The Significance of Guru Rinpoche in the Nyingma Tradition

A teaching by Orgyen Topgyal Rinpoche given at Yanglesho, the Asura cave where Guru Rinpoche gained the 4th Vidyadhara level of accomplishment. otr

For us as Nyingmapas, Guru Rinpoche is the embodiment of all sources of refuge. He is the emanation of all the buddhas of the past, regent of all the buddhas of the present, and the basis from which all the buddhas of the future will manifest.

Buddha Shakyamuni prophesied that a being even greater than himself would appear in this world; that being was Guru Rinpoche.

Buddha Shakyamuni was born from the womb, whereas Guru Rinpoche had a miraculous birth. Buddha Shakyamuni was an ordinary nirmanakaya, whereas Guru Rinpoche was a supreme nirmanakaya – a vajra master who emanates all the mandalas and regathers them within himself. Buddha Shakyamuni passed into parinirvana at the age of eighty, whereas Guru Rinpoche is still present in this world and has yet to pass into parinirvana.

In this world, the Buddha Shakyamuni displayed twelve deeds and Guru Rinpoche eleven. The Teacher demonstrated passing into parinirvana – the twelfth deed – but Guru Rinpoche did not and will remain until the universe is destroyed at the end of the kalpa. This is why Guru Rinpoche is, for Nyingmapas, the most precious of all masters.

Of the teachings Guru Rinpoche gave while performing the eleven activities, the most important was that of attaining enlightenment. Although he has always been enlightened, he attained enlightenment in the eyes of the world when he accomplished the supreme siddhi, which is the Mahamudra level of a vidyadhara. The tantras talk of four levels of a vidyadhara, and the Mahamudra level is enlightenment. To accomplish that level, Guru Rinpoche came to Yangleshö, “at the border of Nepal and Tibet” and “the border of India and Nepal.”

Chokgyur Lingpa’s revelations contain a ‘Kathang’ or ‘Chronicle of Guru Rinpoche’s life’ that is part of the terma called Seven Profound Cycles. Guru Rinpoche himself narrated the story and Yeshe Tsogyal wrote it down, then hid it as a terma that was later revealed by Chokgyur Lingpa.

To create obstacles for Guru Rinpoche, the maras inflicted drought on the lands of India and Nepal. All the fields turned to dust, and pestilence and disease of all kinds created great suffering for the people. The main culprit behind these obstacles was a naga called Nöchen Gomaka, who lived in the pond near here.

The practice of Vajrakilaya is for repelling obstacles; no practice is more powerful. So Guru Rinpoche sent a messenger to India to ask the five hundred panditas gathered at the Vajra Seat to send him the text of Vajrakilaya practice, which they did. Our Seven Profound Cycles Chronicle reads,

“I asked the masters for a Dharma method through which I could repel them.

The “Dharma method with which to repel them” that the Indian masters sent was the Vidyottama Vajrakilaya Tantra.

They sent someone carrying the Vidyottama teaching on Vajrakilaya.


As soon as he set foot in Nepal the obstacles were pacified.

The mere arrival of the messenger who carried the sadhana to Nepal was enough to pacify the obstacles.

Then I attained the supreme accomplishment of Mahamudra.”

Guru Rinpoche says that he attained the supreme accomplishment of Mahamudra vidyadhara in Nepal. That means this very cave – the upper cave – is where Guru Rinpoche reached the vidyadhara level of Mahamudra, the supreme accomplishment of enlightenment.

This is also where Guru Rinpoche bound the Vajrakilaya protectors to their oath; it is said that Dakshinkali – one of the four kalis of the Kathmandu valley – became one of the protectors of the Vajrakilaya teachings. The terma teachings mention “the Asura cave.” when describing how the twelve Tenma sisters were bound by their oath. The name asura in Sanskrit means ‘secret cave’.

So this Asura cave is the place where Guru Rinpoche reached the Mahamudra level of vidyadhara. What does that mean? The supreme accomplishment of the Mahamudra level of a vidyadhara is reached through meditation. A buddha perceives no impurity whatsoever, everything is pure. Actually, it’s not even pure because the buddha dharmakaya is space-like wisdom. When a place has been blessed with that space-like wisdom, it becomes sacred.

You and I are unable to bless anything at all, whereas it is said that after Guru Rinpoche invoked the blessings during an empowerment he gave at Samye Chimphu, the ground, rocks and everything shook for hours. That’s what happens when things arise as the display of emptiness. And such blessings are inexhaustible – emptiness cannot be exhausted, right?

All connections are beneficial. But if mind is aware of the sacredness of the place, the blessings we receive will be even more potent.

I’ll give you an example: if you light a massive bonfire, just by being near it everyone will feel its warmth, whether they like the heat or not. To like the warmth is ‘pure perception’, and not liking it is ‘impure perception’; but at the level of the Buddha’s wisdom there is no difference because the buddhas’ compassion is said to be ‘all-pervasive’, right? What is that warmth? It is the quality of the Buddha. And that quality is available constantly, not here one minute and gone the next.

We are used to the idea that lamas bless people or statues by throwing rice or barley at them. It’s a method that works well, but is nothing in comparison with the blessings Guru Rinpoche can give us! There is no one who can give blessings more powerfully than the Buddha and Guru Rinpoche.

Basically, buddhas’ qualities are inconceivable – we can’t even imagine them, let alone describe them. You and I emulate the Buddha by practicing kyerim and meditating on the infinite purity of the universe and all beings. We meditate on the world and the entire external universe, and think of it as being primordially pure, right? So, when we practice in this cave, we meditate on turning the cave into the immeasurable palace of the deities. But our meditation is not stable, whereas Guru Rinpoche’s meditation was stable. And not only was Guru Rinpoche’s meditation stable, it remains unchanging. No-one can affect it. If even a billion mara armies tried to alter it, they wouldn’t make the slightest impact. And not only was Guru Rinpoche’s meditation stable, it continues to remain stable and unchanging to this very day. No-one can affect it!

Even a billion mara armies would be unable to alter it in any way or make the slightest impact. This is the calibre of meditation that Guru Rinpoche mastered, and it is known as the ‘vajra-like samadhi’. You and I cannot perceive it because we don’t have pure perception, but if we did, we would be able to see the entire universe in its infinite purity.

This teaching was excerpted from the following website

Read more about the great Masters of the Nyingma and Longchen Nyingtik Tradition at the MSB Members site under Study and Practice and then Lineage and History.