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Four Mahasiddhas (18th century, Boston MFA). Saraha in top left, Dombhi Heruka top right, Naropa bottom left, and Virupa bottom right.

Mahasiddha (Skt. mahāsiddha; T. grub thob chen po གྲུབ་ཐོབ་ཆེན་པོ; C. dasheng 大聖), or "great adept," is an epithet for a highly realized tantric practitioner. The term is specifically used to refer to a group of tantric practitioners who lived in India between the 7th and 12th centuries CE., and who became famous throughout Tibet and East Asia.[1] A list of eighty-four mahasiddhas is commonly ennumerated.[1]

The Princeton Dictionary states:

Just as the arhat is the ideal of mainstream Buddhism and the bodhisattva the ideal of the Mahayana, the mahāsiddha is the ideal of Buddhist tantra in India. Although many of the hagiographies of the mahāsiddhas tell stories of princes who, like the Buddha, renounced the world, others tell of enlightened masters who are neither virtuous monks nor gentle bodhisattvas but are instead drawn from the most ignoble levels of Indian society: butchers, hunters, fishermen, blacksmiths, leathersmiths, pimps; i.e., those involved in professions that were considered to be sources of pollution.[1]

Mahasiddhas also engaged in transgressive behavior such as eating meat, sitting on top of corpses and copulating with low caste women.[1] They were also said to perform magical feats such as flying through the air or turning metal into gold.[1]

They are regarded as enlightened beings who were able to engage in transgressive behaivor (without accumulating negative karma) due to their profound realization.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. mahāsiddha.


Further reading

  • 32px-Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg.png Mahasiddha, Wikipedia
  • Dowman, Keith (1986). Masters of Mahamudra: Songs and Histories of the Eighty-four Buddhist Siddhas. SUNY Series in Buddhist Studies. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-88706-160-5. 
  • Dudjom Rinpoche (Jikdrel Yeshe Dorje) (2002). The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and History. Translated and edited by Gyurme Dorje with Matthew Kapstein (2nd ed.). Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-087-8. 
  • Egyed, Alice (1984). The Eighty-four Siddhas: A Tibetan Blockprint from Mongolia. Akadémiai Kiadó. ISBN 9630538350. 
  • Gray, David B. (2007). The Cakrasamvara Tantra (The Discourse of Sri Heruka): A Study and Annotated Translation. Treasury of the Buddhist Sciences. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0975373463. 
  • Hāṇḍā, Omacanda (1994). Buddhist Art & Antiquities of Himachal Pradesh, Upto 8th Century A.D. Indus Publishing. ISBN 9788185182995. 
  • Simmer-Brown, Judith (2002). Dakini's Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism. Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala Publications. ISBN 978-1-57062-920-4. 
  • von Schroeder, Ulrich (2006). Empowered Masters: Tibetan Wall Paintings of Mahasiddhas at Gyantse. Chicago: Serindia Publications. ISBN 978-1932476248. 

External links