Friday, February 11, 2011

The Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava: Part Three

Guru Nyima Özer Ray of Sun
As I explained earlier, Guru Nyima Özer is usually considered the second emanation. Because Guru Nyima Özer is associated with crazy wisdom activities, I wanted to tell you about Guru Loden Chokse first so that you would be able to understand the guru's accomplishments as a student and tantric initiate. In this context, you should be able to appreciate the miraculous deeds of Guru Nyima Özer. Although incomprehensible to linear or chronological interpretations, all eight emanations can simultaneously appear together or in many different places unlimited by any dualistic system of understanding. On the level of common perception, Nyima Özer happened either right after or during the time of Loden Chokse. Guru Nyima Özer is a special buddha whose emanation serves to increase awareness of the great emptiness-bliss. He is the master of great joy and ecstatic states of awareness. Nyima Özer wandered across India, serving sentient beings in many different guises.

There were actually many emanations of Guru Nyima Özer, not just the one commonly portrayed in thankas. Sometimes he appeared as a powerful master of meditation, but he also appeared as a weak-looking beggar as well as in various animal forms for the benefit of sentient beings. His activities are beyond conditional limitations. I want to tell you how he got his name which means "Ray of Sun." Guru Nyima Özer travelled widely, performing crazy wisdom activities while visiting the eight great charnel grounds, the thirty-two major power spots, wilderness areas and even cities. The extent of his wandering cannot be comprehended by ordinary conceptions. As it is historically recounted, when he left the kingdom of Oddiyana, he went to a famous cemetery known as Chilly Grove and practiced meditation there for five years. During this time, Guru Nyima Özer was inwardly subduing some of the wilder sentient beings.

At one point, he came to Varanasi. Today, this is a big city on the Ganges River, and it was already a busy place back in those days. There was a lady who served alcohol in Varanasi and Guru Rinpoche saw that through contact with her, he could draw hundreds of people toward enlightenment. The lady was named Vanessca.

Nyima Özer appeared at her shop in the style of a wild yogi, holding a katvanga in his right hand and asked this woman, "Do you have any beer?" "Of course," she answered.

"Good. How much do you have?" "Five hundred gallons," she replied.

"Great. I want it all." She poured him a large serving and when he had finished it, he asked for another. "Pay me for what you have already drunk," she said.

In ancient times, they used a certain sea shell, the cowrie, for currency. Nyima Özer did not actually have even one, but he reassured the woman that she would be paid, and she poured him another beer. They didn't have bottles back then, but rather large bowls or jars. When it was empty, he asked for a refill. And after that, another. He continued in this way until the woman said, "Look, I'm not going to give you any more beer until you pay for what you have already drunk." Guru Nyima Özer stuck his katvanga into the ground so that it threw a shadow across the table and said, "I'll pay you when this shadow moves." Vanessca agreed to this and gave him another bowl. He finished it and immediately asked for more. But the shadow did not move at all. It stayed right where it was. The sun continued to hover high above the horizon while Guru Rinpoche finished all five hundred gallons of beer and was still asking for more. He was not even near drunk yet, but people in the vicinity were becoming concerned because the sun had not moved for hours and the day was getting unusually long. Cocks were beginning to crow.

Upon learning of the situation at the tavern, everybody realized that this must be a very powerful yogi. The sun did not move across the sky, which meant that the earth was no longer turning. The matter was brought to the king's attention and his ministers were sent out to investigate. When they understood that this was all happening because some wild yogi didn't have any money to pay for the beer, they offered to foot his bill. Guru Nyima Özer thanked them and picked up his katvanga.

Immediately the sun turned a deep red and sunk below the horizon. A great shadow fell over the land and suddenly it was night.

This demonstration helped hundreds of sentient beings in that area to become enlightened. The name Nyima Özer or "Ray of Sun" was a result of this incident as people remembered the yogi who could stop the sun.

Vanesseca, the woman who owned the tavern, was among those who were deeply moved by this. After Guru Nyima Özer left Varanasi, she tried to get in touch with him. Upon learning where he was meditating, she approached to request more teachings. Guru Nyima Özer gave her direct transmission of the Dzogchen teachings and Vanesseca immediately became a great yogini. When she began to share these special teachings, she attracted so many students that there came to be a Vanesseca lineage.

On the inner level, Guru Nyima Özer signifies a clear understanding of the structure of one's psycho-physical constitution. He is the Buddha associated with mystical experience and spiritual realization. That is the primary message communicated by the emanation Guru Nyima Özer. To know the secrets of the inner structure of one's physiology means that the discovery of primordial wisdom is very, very close. Therefore, it is important to become familiar with the subtle structures of the body. In the inner tantras, these are known as the residing channels (rtsa), the display of the winds (the movements in these channels or rlung), and the ornamentation of the essence elements of the body (thig-le). Our entire experience, the patterning of our conceptions, the displays of our visual and auditory systems, are all reflections of these three structures. To understand this well is to be in direct and deep communication with the energies of both the internal and external world.

All we see of earth, water, sun, clouds, wind, and fire is no other than a reflection of our own inner structures. More specifically, forms such as trees, grass, water and mountains are no other than reflections of the channels. Sound and echoes are a reflection of the movement of winds. Your external world mirrors your inner constitution. Inwardly, the primordial nature manifests as thig-le, the essential elements of the body. There are white and red forms of thig-le. Both are completely free from any formation or visibility, abiding in a cycle of complete equanimity. Thig-le are reflected externally in the planets, the sun, moon, and stars. Their brightness and clarity reveal a radiant openness. These are no other than reflections of the essence elements of the body. We think of the sun and moon as two unique things, but according to Buddha's teachings, there are billions of suns and innumerable moons and planets. All are reflections of the infinite reality of primordial wisdom, displayed in this form and appearing according to the needs of individuals.

To clearly comprehend the interrelated dynamics of all three aspects of the vajra body allows primordial wisdom to awaken very easily. The bright, clear light of primordial wisdom is the essential source of all these inner structures. This must be understood. Revelations of these hidden dimensions of the body are often accompanied by great joy and happiness. This is also known as bde-chen or great blissfulness. Blissfulness is an inherent quality of primordial truth. By tuning in to one's own vajra structuring, insights and joyful experiences will arise, transcending all sense of hardship and difficulty. Full comprehension of the galaxy within corresponds to control of the external elements. This is why Nyima Özer had no difficulty controlling the sun or his lifespan. Through internal knowledge and discipline, he gained mastery over such things. He had realized a certain flexibility, a skillful means of exercising his will that is incomprehensible to our modern views. This is the external way to understand Guru Nyima Özer.

The inner way is to know your own internal structures to the point of great blissfulness, great equanimity and the full realization of primordial wisdom. When you become intimately familiar with the channel and wind systems, when you understand the cycles of the essence elements of the body, you will enjoy a clarity that will eventually lead to primordial wisdom. This is how to understand the inner meaning of Nyima Özer.

To practice on Guru Nyima Özer, meditate on love and compassion and feel into the deeper nature of the mind. Visualize him as he is usually depicted in thangkas. This form is known as Sambhoga Nyima Özer. He has one face, two arms, and two legs. His skin color is golden-red and his facial expression is semi-wrathful, with both eyes opened wide and bulging a little. He has long hair, some of which is tied up above a tiara of five skulls, while most is hanging loose over his shoulders. He has a moustache, beard and a few bone ornaments. He is bare-chested and wears a tiger-skin skirt. His left hand is making the subjugation mudra and he seems to be bringing sunlight down on to the tip of his finger. His right hand is holding a katvanga and he sits on a lotus with sun and moon discs, his left leg partially extended and his right drawn in.

When meditating on Guru Nyima Özer, see him as a wisdom form, a manifestation of love and compassion in a rainbow body, not as a solid entity. In this condition, recite the Vajra Guru Mantra while the radiance of Guru Nyima Özer shines on all sentient beings and even illuminates the pure land. The blessing power of the Buddha rains down on Guru Nyima Özer as he emanates a golden-red light. This light envelops you and in resonance with the wind and channel exercises, intensifies realization.

Dissolve Guru Nyima Özer into the golden-red light and absorb the light into your heart center where it mingles with the primordial nature of the mind. Relax in that state for as long as you can.

This is a very powerful practice for the actualization of beneficial activities. If you are beginning to practice love and compassion and value wisdom but are limited in your ability to embody your understanding, Guru Nyima Özer will help you actualize these qualities and bring them into relationship with sentient beings.

Remember that our visual and tactile perceptions of phenomena, the vibrations registered by our auditory system, and our experience of space or luminosity are all external displays of transformations happening in our channel and wind systems. When this is recognized, the essence elements are immediately transformed into great emptiness-bliss. To abide in this way frees one from all discomfort, hardship and difficulty. Everything is transformed into great blissfulness. This is how to practice Guru Nyima Özer.

Guru Padmasambhava, The Lotus-born
The fourth emanation is Guru Padmasambhava. He is part of the continuity of enlightened activities which happened after Nyima Özer and Loden Chokse. This emanation is about transforming negative energy into more peaceful and compassionate forms, developing the power, and expressing the inner urge of Guru Padmasambhava which is the heart of loving-kindness and compassion. There is no hint of suppression or repression in Guru Padmasambhava. His negativity transforming disposition helps us to grow ever stronger in compassion simply by coming into contact with the emotional reactivity of others. This is the particular purpose and power associated with this emanation of Guru Rinpoche.

The following story is a good example of the power of Guru Padmasambhava in transforming negative energy into more peaceful and loving forms. According to the biographies, there were at least four different occasions on which people tried to burn Guru Padmasambhava at the stake. The particular incident I am about to relate also introduces the wisdom dakini, Princess Mandarava.

Guru Padmasambhava was meditating on Vulture Peak, the place where Buddha Shakyamuni had delivered the Prajnaparamita teachings. Upon internally inquiring where he might be able to offer the most help to all beings, he had a vision of Zahor, a country northwest of Bodhgaya. He also saw a wisdom dakini in his vision. This was Mandarava, a perfectly enlightened being who happened to be the daughter of the king. Guru Padmasambhava realized that with her assistance, they could both achieve immortality or realize the state of deathlessness. For these two reasons he immediately manifested in the country of Zahor.

Geographically, the ancient border of Zahor would not be located far from present-day Dharamsala where his Holiness the Dalai Lama is living. There is a lake with lotuses there, called Tso-pema where Guru Rinpoche performed many miraculous activities.

King Arsadhara of Zahor was quite wealthy and powerful at that time. Although he had many queens, he had no sons and Mandarava was his only daughter.

Mandarava is a Sanskrit word, and the name of a type of flower which translates roughly into English as "to catch the mind" of others. During both her conception and birth there were many auspicious signs and omens indicating that this would be a remarkable child. After the little princess was born, she displayed all the major and minor marks of a realized being. Mandarava grew much faster than other children. It is said that she accomplished a year's growth in a week, quickly maturing into one of the most kind-hearted and beautiful girls in that whole region. Everybody loved and protected her. The young princess was popular throughout the kingdom.

In those days, marriages were usually pre-arranged by the families. Even today it is like this in many parts of India and Asia. Because she was so beautiful and well-known, there were many kings, ministers and rich people asking to marry Princess Mandarava. This worried the king because he thought, "If I had hundreds of Mandaravas, I could make friends and relations of them all, but unfortunately I only have one Mandarava. If I give her to one, all the others will be angry. Her husband might be happy, but everybody else will be upset." He fell into a dilemma and felt very confused as to a solution.

Finally, he decided to leave it up to Mandarava so that he could say it was her choice. When asked, the Princess said she didn't want any of her suitors; she just wanted to practice and meditate. She had made a decision and King Arsadhara was respectful of her choice. He had a beautiful convent built and arranged for five hundred girls to accompany Princess Mandarava in her quest for a spiritual life. They all lived like nuns in hermitage.

One day during an outdoor practice, a magnificent rainbow appeared high in the sky above the nunnery. In the center of this brilliant rainbow light, Guru Padmasambhava appeared. As soon as he began to speak, all the nuns felt a strong, intimate connection with him. They asked him to come down and give more extensive teachings. So he descended into the courtyard and was invited into the meditation hall where he began to instruct them in the practices of the inner tantras.

Now a cowherd was in search of a cow by the hermitage. He couldn't find the cow, but while he was looking around, he thought he saw a man being invited into the convent. Thinking that perhaps his eyes had deceived him, he quietly approached the wall and heard what was unmistakably a man's voice coming from inside the convent. So he went down to the village to tell everybody. Well, people were quite upset. They didn't like the idea of the nuns having a man in their midst. If they wanted to study the Dharma and give up household life, why did they invite this man in? And what was his intention in being there? A few people decided to investigate for themselves and concluded that there was definitely a man in the royal convent. This was very shocking news and folks were not prepared to accept such a state of affairs. Rumors multiplied throughout the villages and by the time word got to the palace, it had become an incredible scandal. King Arsadhara was extremely angry.

Even the queen mother was insulted. Emotionally, it was as if a volcano had erupted in the royal chambers. A group of ministers and soldiers were dispatched to check out the truth of the allegations, and if they were true, to kill the offender and to punish everyone else involved.

When the king's delegation arrived at the convent's meditation hall, Guru Padmasambhava was expounding the Dharma while sitting on a throne surrounded by all 500 nuns. Everybody was very calm and peaceful. It looked like they were having a good time. When the king's men began to get aggressive, the nuns drew closer around Guru Rinpoche and Mandarava. The Princess pleaded with them. "Please don't do this. This is our beloved teacher. He is helping guide us to enlightenment. Tell that to my father. There is nothing else going on here besides Dharma teachings." The men ignored her and Guru Padmasambhava was captured. His hands were bound and they led him off surrounded by hordes of people. They wanted to make sure that he did not try to run away. By royal decree, his punishment was to be burned at the stake. Mandarava was sentenced to prison for 25 years, while all 500 of her attendants were sentenced to ten years. All of this was the king's decision. A great quantity of wood was collected from the local households and soaked with sesame oil.

Guru Rinpoche was tied in the center and the pyre was lit. The king ordered that no one be allowed into the area for a week except those who were tending the fire.

Now while Guru Rinpoche was in the midst of the flames, the fire transformed into water, which soon became a lake encircled on its outer perimeter by a ditch sporting a halo of upside-down flames. In the center of this beautiful lake there was a wondrous lotus flower and above that, Guru Padmasambhava was sitting in the posture of royal ease, even more glorious than before. The guards who were watching couldn't believe what was happening but they attempted to describe it in a message to the king. The king didn't believe it either and wanted it reconfirmed. The guards stuck by their story, so he decided to come see for himself.

King Arsadhara cautiously approached the miraculous lake. At first, he thought it was just a magical illusion, so he walked around the outer ditch, trying to detect whether it was real or not. He blinked and gazed hard, he rubbed his eyes and opened them wide as if there was something wrong with his vision, but every time he turned to look, he beheld the same incredible scene with Guru Padmasambhava gloriously sitting in the center of a beautiful lotus flower, looking more confident than ever. While the king was busy making his investigation, Guru Padmasambhava called out, "Welcome, oh ignorant king. You have such a narrow mind! Your judgements are insane! You cannot do anything to me. Having realized the great equanimity, my nature is like that of the sky which cannot be burned or destroyed. Oh deceitful and obscured one, how did you ever come to be king?" Upon hearing this the King immediately felt very sorry about what he had done. He fell on the ground and began doing prostrations saying, "Master, please forgive me, I am sorry for all my ignorant actions. I offer you my kingdom. Please come to the palace." Guru Padmasambhava answered "I don't need a kingdom or a palace." So the king requested teachings and Guru Padmasambhava accepted his invitation.

The king wanted to escort Guru Rinpoche in royal style, as he would welcome another great monarch. He sent ministers back to the palace to retrieve the royal vestments and presented Guru Padmasambhava with ceremonial robes. In place of horses, King Arsadhara himself pulled the Guru's chariot into Zahor.

Historically, Guru Padmasambhava's famous five-sided hat was a gift from the King of Zahor. It was the King's own coronation hat and was offered to Guru Rinpoche as a symbol of respect. I don't know if he was wearing it when he came to Tibet or whether it was just one of his favorites, but this five sided hat has become an auspicious symbol.

Mandarava and her 500 attendants were released from prison and Guru Padmasambhava stayed in Zahor for a long time giving Vajrayana teachings, specifically focusing on the combined instruction of all the inner tantras. As a result, it is said that about 100.000 people, both men and women, reached the vidyadhara state. This is considered a very high realization on the Vajrayana path and Arsadhara, the king of Zahor, was among the fortunate ones.

The lake where they tried to burn Guru Padmasambhava is not far from Dharamsala. It is still a popular place of pilgrimage. Maybe some of you have gone there already or perhaps you will go in the future. It is one of the major Buddhist pilgrimage spots in India.

In the nearby Himalayan region is an area called Kashmir which was part of Tibet in ancient times. It is now part of India, but Kashmiri culture is very much like that of Tibet. They wear clothing very similar to the styles adopted by Tibetans and they practice Dharma. They say that when Guru Padmasambhava emerged from the lake surrounded by fire, the Kashmiri people were the first to offer him tea. Therefore, they have a special connection with Guru Rinpoche.

Many young girls and groups of old ladies come to the lake holding hands, and, while sitting on the shore of the lake, they chant and sing for hours at a time. There is a small island which floats on the lake called "The Lotus Stalk." It consists of a tangle of roots, some soil and a bit of bush. They say that whenever the women come and sing, that island moves, confirming their unique connection with Guru Rinpoche. We saw this ourselves. They start singing and the island begins moving. It is really kind of nice. It is not a very big island, but when the women chanted, the wind picked up and blew it toward them. Sometimes these women even throw gold rings and jeweled ornaments on to the island and when they leave, the island drifts back out toward the center. This actually happens in Tso-pema. We've seen it with our own eyes quite a few times.

After this, Guru Padmasambhava went to the Martika Cavern, which is renowned as the Cave of Immortality. There he practiced with Mandarava for three months on the Buddha Amitayus. At the end of this period, Buddha Amitayus appeared and initiated them into deathlessness. Guru Rinpoche and Mandarava realized immortality.

They had defeated Mara, the demon of death. As we have already said, Guru Padmasambhava is a totally enlightened being, prior to appearing in this or any world. He is a direct emanation of Buddha Amitabha and a reincarnation of Buddha Shakyamuni. This means he is free from both emotional and mental obscurations and is always transcendent to death and mortality. But on the relative level, he came to this realization in Martika Cave.

Guru Padmasambhava is the always present Buddha. His influence is still with us. His inspiration, his blessings, and his presence pervade Tibetan history. He did not merely appear in the eighth century and then disappear. In every century, the great masters of all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism have been guided by Guru Rinpoche directly or indirectly. His presence is always with us, which is why he has become known as the always living or present Buddha. This is another way of understanding the truth of Guru Rinpoche's immortality.

In historical terms, Guru Padmasambhava was born eight years after Buddha Shakyamuni's mahaparinirvana. Yet when he came to Tibet in the eighth century, he was still young. As I said earlier, we cannot comprehend enlightened activities within the limits of our ordinary conceptions. We cannot fathom these stories because our knowledge is very restricted and will not accept what the mind perceives as contradictory. For example, there are teachings which say that Guru Padmasambhava came to Tibet when he was 3000 years old. In ancient India they employed a system which counted the waxing moon as one month and the waning moon as another month.

That way, one year becomes two. But this still means he was at least 1500 years old when he came to Tibet. It is very difficult to fit this statement in with the rest of our knowledge. Occasionally you will see people over one hundred on television and invariably, they appear very old. It is often difficult for them to move. Most of us would be surprised if a 100 year old man could walk through the doorway of his house, never mind a 1500 year old man crossing the Himalayas! When Guru Padmasambhava became immortal, he completely transformed all the gross elements into their subtle wisdom forms. These wisdom elements are free from decay, decline and change. Liberation from these notions gave him the flexibility and openness to perform many incomprehensible activities. This also applies to wisdom dakini Mandarava. She too, is a totally enlightened, immortal being who has appeared again and again in many different forms. Mandarava was only the first of these incarnations. The second is known among the Gelugpas, the Sakyas and Kagyus as the Queen of Accomplishment. In another incarnation, she is a famous long-life Buddha emanating from the Padma family. Around the tenth century there lived a great yogini named Machig Lapdron who was yet another emanation of the wisdom dakini Mandarava.

It is important to understand that all the activities of Guru Rinpoche are designed to break through the rigidity of dualistic concepts and conventions. He is beyond the limits of worldly views and traditions. In one sense, these conditional forms are very important and special, but in another way, they are just conceptual systems developed to solve certain problems, none of which apply to the realization of the true nature. Our view of things is a creation or product of our conceptualizing. Guru Padmasambhava's activities transcend these definitions and indicate that in order to become enlightened we have to go beyond mundane approaches.

Guru Rinpoche has appeared in the world in the guise of kings and queens, royal ministers, peasants, children, and even as animals. He continues to appear in many different ways in order to help beings break down the walls of dualistic conceptions which restrict understanding, liberating them into the vastness of equanimity. That is the focus of Guru Rinpoche's activity. As the embodiment of ultimate bodhicitta, he uses many different forms to communicate.

Bodhicitta is available to every sentient being all the time, throughout the day, from year to year throughout all our lifetimes and on into the future forever. It is something that is very special for every one of us. In developing bodhicitta, we don't have to make any particular effort to remove negative qualities, such as anger and jealousy. The generation of bodhicitta naturally removes these obstacles, just as darkness naturally disappears the moment the sun rises in the eastern sky. Compassion is one of the primary roots of spiritual practice. Every spiritual discipline must be based upon compassion and for that reason Guru Padmasambhava taught that if you don't have compassion, then the root of your spirituality will be rotten. It might even start to smell.

Everybody needs love and compassion all the time. There is nobody who will refuse the gift and benefits of love and compassion. These qualities are well symbolized by the lotus flower or padma which is always fresh and lovely. Everyone can appreciate its beauty. Sambhava means essence or identity. This means that the essence of all blessing and benefit for beings in samsara is bodhicitta. It is the essence of real spiritual practice and we should continually develop it in ourselves.

Practicing on Guru Padmasambhava will help us cultivate bodhicitta and transform negativity. So begin meditating with the bodhicitta attitude and then visualize a small sphere of white light which has a reddish glow. This transforms into the transcendental wisdom body of Guru Padmasambhava with one face, two arms and two legs.

His complexion is a rich white and his demeanour is very peaceful. He is wearing a red monk's hat. Sometimes I wear the same kind of hat when I give empowerments.

It is tall and pointed. He sits on a lotus surmounted by sun and moon discs. His right hand is making the protection mudra, while his left hand holds a skull-cup filled with amrita or long-life nectar. During the practice, imagine that the wisdom blessing of this nectar flows out to you and all sentient beings, purifying negative emotions, mental obscurations, diseases, external obstacles and so forth. Do this until you feel that everything has been completely transformed into the purity of the original sphere of primordial wisdom.

You can do this meditation anytime, but it is particularly effective when your mind feels disturbed, tired, and crowded with too many conceptions, over-busy with stressful thoughts and heavy attitudes. Of course, you can also do other practices at such times, but when you need to transform or regenerate your energy, it is especially good to meditate on Guru Padmasambhava. It will revitalize your life force and help balance the essence elements of the body. Feel deeply into his presence with love and compassion, and arouse bodhicitta. When you excel in the practice on bodhicitta, you are filling your whole body, your heart, all your channels and wind systems, with the energy of love, compassion and wisdom. This brings a calm and peaceful state of relaxation and helps create a nice atmosphere for other sentient beings, harmonizing both internal and external environments.

While clearly visualizing Guru Padmasambhava, begin reciting the Vajra Guru Mantra. Open your heart and mind until you are full of love, compassion and wisdom and chant in that mood for as long as you have time. When you are finished, dissolve the visualization into a sphere of white light with a reddish tinge around the edges and draw it into your heart center. Meditate for awhile in that non-dual disposition and then dedicate the merit to all sentient beings.

This completes four emanations, so we have four more to go.


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3 reader comments:

Jin B said...

Wow, man, heavy...or as light as you wish.

Cliff said...

Always excellent! Thank you!

Anonymous said...


I am so grateful to have these Precious Teachings. If you have them published anywhere i would love to buy. Thank you so much for sharing.