In the world period that we are now in, one thousand buddhas will appear. In the same way, for each of these buddhas there will be one thousand Guru Rinpoches to carry out their activities. In the present age of Buddha Shakyamuni one such emanation appeared in the person of Padmasambhava, the Lotus-Born One. It is said in Padmasambhava's life story that he was spontaneously born without a father or mother from a lotus flower in a lake. As a miraculously born human being, he was endowed with great powers capable of subduing not only human beings but also spirits and other different types of nonhumans. He lived for quite a long time. He stayed in India for roughly a thousand years and then spent fifty-five years in Tibet. When about to leave Tibet, he was accompanied by his twenty-five chief disciples and the king. At the border of Nepal he was escorted by dakinis of the four classes on a horse called Mahabala. This fabulous horse flew into the skies, leaving the disciples to watch Guru Rinpoche's image slowly disappear, becoming smaller and smaller.
According to the story, Padmasambhava descended to Bodhgaya and stayed there for some time. He then went on to his pure land, which is known as Sangdok Palri, the Glorious Copper-Colored Mountain. Physically it is a large island, a kind of subcontinent, situated in the ocean to the southwest of Bodhgaya. The island has several levels. The lower levels are inhabited by rakshas. According to the predictions of Buddha Shakyamuni, these cannibal spirits would invade the known world in a later historical period when the average life span of human beings would approach twenty years. Posing a great danger, the rakshas would subdue and destroy all human beings. The Buddha also predicted that Guru Rinpoche should go to their continent and conquer these rakshas. Guru Rinpoche fulfilled that prediction.
The main mountain on this copper-colored island descends deep below the ocean into the naga realm. At the peak, the summit pierces the skies even to the level of the Brahma world in the realm of form. On the very tip of this mountain, there is a miraculously manifested buddha realm with three levels. Uppermost is the dharmakaya emanation of Guru Rinpoche, as Buddha Amitayus; in the middle level is Guru Rinpoche's sambhogakaya form, Avalokiteshvara, and on the ground level is the nirmanakaya form, Guru Rinpoche himself, surrounded by the eight manifestations. Guru Rinpoche is the mind emanation of Amitabha, the speech emanation of Avalokiteshvara, and the body emanation of the Buddha Shakyamuni. Before manifesting in this world, he appeared first in the sambhogakaya realm as the five families of Thotreng Tsal, then as the eight and twelve manifestations, and finally in countless emanations.
Before leaving Tibet, Guru Rinpoche made many predictions and hid many teachings that were to be revealed in the future. He blessed his close disciples so that they would be inseparable from himself. In future reincarnations they would reveal the hidden teachings. Endowed with great miraculous powers like Guru Rinpoche himself, they were able to fly through the sky, traverse freely through solid matter, and also be unimpeded in expounding the sutras and the treatises, as well as the meaning of the tantras. In particular, Guru Rinpoche prophesied the coming of 108 great tertons, revealers of hidden treasures. Because of changes and fluctuations in world history, each terton would appear in designated times to benefit beings facing difficulties. Being aware of future problems, Guru Rinpoche concealed specific practices especially suited to the time in which they were to be revealed. The tertons discovering them would then have a teaching that was totally fresh, up to date, and meant for that specific time and situation. For example, just as we prefer to have fresh food prepared in a way that will not make us sick, in the same way the terma teachings are endowed with very special qualities. One quality is that termas have a short lineage that has not been interrupted by any breaking or damage of samaya; also, the termas have not been interpolated by others. Hidden teachings come directly from Guru Rinpoche and are revealed by his disciples in future incarnations; then they are spread among people for immediate practice.
From Dakini Teachings: A Collection of Padmasambhava’s Advice to the Dakini Yeshe Tsogyal, recorded and concealed by Yeshe Tsogyal, revealed by Nyang Ral Nyima Oser and Sangye Lingpa, translated according to the oral teachings of Kyabje Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche by Erik Pema Kunsang. © 1999 Erik Pema Kunsang & Rangjung Yeshe Publications. Reprinted by arrangement with Rangjung Yeshe Publications. www.rangjung.com.