A Brief Biography of Acharya Padmasambhava

Padmasambhava is recognized as inseparable from the primordial Buddha Samantabhadra, the all-pervading Lord of the three Jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and the master of the three Roots of Lama, Yidam, and Dakini. The glorious Padmasambhava should be definitively understood as being the essence of Buddha Amitabha. Padmasambhava’s life and acts, the account of his life that begins with his birth from a lotus-flower remains the most important to the practice Tantric Buddhism.

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Padmasambhava Brings the Tantric Teachings to Tibet

Padmasambhava is well recognized by Tibetans as ‘Guru Rinpoche’ meaning the ‘Precious Master’ and he is recognized as the second Buddha of our time because according to the biography written by his disciple Yeshe Tsogyal, many events of his early life closely paralleled similar events in the life of Shakyamuni Buddha. Also, Guru Rinpoche succeeded in implanting the practice of Tantric Buddhism throughout the Himalaya region, particularly Tibet. Except for the Buddha, no other human being is so deeply venerated by the Tibetans; thus, Guru Rinpoche is often referred to as ‘the second Buddha’.

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A Brief Biography of Yeshe Tsogyal

Yeshe Tsogyal (777-837 A.D.) was born in a large village in Drag (sbrags) to Namkha Yeshé (her father) and Nubmo Géwa Bum (her mother) of the Karchen clan. When she was born, a spring of fresh water spontaneously burst from the ground and formed a sizable pond next to her house. This pond came to be known as ‘La-Tso’, the divine Lake. This place has now become a famous pilgrimage site for generations of devotees. Her home is situated twenty-five miles south of Lhasa. Here, during the time of her childhood, she left her footprints in stone, thus indicating her noble and sacred birth.

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Yeshe Tsogyal means ‘Victorious Ocean of Timeless Wisdom’. When Padmasambhava was invited to Tibet as a means to propagate the Secret Mantra, he took consorts endowed with special qualities, from the highest heaven down to charnel grounds and sacred places, in divine and human realms, and in domains of Nagas and Gandharvas. Yet in reality, he was never separated from the five emanations of Vajravarahi: the Body-emanation, Mandarava; the Speech-emanation, Yeshe Tsogyal; the Mind-emanation, Shakyadevi; the Quality-emanation, Kalasiddhi; and the Activity-emanation, Tashi Chidren or Kyiden. Finally there was the Dakini Prabhadhara, the emanation of the Suchness aspect, who makes a sixth. Now of these, Indian Mandarava and Tibetan Yeshe Tsogyal were the supreme consorts of Guru Rinpoche. And of these two spiritual consorts, Yeshe Tsogyal was the central figure for preserving the teachings of Guru Rinpoche, spreading tantric Buddhism in Tibet. She eventually became known as Dechen Gyalmo, The Great Bliss Queen.

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A Brief Biography of Arya Sale

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Arya Sale was one of the heart disciples of Guru Padmasambhava and the spiritual companion of Dakini Yeshe Tsogyal. He was an incarnation of Hayagriva, the wrathful aspect of enlightened speech. When Arya Sale was in Nepal, his name was Atsara Sahle and after he reached Tibet along with Yeshe Tsogyal, he was initiated by Guru Padmasambhava and his name then became Arya Sale or Arya Serwoe, which means ‘Sublime Golden Light’. In the Treasure teachings (Terma) of Tagsham, and in the biography of Dakini Yeshe Tsogyal, his name was mentioned as Lhabu Arya Sahle. According to his meeting with Yeshe Tsogyal, he said that he was originally from Serling Suvarnadvipa, India (birthplace of Atisha’s Guru Lama Serlingpa). However, Arya Sale spent the later part of his life in Nepal, where he built a total of seven Vihars at Pattan, and the Nepalese still call him ‘Khatha-Anju’. Guru Padmasambhava predicted to Yeshe Tsogyal that if you wish to attain Buddhahood in a single life then you must seek a companion, so go to Nepal where there is a young boy named Atsara Sale – an incarnation of Hayagriva, who has a mole on the heart as his birthmark.

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Terton Tagsham Nuden Dorje or Orgyen Samten Lingpa

One of the prominent and inspiring Tertons in the 17th century was Tagsham Nuden Dorje, or Ogyen Samten Lingpa (an incarnation of Arya Sale). Many Treasure-teachings (Ter-Choe) of Guru Padmasambhava contained the prophecy that, “Arya Sahle will be reborn in Tsawa Pashod, Kham, in the form of a person who would have tiger’s stripes on his skin. He will become the owner of my secret teachings of Yi-Dham-Gong-Dhue, Padma-Yong-Drol, and spread the teachings that lead to the state of enlightenment in a single life span.” Thus, according to Guru Rinpoche’s prophecy, in 1655, the great Tagsha Nueden Dorje, or Terton Samten Lingpa (an incarnation of Arya Sahle), was born in the Valley of Southeastern Tibet, in Tsawa Pashoe, Kham.

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Je Pema Deje Rolpa

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The glorious master Ripa Pema Deje Rolpa (1803-1880), who was the supreme head of both the family and Dharma lineages of Rigon Tashi Choeling, was born at the end of the 17th Century, in the 13th Tibetan Rabjung cycle. He was recognized by the thirteenth Karmapa, Dudul Dorje as being the reincarnation of Ripa Pawo, a student in the lineage of Tishri Repa, the direct student of Dharma Wangchuk who belonged to the lineage of Barom Kagyu, one of the Four Great Schools of Kagyu lineage descending from the Great Translator Marpa Choekyi Lodoe, during the ‘Second Diffusion of the Buddha Dharma into Tibet’. The Kagyu lineage traces its origin to the Great Indian Mahasiddha Naropa and Tilopa. The Ripa Pawo had gone to the land of Nangchen, in Do Kham, home of the famed Eighteen Meditation Lands where, in the tradition of the life examples of the early masters, he become a child of the mountains, clothing himself in mist, befriending the wild animals, unconcerned with fame, food or clothing. Thus he achieved in one lifetime the Unified State of Vajradhara. Seeing Drubwang Pema Deje Rolpa to be the reincarnation of that great being, the thirteenth Karmapa gave him the name Karma Dragpa Tenzin Gyatso. Having directly seen the face of Guru Rinpoche, he was given the secret name Pema Deje Rolpa. Praised by Kunsang Pema Namgyal as the speech incarnation of Taksham Terchen, he received empowerments, oral transmissions, as well as the pith instructions of the entire cycle of Taksham’s teachings from Kunsang Pema Namgyal, his father Tertön Rigdzin Shiney Droje, Gyalchen Lama Trinley Dorje and others.

Following the example of the early masters, he practiced in strict retreat and mastered the view, meditation and conduct of ‘Tregcho,’ or ‘cutting through,’ as part of the path of the Definitive Great Perfection. Perfecting the Four Visions through the path of ‘Togal’, he was a Great yogin of the Secret Mantrayana. In the year 1830, as an auspicious coincidence for the benefit of beings and as predicted by Dakinis, he founded Rigon Tashi Choeling at Nyima-Phuk in Tsawa Pashod, Kham, where there were approximately 200 monks, or spiritual Sangha, in residence, and a large community of lay people. The ritual practices at the monastery were principally the profound Terma teachings of Taksham Nuden Droje, but in addition, the practices of Drubwang Pema Deje Rolpa’s previous incarnation, Ripa Pawo, were also perfectly upheld.

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