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The power of religion and belief was often used to further the political ambitions of Kings and Emperors. Even in modern times, religious shrines and holy places continue to remain hotbeds of political and social conflict.

The coming of Padmasambhava to the court of Imperial Tibet was a tramautic and pivitol event in Tibet’s history. Padma directly challenged the existing Bon religious  traditions, claiming that he defeated all the Bon spirits as he journeyed over the mountains to Tibet. Installed as the favored one of the Emperor Trisong Detseng, Padma began to build monasteries and train monks to disseminate his startling new interpretation of the traditional Buddhist cannon.

Hinayana Buddhism was prevalent in India and China by the middle 8th century, and it held that enlightenment could only be attained after the refinement of many lifetimes. Padma introduced the belief that one could attain the nirvana of enlightenment within a single lifetime, and he introduced a host of new esoteric teachings or Tantras around this doctrine.

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Left: A Painting discovered in the Kizil Caves near Kucha

Above: Typical Kwan Yin Statue of the era.

The Secret Library at Dun Huang

 

Padma skillfully blended appropriate elements of Tibetan Bonism with his new Buddhist teaching He prepared monks, armed with Tantric scriptures, for special missions aimed at preserving his teachings into future generations.

Taking many women as sacred consorts, the Tantric traditions introduced by Padma extended even to embrace human sexuality as a vehicle and pathway to enlightenment. He enriched and fostered the concept of the spiritual Dakini, a female manifestation of an enlightened being.

Padma also made deliberate efforts to secret sacred scriptures and relics in far off secluded places where he hoped they would survive the travail of ages and so re-emerge into the world at some future time to preserve and carry on the sacred teachings they represented.

The wisdom of this strategy is apparent. The discovery of the “Cave of a Thousand Buddhas” at the turn of the last century led to renewed study and understanding of Buddhism as lived in the 7th century. The documents discovered there had been unseen by human eyes for 1200 years!

These realities of the time are depicted through a major subplot of Taklamakan, and acted out in the characters Drekk, Nala, Chen Hu and others.

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