Bsam gtan gling pa (b.1655). The Lives and Liberation of Princess Mandarava the Indian consort of Padmasambhava, Lama Chonam and Sangye Kandro (trans). Boston, Mass: Wisdom Publications, 1998.
Summary by Jeffrey Khau
The Lives and Liberation of Princess Mandarava recounts the different manifestations of Pandaravasini with a focus on the life of Mandarava, a consort of Padmasambhava. Born in the Bengal region of eighth-century India as the princess of Zahor, Mandarava’s story serves as a powerful narrative that displays at the forefront the heroic feminine figure in Tibetan culture.
The biography begins with the birth of Pandaravasini ten thousand and forty-two aeons ago. Pandaravasini’s birth, like many holy figures in Buddhist literature, was predicted with auspicious dreams and symbols and was surrounded by bliss. By her eleventh year, she was pronounced enlightened and spread the dharma to thousands of disciples, and vowed to manifest in ways to awaken others.
During the aeon of Ratnavistirna, Pandaravasini manifested as Natyendri, daughter of King Shubha in the country of sages. A minister from the country of Sukhavana came to meet the princess, and after seeing her, requested the king for her to marry Prince Suryagarbha, an emanation of Arya Avalokiteshvara. Though the king objects, with the many suitors and the political implications of choosing one, the king allows Natyendri to choose. She snuck out and chose Suryagarbha, and after their marriage the kingdom of Sukhavana became a Buddhist country and the whole country was taught the dharma.
Pandaravasini continued these manifestations for the benefit of all beings.
Before her birth as Princess Mandarava, Pandaravasini had to choose the circumstances of her birth. The Bengal region was chosen by Pandaravasini for its size and beauty, and the land was blessed with this choice. Her parents were the royal family of Zahor. As she entered her mother’s womb, the Queen of Zahor had a sublime dream, and the king and queen were bestowed the empowerment of the dharma. Five months later, the queen’s body became luminous, and she began to show signs of pregnancy. In the year of the male wood horse, the queen gave birth to the baby. The baby stood and proclaimed herself free from defilement and as the incarnation of Pandaravasini. She named herself Mandarava, preached to the kingdom, and paid homage to her parents.
At the young age of eight, Mandarava witnessed events akin to the Buddha’s four sights: childbirth, an old man suffering from pain, women afflicted with leprosy, and death. She prayed for these people, and desperately told her mother that she at that moment wanted to leave to practice the Dharma. The king rejected this request, explaining that she was young and impressionable, and Mandarava instead became an unrivaled scholar. She became knowledgeable in many languages, medicine, and astrology.
While she stayed at the palace, Mandarava was successful in defeating a heretical teacher who was an emanation of a demon in debate, as well as leading three hundred women to the dharma. She was set on becoming ordained and continued to behave as such. Even at the death of her brother, when her parents were crying in anguish, Mandarava consoled them by speaking of the impermanence of the world. Her elegance was spread throughout the neighboring countries, and many kings went to Zahor to convince the king to marry Mandarava into their family. Because Mandarava would not be content as a laywoman, and because a choice would likely cause war, the king allowed Mandarava to be ordained and told the other countries that she could not marry.
Finally having her father’s permission, Mandarava took the vows of ordination with an abbot bodhisattva and was training in the Sutra Vehicle. Her father had a palace constructed where Mandarava and her servants who had also been ordained can study. One night, Mandarava had a dream that she would meet an emanation of Avalokiteshvara on top of the grassy hill nearby. The following morning, she went with her servants and found Vajra Guru Padmasambhava. Under his guidance, Mandarava and her servants received the principal teachings on the path of secret mantra.
Upon false rumors being spread, the king found out about the presence of a man in Mandarava’s palace, and feared the response of other countries. He investigated the matter, and despite the warnings, imprisoned both Mandarava and Padmasambhava out of anger. Padmasambhava then demonstrated his powers and proved to the country that he was an emanation of Avalokiteshvara. The king regretted his actions and freed both him and Mandarava. Padmasambhava then turned the dharma wheel for the country of Zahor.
It was time for Padmasambhava to depart east to Maratika to achieve immortality. He told Mandarava her miraculous qualities and was escorted out by dakinis. It is at this point that Mandarava detached herself from Samsara, and began traveling east to reunite with Padmasambhava. The journey was arduous, and she began losing faith and cried out to Padmasambhava. He appeared and told her that the terrifying and unfamiliar land she currently was in is the best way to walk the path of the dharma. The two went together to Maratika and after three months of training were successful in accomplishing longevity. Padmasambhava became known as the Immortal Padmasambhava and Mandarava became known as the dakini pure awareness holder of immortality Dunment Karmo. The two continued their journey, performing miracles and reforming people who were committing karmic crimes, turning the dharma wheel for many countries. After perfecting the benefit of beings, she rose as the primordial Wisdom Dakini.