Terma གཏེར་མ་ Wylie: gter ma


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TERMABUDDHIST TERMA.......Terma are key Tibetan Buddhist and Bön teachings, which the tradition holds were originally esoterically hidden by various adepts such as Padmasambhava and his consorts in the 8th century for future discovery at auspicious times by other adepts, known as tertöns. As such, they represent a tradition of continuing revelation in Buddhism. The majority of terma teachings are tantric in nature, although there are notable exceptions.

The terma tradition is particularly prevalent in, and significant to, the Nyingma lineage. Two of the most famous tertön in the 20th century, Dudjom Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, were of the Nyingma school. Tertön are also prevalent in Bön and a few tertön have been Kagyu.

In 1370, Dorje Lingpa stopped at Paro Tagtshang and revealed for the first time a certain number of hidden manuscripts that contained religious texts of Buddhist tantras and Bonpo Dzogchen meditation..."In 1371, Dorje Lingpa performed what is known as the "public revelation" (tromter) in at least two places: at Ugyen Yiblung Dekyiling, accompanied by three hundred people, and at Pungthang Dewa Dhenpo (Punakha). He seems to be the first among the Nyingmapa terton to initiate this tradition.

Nyingma...According to generally accepted history, the rediscovering of terma began with the first tertön, Sangye Lama (1000–1080). Tertöns of outstanding importance were Padmasambhava (1124–1192), Guru Chowang (1212–1270), Rigdzin Gödem (1307–1408), Dorje Lingpa (1346-1405), Ratna Lingpa (1403–1478), Pema Lingpa (1450–1521), Migyur Dorje (1645–1667), and Jigme Lingpa (1729-1798), Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820–1892) and Orgyen Chokgyur Lingpa (1829–1870).

The terma tradition of rediscovering hidden teaching is not unique to Tibet. It has antecedents in India and cultural resonances in Hindu Vaishnavism as well...
(Beauford Anton Stenberg aka Benign Hummingbird Hovering....

BON TERMA.........A terma tradition also exists in the Bön religion. Most Bön termas were hidden during the period of decline under King Trisong Deutsen, and rediscovered around the 11th century. Teachings were hidden by masters such as Lishu Tagring and Drenpa Namkha, often inside Buddhist temples as in Samye and Lhodrak.

The Three Treasures of Everlasting Bon....For the Bonpo, the Gankyil denotes the three principal 'terma' (Tibetan) or "treasure" cycles of Everlasting Bon, the 'Northern Treasure' (Wylie: byang gter), the 'Central Treasure' (Wylie: dbus gter), and the 'Southern Treasure' (Wylie: lho gter). The Northern Treasure is compiled from texts revealed in Zhangzhung and northern Tibet, the Southern Treasure from texts revealed in Bhutan and the southern area of Tibet, and the Central Treasure from texts revealed in central Tibet close to Samye Monastery.

'A Cavern of Treasures'... is a terma uncovered by 'Shenchen Luga'... in the early eleventh century. Martin (n.d.: p. 21) identifies the importance of this scripture for studies of the Zhang-Zhung language:"For students of Tibetan culture in general, the mDzod phug is one of the most intriguing of all Bon scriptures, since it is the only lengthy bilingual work in Zhang-zhung and Tibetan (some of the shorter but still significant sources for Zhang-zhung are signalled in Orofino 1990."

In the late 7th century, Buddhism came to Tibet from India. During that transition period Bon faced difficulties, yet it survived with the help of great masters who buried and hid many Bon teaching resources. During the reign of Lang Darma, the 40th king of Tibet, Buddhism was entirely terminated. Its first transmission and Tibet went into a spiritual dark age for about a century and a half.....The second transmission for both Bon and Buddhist began around the 10th century. The great Bon master and Terton Shen Chen Luga (996-1035 AD) rediscovered many Bon scriptures that were hidden by earlier Bon masters.

SHAMBHALA TERMA......At the first Kalapa Assembly in the fall of 1978, during one of our translation sessions with the Vidyadhara, Larry Mermelstein engaged him in an interesting discussion about the nature of the Shambhala texts he was presenting to us. When asked whether they were terma (“treasure teachings” hidden long ago to be discovered at an appropriate time in the future), he replied, “Yes, sort of.” When we asked whether we should include the terma mark to indicate terma in our translations, his response was, “Not yet; maybe later.” In fact, this did not come to pass until after his death, when Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche instructed us to include this in our future publications of these texts, and he confirmed with no hesitation that they were indeed authentic terma.
When we asked the Vidyadhara whether these texts originated with Padmakara, the source of the vast majority of treasure teachings, at that time we didn’t know that other teachers also hid dharma as termas. So when Rinpoche replied that these texts were more likely from Gesar, we were understandably puzzled. But after a long pause Rinpoche added, “And of course Gesar was an emanation of Padmakara, so that should take care of things for you!” When we asked about what meaning Gesar had in terms of the Shambhala teachings, Rinpoche exclaimed: “Gesar is the vanguard of Shambhala.” (It should be noted that in other contexts, the Vidyadhara indicated that the Shambhala terma had originated with the Rigden kings, Shiwa Ökar, or Gesar of Ling.)

Certain Shambhala practices derive from specific terma texts of Trungpa Rinpoche's such as Letter of the Black Ashe, Letter of the Golden Key that Fulfills Desire, Golden Sun of the Great East, and the Scorpion Seal of the Golden Sun, in long and short versions. Trungpa Rinpoche is believed by his students to have received these teachings directly from Gesar of Ling



July 2012

John Hopkins....Northern New Mexico


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