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Padmasambhava helped bring Buddhism to Tibet, secreted his teachings for future generations, and subdued demons and volatile gods that got in his way.

  • According to the terma, or treasure Tradition, Padmasambhava was born on a lotus in Dhanakosha Lake as an emanation of the Buddha Amitabha.
  • A tantric wizard and master of ritual magic, he is thought to have perceived time as it really exists, seeing the past, present, and future.
  • He is believed to have helped the king of Tibet convert his people to Buddhism in the late eighth century
  • In addition to converting the Tibetan population, Padmasambhava helped subdue local gods and prevented spirits of the land, mountains, and lakes from interfering with the spread of Buddhist culture
  • Tibetans call him the Second Buddha, as they consider him second only to Buddha Shakyamuni, the founding teacher of Buddhism, who lived many centuries earlier in ancient India.
  • Padmasambhava is credited with leaving countless footprints and handprints throughout the Himalayas, whether seared into stone or fixed on the surface of water.
  • Padmasambhava is thought to have played a key role in the construction of Samye, the first Tibetan monastery.
Padmasambhava; Tibet; 15th century; silver and gilt copper alloy with inlays of turquoise and coral; Rubin Museum of Art; C2005.16.36 (HAR 65459)
Detail from Dorje Drolo, One of Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava; Central Tibet; 18th century; pigments on cloth; Rubin Museum of Art; Gift of the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation; F1996.31.14 (HAR 528)
Purba with Three Faces of Vajrakila Buddha; Tibet; 17th century; ebony, ivory with pigments; Rubin Museum of Art; Gift of Carlton and Holly Rochell in honor of Donald Rubin; C2005.3.1 (HAR 65390)
Padmasambhava and Scenes from His Life Story; Kham Province, eastern Tibet; 18th-19th century; pigments on cloth; Rubin Museum of Art; C2003.49.11 (HAR 65273)
  • In some legends Padmasambhava melted ice by shooting fire from his hand.
  • In others, Padmasambhava emerged unscathed on a lotus after being burned at the stake.
  • Able to foresee periods of strife, he projected his teachings (terma) into the future by hiding them for treasure revealers (terton) to discover, ensuring the continued flourishing of his ideas and practices.
  • Having a karmic connection to Padmasambhava allows the terton to discover the concealed teachings. It is not random. You know if you are a person destined to discover the terma.
  • Terma have been concealed in mountains, caves, lakes, temples, and the sky. Others have been secreted in the minds of terma revealers.
  • Once a terma is revealed, the terton is tasked with sharing it with others before reconcealing it. It is hidden again for future discovery. It is infinite.
  • Padmasambhava is said to reside on an island once populated with demons. There, southwest of Tibet on the Copper-Colored Mountain, the Second Buddha holds court within a three-storied palace.
  • To this day, terton seek the knowledge that Padmasambhava concealed over a thousand years ago in the jagged, rough landscape of Tibet, the sky above, and in the minds and dreams of disciples.