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Padmasambhava (Tibetan: pe ma jung ne. English: Lotus Born): also known as Guru Rinpoche (Precious Teacher).

Pemasambhava Pema Jungne Biographical Information [TBRC]

Along with Trisong Detsen and Shantarakshita, Padmasambhava is considered one of the principal early teachers to bring Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century, Padmasambhava has numerous forms representing outer, inner and secret aspects of his spiritual being. He is also known by many different names which generally follow chronologically his life story. Aside from Trisong Detsen and Shantarakshita, the most important figures to interact with Padmasambhava were his principle Tibetan consort Yeshe Tsogyal and the principal Twenty-five Disciples. There are various Padmasambhava Number Sets which help to organize the important topics and essential subjects of his life and chronological sequence of important events, along with grouping the various sub-sets of important disciples. An 18th century curiosity is the inclusion of Padmasambhava as one of the pre-incarnations in the line of Panchen Lamas.

Concerning the life story of Padmasambhava there are at least four different versions of his birth and early childhood. [1] Within the Oral (Kama) Tradition of the Nyingma School, Padmasambhava was born in Northern India as the son of a king, or minister. [2] In the Revealed Treasure (Terma) Tradition he was born on a lotus in Dhanakosha lake, in the country of Oddiyana, as an emanation of Lokeshvara and the Buddha Amitabha. [3] The Treasure King, Dorje Lingpa, revealed a number of Buddhist and Bon treasure texts where the Bon explain a completely different narrative of the life story and have Padmasambhava born in Tibet. [4] There is also some evidence to suggest that Padmasambhava came from South India and that he was the brother-in-law of the Indian Abbott Shantarakshita, founder of Samye, the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet. (See the Nyingma Tradition Main Page and the Nyingma Tradition Outline Page).

There are three main periods of development in the Nyingma Tradition. The first is from the 8th to the 12th century beginning with the founding of Samye monastery and the three important figures of Trisong Detsen, Shanatrakshita and Padmasambhava. Subsequent to that there were a large number of teachers from Tibet, India and surrounding regions who translated and taught a wide variety of Buddhist literature from India, Kashmir, Nepal, Central Asia and China.

The second period of Nyingma development began roughly around the time of Ngadag Nyangral Nyima Ozer (1124/36-1192/1204) and Guru Chowang, Chokyi Wangchug (1212-1270), extending to the 16th century. This 2nd period is characterized by the proliferation of Revealed Treasure (Terma), the unearthing of texts believed to be composed by Padmasambhava and purposely hidden or lost over the previous centuries.

The third period from the 17th century to the present is characterized by the creation of monastic institutions and the formation of the Six Mother Monasteries: Katog, Dorje Drag, Mindrolling, Payul, Dzogchen and Shechen.

The majority of works of art that have been identified as depicting Padmasambhava, both painting and sculpture, were created during this third period of Nyingma development. A much smaller number of earlier depictions, second period, can be found where Padmasambhava is depicted as a central figure in painting. In addition there are several dozen second period paintings where Padmasambhava is depicted as a minor figure among the line of lineage teachers or placed as a prominent secondary teacher along with characters such as Padampa Sanggye, Karmapa and Tsongkapa. With the identifying and cataloging of the Life Story paintings, all appear to be from the third period of development, 17th century to the present, and relate the narrative of the Revealed Treasure (Terma) Tradition.

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Jeff Watt [updated 8-2013, 12-2017, 1-2019, 12-2019]