Virupa, one of
the eighty-four enlightened Great Adepts (Mahasiddhas) and a preeminent
master of both the Chakrasamvara and Hevajra lineage is shown in his
popular posture with his right hand and his gaze directed towards the
sun and his left hand holding a skull cup or bowl of gold paint.
Typically a garland of flowers drapes over his left shoulder and a
floral crown adorns his head. The curls of Virupa's hair, beard and
eyebrows, too, are standard to his iconography. He sits on an antelope
skin atop a lotus pedestal, with its high rim below the row of rounded
pearls. The row of elongated lotus petals is a common feature in the
Nepalese tradition. In Tibet, Virupa is particularly important to the
Sakya order, which traditionally offered patronage to Newari artisans.
The story of the origin of Mahasiddha Virupa is as follows:
Virupa was born as the crown prince into a royal family in south of
India, some 1020 years after Lord Buddha reached nirvana or
enlightenment. However, the dating of Virupa is somewhat uncertain
given the limited factual evidence although it is believed that Virupa
made at least three appearances in this world.
As a young child, Virupa received the novice ordination in the famous
monastery of Somapura in North Bengal. After completion of his studies
there, he left for the Nalanda Monastery where he received the bhikhu
ordination from, Dharmamitra, the Abbot of Nalanda, where he was given
the name Dharmapala. Virupa was known as a Dharmapala and it was only
towards the latter part of his life, after achieving Siddhi that he
called himself, Virupa, which means "wicked".
Dharmamitra gave Virupa Vajrayana teachings and in particular
Chakrasamvara tantra. Virupa became the Abbot of Nalanda after the
death of Dharmamitra. In the daytime, he gave teachings and composition
and at night he secretly practiced Chakrasamvara.
At the age
of 70, after many years of faithful practice on Vajrayana, Virupa began
having dreams which he interpreted as bad omens and he saw no signs of
spiritual attainment. Having decided that he had no karmic connection
with Vajrayana, he threw his prayer beads into the latrine and gave up
his practice on Vajrayana. On the same night, the Goddess Nairatmya
appeared in his dream and told him that he should not act in such a
manner when he was about to attain Siddhi. Hence he was requested to
pick up his beads and wash them in scented water and to continue his
regular practice. The following evening, Vajra Nairatmya appeared
before him in her own mandala of fifteen goddesses where she bestowed on
Virupa the four initiations, after which Virupa attained the Path of
Seeing of the First Bhumi. Virupa had then realised the true
significance of his dreams which he wrongly interpreted as bad omens.
From that evening onwards, Virupa attained a higher Bhumi each day until
he became the great Bodhisattva of the Sixth Bhumi.
In order to
express his gratitude to his Guru and Yidams, Virupa arranged for a
Ganachakra feast offerings where meat and wine were included as
offerings. The other monks became suspicious over the behaviour of
their Abbot. Wishing to avoid any disparagement to the doctrine from
the misunderstanding of his behaviour, Virupa declared himself "wicked"
and left the Nalanda monastery. This was how the name Virupa came to
Nalanda, Virupa headed for areas such as Varanasi, Bhimesara, and other
southeast parts of India. In his journey, he met two men, Dombi Heruka
(the boatman) and Krishnacharin, who became his two disciples. Virupa
demonstrated his magical powers to many along the way, including kings
and their spiritual advisers. Virupa was known for his magical power
such as parting the water of the Ganges River on two occasions and
halting the sun in its normal course for three days from a beer tavern
in southern India. In Sowanatha, he built a temple and established a
community of monks where he ordered that animal sacrifices be stopped
thereby saving the lives of million of animals.
passed away, some said that he dissolved into a stone image and others
said that he became a stone image. This stone image pointed at the sun
with its right hand and held a container of gold paint in its left
hand. It is said that this gold paint can turn any metal into gold.