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Padma Sambhava and Tantras

May 23, 1998 04:11 PM
by Sophia TenBroeck

Theos-talk Digest #111

"Here is the mention of Padma Sambhava and his lineage. This clearly
establishes HPB as being taught or initiated into Padma Sambhava's line
of Tibetan Buddhism. His life is well written by Evans-Wentz and others.
He was, like HPB, a great magican.	Jerry S."

And again

> Date: Thu, 7 May 1998 20:51:30 -0400
> From: "Jerry Schueler" <>
> Subject: Re: K. Paul Johnson on HPB, the Mahatmas, Buddhism and Tibet

"These references are all misguided via tantricism because they link the
Hindu with the Buddhist which are totally different. This is a clear
example of where HPB was either flat wrong or miguided or (my own
preference) deliberately misleading in order to avoid the sexual element
of Tibetan Tantricism (which was brought to Tibet by none other than
Padma Sambhava, supposedly the lineage that HPB was trained in and thus
she should have known)."
">The Buddhist (Tibetan) and Hindu "schools" use
different>terminologies, but essentially their teachings parallel
each>other closely.
>>The subject is enormous, and this is only a brief summary. >Dallas
No they don't parallel each other at all. You need to read some modern
book on Buddhist Tantras, Dallas. You are very  misinformed.	 Jerry S."

   Please refer to A SURVEY OF BUDDHISM by Bhickshu Sangharakshta (Maha
Sthavira)--of the Friends of Western Buddhist Order, England.  Pub:
Shambhala *, Boulder, Colorado (1980) ISBN 0-87774-163-3. There in is
given a brief history of Padma Sambhava, --and related commentary on
Tantras-- which I copy, below :

"Though (dharanis) and (mantras) bulk large in the later chapters of
many Mahayana (sutras), specifically Tantric works do not begin to make
their appearance until about nine centuries after the Parinirvana of the
Enlightened One, that is to say, until the beginning of the fifth
century A.D.  Their production continued with unabated vigour for
upwards of 500 years, coming to an end only with the virtual
disappearance of Buddhism from Indian soil.  The earliest, and perhaps
most authoritative of the Tantras is the (Tathagataguhyaka), or, as it
is more generally styled, the (Guhayasamaja), a work which in Nepal,
Tibet and Mongolia is still regarded with the utmost veneration.  The
vast difference between the literal meaning and the symbolical
interpretation of the mere title of this Tantra may be cited as an
illustration of what has already been said about the difficulty, even
the danger, of attempting a generalized account of Tantric literature
without the support of the oral tradition.  If we can trust the Sanskrit
lexicons (and scholars generally trust them implicitly), (Guhayasamaja)
may be rendered "Secret Assembly" or even "Secret Society," both of
which "equivalents" are for prurient ears fraught with connotations of
the most suspicious kind.  According to the symbolical interpretation,
the term (Guhayasamaja) signifies the esoteric (guhya) integration
(samaja) of one's body, speech and mind with the body, speech and mind
of the (Tathagata), that is to say, with His (Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya)
and (Dharmakaya), by means of certain extremely complicated yogic
practices described in the Tantra.  One of the most highly esoteric of
these practices, or rather series of practices, consists in the creation
of the transcendental body in which, after he has attained Supreme
Buddhahood, a Bodhisattva continues to exist for the sake of benefiting
all sentient beings.  Yet those are not wanting who, lacking the oral
tradition, and misled by a grossly literal interpretation of the mere
words of the Tantric texts, are loud in their condemnation of the
"corruption" and "immorality" of the school of Buddhism by which they
were produced!  As might have been expected, the numerous Tantras which
followed the (Guhayasamaja) were intended to cater to the diverse needs
of a wide variety of aspirants.  In accordance with the degree of
realization which their practice confers, [ note: This is one
explanation.  There are others. ]  they are distributed commonly into
four main classes, or, more properly speaking, grades, respectively
known as the Kriya, Carya, Yoga and Anuttara Tantra.  The (Guhayasamaja)
is a work of the fourth and highest class, the (Anuttara) or
"Unsurpassed."  In common with other schools, Tantric Buddhism suffered
heavy literary losses at the time of the Muslim conquest of Northern
India, and there is no doubt that many Tantras perished in the flames of
Nalanda.  Much however, survived, and is still available either in
Sanskrit or, as is more frequently the case, in Tibetan translation.
"Eighty-four (siddhacaryas), or, more briefly, (siddhas) or Perfect
Ones, as the Tantric adepts were called, are generally enumerated, but
the number is not to be taken literally, eighty-four and its multiples
by a hundred and a thousand being frequently mentioned in the
Scriptures, especially in connection with groups of persons.  As might
have been expected, the (siddhas) all flourished during the same
half-millennium that witnessed the production of the Tantras, that is to
say, from the beginning of the sixth to the end of the eleventh century
A.D.  Unlike the (acaryas) of the Madhyamika and Yogacara School, all of
whom were monks, the Perfect Ones generally disregarded, not only the
monastic obligations, but even the ordinary conventions of social life.
Moreover, whereas Buddhist learning and spirituality had formerly been
practically the monopoly of those who, like Nagarjuna, Arya Deva,
Vasubandhu and Asanga, had been born in Brahmin families, the (siddhas)
frequently belonged to the most degraded and despised communities, and
followed avocations which under Brahminism involved social ostracism.
Some of the most famous of them, however, such as Indrabhuti,
Padmasambhava, Naropada, and Advayavajra, were for all their
unconventionality extremely learned men, and composed various treatises
analogous to the (sastras) of other schools.   ..  The best-known
collection is that of Sarahapada, the earliest and perhaps most
celebrated of the Perfect Ones, though many of his successors, such as
Tillopada, Santipada, Kanhapada, and Kukkuripada, also excelled in this
species of composition. Owing to the overlapping of schools already
referred to, we find in addition to the (siddhas) a group of (acaryas)
who, though nominally belonging to other schools, had not only mastered
the Tantric teachings but expounded them in treatises.  Thus
Santaraksita , the Madhyamika-Yogacarin author of the encyclopaedic
(Tatttvasangraha), wrote the (Tattvasiddhi), a sort of philosophical
defence of Tantric practices; while Arya Deva, the disciple of
Nagarjuna, was, according to a tradition not entirely undisputed, the
author of the (Cittavisuddhiprakarana), another standard work of the
same type.  Even (acaryas) like Nagarjuna and Asanga, who are not
credited with any works of a specifically Tantric character, are
included in the Tantric succession on the grounds that they transmitted
the teaching orally.
"Apart from Sarahapada, the most important (siddacaryas) from the
historical point of view are Padmasambhava, by whom the Tantra was
introduced into Tibet, and Vajrabhodi and Amoghavajra, by who it was
first made known in China.  About the first of these, who is respected
throughout Tibet as Guru Rimpoche,  or "The Precious Teacher," little
can be said, for his "biography" appears to consist not of historical
facts but of symbolical incidents.  His name, which means "The Lotus
Born," alludes to the tradition that he was not born of human parents
but came into being by apparitional birth-one of the four kinds of birth
recognized in Buddhism-from the calyx of a lotus on a lake in
North-Western India.  This lake is now popularly identified with that
which gleams beside the Golden Temple at Amritsar, the holy city of the
Sikh religion.  Perhaps all that can be asserted of Padmasambhava with
complete certainty is that he flourished in the eighth century, being
the contemporary of Santaraksita, and that his impact on the religious
life of Tibet, where he spent in all only eighteen months, was so
tremendous that he is honoured to this day as the "founder" of the
Nyin-ma School in that country.  He was able to exert so great an
influence, not simply because of his learning and enlightenment, but
because, as one of the greatest masters of (yoga) that India had ever
known, he was in possession of extraordinary supernormal powers.  Due to
the impetus he gave it, the Nyin-ma, or "Old Style" School, so called
for its adherence to the earlier, imperfect translations of the Tantras
is even today one of the major religious foundations of Tibet, where,
though inferior in numbers and prestige to the Gelugpa School, it still
enjoys considerable influence.  One of the main sources of its strength
lies in the fact that is has successfully incorporated from the
pre-Buddhist Bon cult a number of indigenous traditions."  [pp. 375-9]

I have tried to very accurate in typing, and I hope that no
typographical mistakes have crept in. In the quotation, italics are in
(), as my e-mail does not send italics; and I cannot give the
diacritical marks either.

Since this is a topic much written about in Theos-talk, I felt the above
might be helpful in clarifying and directing those interested, towards a
wider and deeper understanding of the subject raised.

* Bye the bye, SHAMBHALA, is the name of a publisher, in Boulder,

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