Saraha (8th century) is one of the mahâsiddhas (compare siddhi) of Indian Tantric Buddhism, the author of mystical chants, and one of the founders of the Indo-Tibetan mahâmudrâ lineage, a tradition of meditation similar to Zen.
Saraha is believed to have lived in the late 8th century CE and to have been a contemporary of King Dharmapâla (769-809; Pala dynasty). He is considered one of the most important Indian yogis. His life story was woven into a legend by various authors in Tibet from very different and partly contradictory sources.
According to this, for example, he is said to have come from a Bengali Brahmin family and was raised to become a Buddhist monk. It is unclear whether he was expelled from the monastery because he surrendered to drink or was guilty of similar violations of monastic rules, or whether he left the order of his own free will.
He became a wandering yogi and disciple of Ratnamati, who initiated him into the Guhyasamâja tantra and the methods of using the powers located in the subtle channels (Sanskrit: nâdî, compare Nadi (Yoga)). After finding a consort, he worked as an arrow smith. Therefore, he is always depicted with an arrow in his hand. Other legends describe the consort as an arrowsmith.
Saraha is the author of numerous mystical songs (Sanskrit: dohâ), in which he speaks out against literalism and traditional customs and for a direct, personal path:
"By this very thing, by which one is born, lives and dies, by this very thing one attains the highest bliss. But although Saraha speaks these deep, mysterious words, this stupid world does not seem to understand them."
From Saraha, one of the mahâmudrâ lineages continues to Savari, Luipada, Dengri, Vajraghanta, Kambala, Jalandhara, Krsnacarya, Vijayapada, Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa, Gampopa and other important lamas of the Kagyüpa tradition. Gos Lo tsa bas account in the Deb ther sngon po ("Blue Annals") provides an overview of the numerous transmission paths.