Remembering the Lotus-Born

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“Nyangrel Nyima Öser (1124–92) is one of the more perplexing figures in Tibet’s cultural history. His importance for being the first to introduce Padmasambhava as the Tibetan culture hero cannot be overestimated, as are the revelatory texts and perhaps also the history of Buddhism in India and Tibet with which he is credited. Yet not much is known about his intellectual and spiritual development. In his splendid study, Hirshberg sums up his importance in the following words: ‘Nyangrel was both the architect of his enlightened identity and the product of his time. He was at once an excavator of Tibet's past and the author of its future.’ Hirshberg's meticulous analyses go a long way in leading us to understand the text-historical issues that beset his hagiography of Padmasambhava and his chronicle of Buddhism. No one engaged in the serious study of Tibetan culture can ignore this masterful work that is destined to change minds.”
—Leonard van der Kuijp, Harvard University


Padmasambhava in the History of Tibet’s Golden Age

Daniel A. Hirshberg

Tibetan and Western scholars alike have long assumed that the Copper Island Biography of Padmasambhava was originally presented as a treasure text (terma). However, investigating the sources of this narrative shows that rather than wholesale invention or simple revelation, the Copper Island was a product of the Tibetan assimilation and innovation of core Indian Buddhist literary traditions. These traditions were well known to Nyangrel, who is renowned as the first of the great Buddhist treasure revealers. Remembering the Lotus-Born takes an unprecedented look at Nyangrel’s work in the Copper Island, including his contributions to hagiography, reincarnation theory, treasure recovery, and historiography.

Drawing all these threads together, it concludes by comparing all the available versions of Nyangrel’s Padmasambhava narrative to challenge long-held assumptions and clarify its origin and transmission.

It received an Honorable Mention from the E. Gene Smith Book Prize Competition in 2018 by the Association of Asian Studies.

Learn more about the Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism series.

book information
  • Paperback
  • 470 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 inches
  • $34.95
  • ISBN 9781614292319
  • ebook
  • 470 pages
  • $19.99
  • ISBN 9781614292463
about the author
Remembering the Lotus-Born

Dan Hirshberg is the founder and Executive Director of SŌTERIC Contemplative Training in Boulder, CO. He completed a BA in Religion at Wesleyan University, an MA in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism (Shedra Track) at Naropa University, and a PhD in Tibetan Studies at Harvard University. He has held year-long fellowships at UC Santa Barbara, LMU Munich, and UVa’s Contemplative Sciences Center. Having practiced and studied Buddhist contemplative traditions for nearly three decades, he has traveled extensively throughout Asia and serves as a Karunika (“compassionate” teacher) for Nalandabodhi under the direction of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. Before moving to Boulder, Dan was an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Mary Washington, where he designed and directed one of the first Contemplative Studies programs for undergrads, established a Japanese-style garden on campus, and led study abroad programs to Nepal and Japan. His research centers on cultural memory, the story of Tibet’s 8th ce. conversion to Buddhism, and the apotheosis of its protagonist, Padmasambhava, in both narrative and iconography. Dan is Visiting Faculty for Tibet Himalaya Initiative at the University of Colorado, Boulder and the Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies Program at Naropa University. He also serves on the Executive Board of the North American Japanese Garden Association and in 2022 was appointed Editor and Chair of its peer-reviewed Journal.

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