Yeshe Tsogyal

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Yeshe Tsogyal
Tibetan name
Tibetan ཡེ་ཤེས་མཚོ་རྒྱལ
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 益西措杰
Simplified Chinese 益西措杰

Yeshe Tsogyal (757–817), was the consort of the great Indian tantric teacher Padmasambhava, the founder-figure of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Nyingma tradition considers her equal in realization to Padmasambhava himself. The meditational practices related to her stress her enlightened aspect and are similar in form to tantric deity practices in general. She is variously equated with Vajravārāhī, Tārā or Sarasvatī.

Both the Nyingma and Karma Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism recognize Yeshe Tsogyal as a female Buddha. The translators of Lady of the Lotus-Born, the namthar or spiritual biography that Yeshe Tsogyal left as a terma, observe:

As Dodrup Tenpai Nyima makes clear, beings able to reveal Termas must have at least the realization of the Perfection Stage practices. On the other hand, the one who originates the Treasures must have the supreme attainment of Buddhahood. Lady of the Lotus-Born is thus a testimony of Yeshe Tsogyal's enlightenment.[1]

Life story[edit]

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.[2]

According to legend, Yeshe Tsogyal was born in the same manner as the Buddha, a mantra sounding as her mother gave birth painlessly. She is considered a reincarnation of the Buddha's own mother, Maya. Her name, "Wisdom Lake Queen" (Wylie: ye shes mtsho rgyal), derives from her birth causing a nearby lake to double in size.[3]

As a young girl, she is said to have prayed for the happiness of all sentient beings. At the age of sixteen, she was initiated into Buddhism by 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. Yeshe Tsogyal was the main compiler of Padmasambhava's teachings, and it was she who concealed most of the termas.[citation needed]

Tsogyal is seen by some as a transformation of an older Bon figure, Bon mo mtso ("female Bon practitioner of the lake",Wylie: Bon mo mtso)[citation needed] whom she debates in her autobiographical terma. Her teachings also preserve the Dzogchen shared by Bon with Tibet's earliest Buddhist tradition. As the wife of Trisong Detsen 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 Bon in Tibetan religious practice.

Spiritual attainments[edit]

Yeshe Tsogyal statue in Samye Ling, Scotland

Padmasambhava advised Yeshe Tsogyal that far from being a hindrance to enlightenment, as was generally accepted, a woman's body is an asset: "The basis for realizing enlightenment is a human body. Male or female, there is no great difference. But if she develops the mind bent on enlightenment the woman’s body is better" (quoted by Stevens, 1990, p. 71).

Gyatso (2006) relates the background to how Yeshe Tsogyal receives empowerment to practice zhitro by the initiation of a vidyadhara::

After succeeding in a variety of feats, including beheading a tiger, she gains access to an elaborate palace where she receives esoteric initiations from several vidyādharas and buddhas. She returns to Chingpu and after a year is robbed by seven bandits whom she then converts to Buddhist practice. She proceeds with the bandits on a magic carpet to the place Oḍḍiyāna where they all receive peaceful and wrathful deity practice (zhitro) initiations from a vidyādhara, who gives her the secret name Kharchen Za and cavorts in bliss with her.[4]

According to Karmapa lineage Tsogyel had attained Buddhahood in that very life. On the Gyalwa Karmapa website it is said that she -some thirty years before transcending worldly existence- finally emerged from an isolated Meditation Retreat (796-805) as "a fully Enlightened Buddha " (samyak-saṃbuddha).[5]

Among lay Tibetans she is seen as a Buddha who takes the form of an ordinary woman so as to be accessible to the average person, "who, for the time being, do not see her Vajravarahi form as a fully perfected deity."[3] 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.[6]


Yeshe Tsogyal is also considered a manifestation of Sarasvati and sometimes identified with the Bodhisattva Tara.[3][7] In the '“Life of Yeshe Tsogyel,” Padma Sambhava predicted that Yeshe Tsogyel would be reborn as Machig Lapdron; her consort, Atsara Sale,[8] would become Topabhadra, Machig’s husband; her assistant and Padma Sambhava’s secondary consort, Tashi Khyidren, would be reborn as Machig’s only daughter, and so on. All of the important figures in Tsogyel’s life were to be reborn in the life of Machig Lapdron, including Padma Sambhava himself, who would become Phadampa Sangye.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Changchub, Gyalwa; Namkhai Nyingpo (2002). Padmakara Translation Group, ed. Lady of the Lotus-Born: The Life and Enlightenment of Yeshe Tsogyal. Shambhala Publications, Inc. p. xxxvii. ISBN 1-57062-544-1. 
  2. ^ (Jigme Lingpa quoted by Dro-drup-chen III in Gantok (1975), cited in Klein)
  3. ^ a b c (Klein 1995, p.15-17)
  4. ^ Gyatso, Janet (2006). A Partial Genealogy of the Lifestory of Yeshé Tsogyel. Harvard University. JIATS, no. 2 (August 2006), THDL #T2719, 27 pp. Source: [1] (accessed: November 16, 2007)
  5. ^ Yeshe Tsogyal, Princess Of Karchen Website of the Dharma Fellowship of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa
  6. ^ (Ngawang Denzin Dorje (1972), cited in Klein)
  7. ^ 'Guru Rinpoche' and 'Yeshe Tsogyal' in: Forbes, Andrew ; Henley, David (2013). The Illustrated Tibetan Book of the Dead. Chiang Mai: Cognoscenti Books. B00BCRLONM
  8. ^ some information on Atsara Sahle from Nepal
  9. ^ citation from Women of Wisdom, Extract :MACHIG LAPDRON by Tsültrim Allione


  • Klein, Anne Carolyn (1995). Meeting the Great Bliss Queen: Buddhists, Feminists, and the Art of the Self. Beacon Press: Boston. ISBN 0-8070-7306-7.
  • Gyatso, Janet (2006). A Partial Genealogy of the Lifestory of Yeshé Tsogyal. Harvard University. JIATS, no. 2 (August 2006), THDL #T2719, 27 pp. Source: [2] (accessed: November 16, 2007)

Further reading[edit]

  • Dowman, Keith. (1984). Sky Dancer: The Secret Life and Songs of the Lady Yeshe Tsogyel. Routledge & Kegan Paul, Boston, Mass. ISBN 0-7100-9576-7.
  • Gyalwa Changchub, and Namkhai Nyingpo. (1999) Lady of the Lotus-born: The Life and Enlightenment of Yeshe Tsogyal. Translated by the Padmakara Translation Group. Shambhala, Boston & London. ISBN 1-57062-384-8.
  • Allione, Tsültrim. (2000) Women of Wisdom, Publisher : Snow Lion Publications, ISBN 1-55939-141-3, EAN 9781559391412
  • Vajra Love—Essays from the Sites of Keith Dowman

External links[edit]