The Life and Liberation

guru-rinpoche

The Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava (excerpt)

by Tarthang Tulku

When Lord Buddha was about to pass into final Nirvana,
he said to his followers, “This worldly life is transitory
and separation is inevitable. But eight years from now, in
the midst of an immaculately pure lake in the northwest
land of Uddiyana, one will appear who is wiser and more
powerful than myself. Born from the center of a lotus
blossom, he will be known as Padmasambhava and will
reveal the teachings of the Secret Mantras to deliver all
beings from misery.”YE-SHEY TSO-GYAL, Padma Thang Yig

Padmasambhava, the renowned saint and scholar of the eighth century, became a central figure in the shaping of Buddhism’s history in Tibet. Born from the lotus of compassion and revered as the ‘second Buddha’, he entered this world to enlighten all beings. As his biography relates, Padmasambhava is the manifestation of the mind of Avalokitesvara, the speech of Amitabha, and the body of Sakyamuni Buddha. All the Buddhas of the Ten Directions and the Three Times of past, present and future are identical in essence and unitively embodied in Padmasambhava. Just as the Buddha’s teaching is the same for all but is interpreted variously by those on different stages of the spiritual path, so Padmasambhava appears in different ways according to the receptivity of those seeking liberation.
This account of Padmasambhava’s life story operates on many levels. While his origins as well as various episodes in his career are shrouded in mystery, we know that he appeared on this earth as a great seeker and integrator of the Vajrayana teachings. In worldly matters, such as language, logic, the earth sciences, the fine arts, and even architecture, Padmasambhava was the quintessence of a true ‘renaissance man’. In his travels, he exhaustively mastered the teachings of human end ‘non-human’ guides, practiced austerities to subdue the demons of cupidity-attachment, aversion-hatred and bewilderment-erring, received numerous initiations and appellations, and, at the time of his invitation to Tibet, was renowned as the foremost scholar and Tantric master at the University of Nalanda. Upon his arrival in Tibet, he did not entertain obstacles but instantly transmuted countless manifestations of negativity and, in a short time, safeguarded the Tantric teachings in the hearts and minds of the Tibetan people.

In the grandeur of the mountain highlands, Padmasambhava encountered numerous capricious spirits, personifications of the emotional undercurrent of the entire Tibetan civilization. At once he was faced with the prevailing powers of primitive mythic beliefs, hostile natural forces and wrathful wielders of destructive magic. His first task, therefore, was to provide new explanations for ancient understandings and to demonstrate, in a skillful and unsullied manner, the deepest and most mystic aspects of human existence. He could not ignore the pre-existing Tibetan predilection for magic and the world of spirits, for Buddhism has always recognized that demonic or godlike forms are the expression of our own minds. To subdue wrathful spirits is to tame our own emotionality, and thus the very obstacles to our spiritual progress. To some therefore, the magical acts performed by Padmasambhava may appear to be an ostentatious display of his psychic accomplishments. However, his miraculous acts were in actuality a pretense for something else. By encountering these malevolent demons, he not only transformed their hostile displays into an energetic appreciation for the Dharma, but entrusted to their charge the responsibility of protecting and safeguarding the sacred teachings. Similarly, his words and deeds sent a shaft of fear into the minds of the Tibetans and stirred them with hope, offering to the king and his subjects a dramatic opportunity to express their confidence in him. In this way he carefully prepared them to receive the liberating teachings of the Tantras. Until they sought out the truth in their own minds, the Guru illustrated that they would remain helpless against the demons who inflicted wrath upon the country.

As the dispeller of darkness and the immediate expression of Buddhahood, Guru Rinpoche addresses himself to the consciousness of all beings. More implicitly, episodes in Padmasambhava’s biography express meditation experiences through events in the outer world. To some, for example, he may appear as the wrathful deity, Dorje Drolo, fearlessly treading underfoot the ever-deceptive ego and severing karmic entanglements by wielding his three-edged dagger (phur-bu). To others he appears as the central figure of a radiant Mandala, an all-discerning friend, refuge and inner guide. By subduing the self-created demons and fascinations of our individual predispositions, he lays bare the apparitional nature of all eelfish aims and exposes the mind as utterly pure and ready to receive any content without bias. He challenges every manifestation of negativity with an attitude that each situation in life, regardless of its outward appearance, can prove to be an instruction in truth.

If, in the course of Guru Rinpoche’s biography, certain episodes seem ambiguous or are couched in metaphorical language, it is because the essential meaning is revealed in silence, beneath the level of specific language, such that one is left to measure and test the authenticity of his own psychological insights from within the meditation.

On the most inner level, Padmasambhava is not intended to be viewed as a mere historical figure having a psycho-somatic constitution just like ours, for he is no ordinary being. He is like a rainbow pure, transparent, untouchable and clear. He is all-knowing and all beauty the Buddhas of the Three Times shine from the pores of his skin. His entire form is pure light in a world of absolute perfection. He sits on a lotus seat of compassion and a sun throne of highest wisdom which resides in the heart of the meditator. From here, the illuminated mind of the Guru fills the Ten Directions of space like the rays of the sun, the embodiment of the Tri-kaya: his view is all-embracing, absolute awareness (Dharmakaya), his thoughts are in perfect attunement with every situation, self-lucent (Sambhogakaya), and all his actions the on-going expression of the very nature of the universe (Nirmanakaya). Timeless, ageless and deathless, unoriginated, not dependent on externals and without suffering, he manifests through a variety of forms which he assumes at various times-and in this time-to teach the Diamond Path.

Constant and mindful meditation on the pure essence of the Guru destroys all selfish desires, inappropriate qualities and unnecessary delusions, so that one learns to view every situation as the means to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime. Ordinarily, the mind is diffused and wandering, but when this meditation is properly enacted, every form which one sees becomes the body of Padmasambhava, every sound which one hears, the speech of Padmasambhava, and all action, the mind of Padmasambhava.

from : tonglen.oceandrop.org

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