Yeshe Tsogyal (757–817), was the consort of the great Indian tantric teacher Padmasambhava, the founder-figure of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Nyingma tradition considers her equal in realization to Padmasambhava himself. The meditational practices related to her, stress her enlightened aspect, and are similar in form to tantric deity practices in general. She is variously equated with Vajravarahi, Tārā or Sarasvatī.
Both the Nyingma and Karma Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism recognize Yeshe Tsogyal as a female Buddha. The translators of Lady of the Lotus-Born, the namthar or spiritual biography that Yeshe Tsogyal left as a terma observe:
As Dodrup Tenpai Nyima makes clear, beings able to reveal Termas must have at least the realization of the Perfection Stage practices. On the other hand, the one who originates the Treasures must have the supreme attainment of Buddhahood. Lady of the Lotus-Born is thus a testimony of Yeshe Tsogyal’s enlightenment.
According to legend she was born in the same manner as the Buddha, a Sanskrit mantra sounding as her mother gave birth painlessly, and she is considered a reincarnation of the Buddha’s own mother, Maya Devi. Her name (“Primordial (ye) Wisdom (shes) Queen (rgyal mo) of the Lake (tso)”) derives from her birth causing a nearby lake to double in size.
As a young girl, she is said to have prayed for the happiness of all sentient beings. At the age of sixteen, she was initiated into Buddhism by Guru Padmasambhava. Although she was originally one of the Queen consorts of Trisong Detsen, she was given to Padmasambhava and became his main spiritual consort. After many years of diligent study she achieved a level of enlightenment equal to his. Yeshe Tsogyal was the main compiler of Padmasambhava’s teachings, and it was she who concealed most of the termas.
Tsogyel, though fairly obviously a transformation of an older Bön figure, Bönmo Tso (female Bön practitioner of the lake), whom she debates in her “autobiography”, also preserves the Great Completeness traditions shared by Bön with Tibet’s earliest Buddhist tradition. As the wife of Tri-song-day-tsen and the consort of Padmasambhava, given to him at her request by the king, she also stands historically at the beginning of Buddhism’s eclipse of Bön in Tibet. She is also considered a manifestation of Sarasvati and sometimes identified with the Bodhisattva Tara.
In the ‘“Life of Yeshe Tsogyel,” Padma Sambhava predicted that Yeshe Tsogyel would be reborn as Machig Lapdron; her consort, Atsara Sale, would become Topabhadra, Machig’s husband; her assistant and Padma Sambhava’s secondary consort, Tashi Khyidren, would be reborn as Machig’s only daughter, and so on. All of the important figures in Tsogyel’s life were to be reborn in the life of Machig Lapdron, including Padma Sambhava himself, who would become Phadampa Sangye.
According to Karmapa lineage Tsogyel had attained Buddhahood in that very life. On the Gyalwa Karmapa website it is said that she -some thirty years before transcending worldly existence- finally emerged from an isolated Meditation Retreat (796-805) as “a fully Enlightened Buddha”
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