth is the mind consciousness, the seventh is emotional consciousness and the eighth is known as the subconscious storehouse or ground consciousness. These eight consciousnesses outline the science of the inner world. Mind is vast and profound, the depth from which everything arises. The outer world emerges from and reflects this inner world. So subjectively, these eight emanations are related to the eight consciousnesses.

Also, in learning to actualize knowledge of the true nature, we practice the Eightfold Noble Path to full realization. The inner tantras contain many other teachings relating to the number eight. Our physical structure has eight big bones, there are eight major energy pathways and eight general divisions which define ego's territory.

Externally, this is symbolized by the eight great charnel grounds. In elaborate mandalas, you will find eight cemeteries, eight trees and eight stupas, eight bodies of water, eight nagas and eight gods. Eight is the number of completion in Vajrayana mandala space.

The Eight Emanations of Guru Padmasambhava are quite popular in Tibet. Many different meanings and symbols are associated with them. Externally, Guru Rinpoche's emanations may be seen as reflections of his all-pervading nature. Internally, they are the eight consciousnesses. The transformation of the eight consciousness into the five wisdoms is the secret way to understand the theme of these desciriptions. Taken together, the eight manifestations communicate all three levels of meaning.

1. Guru Padma Gyalpo which means "lotus king."
2. Guru Nyima Özer, meaning "ray of sun." 
3. Loden Chokse, which is roughly translated as "the super-knowledge holder." 
4. Guru Padmasambhava. This name is Sanskrit but even in Tibet, this is how we refer to this emanation. Padma means lotus, which is a symbol of spiritual perfection. Sambhava has many different usages, although in this case it means essence, so Padmasambhava signifies "lotus essence." 
5. Guru Shakya Sengé. Shakya is a Sanskrit word and part of the family name of Buddha Shakyamuni. It means undefeatable or courageous. Sengé is a Tibetan word which means lion, so this title means "undefeatable lion." 
6. Padma Jungné. In Sanskrit, this is translated as Guru Padmakara. Padma is lotus and kara is translated into Tibetan as jungné, meaning "arisen from." So this name means "born from a lotus." 
7. Guru Sengé Dradok. In Sanskrit it is Singha Nadi which translates as "the lion's roar." 
8. Guru Dorje Drolo. Dorje is the Tibetan word for vajra. Dro'lo means ultimately or insanely wrathful, sometimes translated as "crazy wisdom." That is the name of the eighth emanation.

All the activities of Guru Padmasambhava performed in this world may be roughly summarized within these eight aspects.

Guru Rinpoche Mantra:

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