In December 2012, Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche gave two evening teachings at Deer Park Institute on the Bodhisattva Manjushri and the Khyentse lineage. The following paragraphs are excerpted from his talk. For a first-person report on the first evening’s teaching, read Janine Schultz’s article, Manjushri and the Khyentse Lineage, above.
[The] first point is to understand who Manjushri is. [The name can be] translated as gentle voice. There are explanations of Manjushri in many scriptures. Manjushri is the embodiment of the wisdom of all the completely enlightened Buddhas and victorious ones of the three times, of the past, the present, and the future.
In order to benefit sentient beings, Manjushri had to appear in a way that sentient beings can see, to manifest in many different ways. And those appearances—if you wanted to identify them or list them, you cannot. You can’t list them, there’s way too many. Also, if you ask about the enlightened activities accomplished by Manjushri, this is also way beyond anything you can try to list. Or if you talk about the names of Manjushri, all the different names, this is also beyond, it defies any listing.
And the time when Manjushri manifests is also something that you can’t pinpoint; it’s beyond what the mind can conceive. We are talking about enlightened activities that are beyond anything we can conceive, so therefore we can’t list them or have any definitive idea of what they are. If you ask how many manifestations of Manjushri will appear for the sake of sentient beings, this is something that is beyond what we can count. We can’t even say how many manifestations of Manjushri will appear in this world. There are billions of world systems, and in each of them, Manjushri manifests in infinite ways. So it’s completely beyond anything that we can conceive with our minds.
The Buddha Shakyamuni in this world spoke about Manjushri, explaining who he is and how he emanated. He gave an explanation to the beings of this world in the limited way that we can understand. But even the Buddha Shakyamuni could not explain completely who Manjushri was and all the different manifestations of Manjushri and so on. Not that Buddha Shakyamuni was not able to do that, but he didn’t have the time, and sentient beings would not have the time to listen. So he spoke about Manjushri in the way that sentient beings in this world could relate to.
Buddha Shakyamuni explained only briefly and in essence who Manjushri is. If you drink only a drop from the ocean, that gives you a taste of the ocean; you know how the immense ocean tastes just from a drop. So the short essential teaching of the Buddha on Manjushri is enough to help sentient beings realize who Manjushri is.
If you look at the stories of the life and liberation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, you’ll find so many occasions when they had visions of Manjushri in which they received teachings or empowerments from Manjushri, or they met with the female emanation Saraswathi—the books are full of these experiences. And they all reach the point where Manjushri dissolves into him and they become indivisible.
So that’s the answer to your question. You also need to know that whatever connection can be made with Manjushri has extraordinary benefit, beyond explanation. I myself can’t explain their qualities; however, the question was about the connection between Manjushri and those great masters, so I’ve tried to explain and express this in this very limited presentation. But that’s all I can do. Because I can’t even think big enough to understand all this. That’s all.