This fresh and beautiful presentation of the lives of the eighty-four mahasiddhas, or “great accomplished ones,” offers a unique glimpse into the world of the famous tantric Buddhist yogis of India. This book includes elegant four-color paintings of each of the mahasiddhas by a master painter from Tibet. The set of paintings is published here for the first time in its entirety and includes translated descriptions of the paintings along with the life stories of the mahasiddhas based on traditional Tibetan Buddhist sources. Donald Lopez provides yet another magnificent contribution to our better understanding of Buddhist history and traditions.
The lives of these tantric saints have captured the imaginations of Buddhists throughout the world for almost a millennia. The common theme among their stories is one of pursuing a spiritual path through uncommon and even subversive means. While some pursue their path of spiritual realization while maintaining their simple occupations as farmers or peasants, others leave behind their lives as householders, scholars, or even royalty, trading in worldly comfort for seclusion, danger, and transgression. These “saints” also include among them pimps, alcoholics, gamblers, and hunters. Many of these bad-boy yogis were known for fornicating in charnel grounds, wearing bone ornaments, and even eating human flesh.
Every act, from crushing sesame seeds to meditating in high mountain retreats to drinking alcohol and fornicating, was performed in order to realize the Buddhist teachings of nonduality, compassion, and wisdom. In this context, there is no true difference between samsara and nirvana, thus what is profane is also sacred, the ultimate view of tantric Buddhism.