The emanation of a great bodhisattva, he was born a Brahmin and grew up very erudite. He quickly became a highly-accomplished Buddhist master. He received many tantras from King Visukalpa, who had himself learnt them from thedakinis of Uddiyana.
According to the scriptures, the historical Buddha Sakyamuni, just before his passing from this world, was requested to impart the most profound core of his instruction. He travelled to Vidarbha, in the South of India, and transmitted it to an assembly of bodhisattvas. He prophesied that these teachings would later be spread properly in India by five great beings: Manjughosa, Avalokitesvara, Saraha, Nagarjuna and Savari. Some centuries later, the first two emanated as masters Ratnamati and Sukhanatha, respectively. Saraha received these mahamudra teachings from them and in turn transmitted them to his great disciples Nagarjuna and Savari.
Much of Saraha's teaching was given as spiritual song (doha), in verse. Teaching through doha was thereafter preserved as a sacred method of instruction through subsequent generations of the Kagyu lineage. Of particular note were Saraha's King Doha, Queen Doha and People Doha.