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Before we continue with the topic on hand it is worth looking into the exploits of the Indian monk Padmasambhava to help us understand the fusion and amalgamation that took place after his arrival in Tibet and it is worth mentioning, briefly at least, the two other Hindu deities that have become central to Tibetan mysticism and have risen to iconic proportions in the ancient South Asian kingdom.
Padmasambhava is also known as Guru Rinpoche and like the name implies he was first and foremost a teacher. Padmasambhava is also referred to as the “Lotus Born” and that is simply because he was never physically born but sprang from a lotus when he was 9 years old.
He was the adopted son of King Indrabhuti who was the ruler of the Kingdom of Oddiyana which according to most sources was located in the Swat Valley though other sources have concluded that because of the similarities in the name, Oddiyana could also have been an ancient kingdom in either Orissa or Haryana.
The kingdom would have existed somewhere at about the 6th – 7th century and we can safely say that it wasn’t located in either South or Central India because the prevailing dynasties at the time were synonymous to a different blend or facet of Hinduism.
Without doubt the kingdom was located somewhere in the north of India at a time when both Pakistan and India were one country. Having said that let’s not take anything away from Orissa because it has a rich historic legacy of its own.
The Sun Temples built by the Eastern Ganga Dynasty and its predecessors are ample testament to its vibrant and colorful history. Orissa was also the scene, many centuries prior to the rise of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty, of the final battle between the Mauryan Empire and the Kalinga Empire, which devastated both armies.
Now Indrabhuti was childless for many years and after much prayers and devotion he was granted a son. As the story goes, he was out hunting with his men one day when he stumbled across a large white lotus in the middle of a lake. Taken aback by its size he sat on his horse staring at it when the petals opened and out came the 9-year-old Padmasamabhava.
Indrabhuti dutifully adopted the boy and made him his heir apparent but young Padmasmabhava was a mischievous boy and would often get himself into trouble and therefore upon attaining a certain age he was sent to a graveyard to reflect on all the things he had done and serve out his sentence in silent meditation.
A graveyard is selected for the purpose of meditation for two reasons. Firstly, because it is silent and peaceful and there is very little interruption and secondly because it is also a form of getting used to spirit-beings, to come to terms with the fact that there are other entities that we share the world with and not all of the them occupy the same shape or form as the rest of us.
It is relevant at this stage to elaborate on Indrabhuti’s and Padmasambhava’s religious practices to understand the fusion that took place in Tibet after the monk’s arrival. They practiced a form of Hinduism that is known as Tantrism (i.e. tantric in essence and substance). All the texts available on Tantrism were originally translated from Sanskrit but I dare say a few things would have gone amiss during the translation because it is not always possible to translate from one language to another.
Tantric rites and rituals revolve around the 8 Hindu Matrikas one of whom already occupies a place of significance in Tibetan religious circles (Varahi). The other Matrikas are Brahmani, Vaishnavi, Mahesvari, Indrani, Kaumari, Chamunda and Narasimhi and the 10 Mahavidyas.
Tara who is one of the ten Mahavidyas is one of the most venerated Goddesses in Tibet. The other Mahavidyas are Kali, Sodasi, Bhuvaneshvari, Bhairavi, Chinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bhagalamuki, Matangi and Kamala.
There are a few salient points that should be mentioned here. Firstly, all the 8 Matrikas and the 10 Mahavidyas are female and therefore the power that is derived from them is feminine in essence. It is very potent and dominant.
Secondly, some of the Matrikas and most of the Mahavidyas are represented in an intimidating manner and sometimes associated to places that most people would rather avoid. The reason is as follows: - to harness the power of the Matrikas and the Mahavidyas one has to be able to confront his or her own worst fears.
Thirdly from the association to the Matrikas it is possible to ascertain the nature of a person. No doubt he or she may acquire special abilities from all 8 Matrikas but from the 8 there is always one Matrika that the person has a greater affinity to than others. In the case of Padmasambhava it is Varahi and therefore we can surmise that Padmasambhava was a seer, because Varahi is the Goddess of Seers.
Padmasambhava was also able to harness the collective powers of the Mahavidyas because he was later in his life closely associated to the Dakini (those who obtain their spiritual powers from the Mahavidyas) Yeshe Tsogyal and like all those who harness the power of the Matrikas, there would have been one Mahavidya that Yeshe Tsogyal was closer to than the rest and I would suspect it was Tara (she who embodies the power of compassion).
© 2016 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward