Dharmapala Thangka CentreIconography

Tibetan Iconography


Padmasambhava, Lotus born Guru, [tib.: »bla.ma.pad.ma. ´byun. gnas« oder »Guru Rin-poche«] is very prominent historical figure worshiped as deity in Tibetan Buddhism. In the middle of the eighth century AD, the Tibetan king Thi-Sron Detsan sent to India inviting the learned guru Padmashambhava to come to Tibet. Padmasambhava was renowned for his knowledge of dharani [mystical sentences] and of their efficacious application, and was warmly welcomed. He remained fifty years in the country, founding monasteries, and teaching the Tantra-Yogacarya doctrine. He is said to have subdued all the malignant gods in Tibet, sparing only those that became converted to Buddhism and that promised to enroll them in the Mahayana Pantheon and to see that they were properly worshiped. He claimed to have received from the dakini the books from which he acquired his miraculous power.

At the end of fifty years, Padmashambhava disappeared miraculously, and is said to have entered the body of Yaksha king, where he has reined supreme 'over all the Yakshas up till the present day, and in perpetual youth is preaching doctrine of Lamaism in a paradise which rivals that of Amitabha's western heaven of Sukhavati'.

Padmashmbhava is still worshiped by people of Lamaist pantheon as divine guru [teacher]. He is represented seated on a lotus asana [posture] with the legs locked, the right hand holding the vajra, and the left, lying his lap, the patra [bowl]. He holds his special symbol, the khatvanga [which is believed to have invented], pressed against his breast with the left arm. Padmashambhava, who used it in casting spells and exorcising devils, made the ritual object of vajra, symbol of indestructible wisdom, popular among the Lamaistic Buddhist pantheon.

His garment is flowing, and, if painted is red, as well as his peaked cap, which ends in a half vajra. The lappets over the ears are divided and turned back, thus resembling a lotus-flower, for Padmashambhava is said to have born out of a red lotus-flower.

Padmashmbhava is credited for his capability of constructing the first Buddhist monastery called Samye in Tibet and establish esoteric Buddhism in the country. Later the school that he established was known as Nying-ma-pa.

The activity of Padmasambhava is represented in his life stories in the form of symbolic Buddha activity. For the different activities Padmasambhava took different manifestations according to the tradition. Of these, the so-called "Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava" [Tib.: »gu ru mtshan brgyad«] are of particular importance.

Manifestations of Padmasambhava