Guru Rinpoche (“Precious Guru”) or Padmasambhava (“The Lotus Born”) was the sage guru who brought Vajrayana Buddhism to the Himalayan kingdoms during the eighth century. To this day, he is regarded as the second Buddha in these regions.
Guru Rinpoche’s life story is replete with miraculous accounts. For instance, he was incarnated as an eight year-old child appearing in a lotus blossom in Lake Dhanakosha, in the kingdom of Oddiyana (present day Pakistan). Then in Rewalsar (Tso Pema), the local king tried to burn him alive when he found out Guru Rinpoche was giving tantric teachings to his daughter Princess Mandarava. When the smoke cleared, Guru Rinpoche was found intact and deep in meditation. Guru Rinpoche and Princess Mandarava were also believed to have achieved immortal bodies in the form of the Living Rainbow Body of the Great Transference after practising secret rituals in Maratika Cave in Nepal.
Guru Rinpoche’s fame became known to King Trisong Detsen of Tibet (742–797), whose kingdom was beset by evil mountain deities. The king invited Guru Rinpoche to Tibet, where Guru Rinpoche successfully subdued the evil forces. He founded Tibet’s first monastery, Samye Gompa, initiated the first monks and introduced the people to the practice of Tantric Buddhism. He also hid a number of termas (secret teachings) in the lakes, caves, fields and forests of the Himalayan region, to be discovered and interpreted by future tertöns or spiritual treasure-finders.
Each year, Thekchen Choling celebrates Guru Rinpoche’s birthday on the tenth day of the sixth lunar month. A thanksgiving dinner is offered to sponsors and benefactors as well. For 2011’s celebration, Thekchen Choling unveiled for the first time Southeast Asia’s largest Guru Rinpoche thangka. Going forward, this awe-inspiring thangka will be unveiled annually on this day.