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The Buddha Tree

    Yeshey Tsogyel (rhymes with "may say so well"), also known in the Nyingma tradition as the Great Bliss Queen, is a mythical red skinned deity or figure of enlightenment (dakini) in Tibetan Buddhism. She is said to have lived from 757 to 817, and is most identified with the factual wife of Emperor Tri-song-day-tsen (740 - c. 798) who invited Padmasambhava to Tibet:

From the mouth of a lotus was born 
The swift goddess, heroic liberator 
Who went forth in human form 
Amid the snowy mountains of Tibet. 
(Jigmay Lingpa quoted by Dro-drup-chen III in Gantok (1975), cited in Klein)

    Among lay Tibetans she is seen as a Buddha who takes the form of an ordinary woman so as to be accesible to the average person, "who, for the time being, do not see her Vajravarahi form as a fully perfected deity." (Klein 1995, p.15-17) In fact,

She displays whatever emanation form will tame 
Any given [person], just as, for example, the full moon in the sky 
Emerges as [various] reflections in different water vessels. 
(Ngawang Denzin Dorje (1972), cited in Klein)

    According to myth 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. 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. (ibid)

    As a young girl, she is supposed 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. Yeshey 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 practioner of the lake), whom she debates in her "autobiography", also preserves the Great Completeness tradition 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. (ibid)


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