Lord Shiva and Lord Padmasambhava

I spent a long time studying Lord Shiva and I feel as though I have become close to him, and his holy family. His wife, the mother goddess, Parvati, and his two sons; the elephant headed god, Lord Ganesha, and the warrior god Murugan.

Recently I have found myself back in to what most would call classical Tibetan Buddhist waters. I began hearing the Vajra Guru Mantra in my dreams a few weeks ago, and since then I have adopted a practice of reciting the mantra and visualizing Lord Padmasambhava.

In doing so I wondered at the time I spent with the Hindu holy family and what it had meant. I also wondered as to the striking similarities that I see between Lord Padmasambhava, a historical human figure, and Lord Shiva, the Yogic God of vast qualities.

I came across the following post and I wanted to preserve it for myself as much as share it with you, so, read on.

Hindu Lord of Yoga (Shiva Mahadev) and his appropriation into Buddhist contexts, i.e. Tibetan Nyingma

“Nyingmapa/Shiva Connection”, as in Vajrakilaya, plus Shiva mantra in Lochen Dharma Shri

Re following post from Tibetan Buddhism tribe 
“Re: Nyingmapa/Shiva Connection 
Wed, December 6, 2006 – 10:43 AM

Can you say a little bit more about what you mean by a Shiva connection to Nyingma [Early Transmission Indo-Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism]? Are you asking if Shiva is used as a tutelary deity in Nyingma, or if meditation traditions from Shaivite Tantra are practiced in Tibet? Or something else?”

Well, together your efforts got you fairly close, but you missed some big stuff.

1) Yes, Shiva Mahadeva is known as Lha Chen. This is a mundane protector in Nyingma practice texts, such as one finds in Rigpa Fellowship and Chagdud Gonpa Foundation practices. Lha Chen (Great God) is not a general term in Tibetan, it always means Shiva Maha (Great) Deva (God).

2) There is an explicit Shiva mantra for energy control in a dzogchen (Nyingma / Great Perfection) practice text by Lochen Dharma Shri.

3) Shiva Rudra is very well known in tantric Buddhist texts. In the Nyingma school, Vajrakilaya is basically a Buddhist tantric transformation of Shiva, or at least his close family member. Look up the Origin Story for Vajrakilaya as the Stepson of Shiva Rudra through the big blue book by Dr. Martin Boord, who is a VK scholar in particular. Nyingmapas are usually considered to be very fond of VK practice, so I thought the Boord texts were studied by same.

4) How about Shiva’s Son, Ganapati? There is a “Tibetan” tantric Ganapati / Ganesh. The twelve armed form. There is (untranslated) praise to Ganesh (as a mundane proctector) in the Longchen Nyingtik text cycle used by Rigpa Fellowship. I have the Sakya (Tibetan Buddhist) empowerment for Ganapati and the long Twelve Armed Ganapati karmamantra. Plus the hastamudra (sacred hand seal). Just did some Ganapati 2 nights back.

5) There is also the renowned (Hindu) Shiva Mahakala. Ever hear of the Buddhist (Shiva) Mahakala, the subjugated (and transformed) Great Protector? Yep, it’s the same one. Complete with Kali (as in Shiva / Kali). Look at the retinue mantras for Nyingma Mahakala or Sakya Mahakala or Shangpa Kagyu Mahakala. You’ll see some Kali in there.

6) The tantric Buddhist relationships with Shiva, Kali, and Ganapati are pretty complex. And somewhat self-contradictory. And subject to dispute by the wise and the ignorant. I won’t go into any of that here, because the perspectives vary a great deal.

However, there is a big long (two and a half page Hindu) mantra for Shiva. It’s for summoning all kinds of dangerous spirits. I wouldn’t recommend it.

7) Please note that Guru Padmasambhava typically carries a trisula ( i.e. trident ), same as Shiva Mahadev. This alone says quite a lot.

8) Anyway, if you have a Rigdzin Dupa Padmasambhava empowerment (from the Longchen Nyingtik), you have a whole set of (Shiva) Mahakalas. Bunches and bunches. The sadhana text is quite explicit, and this is really a very standard Padmasambhava transmission.

Anyway, please don’t forget about (Shiva’s stepson) Vajrakilaya, the wrathful Vajrasattva. At least, not if you’re Nyingma. That would be the request of HH Dilgo Khyentse.

There is profound overlap between the Tibetan Buddhist “New School” traditions of Cakrasamvara and the Hindu Shiva, but I won’t go into these here. It’s another discussion. Closely related and parallel, but distinct.

(from http://tantra.tribe.net/thread/c7c4cf07-6035-4f27-a735-facae4fca585)

I have yet to find the other post mentioned here about the Cakrasamvara Tradition and Lord Shiva, but I will.



5 Replies to “Lord Shiva and Lord Padmasambhava”

  1. Hi Matt,
    Per your understanding, what’s meant by

    “Lord Shiva, the Yogic God of vast qualities”. Could you elaborate for me or send me in the right valid direction?


  2. I am a practitioner in the Nyingma tradition and felt that I recognized in some images the blue Shiva on a lotus, sun and Moon disk as eerily similar to the primordial Buddha Samantabhadra.

  3. I meant that the qualities ascribed to him within the myriad writings and stories of Santana Dharma are vast in nature. He is the pillar of flame that Brahma and Vishnu race to find the beginning and end, he is the last conscious thought of the yuga, he is undisturbed meditator to which Parvati dances in hopes of a glimmer of attraction, he is the father of Ganesha who holds the whole universe within his belly.

  4. Though I am not strictly within the orthodoxy of Vajrayana as I still have many Hindu practices, I agree completely that Samantabhadra is deeply linked by iconography and historical references with Shiva. I feel deeply that Lord Shiva brought me directly to the feet of Padmakara.

  5. Thank you for this essay. I have felt completely split between yogi and buddhist practices, at least in the recitation of mantras and development of certain energies. When I was recently attending a teaching with a Vajrayana Rinpoche, I was so struck by the similarities you describe here. My initial Google search brought me to your writing. Thank you. Namaste.

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