Considered to be a manifestation of Buddha Amitabha, Padmasambhava whose name can be translated to mean The Lotus Born, or the Glorious Lotus Born, was a guru who is credited with having spread Buddhism to Tibet, Bhutan, and other countries. Known for his diverse nature, Padmasambhava was known for being a teacher, a scholar, a meditator, and even a magician.
Teachings say that Padmasambhava was incarnated to be an eight year old little boy, who is said to have appeared floating in Lake Dhanakosha, seated upon a white lotus blossom. Stories say that his unique and gentle nature was recognized by a local king by the name of Oddiyana. Oddiyana was a king without an heir and he chose this small boy to take over his kingdom and become his sole heir. However, Padmasambhava opted to leave the kingdom where he found solice in Tibet; ultimately teaching the ways of Tantric Buddhism to a local king’s daughter, Mandarava.
It is said that Oddiyana found Padmasambhava, and was distraught over his abandonment and tried to burn him. However it is believed that once the smoke from the fire had cleared away, Padmasambhava was shown to be in deep meditation without a single burn or mark on his body. King Oddiyana again offered Padmasambhava the kingdom, and agreed to allow him to keep his consort, Mandarava; however, Padmasambhava opted instead to leave with his consort.
Padmasambhava then spent many years in Nepal, practicing rituals with Mandarava. Amitayus, the deity of long-life appeared to them both; they both then achieved immortal bodies. Followers of Padmasambhava believe that Padmasambhava and Mandarava are still alive and actively pursuing their teachings. Padmasambhava founded the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet, where he was responsible for the initiation of the first monks in Tibet. He also introduced the monks and other people in Tibet to the practice of Tantric Buddhism.
Padmasambhava is said to have had five primary female tantric companions. They are very often referred to as the “Five Wisdom Dakinis.” They are described, by Padmasambhava himself as the five women who were given access to his heart. The tantric rites that they practiced were thought to have banished the Tibetan demons, allowing them to return then as protectors of Tibet instead.
It is said that Padmasambhava skillfully hid numerous important teachings and religious artifacts around the Himalayans, in caves, forests, lakes, and fields. The purpose of this was that these items could then be interpreted by spiritual leaders who found them. Padmasambhava established the path of Buddhism known as Vajrayana Buddhism. This ultimately transformed the belief system of the entire Tibetan nation. The mantra of Padmasambhava is reflective of his diverse nature, and is recited as the following.
Om Ah Hum Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hum The majority of mantras in Buddhism do not have one literal English translation, which can often make it a challenge to wholly understand the essence of the mantra. However, the Padmasambhava mantra can be loosely translated to read as follows.
1. Om - Not only can Om be considered to be the essence of the five wisdoms, but it can also be reflective of an awareness of the surrounding universe. It is used at the start of many mantras and should be considered to mean “My mind and heart are open to the truths that follow.”
2. Ah - Ah is often thought to be connected with speech, but can also be thought to mean “to signify” or “to express.” This is suggestive of evoking the true manifestation of enlightenment.
3. Hum - Hum is often thought to represent the true manifestation of enlightenment by the sentient being.
4. Vajra - This is thought to be representative of the energy that the enlightened mind holds. It can be shown as a thunderbolt or a diamond, with the idea that these two objects can cut through anything. It is also representative of compassion.
5. Guru – Guru is, of course, representative of a wise and enlightened teacher. Padmasambhava is held in such high esteem by those who revere him that he is very often referred to as being the second Buddha.
Padma – Padma is representative of the lotus, which calls to mind the pureness and wholesomeness of an enlightened mind. This is due to the lotus’s ability to grow purely in muddy waters, just like the enlightened mind is surrounded by delusions, greed, and hatred found in the sentient world.
Siddhi – This is the term used to represent an accomplishment.
The Padmasambhava mantra can then be thought to mean something similar to the following.
I invoke you, Vajra Guru, Padmasambhava, by your blessing may you grant us ordinary and supreme realization. Something that is vital to remember about Buddhist mantras is that the guidance offered is typically more of a spiritual nature so that the person reciting the mantra can find his or her own way on the pathway towards enlightenment.
When it comes to illustrations and other depictions of Padmasambhava, there is a great variety in what can be found. He is often shown as a small boy of about eight years old. His skin is typically shown as being pale white, with just the slightest touches of red. In the majority of illustrations, Padmasambhava is easily recognizable for the five-pronged vajra he holds in his right hand. In his left hand he is very typically shown holding a traditional skull-cap. The skull-cap contains a vase that is filled with the nectar of infinite wisdom. Cradled in his left arm is the khatvanga that is representative of his consort, Mandarava.
On Padmasambhava's head is a lotus hat, the lotus has five petals. Almost all depictions of Padmasambhava show him as smiling, being cheerful and happy. He is shown as glowing, resplendent with the wisdom that he is well-known for teaching and sharing with those who are on their own path towards enlightenment. His body is clad in traditional dharma robes and a silken gown and cloak. He is seated in the royal posture befitting his status in all realms.
If you would like to start a practice with Padmasambhava- please check out our Padmasambhava thangka.