Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche may be referring to the twelve Nirmanakaya Dzogchen Buddhas, one of whom is Buddha Shakyamuni, who spread the Dzogchen teachings in their respective Nirmanakaya pure realm world systems. These twelve are discussed in Dudjom Rinpoche's "The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism", and in the quote below from Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche's book of Nyingma biographies, "A Marvelous Garden of Rare Gems", p. 32-36, published by Padma Publishing.
The Twelve Teachers
One example of such manifestation is the way in which emanations appeared in this
world of sorrow. From the naturally manifest realm of the dense array of spontaneous
presence appeared the two main kinds of emanations just mentioned. With regard to
the latter, there were three ways in which sublime emanations came about through
blessings: (1) From some 101 types of precious jewels appeared naturally manifest
forms that were equal in physical appearance and life span to given groups of beings,
liberating them by performing many miracles. [1.6a] (2) From these jewels, a great
text, The Tantra of the Teachings: The Single Child, manifested naturally, ensuring
benefit for beings through the inherent proclamation of countless variations of teachings.
(3) The true nature of phenomena ensured freedom for beings in the first years
of vajra time, with a rain of teachings and material objects falling to guide them in
whatever way was necessary. The texts, moreover, were proclaimed in whatever languages
These emanations caused rays of light to shine forth in all ten directions of the six
worlds,3 carrying out enlightened activities that freed countless beings in a completely
natural way, without effort. [1.6b] They are referred to as "sublime emanations
appearing naturally through the principles of enlightened form, speech, and mind." Socalled
holy emanations of timeless awareness manifested as leaders and others who
ensured benefit by guiding beings in whatever way was necessary.
In this regard, the nirmanakaya emanations of the great Vajradhara appeared
naturally from the ongoing mandala of inexhaustible adornment—the enlightened
form, speech, and mind of all victorious ones in the naturally
manifest pure realm of the dense array of spontaneous
presence. In the first eon (known as the "Age of Manifold
Joy") of this universe, Vajradhara had appeared naturally
in sambhogakaya form atop a lotus. This emanation gave
Vajrasattva and Vajrapani all the teachings of natural great
perfection—teachings beyond words and letters—ensuring
that understanding occurred naturally through enlightened
intent. At that point, this perfect buddha, the great Vajradhara,
emanated in nirmanakaya forms to guide beings—in
as many as there were countless beings to be guided. To ensure
the purification of the five mind-body aggregates that
constituted their retinues, these emanations were endowed
with the five aspects of excellence.
That is to say, the excellent teacher, the great Vajradhara,
in the realm of Ganden Tsekpa, in the excellent environment
atop a lotus flower, [1.7a] appeared first as the incredible
teacher Cheu Nangwa, expounding the earliest of all
tantras, the source of all teachings—The Reverberation of
Sound—to a retinue of 1,002 buddhas. The compiler of the
tantra was a child of the gods named Gaje Wangchuk; his
companions were other children of the gods, such as Nyima
Raptu Nangje. This took place when the human life span
was immeasurably long. Although the teacher and the retinue
were not separate from one another, their enlightened
intent to guide beings was such that they seemed to be so.
[1.7b] And during this current eon, by virtue of the same
enlightened intent to guide, buddhas appear in a distinct
succession, at separate times and with individual names
Nirmanakaya emanations then emerged in succession.
The second manifested in the environment of our world of
sorrow as the teacher Cheu O Mitrukpa, who gave a retinue
of two hundred thousand dakinis the teachings of the
five tantras (enlightened form, speech, mind, qualities, and
activities). He spoke in the language of Vishnu—known
as "the god with five locks of hair"—a language that arose
from the natural sound of the elements interacting due to
heat and cold. This took place when humans enjoyed a life
span of ten million years.
The third emanation manifested in the environment of a
mass of light resulting from the combination of warmth and
moisture. The teacher Jampal Jigpa Kyopa addressed a retinue
of six hundred thousand bodhisattvas. The teachings of
several tantras—Dredging the Pit of Cyclic Existence, Peacocks
with Entwined Necks, and The Glorious Resolution
of the Four Elements—carried on the gentle murmuring of
the wind, fell from the sky and were given after having been
translated into the language of the three-tufted garudas.
This took place when the life span of humans was one hundred
The fourth emanation manifested in the environment of
a womb, the source of desire and attachment. [1.8a] The
teacher Zhonnu Rolpa Nampar Tsewa addressed a retinue
of five thousand yaksha spirits and rock demons, giving
them the teachings of eleven tantras: five basic tantras of the
Category of Mind and six auxiliary tantras. This took place
when the life span of humans was eighty thousand years.
The fifth emanation manifested in the environment of the
garden of the physician Kumara. The teacher of the sixth
buddha family, Vajradhara, addressed a retinue that consisted
of the "seven successive buddhas,"4 giving them an immeasurable
number of teachings, including those concerning
the six transcendent perfections. This took place when
the life span of humans was seventy thousand years. [1.8b]
The sixth emanation manifested in the environment of
Meri Barwa, the charnel ground of the display of the supreme
secret. The teacher Zhonnu Pawo Tobden Chenpo
addressed a retinue of seven bodhisattvas, who were described
as "having the strength of clouds," giving them the
teachings of many classes of tantra—father tantras, mother
tantras, and so forth.5 This took place when the life span of humans was sixty thousand
The seventh emanation manifested in the environment known as Sinpo Rului
Dradang Denpa. The teacher Drangsong Tropai Gyalpo gave a retinue of ten million
bloodthirsty demons the teachings of such texts as the ten
tantras for guiding wild beings. This took place when the
life span of humans was ten thousand years.
The eighth emanation manifested in the environment
of Vulture Peak,6 in the region of Rajgir in India. The
teacher, the arhat Ser-o Dampa, addressed a retinue consisting
of countless spiritually advanced shravakas who
were endowed with miraculous powers, giving them tens of
thousands of teachings concerning the Vinaya of the sacred
dharma. This took place when the life span of humans was
five thousand years.
The ninth emanation manifested in the environment of
the victorious mansion of the bodhi tree known as Sokpo
Yuyi Minmachen. The teacher Tsewai Rolpai Lodro addressed
a retinue of bodhisattvas who had attained the
eighth level of realization, [1.9a] giving them teachings on
texts such as the seven tantras concerning subtle teachings.
This took place when the life span of humans was one thousand
The tenth emanation manifested on Vulture Peak. The
teacher Kashyapa the Elder addressed a retinue of seven
fully ordained arhats, giving them such sacred teachings
as the sutras, the Kriya tantras, and the seventy-five thousand
sections of the Anuyoga approach (which is based on
explanatory commentaries). This took place when the life
span of humans was five hundred years.
The eleventh emanation manifested in the environment
of the vajra seat of Bodh Gaya,7 the source of enlightenment.
The teacher Ngondzok Gyalpo addressed a retinue
of the lords of the three families,8 transmitting to them
only the definitive meaning of the teachings. This occurred
when the life span of humans was three hundred years.
The twelfth emanation manifested in the excellent environment
of the garden of Anathapindika.9 The excellent
teacher Shakyamuni taught the excellent dharma to the
four groups in his retinue,10 turning the wheel of the teachings
concerning the Four Noble Truths sixteen times. The
sixteen topics were impermanence, suffering, emptiness,
the nonexistence of the self, causal factors, the origin of suffering, the process of
origination, conditionality, the spiritual path, correct reasoning, [1.9b] spiritual
attainment, renunciation, the cessation of suffering, the state
of peace, the state of perfection, and disengagement from
the world. This took place when the life span of humans was
one hundred years.
These emanations appeared in these twelve environments,
presenting teachings through the five aspects of excellence,
resulting in a total of sixty aspects of spiritual teachings, the
underlying intent of which was to purify the sixty cycles of
evolution and devolution of this eon.
Furthermore, some ninety-six aspects of the dharma
must come together in one who is a foremost holder of the
teachings, or a manifest nirmanakaya emanation; such a
one is referred to as a "master of spiritual teachings." (If a
buddha lacking some of these aspects were to appear in the
world, that buddha's teachings would be said to be fragmentary.)
Emanations like this come about by having perfected
the altruistic motivation they previously aroused. Only in
this way could they have appeared as holy leaders of beings
from the time the human life span was immeasurable until it was one hundred years.
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