Zangdok Palri

The Details of Zangdok Palri with their Symbolic Meanings

Tulku Thondup

Cõi Tịnh Độ Liên Hoa Sanh


Zangdok Palri is in the form of a copper or ruby-colored giant mountain in the shape of a heart or a flower bud. It is situated in “the blue mirror-like magical ocean called Mu-le,” where the Indus river joins the ocean. It is part of Chamara sub-continent and is surrounded by many lands inhabited by rakshas.

Zangdok Palri is a boundless phenomenon, a universe. Its base reaches deep into the ocean, the world of nagas. Its middle parts are the lands where the dakas and dakinis are celebrating sacred feasts. Its summit is high, as if touching the heavenly realms. On the top of this radiant mountain is the Lotus Light Palace, the core of the pure land.

Many great Lamas of Tibet have left records of their travels to Zangdok Palri in their pure visions. Also, there are many texts written by highly accomplished masters that describe Zangdok Palri pure land in considerable detail. There are many liturgies and prayer texts for taking rebirth in the pure land.

The Lamas who visited Zangdok Palri saw dakinis as soon as they started experiencing their pure visions. Then, with the support of those dakinis, they flew to Zangdok Palri and entered the Lotus Light Palace. Most of them saw that the Lotus Light Palace was a boundless world filled with inconceivable peace joy, wealth, and spiritual attainments.

Guru Rinpoche is not only a fully enlightened Buddha, but is also manifesting as a fully enlightened one. Thus, his manifested pure land, Zangdok Palri, may appear as a sacred world that is radiant, translucent, intangible, peaceful, and joyful, but in reality it is the radiance of the wisdom, love, and power of Guru Rinpoche. Thus, this pure land is the presence of Guru Rinpoche. Also, every particle of the pure land is a presence of Guru Rinpoche and his pure land—infinite and boundless in nature, as the Buddha taught,

In every atom there are infinite pure lands as many as the numbers of atoms of the earth.

In each pure land there are infinite Buddhas

Thus, every detail of Zangdok Palri is a presence and symbol of both the path and the goal of enlightenment. Zangdok Palri is Guru Rinpoche as well as his manifestation.

Hence, if we could see Zangdok Palri with confidence as the enlightened wisdom and qualities of Guru Rinpoche, we will start progressing through the path of training that will lead US to the goal, just as you will become what you see and think.

The following are some of the main details of the Lotus Light Palace and their profound symbolic meanings given in different texts. Generally, the details of the Inconceivable Mansions and their significances are provided more extensively in many deity-literatures. But here I am mentioning only the details that I read in the texts that concern the Lotus Light Palace in particular.

The Lotus Light Palace has three Stories, which symbolize that this pure land is the presence of the three Buddha-bodies:

The Top Story symbolizes the pure land of the Ultimate-body, the emptiness nature, with the image of the Buddha of Infinite Light presiding over Buddhas, who are inseparable from him. Generally, in the Nyingma lineage, the image of the primordial Buddha is in the form of the Universal Goodness, who is naked, sky color, in union symbolizing the Ultimate-body. That image signifies the formlessness, freedom and oneness nature. But in the Zangdok Palri structure, the simple, ascetic and un-omate form of the Buddha of Infinite Light represents the primordially pure nature of Buddhahood.

The Middle Story symbolizes the pure land of Enjoyment-body presided over by the Buddha of Compassion. He is adorned with thirteen elements of princely attire to symbolize the abundant prosperities and pure quality of Buddhahood. He presides over an ocean of highly enlightened ones.

The Lower Story symbolizes the pure land of the Manifested-body presided over by Guru Rinpoche. He is in the midst of an ocean of enlightened ones as well as ordinary beings with pure karma and abundance of merits.

The Lotus Light Palace is a square structure to symbolize the state of evenness of the ultimate nature of all. It is made of precious materials to symbolize that the Buddha wisdom is rich and that it fulfills all needs. It has four sides and each side is in a different color to symbolize the four enlightened actions. The Eastern side of the Palace is white, made of crystal. The Southern side is blue, made of lapis lazuri. The Western side is red, made of ruby. The Northern side is green, made of sapphire. All are in the form of clear, transparent and translucent light symbolizing the omniscient wisdom.

The four inner courtyards of the Palace symbolizes the four miraculous feet. Four comers of the courtyard symbolizes the four foundations of mindfulness. Four parapets symbolize the four genuine restraints.

Outside of the Palace—the terraces symbolize the transformation all the desirable objects as the path. The friezes symbolizes the changeless qualities of the nature of the mind. The full and half looped hanging tassels of precious materials with mirrors, crescent moons and tail fans symbolize the seven the factors of enlightenment. The feather-like roof symbolizes great compassion. The water spouts symbolize the five powers. The stupa-like copings symbolize the five invisible strengths. The four richly ornamented doors supported by pillars symbolize the four immeasurable aspirations. The eight raised steps at the door symbolize the eight total liberations. The Dharma wheel with the deer symbolizes the Four Noble Truths. The parasol symbolizes the protection of all from the heat of suffering. The pinnacle of the palace is made of jewels and a five pronged vajra symbolizing the unity of all the Buddhas in single wisdom. Victory banners symbolize victory over mar as. The four victory banners that are connected by the pennants with chains of ornaments and singing bells inspire the hearts of all to Dharma. The small and big bells symbolize the roar of teachings on emptiness, the ultimate truth.

At the four sides of the Lotus Light Palace, among others things, there are four major assembly mansions. In the East, there is the mansion of peace for Dharma discourses. In the South, there is the mansion of development for prosperity. In the West, there is the mansion of power for governing. In the North, there is the mansion of forces for taming foes.


Clouds of Enlightened Ones Fill the Pure Land


The First Story is the pure land of the Manifested-body. In the center of the main assembly hall is an eight cornered vast and high throne made of precious gems of light. On that throne sits a colorful lotus of immaculate light with thousands of blossoming petals to symbolize the “lotus birth” of Guru Rinpoche. On the lotus are sun and moon cushions, symbolizing that he was not bom from human parents, but the union of skillful-means and wisdom. On that amazing throne sits Guru Rinpoche, the embodiment of all the Enlightened Ones. Generally, Guru Rinpoche appears in various forms that suit the needs of his audience.


The Seven Chaptered Prayers says,

He appears in different forms, colors, implements, and ornaments,

For pacifying, enriching, magnetizing and subjugating.

His brilliance is brighter than ã thousand suns.

His majesty is greater than Mt. Meru™

However, the form of Guru Rinpoche that we are describing here is the most common image used by the follow of Guru Rinpoche for their meditations. The details of his image, costume, and posture are symbols of his enlightened qualities and are appearing for teaching, inspiring and leading others to the path and goal of enlightenment.

Guru Rinpoche appears as youthful, as if he were sixteen years old, as he is beyond the realm of aging or decay. His face is filled with a smile of joy as he is untouched by pain and sorrow. His loving and powerful widely open eyes are looking at you and at all, without blinking, as he looks after and sees all with his omniscient wisdom, unconditional love, and boundless power all the time.

His face symbolizes the unity of all the phenomenal existents in a single pure nature. His hands symbolize his attainment of skillful-means and wisdom in union. His complexion is white, with reddish hue symbolizing his enjoyment of the union of emptiness and bliss.

His lotus hat with five petals symbolizes that he is empowered by all the Five Classes of Buddhas. His white inner robe symbolizes his perfection of the path and goal of bodhisattva, Mahayana. His blue outer gown symbolizes his perfection of the path and goals of tantra, Vajrayana. The red monastic shawl with golden designs symbolizes his perfection of the disciplines of individual liberation, Shravakayana. The red brocade cloak worn over all his attire stands for his perfection of the paths and goals of all the yanas, as one.

The lotus hat and the brocade cloak also symbolize his miraculous power, as they were offered to him by the King of Zahor, along with Princess Mandarava and his whole Kingdom, when Guru Rinpoche transformed the fire that was to burn him, into a lake with a huge lotus seat in the middle.

The five pronged golden vajra that he holds in his right hand symbolizes his attainment of the five Buddha-bodies. The skull-cup filled with nectar in his left hand symbolizes his attainment of the fruits of the path. The long-life vase with ornaments, that sits on the skull-cup, symbolizes his attainment of immortality.

The trident in his left arm-cleft represents his consort, the wisdom that embodies the following significances: The three sharp points at the top symbolize the three true natures of the mind: emptiness essence, clarity nature and compassionate power. The skeletal, old and fresh heads—symbolize the three Buddha-bodies. The nine iron rings symbolize the nine vehicles.

The five-colored silk hangings symbolize the five Buddha-wisdoms. The locks of hair symbolize the power that he attained as the result of esoteric trainings.

Guru Rinpoche manifests in different forms—such as peaceful and wrathful—and performs different actions, such as teaching, blessing, and celebrating, at different parts of the Lotus Light Palace and different places in the world. Simultaneously.

The assembly hall of the Lotus Light Palace is filled with clouds of enlightened ones such as the Five Classes of Buddhas. the Deities of the nine yanas, the Eight Manifestations of Guru Rinpoche himself, and the masters of different lineages, such as the Lord and Twenty-five Subjects, and one hundred major tertons and thousands of minor tertons.

Numerous knowledge-holders of India and Tibet are sitting in the inner row at Guru Rinpoche’s right—remaining in absorption in vajra-clear-light. The scholars of India and Tibet are sitting in the row at his left—roaring with Dharma discourses.

Streams of enlightened Masters are leaving the pure land with heavy hearts for different places in Tibet and the world to serve beings and devotees in various capacities that suit those beings. Streams of Masters are returning to the pure land with great joy and celebration after completion of their services as Manifested-bodies.

All the outer and inner corridors of the Palace are filled with a mass of dakas and dakinis with amazing beauty and charm. They are singing, dancing, and serving all kinds of enjoyments, as if in the state of an illusory display.

The Second Story of the Enjoyment-body of the Palace is presided over by Avalokiteshvara in the midst of five Buddha families and the bodhisattvas giving teachings ceaselessly to infinite bodhisattvas through the symbolic transmissions.

The Top Story of the Ultimate-body of the Palace is presided over by the primordial Buddha, the Universal Goodness in the form of the Buddha of Infinite Light in three simple ascetic robes. His teachings prevail over an ocean of Buddhas, who are inseparable from him. through mind transmissions.