Guru Rinpoche, the ‘Precious Master’, is the founder of Tibetan Buddhism and the Buddha of our time. Whereas Buddha is known primarily for having taught the teachings of the sutra vehicle, Padmasambhava came into this world, and to Tibet in particular, in order to teach the tantras. While Buddha Shakyamuni exemplifies the buddha principle, the most important element in the sutrayana path, Padmasambhava personifies the guru principle, the heart of Vajrayana Buddhism, and he is therefore known as the ‘second Buddha’ (Tib. སངས་རྒྱས་གཉིས་པ་, sangyé nyipa).
In the north-western part of the land of Oddiyana, on an island in the lake of Dhanakosha, the blessings of all the buddhas took shape in the form of a multi-coloured lotus flower. Moved by compassion at the suffering of sentient beings, the Buddha Amitabha sent out from his heart a golden vajra, marked with the syllable HRIH, which descended onto the lotus blossom. It transformed into an exquisitely beautiful eight year old child, endowed with all the major and minor marks of perfection, and holding a vajra and a lotus. At that moment all the buddhas of the ten directions, together with hundreds of thousands of dakinis from different celestial realms, invoked the blessings and the incarnation of all the buddhas for the benefit of beings and the flourishing of the secret mantra teachings. Their invocation is known as ‘The Seven Verses of the Vajra’, or ‘The Seven Line Prayer’.
It is said that his birth took place in either an Earth Monkey or a Wood Monkey year, on the tenth day of the waxing moon in the monkey month. As Guru Rinpoche was born within the lotus flower upon the waters of the lake, the dakinis called out to him from their hearts, and their call spontaneously became the Vajra Guru mantra. So this mantra is his heart mantra, his life-core, his heart essence, and to recite it is to invoke his very being. It happened that at that time, the King of Oddiyana, Indrabhuti, as a result of his immense generosity to the poor and needy of his country, had finally emptied his treasury. In addition, he had no heir to succeed him as ruler, and his sight had failed him. So he had set out on a voyage on the lake of Dhanakosha to find a wishfulfilling jewel. As he returned with the jewel, he encountered the amazing child, and questioned him about his parents, his family line, his name and country, his sustenance and what he was doing there. The boy sang his reply in an enchanting voice:
My mother, the space of all things, Samantabhadri,
My line, the indivisibility of awareness and space,
My name, the glorious Lotus-born,
My homeland, the unborn dharmadhatu,
My sustenance, consuming dualistic thoughts,
My destiny, to accomplish the actions of the buddhas of past, present and future.