Who Gesar Is


Lerab Ling, 11 November 2013

Who Gesar Is

Lerab Ling, 11 November 2013

As is now his habit, Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche usually says a few words each day during a drupchen in Lerab Ling, to inspire those participating in the group practice and to clarify essential aspects of the path. Sometimes during the breaks, something happens that encourages Rinpoche to offer simple explanations about practice that might help the whole group. On one such occasion, towards the end of a Kurukulle drupchen, Rinpoche spoke about who Gesar is, and specifically, how to relate to him as we do our Gesar practices.


Last night, I went back to my room after the practice and watched the streaming of the evening session. Sogyal Rinpoche came here to the temple and was very active. As I watched him doing the Gesar practices, like The Prayer and Offering to 'The Great Lion, Gesar the Jewel', that Spontaneously Accomplishes Activities, Sollo Chenmo, protectors and so on, I felt I’d like to respond by making an offering. So now, I will say a few words about Gesar.

There are many Gesar sadhanas. In some, Gesar is practised as the lama, and in others, he is practised as a yidam, or a protector, or a wealth deity, and so on.

When you do these practices, you really must understand the main point. Those who ignore it, end up practising Gesar as if he were just an historical figure – a minor Tibetan king who was little more than a local feudal lord – who lived in Kham and waged many wars. However, there's something not quite right about praying to him and making offerings based on that understanding. And to be brutally honest, as far as I can see, that’s how most of the people here think of him.

What I want to tell you tonight is this: Gesar is not a mere feudal lord – he’s not like that at all!

1. Who Are the Protectors?

Wisdom Protectors

First, let’s talk about the protectors. There are two kinds: wisdom protectors and worldly protectors. Who are the wisdom protectors? They include the ‘gönpo’ class of male protectors, the goddess, or ‘lhamo’ class of female guardians, and the ‘maning’ class of epicene protectors. Essentially, the wisdom protectors are buddhas who take on the form of those who protect.

It works like this. The basic space of phenomena is ‘unborn’ or ‘primordial purity’. Sambhogakayas manifest from that unborn basic space to ‘tame’ all the sentient beings it’s possible to tame, and they are endowed with the infinite enlightened qualities of enlightened body, speech and mind. A sambhogakaya’s job is to benefit sentient beings, and to do that, they must emanate the appropriate physical form, speak the appropriate words, and enter into the numerous samadhis that are the expression of enlightened mind. In other words, all the enlightened qualities of body, speech and mind, enlightened activities and enlightened expressions exhibited by a sambhogakaya must suit and be appropriate to the situation and disposition of the sentient beings they wish to help.

Sentient beings cannot relate to enlightened body, speech, mind, qualities and activities just as they are; but of course, the buddhas can. So what has to happen? The inexhaustible wheel of ornaments of enlightened speech, also known as the ‘clouds of letters’ must manifest in the form of the tantras, so that sentient beings are able to benefit from all the enlightened qualities.

When the time comes to teach the tantras, this is what happens. The first buddha, dharmakaya Samantabhadra, is primordial purity free of elaboration – the aspect of emptiness; and the mother consort, Samantabhadri – whose wisdom mind never wavers from Samantabhadra’s wisdom mind – is the aspect of clarity. They are never not one, yet she appears as a separate being, who requests that Samantabhadra teaches the tantras, then out of compassion for sentient beings, Samantabhadra sets out the ‘wheel of clouds of letters’. In other words, he brings the tantras into the world by teaching them.

When the tantras were first taught, both the root and the supporting Tantras were included. For example, the main Dzogchen teaching given was the root tantra known as the Reverberation of Sound Tantra, and it was accompanied by the six million four hundred thousand other tantras of Dzogpachenpo. The tantras contain sadhanas which are the ‘means for attaining accomplishment’, and from which numerous deities appeared – for example, the buddhas of the five families and the hundred supreme peaceful and wrathful families. A great many deities were invoked because many sadhana chapters were taught, and amongst those deities were the protectors who own, care for and protect these teachings. For instance, Samantabhadri herself sprang from a rock in the physical form of the Protectress of Mantras – as you all practise Magön Chamdral every day, you must already know this.

The teacher Samantabhadra, Samantabhadri, the deities of the hundred supreme peaceful and wrathful families and the Protectress of Mantras, are all simply different expressions of the same single wisdom. In that sense they are the same. The various manifestations of the single wisdom are called ‘wisdom deities’, and to be blunt, these wisdom deities are not expressions of delusion, but of cognizant clarity.

Worldly Protectors

In addition to the wisdom deities, independently existing spirits like tsens and gyalpos, appeared, but they had been under the influence of delusion for a long time. Eventually, the masters introduced them to their deluded condition – to some extent at least – and ‘established them as protectors of the teachings’.

There were also local deities. Those in Tibet were overpowered by Guru Rinpoche, who they then pledged to serve. These local deities therefore do whatever they can to help spread the teachings of the Buddha and to increase the well-being of sentient beings – who they do not harm – and cultivate the enlightened mind of bodhichitta. Some of these local deities were able to abide by Guru Rinpoche’s words and respect the pledges they had made to him straight away, but it’s likely others weren’t – at least to begin with.

This is the first important point that you need to understand.

2. Buddhas Must Manifest Appropriately

The next point is that to be able truly to help sentient beings, it is important to manifest and act in ways that those sentient beings are able to relate to. In fact, there’s no other option. Even our teacher, Shakyamuni Buddha, entered the womb of King Shuddhodana’s queen, Mayadevi, so that he could genuinely help sentient beings, and therefore conformed to their expectations by enacting the twelve deeds. Guru Rinpoche also manifested for the benefit of sentient beings. A syllable hrih emanated from the heart of Amitabha, descended onto a lotus in the middle the lake Dhanakosha, and instantly transformed into Guru Rinpoche. In this way, he appeared in this world through a miraculous birth; and as he did not pass into parinirvana, the methods he used to help sentient beings were the eleven deeds. When the embodiment of the wisdom of all the buddhas, Mañjushri, had to teach sentient beings subjects like astrology, he appeared on this earth from a knot on a tree in China from which he miraculously arose as a bird [1]The Chronicle of Padma, for example, explains how Mañjushri was born in China at Wu T'ai shan, emerging fully-formed from a knot in a tree that was produced by a light ray sent by the Buddha Shakyamuni. See Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (tr.), The Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, Berkeley, California: Dharma Publishing, 1978, p. 224–5.. He then took several forms in addition to that of Mañjushri, for example, a golden tortoise. Accounts of the first time the teachings on astrology were given always start with this story of Mañjushri’s miraculous birth, the golden tortoise, and so on.[2]See for example Evans-Wentz, W. Y. The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation: Or the Method of Realizing Nirvana through Knowing the Mind. Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 134-135.

As I mentioned yesterday, it was when the Tantra teachings were brought to the world that Rudra Black Liberation appeared[3]On Rudra Black Liberation see for example Khenpo Namdrol, Vajrakilaya, Dharmakosha, 1997, p. 19-31.. To tame him, the power of all the buddhas’ compassion and strength manifested in the forms of Hayagriva and Vajravarahi, who then subdued him on the peak of Blazing Meteoritic Mount Malaya. This was where the teachings of the secret mantra then appeared. That's the second point you should know.

3. Who is Gesar?

You need to understand these first two points clearly before we can discuss the third point, which is Gesar Norbu Dradul, ‘Gesar the Jewel Tamer of Enemies’. Most importantly, you must understand that the incarnations who emanate to help sentient beings, must manifest in a form that suits the dispositions and capacities of the sentient beings of that time, and in which they can then help those beings. Of course, this isn’t something that sentient beings themselves know, it’s something the buddhas know.

The times we are living through right now are considered to be ‘bad’ times because the five degenerations are rampant. Sentient beings are in a far worse state now than they were in ages past – so much so that they are unable to follow the path to liberation and omniscience. Why? Because their lungta is weak, and because of the intense obscurations that cloud their minds, when teachings like Dzogpachenpo are presented to them, they cannot understand what’s being taught. This is how things are right now. And as I’ve just said, when the Buddha appears to tame beings who can be trained, sentient beings must be able to relate to the form he takes. Gesar appeared for the time when beings are completely overcome by their own destructive emotions and spend their lives warring against each other. To tame birds, Buddha must manifest as a bird; to tame dogs he manifests as a dog; to tame bees he manifests as a bee; and to tame human beings, he must manifest in a human form, right?

At such a time, Buddha appeared as Gesar Norbu Dradul, the magical emanation of the Lotus-born and of the lords of the three families. The lords of the three families are: Avalokiteshvara, the very embodiment of compassion, who looks with the eye of compassion upon every single sentient being, like a mother gazing upon her only child; Mañjushri, the embodiment of wisdom, who knows everything; and the Lord of Secrets, Vajrapani, the embodiment of all the power, strength and ability of all the buddhas. Gesar himself, is the magical manifestation of these three families.

Guru Rinpoche is also the embodiment of the enlightened qualities of all buddhas. His enlightened activities are unfathomable, but a small fraction took place in the land of Ling, in Kham called ‘the Ma valley that everyone wishes to see’ – this is what it’s called in all the stories written about Gesar. His father was from the Mukpo Dong lineage, and therefore a member of the patriarchal Mukpo clan. The Mukpo clan is made up of many smaller clans, including the Chöphen and Chölaphen lineages, but it was one of Senglön clan’s sons who became Gesar’s father; his mother belonged to a clan called Gogza and came from the land of the Nagas. As a result of their union, Gesar entered his mother’s womb and appeared in the world.

As Gesar entered his mother’s womb, she had a dream about her five chakras – the chakra of great bliss on the top of her head, the chakra of enjoyment at her throat, the chakra of the dharma at her heart, the chakra of manifestation at her navel, and the bliss-sustaining chakra at her secret place – and all five of her children, four boys and one girl, entered her womb at the same time.

The first of these five nirmanakayas to be born was Puwo (‘elder brother’), then Nuwo (‘younger brother’) and Singmo (‘sister’), and they took the form of gods, nagas, humans, and so on, to support Gesar in his activities. Gesar Norbu Dradul came out of her secret place. It’s impossible for me to tell you the story of Gesar’s life right now because it fills so many volumes. But as you do the practice of Sollo Chenmo regularly, and therefore say, “We present this [...] To Puwo Dungkhyung Karpo[4]Gesar’s elder brother Dungkhyung Karpo (‘White-conch Garuda’).! [...] To Nuwo Lutrül Öchung[5]Gesar’s younger brother, Lutrül Öchung (‘Naga Serpent Little Light’).! [... ] To Singcham Talé Ökar[6]Gesar’s sister, Talé Ökar (‘Brilliant White Light’).!” I thought I’d mention something about his siblings.

Gesar also had a half-brother – they shared the same father, but the half-brother’s mother was called Gyatsa – and a few others too. Some of our texts, like our sang practices, mention Denma; he led the ‘thirty mighty wizard-warriors’, who were his ministers, all of whom also appeared at that time, in the form of dralas.

They were all nirmanakayas, which means they appeared in a form that sentient beings could relate to, but were not sentient beings themselves. They could fly in the sky, live below ground, and display all sorts of miracles. The life-story of Gesar is full of inconceivable stories. He was the kind of person to whom everything appeared as the natural expression of primordial wisdom – he could magnetize and bring under his control all appearances. But he only remained on this earth for a short period.

Although Gesar had no direct descendants, the Mukpo Dong family, who are descended from the half-brother born to Gyatsa, still exists. The members are, of course, all known, but it’s also possible to identify a family member at the moment of death by a large A syllable written on their skull. It is also possible to identify them by the reddish colour of their eyes. Sogyal Rinpoche and his mother were born into one of the Mukpo Dong lineages.

4. Gesar Practices

After Gesar’s time, many tertöns revealed Gesar practices, sadhanas, activity manuals, empowerments and so on, in the form of mind termas, and so today, we have many volumes of Gesar practices. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgön Kongtrul revealed Gesar practices, Mipham Rinpoche left many, Shechen Gyaltsab discovered some, and so did Khenpo Jikphun, and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche – for example, in the Heart Essence of the Dralas cycle. In other words, many tertöns revealed numerous Gesar termas.

As I’ve said, these teaching are mind termas. To reveal a mind terma, the tertön’s wisdom mind must be indivisible from Guru Rinpoche’s wisdom mind, which is indivisible from the wisdom mind of Gesar. This means that when these tertöns revealed their mind termas, their minds were the same as Gesar’s wisdom mind. And there cannot be any mistakes in an authentic terma, because Buddha doesn’t make mistakes! Mipham Rinpoche was the main revealer of mind termas based on Gesar, and both the words of his termas and their meaning are flawless. Not only are they beyond fault, but their power to accomplish activities and bring about the desired result can be witnessed to this very day. This is why I said earlier that you can practise Gesar as lama, as yidam, or as dharma protector, and whichever way is fine and will be beneficial.


I know a little bit about the outer and inner aspects of Gesar, so I thought that saying a few words to shed a little light on him and his practices might be useful. Please note that the ‘few words’ I spoke are not mine! Everything I've said tonight is in perfect accord with the teachings. That’s my offering to Gesar. If you add what I've just said to the teachings I gave some years back ago in Lerab Ling about sang practice, in which I mentioned the benefits of Gesar’s protector practices[7]17 August 1997, Lerab Ling, Hill Top. (This teaching will be published soon on this website), perhaps a scrap of benefit will come of it. I am not going to repeat today what I've said in the past. Anyway, I know you all love to sleep and must be in a hurry to go to your beds.

Translated by Gyurmé Avertin
Edited by Janine Schulz

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