Tibetan history credits Guru Padmasambhava as one of the founding fathers of Buddhism in Tibet along with Acharya Shantarakshita of India. He was one of the famous seventeen outstanding Pandit scholars of Nalanda Monastic University in India.
Guru Padmasambhava, a great Indian tantric master of the 8th century is an important figure in Buddhism. He was instrumental in establishing Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet and Bhutan and is popularly known as Guru Rinpoche, meaning the treasured master among his disciples.
Tibetan tradition records that when the king of Tibet Trisong Detsan was building a monastery, strong demonic forces disturbed the construction of the monastery, therefore, the king to tame the forces invited the great Indian followers Shantarakshita and Padmasambhava to Tibet.
Later, King Trisong Detsan, Shantarakshita and Padmasambhava together built the first Buddhist monastery known as Samye Ling in Tibet where the first monk ordination ceremony was held for seven Tibetans.
In addition, a school of Sanskrit study has also been established and many Buddhist texts in Sanskrit have been translated into the Tibetan language. Padmasambhava’s arrival and teachings in Tibet mark the beginning of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. The name Nyingma literally means the ancient, in the sense of being the oldest Tibetan tradition.
There are mythical and legendary stories regarding the birth of Guru Padmasambhava. The first states that Guru Padmasambhava was miraculously born at the age of eight from a blooming lotus flower in Lake Danakosha, in the land of Uddiyana. His Tibetan name is Padma Jungney, translated from the Sanskrit name Padmakara, which means “from a lotus”. Thus, he is aptly named after his mode of birth.
Uddiyana’s actual location is debated; some scholars locate this land as the state of Odisha in India while others believe it to be in the Swat Valley region of once undivided India and modern Pakistan.
Today, the figure and cult of Guru Padmasambhava dominates Bhutanese Buddhism and most sacred sites, including the two holiest places of Bumthang and Paro, are dedicated to him. During his life, Guru Padmasambhava traveled through Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal and the various Himalayan regions of India where he founded the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.
Today, Guru Padmasambhava’s footprints in these countries exist in the form of monuments, relics and folklore associated with his spiritual and religious activities. Among his followers he is seen as an enlightened force that exists beyond spatial and temporal constructs, beyond birth and death. The annual Hemis festival in Ladakh commemorates the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava. Similarly, in Bhutan, the annual Tseshu festival is celebrated on the tenth day of the month in the Bhutanese lunar calendar to honor him. (IANS)