|Padmasambhava. Source: buddhism-edinburgh.blogspot.com|
So lately I have been attending a meditation course in a centre which is of the Nyingmapa tradition (there are four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, Nyingmapa is the first and oldest of those schools) – a form of Vajrayana Buddhism said to have been introduced to Tibet by Padmasambhava and which includes teachings on Tantra and Dzogchen. Padmasambhava is a giant within this tradition. Adherents are encouraged to meditate on his image and to chant his mantra. To say he is revered is an understatement. Although his name is not new to me I have never really felt him coming into my life until now – so … who is he?
Who is Padmasambhava?
Padmasambhava is described as the “father of Tibetan Buddhism” (Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying at 43) for “Buddhism in its Tantric form was principally introduced by Padmasambhava” (Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, Dzogchen: The Self-Perfected State at 14), but he is regarded as being far more than just a historical figure. Essentially, he can be described as a principle deity of Vajrayana Buddhism who dwells in a “glorious pure realm, the palace of lotus light on the copper-coloured mountain” – many Vajrayana Buddhists pray to Padmasambhava to be reborn in this realm (Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying at 240-241). A Buddhist deity can be described as “a manifestation of enlightened wisdom” (Lama Lodo, Bardo Teachings: The Way of Death and Rebirth at 68). Sogyal Rinpoche underscores Padmasambhava’s role as a primary Buddhist deity when he writes:
“All the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and enlightened beings are present at all moments to help us … Those who know Padmasambhava know the living truth of the promise he made over a thousand years ago: ‘I am never far from those with faith, or even those without it, though they do not see me. My children will always, always be protected by my compassion’ [Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying at 147].”