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Vairotsana (or Berotsana (Tib. བཻ་རོ་ཙ་ན་, Wyl. bai ro tsa na), Vairochana (Tib. བཻ་རོ་ཅ་ན་, Wyl. bai ro ca na) (eighth-ninth centuries) — the greatest of all Tibetan lotsawas. Together with Padmasambhava and Vimalamitra, he was one of the three main masters to bring the Dzogchen teachings to Tibet.


Vairotsana was born into the Pagor (Tib. སྤ་གོར, Wyl. spa gor) clan, and was sent to India by Trisong Detsen to study with Indian panditas. He also travelled widely in China, Khotan, Nepal, Shangshung and elsewhere. He was one of the original seven monks ordained by Shantarakshita.

His principal teacher was Shri Singha, from whom he received the instructions and empowerments of sem dé, long dé and mengak dé. He also received direct transmissions from Mañjushrimitra, who appeared to him in his wisdom body[1]. In realization, Vairotsana became equal to Guru Rinpoche.

After returning to Tibet, he was eventually sent into exile in East Tibet; there he taught Yudra Nyingpo, Sangtön Yeshe Lama, and the old man, Mipham Gönpo before Trisong Detsen recalled him to Lhasa.

He translated many of Shri Singha’s works as well as many other mantrayana texts. He also translated part of the 100,000 verse Prajnaparamita text and other sutras. The exact number of his translations cannot now be traced, as the names of early translators were not always recorded by later translators.

Ngok Loden Sherab (1059-1109) once famously observed:

Vairotsana was like the boundless sky itself,
Kawa, Chok and Shyang were like the sun and moon,
Rinchen Zangpo was like the great dawn star
Compared to them, we are like mere fireflies.

The Tibetan master Vairotsana was born in the Tibetan region of Nyemo Chekar, in Tsang Province. Even at a young age he was extraordinarily intelligent and demonstrated miraculous abilities, such as being able to fly through the sky and read the minds of others. When Trisong Detsen was attempting to establish the Dharma in Tibet, he brought Vairotsana to Samye and had him train as a translator. He was ordained by Abbot Shantarakshita as one of the ‘seven testers’; the first seven Tibetans to be ordained as monks. The king sent Vairotsana and another monk, Lektrup, on the arduous journey to India, in order to study and receive Dharma transmissions. After many hardships they finally met the master Shri Simha at the forest of Tsenden Silche, offering him a mandala of gold and requesting instruction on the effortless spiritual approach (Dzogchen). Shri Simha agreed to teach them, but gave the following warning: "I can impart to you the profound key points under a seal of secrecy, but your life will be in danger under the king's punitive laws if you do not keep this very secret. So by day you will listen to the teachings on cause and effect from other great scholars; by night I will reveal to you the spiritual teachings of direct transmission." In this way, Shri Simha ensured that others would remain ignorant of what Vairotsana and Lektrup were really learning. At night Shri Simha wrote down the eighteen pith instructions of Dzogchen Semde (Category of Mind) on white silk, using the milk of a white goat. When he wished to reveal the text, the silk was held over a smoking fire and the letters became visible. The monk Lektrup was satisfied with what he had received and departed for the return journey to Tibet. Unfortunately he was killed on the way.

However, Vairotsana was not satisfied and requested further teachings. Shri Simha therefore bestowed on him all of the empowerment's and pith instructions of the sixty Tantras of Dzogchen Semde, as well as the three cycles of Dzogchen Longde (Category of Expanse).

Having then travelled to the great charnel ground of Dhumagata, Vairotsana met the master Prahevajra (Garab Dorje) and received from him the ultimate lineage of the 6,400,000 verses of the Dzogchen Tantras. In some accounts, he received this transmission through a pure vision of Prahevajra, rather than having met him in person. At that point, he truly attained the supreme siddhi of the freedom that occurs simultaneously with realisation. From this transmission came a cycle known as Vairo Nyingthig (The Heart Essence of Vairotsana).

Vairotsana then returned to Tibet, relying on his yogic ability of swift-footedness. To King Trisong Detsen and others he taught the common vehicles on cause and effect by day, while by night he imparted the Dzogchen teachings to the king alone. He also translated the first five of the eighteen Tantras of Semde.

At that time, envious of Vairotsana for having taken such teachings back to Tibet and in order to arouse suspicion in the Tibetansminds, some Indians spread the rumour that his teachings and translations were not Buddhist. Furthermore, Queen Tsepongza and a number of the king’s ministers were hostile to the Dharma and conspired to have Vairotsana exiled to Tsawa Rong (Gyarong), on the border between China and Tibet. In exile, he converted the King of Gyarong and his subjects to Buddhism and accepted Prince Yudra Nyingpo as his disciple. Yudra Nyingpo became a great scholar and highly realised Dzogchen adept, and is classed as one of the twenty-five disciples (or subjects). He travelled to Samye and met Vimalamitra, who persuaded King Trisong Detsen to end Vairotsana’s exile and invite him back to Tibet.

Vairotsana also taught the Dzogchen cycles to Sangton Yeshe Lama at Taktsekhar in Tsawa Rong, to the old man Mipham Gönpo (who attained the rainbow body), to Nyak Jnanakumara in Central Tibet, and to the princess Sherab Dölma of Khotan. Finally, in the place called Bhasing in Nepal, Vairotsana passed into the rainbow body.


  1. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Primordial Purity.

Further Reading

  • A. W. Hanson-Barber, The Life and Teachings of Vairocana, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1984
  • The Great Image: The Life Story of Vairochana the Translator, translated by Ani Jinba Palmo, Shambhala, 2004.
  • Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage (Junction City: Padma Publications, 2005), pages 49-51.

External Links



Vairotsana of 'Pagor' (Wylie: spa gor) (Tib.: Be-ro-tsa-na) was a Tibetan translator living during the reign of King Trisong Detsen (who ruled from 755 until 797). Vairotsana, one of the 25 main disciples of Padmasambhava, was recognized by the latter as a reincarnation of an Indian pandita. He was among the first seven monks ordained by Shantarakshita, and was sent to India to study with Shri Singha who taught him in complete secrecy. Shri Singha in turn entrusted Vairotsana with the task of propagating the Mind section and the Space section of Dzogchen in Tibet. He is one of the three main masters to bring the Dzogchen teachings to Tibet, the two others being Padmasambhava and Vimalamitra. He was also a significant lineage holder of Trul Khor.

Shechen Gyaltsab mentions in his Pond of White Lotus Flowers that Vairotsana, before meeting Shri Singha, had met the wisdom forms of the two vidyadharas Garab Dorje and Manjushrimitra in a miraculous pagoda at Dhahena. After he had presented a huge offering of gold, they conferred empowerment upon him and bestowed their blessings, with the prediction that he would receive the complete teachings from Shri Singha.

He is sometimes called Vairocana, the central dhyani Buddha, as a gesture of respect. Vairocana means completely illuminating in Sanskrit, while Vairotsana is a Tibetan word for the kacimbhala tree, a kind of oak. The name /vai-roṣaṇa/ would derive from Sanskrit /vi-roṣa/ 'free from anger'. The word /kacimbhala/ [not in Monier-Williams] may perhaps represent /kācima/ 'sacred tree' + /bhallātaka/ 'acajou, cashew-nut, marking-nut'.


Vairotsana's chief disciples were Yudra Nyingpo (Wylie: gyu sgra snying po), Sangtön Yeshe Lama, Pang Gen Sangye Gönpo, Jnana Kumara of Nyag (Wylie: nyag ye she gzhon nu), and Lady Yeshe Drönma (Wylie: jo mo ye shes sgron). An especially renowned disciple was the old Pang Gen Mipham Gönpo whose disciples attained the rainbow body for seven generations by means of the oral instructions of Dzogchen Longde entitled 'Dorje Zampa' (Wylie: rdo rje zam pa) also known as the 'Vajra Bridge'. Tsele Natsok Rangdröl, Terdag Lingpa Gyurmey Dorje, and Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye are regarded as reincarnations of Vairotsana.


Born in Pagor, Vairotsana was sent to India by Trisong Detsen to learn the Dharma with Indian pandits. Vairotsana also travelled widely in China, Khotan, Nepal, Shangshung, amongst other places. Vairotsana also went to China and received teachings from nineteen teachers. Amongst these were: Kusula Bhitigarbha, Dharmabodhi, Vajra Sukha Deva, Pandita Barma, Tsenda Ritropa, Mahabodhi, Shri Ani, Hashang Bhibi, Surya Ghirti and Satipa.


  • Eye of the Storm: Vairotsana's Five Original Transmissions (Snga 'gyur lnga)—translation and commentary by Keith Dowman; Vajra Publications, Nepal