Gods and Sacred Mountains | Guru Rinpoche | The Second Buddha

The Guru as Second Buddha

Today, Guru Rinpoche counts as the founder of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism. At the same time, he is one of the most prominent representatives of the tendency, already begun in Tibet in the seventh century, to merge the regional, nature-based religious cults with Buddhism.

Already early on, Guru Rinpoche was portrayed as the »Second Buddha«. This was already indicated by the myth surrounding the birth. The biography of the Guru is - as one can see in the mural depicted below - analog to the life story of Buddha Shakyamuni shown through twelve deeds which are sketched here.

The Biography of Guru Rinpoche Zoom


From the central figure of Guru Rinpoche, the golden rays of wisdom go out in all directions. In the inside of his elbow, on the left-hand side, he holds a trident staff with three heads as a secret symbol for his tantric partner (yum). He is flanked by his tantric companions Yeshe Tshogyel, one of the mightiest Tibetan Dakinis*, and Mandarava, the daughter of the King of Zahor in India.

For the followers of Tibetan Buddhism, Guru Rinpoche is not just a mystic who, in order to spread Buddhism in the Himalayas, conquered and overthrew numerous local deities.

Every personality, man or god, consists of the three aspects body, speech and mind. Each of these aspects can reincarnate separately. Therefore, any sanctuary has to contain a book, a stupa and a statue. Only then is the Buddha truly present: The book symbolizes his speech, the stupa his mind, and the statue his body.

According to this, Guru Rinpoche is seen as the emanation of the body of the Buddha Shakyamuni*, the speech of the Bodhisattva* Avalokiteshvara*, and the mind of the Buddha Amithaba*, and enjoys being worshipped in a similar manner to the Buddha himself.


The history of Bhutan
Bhutans religion
Gods and Sacred ..
.  Guru Rinpoche
.  .  The Life of Guru ..
.  .  The Second Buddha
.  .  .  The Twelve Deeds
.  .  .  The South-West ..
.  .  The Dance in Honor of ..
.  Animated Nature

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Mural on cloth; 19th century; 245 x 121 centimeters; on loan from the Völkerkundemuseum der Universität Zürich
In Bhutan, murals are painted on cloth, that is then glued to the wall. Sometimes, extra details are patched (Pastiglia) on.

The three heads of the trident of wisdom symbolize the merging of the Guru with his tantric partners.

Detail from a mural on cloth; 19th century; 245 x 121 centimeters; on loan from the Völkerkundemuseum Universität Zürich
Guru Rinpoche in a meditative pose, flanked by two tantric companions. In his right hand he holds a Vajra*, symbol of his magical birth.