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Bon III

Updated on November 18, 2017

Upon the completion of his sentence Padmasambhava returned to Oddiyana and he took the Princess Mandrava as his consort. Now it’s interesting that the myth says consort and not wife because Padmasambhava did not wed in the formal, orthodox or traditional sense of the word and this may imply that he had a spiritual consort.

The Kings of Angkor were proprietors of a similar version of Tantrism. We’ll go into it in depth later when we cover Angkor but it suffices to say for now that the Kings of Angkor did not have one but nine spiritual consorts who they communed with on a nightly basis.

Many of the concepts that I touch on here may be hard or difficult to grasp but in order to understand Tantrism it is crucial to come to terms with some of its basic concepts.

In addition to Mandarva (India) and later Yeshe Tsogyal (Tibet), Padmasambhava had 3 other consorts, Kalasiddhi (India), Sakya Devi (Nepal) and Mangala (Bhutan). According to some sources, all of Padmasambhava’s consorts had the hallmarks or the trademarks of the dakinis and are worshipped in some circles as the 5 wisdom Goddesses.

Yeshe Tsogyal was the most prominent, followed by Mandrava the daughter of the King of Zahor, a Kingdom in Northeast India.

Now it is important to mention that the word dakini in its most simplistic form basically means “an enlightened female” i.e. someone who has attained spiritual liberation or is freed from the birth and death cycle.

In some circles these dakinis are worshiped as bodhisattvas i.e. enlightened beings who have been freed from the birth and death cycle but have chosen to remain on earth in spiritual form because of the compassion they have for humanity. It is entirely different from a dakini who derives her powers from the mahavidyas. The latter is purely tantric in essence and substance.

It may or may not be of relevance but the number 5 is significant to the Goddess Varahi. For starters, she is the Goddess who sits on the fifth Chakra. In addition to that, in Indian classical music or traditional music, the 5th swara (a note in the octave) is synonymous to the Goddess Varahi. Varahi is also the 5th of the 8 matrikas.

Padmasambhava’s consorts may also be perceived to be 5 different manifestations of the Goddess Varahi, each synonymous to 5 different aspects of the Goddess or to take it further the 5 different weapons that are associated to the Goddess i.e. a bell, a yak’s tail, a discus, a mace and Sharanga (Vishnu’s bow given to him by the craftsman of the Gods, Viswakarma).

Varahi is also alternative worshipped as Satya Ekakini, she who reveals the inner truths and this aspect of the Goddess is particularly important to seers. Those who are blessed by the touch of Satya Ekakini need only to look into their inner-selfs to discover and uncover all truths.

Because the Goddess Varahi is an incarnate of Vishnu’s boar avatar, those who are touched by her, exude tremendous strength. All in all, we can safely say, from the tantric perspective anyway, that Padmasambhava didn’t really require any external help because he was blessed from birth. Being surrounded by his 5 consorts only enhanced his abilities.

I have thus far tried to exclude the Buddhist influence because we are here solely concerned with the Bon faith and the Bon-Tantric fusion that occurred post the arrival of Padmasambhava in Tibet.

Following his union with Mandrava, Padmasambhava journeyed to Nepal and there he and Mandrava were conferred the gift of longevity and were granted eternal life. Presumably this is where he met Sathya Devi. He then journeyed to Tibet and according to some sources to “tame a wild land that was rife with shamanic practices” which was most likely a reference to the Bon practices that were prevalent at that time.

It is to some degree an unfair reference to the Bon faith especially because we know so little about it.

It must also be said that there are some scholars who divide Bon into white Bon and black Bon. The former is with reference to Bon rituals that are used to produce good results or positive results and the latter is in reference to Bon rituals that are performed to bring about or produce negative results and is likened to black magic.

One of the salient aspects of Bon is that it is a polytheistic religion and therefore it is a religion with numerous deities and like most polytheistic religions it has the potential to evolve either with the archeological discoveries of new deities or when someone who is exceptionally pious is elevated to a near god status.

The fundamental principle behind all polytheistic religions or faiths is that all deities are representations of the one God and each manifestation represents a different aspect of the one God. God being both omniscient and omnipresent will undoubtedly have numerous aspects.

© 2016 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward

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