The Story of the Lotus Lake, Tso Pema
EH MA HO!
The vast thought of the Dharma Body pervades all phenomena
The thought of the Perfect Enjoyment Body sees
all sentient beings as his son
The deeds of the Emanation Body tame beings through various means
Praise to the three bodies, inseparably,
combined into one,the Lotus King
The Dharma Sphere of Samanthabhadra is the
phenomenal sphere of the Dharma Body
Vajravarahi in the skill of the Perfect Enjoyment Body
Within the Five Consorts through the
manifestation of the Emanation Body
Praise in particular to this consort the Celestial Being Mandaraiva!
Having sung these verses of homage at the beginning now let us start with a brief history of the bonfire that turned into a lake through supernatural powers, the Lotus Lake.
In the past there lived a Zahor King called Tsuk Lak Dzin. The King was badly in need of a son, and so he made vast offerings to the gods, yogis and Brahmins. Everyone prophesied that the King would father a son. After a long while the youngest Queen had a good auspicious dream and so also had the eldest Queen, who dreamt that she had conceived a son. When she told the King, he did many prayers and made offerings.
At the time of the child's birth there were many auspicious signs, like showers of flowers and music, which were seen and heard by everyone in the kingdom of Zahor. Everyone, including the Queen, had predicted an extraordinary son to be born. When facing the truth of a baby girl being born, the Queen felt dejected. The King, in dismay, called the Queen a liar.
When the Brahmins examined the child's extraordinary astrological symbols, they were amazed, and with tears of joy in their eyes they prostrated (before the child). They proclaimed the child as a human emanation of Female Primordial Wisdom, chief among Female Celestial Beings.
Her growth was exceptional, growing in a day as others grow in a month, and in a month as others grow in a year. At the age of thirteen she was a fully grown woman with beauty that would steal anyone's heart.
Hearing the news of the gorgeous young Princess, the kings of eleven neighbouring kingdoms arrived at the gate of the Zahor King, with marriage proposals for their sons and priceless precious gems as gifts.
The Zahor King, deep in thought, wished he had eleven such daughters so that he could happily hand one daughter to each Prince. But with only a single daughter and eleven Princes proposing to her he didn't dare to give his daughter to one and turn ten others into enemies. Considering the matter a grave issue, the King consulted his court of Ministers and Aides. They decided to ask the Princess about her choice and would decide in accordance with it. The King then called his daughter and asked of her choice of Kingdom.
She was completely terrified, like a fish being brought onto dry land, and she cried bitterly. Pleading with her father for mercy, saying
"While being single is the root of the Dharma,
family life is the foundation of its faults.
So please let me ordain as a novice nun.
The palace and power of a King is a zone of poison,
and the Princes are messengers of demons.
I am not going to be a bride.
I have seen all the realms of the demons, nest of poisonous snakes,
swamp of filth (kanupa) and bonfire of blazing flames.
King, Oh Father, please allow me for a Dharmic life."
Then the King, denying her request, told the Princess there were no records of females who were able to fulfil their Dharmic life. So he told her to decide upon her choice of Prince within three days.
As the Princess couldn't convince her Father to let her lead a Dharmic life, she now decided to run away. With her loyal maid, a childhood friend, she took a secret exit. At some distance from the palace the princess took off her ornaments and dress and gave them to the maid. She told the maid to return back and hand over these to the King and the Queen informing them that she had run away for Dharma.
The maid then requested, "O transcendental lady flower Mandarava! Why don't you stay in the palace along with your parents? And why are you disgracing yourself? If I return to the palace alone the King will execute me!"
The princess then tore off her attire and scattered it in every direction. She prayed for lives in which there was no need to put on such clothes. She pounded her precious jewellery into pieces, then scattered the particles in offering to the Precious Ones. She prayed to eliminate obstacles to Perfection. She plucked out her hair, which left her head looking like copper. She scratched her face with nails and sharp edged stones. On her bloody face, with its fresh wounds, she applied dust and sand. Then she said, "May I never be born in such a body, which obstructs practise of the Dharma."
Putting on pieces of clothes from a corpse, she then sat still as a non-living object, in deep concentration. The maid wailed and pleaded with the Princess to stop her actions. She pleaded for the sake of her royal parents, but the Princess was immobile and mute as a stone. The maid then fainted in panic and alarm. When she recovered, she found herself alone, with the Princess nowhere to be seen. In great grief like dusk and her heart broken into pieces, the maid returned to the palace weeping all the way.
The anxious royal party, already on their way in search of the Princess, met up with the weeping maid. The King was really worried about the fate of his daughter. When the maid informed the King and the party of the incidents that had taken place, everyone was amazed, for the Princess had run away for the sake of Dharma, and her fate was unknown.
The King requested the delegates who had come for his daughter's hand to return home with their valuable gifts. The delegates left, but each warned the King of a fierce war if the Princess agreed to marry any of the others. They said however that they would respect the Princess's decision to lead a Dharmic life.
After an intensive search, the royal party came across the Princess. The King then, fulfilling his daughter's wish, encouraged five hundred maids to ordain as nuns. He planned to construct a palace of temples. In order that she might abandon her worldly deeds, the king turned a cave on a hill into a shrine hall. The princess performed meditative contemplation in the main cave shrine hall, and the five hundred maids turned nuns stayed at nearby caves. The whole kingdom paid their respects and offerings to them. They sat in deep meditation of Shamatha (calm abiding) in the mornings and in the afternoons they went out to enjoy the beautiful landscape of green grass, flowers and wildlife. They had abandoned their home and were practising the Dharma.
Meanwhile, from Dhana Kosha Lake, the Great Ogyen, using his supernatural powers to search for devoted disciples, was pleased to find the Princess and the kingdom with the perfect attributes and decided to descend. In the sky above the Princess and her maids, a splendid, good-looking boy of eight years of age appeared, with a loving smile on his face, legs folded in vajra posture, and expressing something through signs.
Instantly the Princess fell unconscious out of devotion, upon viewing this remarkable boy. When she regained consciousness, she paid her respects and prostrated, making requests in the following words to the Transcendental Boy to preside in her palace and preach Dharma.
"EH MA HO!
You, crown of Buddha, son of His Heart.
You had attained Perfection for yourself,
but with the hook of immense compassion you uphold other beings.
You treat beings with loving-kindness.
You guide me with pleasure and readiness.
The boat of equanimity is said to liberate without any distinction between friend and foe.
Welcome to the palace and teach the Dharma, You the only Refuge of the blind beings."
At the palace the boy was placed on the Ratna Throne and was given all the five offerings to please the five senses. The boy then gave a teaching on the Triple Yoga.
A defiled herdsman, at the time in search of lost cattle, arrived at the very location of the temple where the Princess and maids were residing. The herdsman saw someone drop from the sky above, like a bird, into the cave temple. And then the Princess and retinue welcomed him with the most respect and best offerings. The herdsman with ill-intention, misconstrued that the Princess was having an affair with a novice.
The news spread in the kingdom like wild fire, and at last the King was informed of this incident by his younger Queen. The King in disbelief scolded the Queen saying, "A women's mouth is a store of non-virtues. I need the man who first came with this news."
The Queen brought the interior minister to the King, and the interior minister came up with the exterior minister, and the exterior minister came with the chief. The chief admitted that he had heard this from the public. The King then in fear, of the news spreading to the neighbouring countries, announced an invaluable prize for whosoever had seen, with his very eyes, the Princess having an affair.
The wife of the herdsman insisted that he reveal himself and claim what he had seen. So amidst a huge crowd in the market the herdsman shouted out and related the whole incident in detail. He took away the prizes and suggested that others go see for themselves to prove his words true.
The King then ordered the minister to go look at the Princess' palace, but the Queen went ahead of everyone else. When she arrived, there was a handsome male voice to be heard from the door, which was locked by a maid. The Queen fainted in disbelief. When the minister arrived he found the Queen unconscious, and heard the male voice, which added more to his suspicion.
When the minister briefed the King with his account the King was furious. He ordered his men to cut through the door to the Princess's palace and to bring the novice to his feet. He ordered people to dig a pit, fill it with cut thorns, and throw his daughter naked in it so that she wouldn't even be able to see the light of day for twenty five years.
The ministers and others followed the Kings orders but when they reached the spot, they didn't dare touch the extraordinary novice who was sitting on a thrown and teaching Dharma to the truly devoted Princess, Mandarava and her maidens now novice nuns.
People returned and relayed the story to the King explaining that the Princess had been receiving teachings from the novice. The King, rejecting this, ordered the people of his kingdom to gather firewood to burn the novice alive. The King himself went to the Princess's palace and pulled the novice down to the floor and immediately tied his body and neck with ropes.
Princess Mandarava, horrified, could not understand what her father was doing. She pleaded with him to let go of the novice and declared strongly that he was her spiritual guide and master. The King regarding it as betrayal, gave no heed to her pleading. The King then took the novice down to a huge, open area of ground, amongst a huge pile of wood and oil for burning him alive. As the King tried to burn Guru Rinpoche, a supernatural being, the whole area was filled in blinding smoke.
The gods witnessed the entire event. When after a week had passed, the clouds of smoke had not faded, they became very anxious. Some of the holy beings decided to send showers of rain upon the cloud of smoke and others thought of diverting rivers and streams to this massive bonfire. When the fire was still ablaze after a week, the King in astonishment went to the spot where he saw that the whole place had been turned into a massive lake, with fire blazing upon the edges and where a giant lotus flower bloomed in the centre.
There, upon the lotus, sat the novice boy, with rays of rainbow light surrounding him. Hundreds of goddesses (dakinis) encircled him, singing praises to this extraordinary being. The King looked doubtfully in the four directions, but this special being had remained unhurt. At the same time the radiant novice said: "Have you come, ignorant King, who tried to burn the Guru who is the manifestation of the Buddha of the Three Times? Have you come ignorant King, you who are attached to deceptive worldly things and tried to punish the innocent? Have you come ignorant King, you who have made a home for the five defilements, which are the root of ignorance? Have you come ignorant King and ministers, you who have acted non-virtuously instead of making beings content?"
Hearing these words from the boy the King collapsed onto the ground, and when he regained consciousness, he wept in great remorse beating his chest. He was utterly terrified, like a fish thrown out of the water onto hot sand. Gradually people from all directions came to the site, hearing about the astonishing tale of the novice boy who had survived the fire and emerged from out of a lotus, turning the bonfire into a lake. The King was then seen throwing himself to the ground and prostrating innumerable times, weeping and regretting his misdeeds. He said: "Oh, praises to you, great being, who turned the massive bonfire into a lake. The one who is seated on a lotus, the Buddha of the Three Times, the faultless and unchanging!"
"I confess my non-virtuous deeds and vow before you never to repeat such faulty actions. I, King Tsuk Lak Dzin, offer you my kingdom and I pray to you, my lord, to accept me as your disciple and please to reside in the palace for the sake of ignorant beings."
By then the gods like Brahma and Indra had all descended from their heavenly realms, making the finest offerings and singing praises " HRIH! Praises to the three bodies with unbounded praises to the four actions. Praises to the eight names. Praises to the three realms of gods, the body experiencing perfect enjoyment, and praises to the body of wisdom skygoers, the Dakinis.
Then the Guru said: "Listen oh King Tsuk Lak Din, for:
My figure is space in reality, how could it make distinction between like and dislike?
No element can harm this illusory body, nor can it be tainted by the slightest non-virtuous thought. It is natural for sentient beings to commit mistakes. The king with all his good qualities is like Mount Meru. I would be fulfilling your dreams to guide the people on the Buddha's path".
Hearing this the King prostrated himself once more and ordered his ministers to fetch his royal hat and full attire, victory banners and flags. The ministers returned with the royal chariot and the finest clothes. The King offered all his possessions to the Guru. When seated on the chariot, with miraculous powers he could be seen in billions of planets in the universe simultaneously.
The King took of his clothes and tied the chariot's rope to his neck and led it through the streets. There were people cheering, crying with regret, prostrating and singing praises from all sides. When he reached the palace, the Guru was placed on a high throne of precious jewels and metals.
The King then sent his ministers to fetch Princess Mandarava. The minister quickly cleared the surface of the pit and requested the Princess to preside over the palace. When the Princess ignored numerous requests, the minister finally returned to the King reporting her refusal to return. The King shed tears of regret and told the Queen to fetch the Princess. The Queen went to the Princess taking her clothes. The Princess was in an appalling condition, her skin torn and scratched by the thorns. The Princess refused to return to the palace, instead saying that she would fulfil her fathers orders to remain in the pit for twenty five years, no matter how grave the hardships she would have to undergo. The Queen and her maids even tried in vain to pull the Princess out. All to no avail. The Princess refused to leave. The Queen cried and pleaded and the maids started to weep. Eventually all the women of the kingdom begged and pleaded wailing woefully.
The King heard the cry of countless women and immediately feared for his daughter's life and hurried to the scene. The King admitted regretfully that he had hindered his daughter's practise of the Dharma. He apologised profusely and begged her forgiveness saying that though he had only wished the best for her, the worst had happened.
Only after her father's intense pleading, did the Princess finally return to the palace. When she saw her master on the high throne, she was overjoyed, praying from the bottom of her heart. She bowed with respect and kneeling sang the following verse of praise:
"The Buddha manifest, in the land of non-virtues.
The powerful immortal vibrates of neither hope nor doubt.
For the supernatural body, any superhuman powers are auspicious.
The lotus born with unique radiance of skin and thirty two perfect signs
are all summed up in you."
In receiving these words of praise the guru, apparently pleased, said in return:
"People consider the four outer sufferings as the present enemy,
but why don't they see their relatives in this other form?
People consider their present relatives as their true friends,
but the one who truly fulfils the role of the guide is one's own spiritual master.
He guides you to the right path and draws you away from what you should avoid.
He guides one to the blessing of misfortune and the prosperity of obstacles."
The Princess was so overwhelmed by these words from her master.
The King then offered his kingdom, his daughter, wealth and everything that he possessed to this great being, and requested him to turn the Wheel of Dharma and stay and guide him until his death.
Guru Rinpoche in return promised to stay until the kingdom became completely transformed.
When he turned the Great Wheel of Dharma, the teachings of Buddha flourished without any human-made boundaries. The Lotus Born was well-known in all ten directions. The darkness of ignorance was dispelled and rays of virtue started to shine forth. The kingdom was transformed into a heavenly pure realm with no unripe beings. For two hundred years the Lotus Born was the temporal and spiritual leader of the Kingdom of Zahor
May oceans of prosperity pervade the entire universe!
May all beings be happy and become fully enlightened!
Note: For a further detailed biography of the Lotus born, refer to biographies like The Golden Rosary by Pema Kthang Shil Dak, and The lives of Princess Mandarava, Shambala Publications.
I confess any misinterpretations and mistakes before the Three Rare and Supreme Ones. I dedicate any merit to all sentient beings and pray that they may be liberated, paralleling the Lotus Born's wisdom.
Compiled and edited by Ani Tenzin Choedon of Rewalsar, translated into English by Tenzin Choephak on 27 September 2000. Lightly edited by Thubten Munsel, Rewalsar 2006, and again for the Drikung Lotus Mount Academy of Buddhist Studies in 2007 by Yeshe Rabgye.