TANTRIC CONSORTS: TIBET
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PADMASAMBHAVA The great eighth century C.E. Indian mahÅsiddha, tantrika, and mission ary to Tibet, Padmasambhava, is a ﬁgure of unparalleled signiﬁcance in Tibetan Buddhism. In iconography he is often depicted ﬂanked by his two most highly accomplished tantric consorts: the Indian Prin cess MandÅravÅ and the Tibetan Queen Yeshe Tsogyel (Plate 14). Like the historical Buddha, Padmasambhava was a prince who married and lived surrounded by beautiful women,1 all of whom he, too, abandoned, but not for long. He went to practice asceticism in ceme teries, a favorite haunt of tantrikas, where he gave and received teach ings from ØÅkin≠s, somewhat imitating the Buddha, who also entered a cemetery, put on the shroud of a dead woman, and began his slow reconciliation with women before achieving enlightenment.2 For non tantric Buddhists a signiﬁcant difference between them is that Pad masambhava returned to the world and practiced sexual yoga with several different consorts. For tantric Buddhists, however, other tradi tions exist, such as the CaœØasamhÅro„aœa Tantra, which describes the Buddha in his tantric form. Also, according to Tsongkhapa’s student Khadubje (mKhas Grub rJe, 1385-1438), the Buddha practiced with an actual consort just before incarnating as ÷akyamuni. He had reached the tenth stage of a bodhisattva, but in order to achieve enlightenment he needed the initiation of wisdom (prajñÅ), which required practice with a consort. The celestial buddhas summoned the divine courtesan (divyavesyÅ) TillottamÅ (Tib: Thig le mchog ma) and then gave him initi ation.3 This meant that the Buddha was already enlightened when he took birth as ÷akyamuni-his enlightenment under the Bo tree in India was a display for the sake of others.