Himalayan Art Resources

Padmasambhava: Life Story Main Page

Padmasambhava: Life Story | Padmasambhava Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Sets:
- Life Story Description (below)
- Padmasambhava Life Story (Kama, Buddhist)
- Padmasambhava Life Story (Terma, Buddhist)
- Padmasambhava Life Story (Bon Religion)
- Single Composition
- PMA Set 1
- RMA Set 1: HAR #1023, #1024
- RMA Set 2
- RMA Set 3
- Shechen Set 1
- Shechen Set 2
- Shechen Set 3
- Tibetan Painted Scrolls Set 1
- Tibetan Painted Scrolls Set 2
- Masterworks
- Life Story Paintings Main Page
- Confusions
- Others...

There is very little original information on Padmasambhava that can be taken as historical or factual. Within the Nyingma tradition there are 'Kama' biographies which portray Padmasambhava as being born as a normal person, a prince within a kingdom of early India. There are 'Terma' biographies that claim Padmasambhava was born from a lotus in the kingdom of Oddiyana. The most popular of the 'Terma' texts is known as the Padma Kathang discovered as a 'Revealed Treasure' by Orgyan Lingpa (1323-1360).

There is an early second millennium Tibetan text which claims that Padmasambhava is the brother-in-law of Shantarakshita and that they traveled together from Kanchipuram in south-east India to Tibet in the 8th century.

The Bon religion also has both 'Kama' and 'Terma' biographies and narratives of the life story of Padmasambhava. These sources vary greatly from those of the Nyingma Buddhists.

Painting Sets:
The life story of Padmasambhava is depicted either with the entire story told in a single composition, a set of painted compositions or as a mural. In a series of paintings, the compositions typically number 3, 5, or 9 in total. The Eight Forms of Padmasambhava are crucial for understanding the Life Story. These eight, called the Guru Tsangye (gu ru mtshan brgyad), are special forms representing in chronological order eight different life changing events and physical locations in the life story of Padmasambhava.

With the identifying and cataloging of the Life Story paintings, all appear to be from the third period of Nyingma development, 17th century to the present, and relate the narrative of the Revealed Treasure (Terma) Tradition based on the text of the Padma Kathang.

Jeff Watt [updated 8-2013, 6-2017, 2-2018]