This book is a translation of a collection of stories about the eight great bodhisattvas. These stories are all taken from sutras and tantras taught by the Buddha, such as the Avatamsaka and the Lotus Sutras. They were collected and edited by the great Buddhist teacher Mipham Namgyal (1846 - 1912). Mipham was one of the greatest teachers in Tibet of his time, and his writings remain the basis for much of the study conducted by his own tradition, the Nyingma school of Buddhism, and by other traditions such as the Karma Kagyu.
In writing his book, Mipham combined edited extracts from his sources with his own writing about his subject. He wove the two together so skillfully that it is often not immediately obvious where the extract ends and his comments begin. Often he summarized long passages. He also omitted some of the sutras‚ didactic material in order to emphasize the stories he wanted to tell. Although we typically think of Buddhist sutras as teachings accompanied by sparing narrative, we discover in this book that the great sutras of the mahayana are repositories of extraordinary accounts of miracles and great deeds performed by buddhas and bodhisattvas.
In his afterword Mipham wrote that his purpose in writing his book was to provide inspiration. The purpose of these stories is to inspire us to emulate these great bodhisattvas and give us confidence in the effectiveness of the mahayana path. The reader is asked to open his or her mind to the vastness and profundity of the mahayana. The miracles described here are often outrageous in their transgression of what we regard as laws of nature. This is very much to the point. It seems that there is no way to enter the mahayana without being open to the inconceivable.
We have translated and published this book so that readers who might otherwise never have the opportunity to experience the tremendous richness of the mahayana sutras will have the opportunity to do so.
We often meditate on and pray to these bodhisattvas without much understanding of who and what they are. Although to fully understand bodhisattvas you have to be one, the stories in this book do communicate the particular activity and deeds for which these eight bodhisattvas are renowned, allowing us a glimpse into their world: a world of freedom, compassion, and wisdom far beyond ordinary experience.