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The Twelve Deeds of Guru Rinpoche

The life of the Guru Rinpoche is told in twelve fundamental episodes. Every episode occurred on the tenth day of a month. In Bhutan the dance festivals in honor of the Guru are always performed on the tenth day of the month.

If the life story of the Guru is told, this is begun with the sixth month, the month in which he was born.

The Sixth Month

As Buddha Shakyamuni* died, he foretold of his rebirth in the land Ugyen (or Uddiyana) as Pema Jungney (another name for Guru Rinpoche), who would further spread the tantric teachings. In accordance with this prophecy, Pema Jungney was born in a lotus blossom on the tenth day of the sixth month in the Wood-Monkey Year. At his birth, he miraculously looked like an eight year-old boy.

The Seventh Month

The heretical king of the barbaric land Zangling locked Guru Rinpoche into a copper kettle, closed it with iron nails and threw it into a raging river. With his magical powers, the Guru could free himself and flew into the sky. However, the river changed its direction and washed away the palace of the king. Impressed by this, the king asked for forgiveness and converted to Buddhism.

The Eighth Month

Heretics tried to kill the Guru with various poisons: through the mouth with poisoned food, through the eyes with sight-poison, through the body using contaminates and through the nose with poisoned smells. As the appearance of the Guru became more radiant with these poisons the heretics then converted to Buddhism.

The Ninth Month

While Guru Rinpoche was giving offerings to the Gods in the cave of Yanglesho in Nepal, the demons of Nepal and Tibet gathered in order to disturb him. However, he was mightier and obliged them with the swearing of an oath to protect Buddhism.

The Tenth Month

In one of his earlier lives, Guru Rinpoche was born as one of the three sons of a female livestock breeder. Together the three sons built the large Stupa in the Nepalese Bodhnath. In a prayer they asked to be reborn respectively as a religious king, as an abbot and as a teacher in order to spread Buddhism. They were reborn as King Trisongdetsen, as Abbot Shantarakshita and as Guru Rinpoche.

The Eleventh Month

Guru Rinpoche decided to travel to the south-west region of Ngayabling in order to overthrow the demons there. Before his departure he revealed the following facts to King Trisongdetsen: He had hid holy treasures of religious significance at various places. For this he had overthrown the demons of these places and made them to guardians of these treasures. Thereby, it was guaranteed that they would be kept safe for the future. He also predicted that five big treasure hunters and eleven Lingpas would find the treasures, as soon as the time was ripe.

The Twelth Month

After his birth on the tenth day of the sixth month, Guru Rinpoche stayed in his lotus blossom. In the twelfth month, King Indrabhuti took him on as his son. The King called him Pema Gyalpo and conferred to him the right to rule over his government.

The First Month

Pema Gyalpo realized that exercising his political power had no meaning. Therefore, he broke with this life, left everything behind, and went to the »eight big burial sites«, in order to do penitance.

The Second Month

Guru Rinpoche was ordained by Acarya Prabhahasti in order to convert believers to a level of teaching higher than the one offered by Hinayana Buddhism.

The Third Month

King Tsuglagdzin of Zahor had a daughter named Mandarava. She refused all offers of marriage in order to devote herself to a religious life. Soon she joined up with Guru Rinpoche. As a result of which her father locked her into the palace and ordered that Guru Rinpoche be burned alive. He, however, turned fire into water and created a lake, in whose middle the Guru appeared in a lotus blossom. After this incident, the King himself became a follower of Guru Rinpoche and his kingdom became a Buddhist one.

The Fourth Month

As Guru Rinpoche came with Mandarava to the kingdom of Ugyen, his former consort Ochangma became jealous and wanted to burn him. Again he transformed the fire into a lake. Now he appeared together with Mandarava on a lotus blossom. The kingdom of Ugyen became Buddhist and King Indrabhuti became an enthusiastic follower of the new teachings.

The Fifth Month

In the land of Tharkye, in the south of India, there were five hundred heretic teachers who were hostile towards Buddhism. There Guru Rinpoche appeared in the form of Senge Dadog and destroyed these five hundred with a stroke of his diamond scepter. Thereby, the heretical kingdom was destroyed.


(Text by Lopon Pemala, translated by Yoshiro Imaeda)

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A black-hat dancer performing at a Tshechu, that are held once a year in every Dzong on the tenth day of a month.