Mahāsiddha Stories for Inspiration
Mahāsiddha stories are fun to read, but we can also understand that the stories are also teachings. One key point is that we never know who can become a great practitioner. In the Mahāsiddha stories we hear about hunters and thieves, lazy aristocrats, housewives and beggars. Rinpoche gives the example of the famous siddha Saraha, who received wisdom from the “Radish Soup ḍākinī “—we can understand from this story that wisdom can come in surprising messages! And we don’t always know who will teach us, so we should remain open-minded.
The details of their stories can be found in various texts. The most popular collection was compiled by Abhayadatta Sri in the 11th-12 century, and has translated into English as The Legends of the Eighty-four Mahāsiddhas (Tib. grub thob brgyad bcu tsa bzh’i lo rgyus). There are other lists of mahāsiddhas, however, so we should not think that the number was restricted to 84.
Many of these characters seem to behave in bizarre ways. Yet, what does this teach us about judging outer appearances? Each of these people reaches accomplishment after following a teacher’s specific advice. And often their practice looks very simple and does not involve lots of philosophical study or intellectual understanding. Yet, because these people were ripe for teachings, they all made very swift progress on the path. We can understand from these stories that devotion and absolute confidence in the teacher’s instructions made it possible for these individuals to attain accomplishment very swiftly.
Mahāsiddha stories remind us that no matter who we are, or what misdeeds we have committed in the past, we have the opportunity to transform. And not only to change, but to make dramatic progress and demonstrate true realization. We can also take away the lesson that transformation comes about in many ways—that there is no one single method that applies to all beings.