The Guru Rinpoche thangkas do very well among the Vajrayana practitioners as the mystical Mahaguru had many heroic and otherworldly tales in his journey of founding Tibetan Buddhism, He is the lotus-born second-Buddha, and is also famous as Padmasambhava, with the main consorts being Mandarava and Yeshe Tsogyal.
Guru Rinpoche: The Lotus-Born Master and the Second Buddha
Guru Rinpoche, also known by his Tibetan name Padmasambhava, meaning "Lotus-Born," is a pivotal figure in the history of Buddhism, particularly within the Vajrayana school of Tibet. Born miraculously from a lotus in Dhanakosha Lake, Guru Rinpoche's life is woven with teachings, miracles, and legends.
Revered as the "Second Buddha," he introduced Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century. Invited by Tibetan King Trisong Detsen to assist in building Samye, the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet, Guru Rinpoche overcame local spirits and deities, transforming them into guardians of the Dharma. In doing so, he harmoniously blended Buddhism with Tibet's traditional spiritual beliefs.
Attributes and Iconography
Depictions of Guru Rinpoche often feature a complex array of symbols that encapsulate his actions and teachings. Typically shown seated, adorned with a lotus headdress and royal attire, these symbols signify his lotus birth and mastery over the realms of Samsara and Nirvana.
His left-hand rests in his lap, holding a skull cup filled with wisdom nectar and a vase of immortality, while his right-hand grasps a vajra, symbolizing the unshakable nature of an enlightened mind. Draped over his shoulder is a khatvanga, a staff representing his consort Mandarava and his authority over life and death. His compassionate yet penetrating gaze conveys his boundless love for sentient beings and his ability to see beyond the veils of ignorance.
Associated Stories and Legacy
The life of Guru Rinpoche abounds with profound lessons and extraordinary narratives. One of the most renowned stories involves his triumph over the local deity Pehar, which elevated him to the status of the principal protector of the Dharma in Tibet. Another version describes his retreat with his consort, Mandarava, in the Maratika cave, where they practiced longevity and attained immortality.
As long as Tertons (treasure revealers) continue to discover and disseminate Guru Rinpoche's teachings, especially the terma (hidden treasures), his wisdom will remain timeless and accessible. He not only constructed monasteries and imparted knowledge but also left an indelible mark on Tibetan Buddhism as a Buddha and a guiding force leading all toward enlightenment.
Padmasambhava's profound influence on the spiritual landscape of Tibet and the Himalayan region is immeasurable. He transformed obstacles into opportunities and adversaries into allies and ensured that the light of the Dharma shone brightly in the Land of Snows as the Lotus-Born Master. His life and teachings continue to inspire countless individuals, guiding them toward compassion and enlightenment.