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Guru Rimpoche's Glorious Copper-Coloured Mountain Paradise

From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
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Guru Rimpoche, the Precious Guru, whose personal name was Padmasambhava, was the Buddhist tantric sadhu and exorcist from the Swat valley in the ancient kingdom of Uddiyana, now a part of Pakistan, who was invited to Tibet in the eighth century to establish the tantric teaching.

His charismatic presence dominated the early period of propagation of Buddhism in Tibet, and after the Bon resurgence had worn itself out and the second period of intense dissemination began, he was envisioned as a Second Buddha of our era, and became an essential figure in the mythic vision of the Tibetan people.

His legend describes his departure from Tibet flying from the top of the Gungthang Pass, near the Pelku Tso lake, on the mythical white horse of the buddha-dharma carried by sky-dancing female Buddhas, or khandromas.

His destination was Ngayab Ling, an island in the ocean to the south-west of Dzambuling where his mission was to teach the cannibal-demon inhabitants the transformative path of the tantra.

His success in achieving that objective is described in terms of Zangdok Pelri, his Glorious Copper-coloured Mountain Paradise.

The Glorious Copper-coloured Mountain is an island-mountain in the cosmic ocean and the periphery of the island defines the circumference of a mandala. Within it are the walls and four gates guarded by the Four Guardian Kings.

At the centre is a three-roofed pagoda temple, and between the gated mandala walls and the temple the community of initiates practises the teaching of Guru Rimpoche in a transformed environment.

On the ground floor of the temple Guru Rimpoche is enthroned surrounded by his Indian and Tibetan consorts, and lama and yogi exponents of his vision. In the centre of the second floor is Chenrezik, the bodhisattva of compassion, and in the centre of the third floor is Wopakme (Amitabha). The relationship between these three Buddhas is defined in Padmasambhava's birth legend.

Twenty-four years after the parinirvana of the Buddha Shakyamuni, the primordial Buddha of Boundless Light, Wopakme, conceived the thought of perfect enlightenment in the form of the great compassionate one, Chenrezik, and from Chenrezik's heart, I, Padmasambhava,

the Lotus Born Guru, was emanated as the syllable HRI, and I came like falling rain throughout the entire world in innumerable billions of forms to those who were ready to receive me. (Dowman 1973:74)

Or, as interpenetrating spheres of being, Wopakme is all-pervasive light and awareness; Chenrezik is his pure and compassionate vision; and Guru Rimpoche is the transforming illusion of the lama's sensory fields.

In the sky around the top of the temple float male and female sky dancers also practising the Guru's teaching.

The Glorious Copper-coloured Mountain is a far-away pure-land into which the devotee prays for rebirth so that his meditation practice can mature in his next lifetime in the presence of Guru Rimpoche.

It can also be an attainable state of meditation accomplishment in this lifetime and is experienced in actual sensory perception of the Tibetan environment.

The Copper-coloured Mountain Paradise, or more specifically its three-roofed pagoda temple, is sometimes replicated in the gompas of the Nyingma order such as the Lama Gompa near Bayi in Kongpo, at the Jiu gompa at Tso Mapham lake (Manasarovar), at the Kuthang gompa in the Kyimolung hidden valley, and at Tathang and Dodrub Chode in Kham.

But at the Chimphu hermitage site a rocky crag, invested with several caves, is called Zangdok Pelri, and in its very lack of symmetry, and lack of formal similarity to the mandala icon, the internal location of the vision and its dependence upon the meditative achievement of the yogis who live there is signifed.