Many non-believers and half-believers question and spend much energy and time on the authenticity and believability of the Guru's life story. While there is little need for the initiated to spend much effort in pursuing this fruitless goal, I have gathered some information here from various sources to put a put these issues into proper perspective.
Tsele Natsok Rangdrol of the Nyingma lineage, in his very eloquent introduction to a publishing of the Guru's complete Life Story (The Lotus-Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, North Atlantic Books 2004) summarises the arguments well. This excerpt is a partial one gleaned from Amazon.com. I hope to post the complete introduction in the coming months.
His essay "Clarifying the true meaning" discusses some essential issues when dealing with the Guru's history and points out where critics fail. It includes examples from the Sutras of Shakyamuni Buddha on the coming of Padmashambhava (see section "Padmasambhava's Appearance into This World"). If you have more sources and references please email me.
CLARIFYING THE TRUE MEANING
Tsele Natsok Rangdrol
Buddhas and bodhisattvas throughout all times and directions,
Embodiment of all objects of refuge, Padma Thotreng Tsal,
Consider all beings and myself with your loving kindness.
May every wish we make be effortlessly fulfilled
Strengthen the Dharma and increase auspicious conditions
So that true awakening will swiftly be attained.
The Birth of Padmasambhava
THE WORD Padma is Sanskrit. It was preserved as a Tibetan word and means lotus flower. Sambhava means "born from." Padmasambhava's usual name in Tibetan, is Pema Jungney, translated from the Sanskrit name Padmakara, which means "originated from a lotus."
When Padmakara was born from a lotus flower and, also, while being led back by King lndrabhuti, wherever he was set down, a lotus spontaneously sprung up. The king exclaimed, "This child is truly a lotus-born one!" Therefore he became renowned as Padmakara.
His ordination name was Shakya Senge. Later, when he became learned in the fields of knowledge and presided as the head of five hundred great panditas, he was known as Padmasambhava, the Lotus-Born. Thus he is indeed named after his manner of birth.
It is universally renowned that the Precious Master took birth from a lotus flower in a way that is called instantaneous birth. Instantaneous birth in itself is nothing to marvel about since all beings take rebirth through one of the four modes of birth: womb birth, egg birth1 moisture birth, and instantaneous birth. But this master's birth was superior to ordinary, instantaneous birth. The reason is that the lotus flower from which he was born, in the center of Lake Danakosha, had been fused with the combined light rays of compassion of Buddha Amitabha and all the buddhas of the ten directions.
This is not just an exaggerated praise tenaciously offered by old ignorant followers of the Nyingma School; Padmakara was foretold by Buddha Shakyamuni himself in many sutras and tantras. If it was the case that those predictions are found only in the Nyingma tantras, it would be difficult for other people to have full trust in them, so here is a quotation from the Immaculate Goddess Sutra:
The activity of all the victorious ones of the ten directions
Will gather into a single form,
A buddha son, who will attain marvelous accomplishment
A master who will embody buddha activity.
Will appear to the northwest of Uddiyana.
Padmasambhava is also prophesied in the Sutra of Inconceivable
A manifestation of the buddhas of the three times,
With marvelous deeds in this Good Aeon,
Will appear as a vidyadhara
In the center of a wondrous lotus flower.
The Tantra of the Ocean of Ferocious Activity says:
A holder of the secrets of all the buddhas,
The king of the deeds of indestructible wrath,
A miraculous form without father or mother,
Will appear as a vidyadhara
In Lake Kosha of Uddiyana.
There exists a vast number of similar quotations, but since these will suffice for gaining understanding, I shall refrain from further elaborations. The heart of the matter is that these quotations establish that he was miraculously born from a lotus flower.
For people who could not be converted by someone miraculously born, Padmasambhava showed himself as taking birth through a womb. In that version he was born as the son of King Mahusita of Uddiyana and given the name Danarakshita. When reaching maturity. he wanted to leave in order to practice the Dharma, but his parents did not permit him to do so. Unable to find any other way. he saw that he could only escape through some felonious action. He killed one of the king's children and was then banished as punishment.
Taking ordination from the pandita Shakyabodhi, he was named Shakya Senge.
Whatever the case, Master Padma was not an ordinary, material person. We should understand that all his deeds and life examples are a magical display shown to convert people according to their individual inclinations. By regarding him as a normal human being. we will fail to perceive even a fraction of his enlightened qualities.
Padmasambhava's Stay in Tibet
Differing accounts exist regarding the length of time Master Padma remained in Tibet. One story narrates that he remained for one hundred and twenty years. Other sources state he was asked to leave due to the slander of evil-minded ministers after respectively six or three years, eighteen or three months. As I mentioned already, an ordinary person cannot measure the deeds of the victorious ones; remember that also here.
In the past, Buddha Shakyamuni taught the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra. The sutra describes that the Buddha performed a miracle, making the duration of teaching, which was one morning, appear as if It were fifty aeons. The Buddha could also transform one moment into an aeon and one aeon into one moment. How can our intellect grasp that?
In the general perception of people and as narrated in the shorter and longer Bashey Annals, Master Padma came to Tibet, performed a ritual for taming the land around Samye, and twice made a ritual fire offering to tame the gods and demons. When about to perform the ritual a third time, some manipulative ministers prevented him from doing so. Master Padma gave the king and a few worthy people advice. When Padmakara was about to turn the dunes into meadows, the desert into fields and plant trees and so forth, the ministers misinterpreted this and prohibited it, Without having fulfilled his purpose. he was escorted to the Sky Plain Pass by two religious ministers. On the way, Master Padma overcame some murderers sent by antagonistic ministers by paralysing them with his gaze. Leaving from the Sky Plain Pass, Master Padma flew through the air toward the southwest.
These narrations are exclusively what is described in the shorter and longer Bashey Annals. The Bashey Annals are only comprised of superficial perceptions of the ministers of that time which I do not consider fully authentic. Try to understand this comparison: the Buddha's twelve deeds and so forth differ in the traditions of Hinayana and Mahayana. We only take the Mahayana version to be truly accurate. The Hinayana version is what was perceived through the limited vision of Hinayana disciples. This is the same as the analogy of a white conch seen to be yellow by a person suffering from jaundice. The person with healthy eyesight will see it as it truly is. Here, similarly, we should not regard an impure perception as true, but place our trust in the impeccable words of the Great Master himself.
In this regard, it should be mentioned that there is no conflict in the uncorrupted terma teachings that unanimously say Master Padma remained in Tibet for one hundred and eleven years. Since Indians then counted six months as one year, these "years" should be regarded as "half-years," meaning that Guru Rinpoche stayed for fifty-six years.
Some ministers and faithless people perceived that Guru Rinpoche only spent a few months in Tibet. They only saw that Padmakara tamed the land of Samye, performed its consecration, and gave teachings to the king and some fortunate disciples. The major part of the time the Great Master staved in Tibet he spent visiting, blessing, concealing termas, and so forth in the principal sacred places and areas. For these reasons it seems that most Tibetan commoners did not meet him.
From our point of view, when Padmasambhava was about to leave Tibet for the land of. rakshasas in the southwest. he consecrated all the temples. He was escorted to the Skv Plain Pass in Mang-yul by Prince Lhasey and many other disciples, where he gave many predictions and instructions. On the tenth day of the Monkey month, he was led through the sky to the continent of Chamara by dakas and dakinis carrying offerings.
Padmasambhava Being an Enlightened Buddha
Ordinary beings to be trained perceive the buddhas of the three times as taking birth among different types of sentient beings in the different worlds. Moreover, the buddhas enact the deeds of gathering the accumulations and purifying the obscurations over incalculable aeons. We can find evidence of this in the stories of the past lives of the Buddha. If we regard the words of the Buddha as authentic, we also can trust in his statements found in many sutras and tantras concerning the Great Master Padmakara as the embodiment of the compassion of all the' buddhas. There is no great need to suffer by stubbornly objecting.
Padmasambhava's Appearance into This World
According to the scriptures mentioned above and other texts, including the Tantra of the Perfect Embodiment of the Unexcelled Nature, there are varying statements about exactly when Master Padma would appear. Most sources seem to agree on twelve years after the passing of the Buddha. The Nirvana Sutra says:
Twelve years after
I pass into nirvana
A person who is superior to everyone
Will appear from the anthers of a lotus flower
In the immaculate Lake Kosha
On the northwestern border of the country of Uddiyana.
The Buddha also said in the
Sutra of Predictions of Magadha:
I will pass away to eradicate the view of permanence.
But twelve years from now, to clear away the view of nihilism.
I shall appear from a lotus in the' immaculate Lake Kosha
As a noble son to delight the king
And turn the Dharma wheel of the unexcelled essential meaning.
This is the version unanimously agreed upon in all the narrations found in authentic terma teachings.
It is difficult for myself to identify correctly the exact year when the Buddha was born and passed away. There are many discrepancies in the various treatises, but all the histories of the Nyingma School tell that Buddha Shakyamuni passed away in the Year of the Iron
.. to be continued