Termas & Tertöns – Padmasambhava & Yeshe Tsogyal’s succession
Tertön is a term within Tibetan Buddhism meaning a person who is a discoverer of ancient hidden texts or terma.
Table of Contents
- 1 - Origin of the Tertöns
- 2 - What are Termas?
- 3 - Influential Tertöns
- 3.1 - Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
- 3.2 - Jamgon Kongtrul
- 3.3 - 5th Dalai Lama
- 3.4 - Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
- 3.5 - Dilgo Khyentse
- 3.6 - Namkhai Norbu
- 3.7 - Karma Chagme
- 3.8 - Chögyam Trungpa
- 3.9 - Dudjom Lingpa
- 3.10 - Jigme Lingpa
- 3.11 - Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche
- 3.12 - Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje
- 3.13 - Jigme Phuntsok
- 3.14 - Pema Lingpa
- 3.15 - Karma Lingpa
- 3.16 - Lingtsang Gyalpo
- 3.17 - Mindrolling Trichen
- 3.18 - Chimé Rigdzin
- 3.19 - Rigdzin Namkha Gyatso Rinpoche
- 3.20 - Tertön Sogyal
- 3.21 - Tertön
- 3.22 - Terma (religion)
- 3.23 - Namchö Mingyur Dorje
- 3.24 - Rigdzin Gödem
- 3.25 - Orgyen Lingpa
- 3.26 - Orgyen Kusum Lingpa
- 3.27 - Orgyen Chokgyur Lingpa
- 3.28 - Nyangrel Nyima Özer
- 3.29 - Nyala Pema Dündul
- 3.30 - Zhangton Tashi Dorje
- 3.31 - Tsangpa Gyare
Origin of the Tertöns
Many tertöns are considered to be incarnations of the twenty five main disciples of Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche), who foresaw a dark time in Tibet.
Padmasambhava and his consort Yeshe Tsogyal hid teachings to be found in the future to benefit beings.
According to generally accepted history, the rediscovering of terma began with the first tertön, Sangye Lama (1000–1080) and Drapa Ngönshé (1012–90), discoverer of the Four Medical Tantras.
A vast system of transmission lineages since then developed.
Scriptures from the Nyingma school were updated by terma discoveries, and terma teachings have guided many Tibetan Bon and Buddhist practitioners.
What are Termas?
The Termas are sometimes objects like statues, and can also exist as dharma texts and experiences.
Tertöns discover the texts at the right time and place.
The teachings can be relatively simple transmissions as well as entire meditation systems.
Termas are found in rocks, water and the minds of incarnations of Guru Rinpoche’s students.
Throughout the centuries there have been hundreds of masters who specialized in the discovery of terma, continuing up until the present day with Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche and Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.
There are said to be one hundred great tertöns and one thousand minor ones, of whom five in particular are known as the “Five Sovereigns”:
- Nyangral Nyima Özer (1124–1192)
- Guru Chöwang (1212-1270), also known as Guru Chökyi Wangchuk
- Dorje Lingpa (1346–1405)
- Pema Lingpa (1445/50–1521)
- Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820–1892)
Some influential female tertöns have all been considered to be emanations of Yeshe Tsogyal:
- Jomo Menmo (13th century), the consort of Guru Chöwang
- Mingyur Paldrön
- Sera Khandro (1892–1940)
Other influential female tertöns include:
- Tāre Lhamo (1938–2003)
- Ayu Khandro (Long Life Dakini, 1839–1953)
This is the life and accomplishments of some influential Tertöns around the world and their lineage.
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche is a Tibetan teacher and master of the Karma Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism.
He has authored two best-selling books and oversees the Tergar Meditation Community, a global network of Buddhist meditation centers.
‘Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé, also known as Jamgön Kongtrül the Great, was a Tibetan Buddhist scholar, poet, artist, physician, tertön and polymath. He was one of the most prominent Tibetan Buddhists of the 19th century and he is credited as one of the founders of the Rimé movement (non-sectarian), compiling what is known as the “Five Great Treasuries”. He achieved great renown as a scholar and writer, especially among the Nyingma and Kagyu lineages and composed over 90 volumes of Buddhist writing, including his magnum opus, The Treasury of Knowledge.
5th Dalai Lama
Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso was the Fifth Dalai Lama, and the first Dalai Lama to wield effective temporal and spiritual power over all Tibet. He is often referred to simply as the Great Fifth, being a key religious and temporal leader of Tibetan Buddhism and Tibet. Gyatso is credited with unifying all Tibet after a Mongol military intervention which ended a protracted era of civil wars. As an independent head of state, he established diplomatic relations with China and other regional countries and also met early European explorers. Gyatso also wrote 24 volumes’ worth of scholarly and religious works on a wide range of subjects.
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, also known by his tertön title, Pema Ösel Dongak Lingpa, was a renowned teacher, scholar and tertön of 19th-century Tibet. He was a leading figure in the Rimé movement.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was a Vajrayana master, scholar, poet, teacher, and head of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism from 1987 to 1991.
As the primary custodian of the teachings of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, Dilgo Khyentse was the de facto custodian of the vast majority of Tibetan Buddhist teachings.
He taught many eminent teachers, including the Dalai Lama.
His personal effort was crucial in the preservation of Tibetan Buddhism.
Namkhai Norbu was a Tibetan Dzogchen master. When he was two years old, Namkhai Norbu was recognized as the ‘mindstream emanation’, a tulku, of the Dzogchen teacher Adzom Drugpa (1842–1924). At five, he was also recognized as a mindstream emanation of an emanation of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (1594–1651). From an early age, Namkhai Norbu undertook an accelerated course of study, attending monastic college, taking retreats, and studying with renowned teachers, including some of the most important Tibetan masters of his time. Under the tutelage of these teachers, he completed the training required by the Buddhist tradition in both Sutrayana and Tantrayana. At the age of sixteen, he met master Rigdzin Changchub Dorje (1826–1961/1978), who became his principal Dzogchen teacher.
Including the first, seven Karma Chagme tülkus have been recognized.
The Neydo Kagyu sub-school of the Karma Kagyu was established by the first Karma Chagme, Rāga Asya.
Chögyam Trungpa was a Buddhist meditation master and holder of both the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages, the eleventh Trungpa tülku, a tertön, supreme abbot of the Surmang monasteries, scholar, teacher, poet, artist, and originator of a radical re-presentation of Shambhala vision.
Dudjom Lingpa (1835–1904) was a Tibetan meditation master, spiritual teacher and tertön. He stands out from the norm of Tibetan Buddhist teachers in the sense that he had no formal education, nor did he take ordination as a monk or belong to any established Buddhist school or tradition of his time. He was met with great skepticism by many of his contemporaries, due to the fact that, despite not studying under any established Buddhist teachers of his time, he claimed to receive teachings on meditation and spiritual practice directly from non-physical masters like Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyal, as well as deities such as Avalokitesvara and Manjushri. It wasn’t until his disciples started showing clear signs of spiritual maturity, that he was accepted by his contemporaries as an authentic teacher and tertön. Today his teachings and literary works, especially those on non-mediation (dzogchen), are highly regarded within the Nyingma-tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.
Jigme Lingpa (1730–1798) was a Tibetan tertön of the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism. He was the promulgator of the Longchen Nyingthik, the Heart Essence teachings of Longchenpa, from whom, according to tradition, he received a vision in which the teachings were revealed. The Longchen Nyingthik eventually became the most famous and widely practiced cycle of Dzogchen teachings.
Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche
Chagdud Tulku was a Tibetan teacher of the Nyingma school of Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhism. He was known and respected in the West for his teachings, his melodic chanting voice, his artistry as a sculptor and painter, and his skill as a physician. He acted as a spiritual guide for thousands of students worldwide. He was the sixteenth tülku of the Chagdud line.
Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje
Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje, was the second Dudjom Rinpoche. He was recognized as a direct rebirth of Dudjom Lingpa (1835–1904) and was also later appointed the first supreme head of the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism by the fourteenth Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration.
Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, born 1933– died January 7, 2004, was a Nyingma lama from Sertha Region, His family were Tibetan nomads. At the age of five he was recognized “as a reincarnation of Lerab Lingpa. Known also as Nyala Sogyel and Terton Sogyel, Lerab Lingpa was an eclectic and highly influential tantric visionary from the eastern Tibetan area of Nyarong .” He studied Dzogchen at Nubzor Monastery, received novice ordination at 14, and full ordination at 22.
Pema Lingpa or Padma Lingpa was a Bhutanese saint and siddha of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. He is considered a terchen or “preeminent tertön” and is considered to be foremost of the “Five Tertön Kings”. In the history of the Nyingma school in Bhutan, Pema Lingpa is second only in importance to Padmasambhava.
Karma Lingpa (1326–1386) was the tertön (revealer) of the Bardo Thodol, the so-called Tibetan Book of the Dead. Tradition holds that he was a reincarnation of Chokro Lü Gyeltsen, a disciple of Padmasambhava.
Wangchen Tenzin, King of Lingtsang, also Lingtsang Gyalgenma, was the King of Lingtsang in Kham, a tertön, a ngagpa and a kīla master of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism.
He was said to be an incarnation of King Gésar of Ling and was known for his kindness and his siddhis linked to his kīla practice.
The eleventh Mindrolling Trichen, Trichen Jurme Kunzang Wangyal Standard Tibetan: འགྱུར་མེད་ཀུན་བཟང་དབང་རྒྱལ་ was a lama of the Nyingma-school, the oldest school of Tibetan Buddhism and had been responsible for the administrative affairs for the school in exile as the ceremonial head of the lineage.
He is generally regarded as one of the greatest Tibetan masters.
Chimé Rigdzin Rinpoche, popularly known as “C.R. Lama”, was an important lineage holder of the Northern Treasures tradition in the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Rigdzin Namkha Gyatso Rinpoche
Rigdzin Namkha Gyatso Rinpoche is a Tibetan Buddhist teacher living in Lausanne (Switzerland).
Tertön Sogyal Lerab Lingpa was a Tibetan Buddhist tertön and a teacher of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama.
Tertön is a term within Tibetan Buddhism. It means a person who is a discoverer of ancient hidden texts or terma. Many tertöns are considered to be incarnations of the twenty five main disciples of Padmasambhava. A vast system of transmission lineages developed. Nyingma scriptures were updated by terma discoveries, and terma teachings have guided many Buddhist and Bon practitioners.
Terma are various forms of hidden teachings that are key to Vajrayana or Tibetan Buddhist and Bon religious traditions. The belief is that these teachings were originally esoterically hidden by various adepts such as Padmasambhava and dakini such as Yeshe Tsogyal (consorts) during the 8th century, for future discovery at auspicious times by other adepts, who are known as tertöns. As such, terma represent a tradition of continuous revelation in Vajrayana or Tibetan Buddhism. Termas are a part of tantric literature.
Namchö Mingyur Dorje was an important tertön or “treasure revealer” in Tibetan Buddhism. His extraordinary “pure vision” revelations, which mostly occurred around the age of 16, are known as the Namchö (Wylie: gnam-chos “Sky Dharma” terma. He first transmitted these to his teacher Karma Chakmé, the illustrious Buddhist scholar of the Kagyu school, who wrote them down. The collection of his revelations fill thirteen Tibetan volumes and are the basis of one of the main practice traditions of the Palyul lineage, a major branch of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. He was considered to be a reincarnation of Palgyi Senge of Shubu, one of the ministers the 8th-century Tibetan King Trisong Detsen sent to invite Padmasambhava to Tibet. He recognized Kunzang Sherab as the Lineage Holder of the Namchö terma. Loden Chegse, one of Padmasambhava’s eight emanations, had a vision which helped him learn to read and write. At age 7, his Dakini visions helped focus on reliance upon the lama. At age 10, after a vision and with a Dharma Protector’s help, he met his root lama Karma Chagme. Karma Chakmé recognized him as manifestation of Padmasambhava, Senge Dradok. Mingyur Dorje revealed the Namchö treasures at age thirteen, which were written down with Karma Chakmé’s help while they stayed in retreat together for three years.
Rigdzin Gödem . also known as Rigdzin Gokyi Demtru Chen and Ngodrub Gyaltsen, was a major Nyingma tertön. He revealed an important cycle of termas called the “Northern Treasures” or byanggter.
Orgyen Lingpa, was one of the greatest Tibetan tertöns or treasure-finders of the 14th century. “At the age of twenty-three he is said to have discovered an extensive treasure inventory at Samye Monastery in the Red Stupa.” “He discovered texts, images, ritual objects and jewels, chiefly at Shetak, Yugang Drak, and Drachi Drakpoche. Of the 100 texts that were revealed by him, the Katang Denga are the most important to have survived. These five volumes chronicling the period of the Emperor Trisong Detsen include the Pema Katang, the most authoritative legendary biography of Guru Rinpoche. Orgyen Lingpa was born at Yarje in 1323. “
Orgyen Kusum Lingpa
Orgyen Kusum Lingpa (1934-2009) was a Tibetan terton and Nyingma lineage holder within Tibetan Buddhism. His name means “Holder of the Sanctuary of the Trikaya of Oddiyana Padmasambhava.”
Orgyen Chokgyur Lingpa
Chokgyur Lingpa or Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa (1829-1870) was a tertön or “treasure revealer” and contemporary of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgon Kongtrul. Regarded as one of the major tertöns in Tibetan history, his termas are widely practiced by both the Kagyu and Nyingma schools.Chokgyur Lingpa was the “manifestation,” meaning the reincarnation, of King Trisong Deutsen’s son, Prince Damdzin. Another of his former lives was the great terton, Sangye Lingpa, who revealed the Lama Gongdu. Chokgyur Lingpa was the last of the 100 major tertons. He was the owner of seven transmissions and is regarded as the universal monarch of all tertons. One of the reasons for this is that no other terton has revealed a teaching that includes the Space Section (Longde) of Dzogchen. There are several Mind Section (Semde) revelations and all major tertons have revealed the Instruction Section (Mengagde), but only Chokgyur Lingpa transmitted the Space Section. This is why the Dzogchen Desum is considered the most extraordinary terma that he ever revealed.
Chokgyur Lingpa’s main consort was Dechen Chodron and Padmasambhava predicted that his three children would be emanations of the three family lords: Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri and Vajrapani. I don’t like saying this, for it may sound like I’m bragging about my family line, but such a prophecy does exist. The Manjushri emanation was supposed to be Wangchok Dorje, the Avalokiteshvara emanation Tsewang Norbu and the Vajrapani emanation my grandmother, Konchok Paldron.
Nyangrel Nyima Özer was an important Nyingma tertön, a revealer of terma treasure texts in Tibetan Buddhism.
Nyala Pema Dündul (1816–1872), also known as Terton Nyala Pema Duddul, was a teacher of Dzogchen and Tantric Buddhism in Eastern Tibet.
Zhangton Tashi Dorje
Zhangtön Tashi Dorjé was a Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen teacher who was an important treasure revealer (terton) in the Menngagde lineage of Dzogchen. He is particularly known for revealing the Vima Nyingthig, a key Dzogchen cycle of teachings which includes the Seventeen tantras of Dzogchen. Zhangton was born in Yamdrok Tonang and was a disciple of Chetsün Sengé Wangchuk.
The great ascetic Drogon Tsangpa Gyare (1161–1211) was the main disciple of Lingchen Repa Pema Dorje and the founder of the Drukpa Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism the main or central branch of which was, until the 17th Century, transmitted by his hereditary family lineage at Ralung in the Tsang region of western Tibet. Later, following the birth of Gyalwang Je Kunga Paljor (1428–1476) considered to be the first of his re-incarnations, Tsangpa Gyare was held to be the first of a succession of Gyalwang Drukpa or Drukchen incarnations who, at the time of the fifth Gyalwang Drukpa Pagsam Wangpo (1593—1653), became established as the reincarnate leaders of the Drukpa lineage in Tibet.