Oral teachings of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
and his spiritual sons

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Chokgyur Lingpa and his termas
 

Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche

Spoken in November of 1998 at Rangjung Yeshe Gomde, the North American seat for the teachings of Chokgyur Lingpa in response to a question about Chokgyur Lingpa and his termas.

I have come here for the first time to the place in America that is especially created for the study and practice of the teachings and termas of Chokgyur Lingpa. Having come here I feel should also give a talk. A few days ago Erik said I must speak specifically on the tradition of Chokgyur Lingpa. I don’t really know how to speak specifically on that, so I will say whatever comes to mind.
Generally speaking, it is the teachings of a buddha that which brings true benefit for the beings in this world. The purpose of these teachings is not only to benefit human beings, but to bring benefit and welfare to all sentient beings of the six classes; everywhere, both temporarily and ultimately. When a buddha manifests in the world and teaches others, that is called ‘turning the wheel of Dharma’. He teaches that there is suffering in mundane existence. There is pain; there is pleasure. What is taught is real, how it actually is. A buddha does not make any inventions, does not create ideas that without any basis in reality.
To distill the buddha’s techings: “Samsaric existence has the nature of being painful; it is nothing other than suffering. Even though there is temporary pleasure in the higher realms — among human beings, demigods and gods — these are only superficial, fleeting, and ultimately the very basis for more suffering.” A buddha also teaches that there is a way to be free of samsaric existence. There is a path to liberation from samsara and to the omniscient state of complete enlightenment.
It is possible to attain liberation because every sentient being has a nature that is already enlightened, and that nature is an intrinsic possession. What a buddha really is, is something that is already basically present in every sentient being; it is not some new product that is created through practice. The Buddha said that after having remained in samsaric existence for a number of aeons he attained enlightenment. We have the same potential. After enlightenment, he acted for the welfare of beings; that is possible for us as well. The Buddha taught how it really is and the way to be free. He gave various approaches — the three or the nine vehicles.
When we begin to apply these different types of path, please understand that the five poisonous emotions are always something to be free of, not to become further involved in. Buddha taught how to bring the disturbing emotions, the five or three kinds of poisons, to a halt, how to interrupt them. The ways to interrupt emotions are found in the ‘lower vehicles.’ Through this way the emotions are not obliterated, only interrupted, in order not to increase, to proliferate. To practice such teachings means to apply a remedy against our selfish emotions. By using the remedy it becomes possible to be free. However, because it is still an act of doing, it takes quite a while.
The Buddha also taught a way in which we can make use of our emotions. In other words, without rejecting or suppressing them, the emotions can be brought into and used as part of the path, which is a very profound key point. The Buddha gave specific teachings for the desirous type of person, the aggressive type of person, etc. — teachings on union and deliverance, and so forth.
The different levels of methods are usually given the name ‘the three vehicles’; the vehicle for Shravakas, the vehicle of Mahayana, and the vajra vehicle of Secret Mantra. Due to the kindness of the Buddha, such teachings appeared in this world. When we use one of these many ways, it is up to the individual person to reach perfection. There are also many levels of attainment: for the shravaka path, the level of an arhat, and so forth. There are different levels of realization and attainment for the bodhisattva path. For those who embark upon the Vajrayana path, there is the level of knowledge holders, vidyadharas, until they attain the supreme attainment of the knowledge-holder of Mahamudra, and so forth.
Some people practice all three vehicles together, in combination. Such a person is a practitioner of the entire body of the Buddha’s teachings. Those who don’t do that, who only practice one of the three vehicles and not the others, cannot be said to be a practitioner of the entire teachings of the buddha. It is possible to practice the lower vehicles without the higher ones; they are a complete path in themselves. It is not possible to practice the higher vehicles without the stepping stone or support of the lower vehicles.
In this world, first the teachings of the Buddha spread in India, and then later on flourished in many other countries, all over the world, and in various ways. In some places both the sutra and tantra teachings were practiced in completeness, in other places it was only a portion. All this unfolded in combination with the general merit and aspirations of the people in those countries.
For us in Tibet, it was predicted by the Buddha that the people in those areas would have great merit. There have appeared great Tibetan kings, such as the three ancestral rulers who were Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri and Vajrapani in human form. There were great kings, rulers of an immense domain, as well as goodness and virtue. Kangyur - the TripitakaAmong them, Trisong Deutsen stands out as a king of gigantic resolve and very far reaching influence. Due to his kindness and aspirations, many great masters were invited. One of the first masters was Shantarakshita, a great bodhisattva who ordained the first monks in Tibet. In their footsteps, later on, many tens and hundreds of thousands of monks and nuns followed. This king also arranged for the translation of the words of the Buddha, the Tripitaka and all the treatises, the Kangyur and Tengyur, as well as inviting great accomplished yogis from India, including Guru Rinpoche and Vimalamitra. In particular these two masters had attained the great empowerment of mastery over the expression of awareness, of which in India at that time there were only a few.
Guru Rinpoche was called the Second Buddha, not only as a title but it was as a fact: he was a second buddha. His life stories describe that compared to other countries his activity carried out for the benefit of the Buddhadharma in Tibet were much greater than for any other place. While he remained for approximately 60 years in Tibet, he stayed in India much longer. Only to mention one place, he stayed two hundred years in Bodhgaya. Mahabodhi Temple in BodhgayaHis life story is something that cannot be grasped by the thoughts of an ordinary person. The various versions of Guru Rinpoche’s life story differ in the accounts of years he remained in certain places. It is said in the Katang Chronicles, thousands different versions of my life story will appear for the benefit of beings.
Taranatha, the great Jonang master, wrote a life story of Padmasambhava based exclusively on Indian sources. Having traced back the influence of Padmasambhava through all the mahasiddhas of India; Taranatha wrote down what he discovered. If you read this text, that you will find that there is not a single one of the mahasiddhas who were was not accepted as a disciple of Padmasambhava. Each one met Guru Rinpoche either in actuality or in his wisdom body form; and each one upheld some of the transmissions of his teachings. If you read the longer life stories of Guru Rinpoche you find that in India alone he had forty different names, the twelve manifestations, and so forth. All these various forms of Padmasambhava come from the Indian tradition.
Such a great master, a great vidyadhara, knowledge holder, came in person to Tibet. There he tamed the land by subduing negative forces. He consecrated the temples at Samye and bestowed empowerments and instructions. All what he carried out during his time in Tibet, is clearly and in detail described in his life story. It is universally known from these life stories that, at the end, he went to the south-western subcontinent in order to subjugate savage beings. Yet he did return to Tibet a couple of times — for instance Yeshe Tsogyal invited him back once in order to influence the youngest son of King Trisong Deutsen. At another point he was invited back, and stayed for seven days, not in an imagined form, in reality, so that other people could witness it.
Through the ages there has been a huge number of masters of the four schools — Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya and Gelug — who have worked for the benefit of others, and who accomplished realization for themselves. There is probably not a single one of them, if you read through all their life stories, who did not receive some blessings or transmission of Padmasambhava. These days as well, there are people who meet Guru Rinpoche in actuality, in dreams, in visions, or in their meditation experience, receiving empowerments and instruction, or simply behold his countenance.
Even though the activities of Padmasambhava are all inconceivable, there is one of his activities that is truly extraordinary, and that is his terma teachings. These termas were concealed for the benefit of beings in future generations. They have been and continue to be revealed at much later times than his stay in Tibet. The five major types of terma are the northern, central, eastern, western and southern termas, as well as the King’s Life-Treasure, and so forth. There are still termas to be rediscovered, and termas that will never to be taken out by anyone. There are many kinds. Guru Rinpoche also predicted exactly under which circumstances a particular terton would appear to reveal a certain treasure. He foresaw the effect of the auspicious circumstances for a particular revelation. Guru Rinpoche safeguarded that this actually happened.
The first terton was Sangye Lama who appeared about two or three hundred years after Guru Rinpoche left this world for the south-western continent. Between him and Chokgyur Lingpa there have been one hundred and twenty major tertons, all of who were emissaries of Padmasambhava. Since you want to hear especially about Chokgyur Lingpa, I will give you a brief explanation of the meaning of his three titles. He was a terton whom Guru Rinpoche invested with three simultaneous names: Chokgyur Lingpa as the ground; Dechen Lingpa as the path; and Shikpo Lingpa as the fruition. There are different biographies of Chokgyur Lingpa existing these days, extensive, medium and shorter ones. We don’t have to explain everything in detail; you can read those books.
First, Chokgyur Lingpa as the ground; Chokgyur means supreme. Among the one thousand buddhas who appear in this same aeon, Sangye Mopa is the last of them. This buddha ill be supreme in the sense that even if you count together the activities, teachings, life-span and qualities of all the first nine hundred and ninety-nine buddhas; they cannot match the resplendence of the last. The Buddha said in the sutras, that when the last buddha appears, even the activities that he carries out in the duration of a single finger-snap, cannot be matched by the first nine hundred and ninety nine buddhas. In the same way, in all the major chronicles of Padmasambhava’s life story, where he gives detailed predictions for the future, he said that Chokgyur Lingpa will be the last of the major tertons to appear for the benefit of beings. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo has also said that Chokgyur Lingpa’s activity to benefit beings, as the last of the hundred and eight major tertons, cannot be matched by all the others added together. That is the meaning of Chokgyur, supreme.

Chokgyur Lingpa was a single terton who was simultaneously invested with three terton titles by Guru Rinpoche: Chokgyur Lingpa as the ground, Dechen Lingpa as the path and Zhikpo Lingpa as the fruition. All the major versions of Padmasambhava’s life story relate that Chokgyur Lingpa would be the last of the major tertons appearing for the benefit of beings. Jamyang Khyentse said that the activity and benefit of Chokgyur Lingpa, as the last of the108 major tertons, was even greater than that of all the others added together. All of which is actually born out by the facts.
Chokgyur Lingpa wasn’t famous until he was over thirty years old and had returned to Derge from Palpung Monastery. He wasn’t known as a terton until, at the age of thirty-one, he revealed the Dzogchen Desum, the Three Sections of the Great Perfection. And though he passed away only ten years later, what he actually achieved in that short while is totally beyond what an ordinary person can even conceive of.
During this short period, not only did he reveal 36 or 37 termas, many were written down and presently comprise forty volumes. Each and every one of his termas is completely authentic; in other words, any educated, learned person who studies and closely examines the substance and meaning of each of these termas, will find that they are genuine. But he didn’t just reveal termas, he also passed their transmission and lineage on to others by giving empowerments and teachings. He also stayed in retreat for three years, opened up twenty-five major sacred places, revealed more than 100 statues from termas, performed 120 drubchens and established three major seats for teaching and practice. It is totally mind-blowing! So, considering all that he did, one has to say that he was supreme.
Now for his three titles of which the first, Chokgyur Lingpa, refers to the ground. Here, Chokgyur means ‘eminent’. When this ground becomes the ground display or, in other words, manifests, then he takes on his second name, Dechen Lingpa, as the path. Here ‘path’ refers to the terton’s appearance in the world and his making connections with sentient beings in order to guide them. Basically, it refers to his activity to influence and guide beings, either directly or indirectly.
Of course, other tertons also had many heart practices, but none of them seem to be as concise, clear, profound and impressive as those revealed by Chokgyur Lingpa. For example, the root tantra of Tukdrub, the Sheldam Nyingjang, is so vast that it is totally unparalleled by the revelations of any terton who came before him. In this tantra, Padmasambhava says, “In the past, before this moment, in the countries of India, Nepal and Tibet, I have never given any teaching as profound as this, even to the wind. Wherever this scripture is kept, that place will be indivisible from the supreme buddha field of Akanishtha. It will always be surrounded and swarmed by dakas and dakinis.”
Chokgyur Lingpa’s termas are adorned with Chokgyur Lingpa’s own experience of the pith instructions that he received from many great masters. What this means is that in these termas we find key advice that was never before revealed – we don’t find such advice anywhere else. If anyone comes up to you and says, “There is nothing special about Chokgyur Lingpa’s termas,” you only have to say one thing, “Show me anything like the Sheldam Nyingjang or Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo; where can you find anything like that?” and it is settled right there! Because there aren’t any other termas like Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo, that is why it was used as the last volume in the Rinchen Terdzo.
Hence Chokgyur Lingpa is, beyond dispute, the greatest treasure revealer. Even though there have been some objections or disputes about the verifications of revelations by other tertons in the past, there is no mention anywhere of anyone disputing what Chokgyur Lingpa revealed.
Each terma needs to have a foundation in the tantras and Chokgyur Lingpa revealed not only termas but their root tantras as well. Jamyang Khyentse said that the tantras should be connected to empowerment, empowerment should be connected to sadhana, sadhana should be connected to application, and application should be connected to oral instructions. In this way, there are five-fold connections taught by Jamyang Khyentse. The lineages for all these are unbroken.
‘That the tantra should be connected to the empowerment’, means that the tantra explains how to grant empowerment. Even though the tantras are expounded and taught by the buddhas in the sambhogakaya level, such as the buddha field of Akanishtha, still there will be no link unless the disciples are connected to them by the act of empowerment. Just the same, being empowered must somehow be connected to the path by which what is being transmitted can be put to use (i.e. the development stage, completion stage, and so forth). Therefore, the empowerment needs to be connected to a sadhana. The sadhana needs to be connected to application, in other words, there needs to be an oral lineage of explaining how to employ the sadhana. Then this must be adorned with the pith instructions. These teachings are much more than a simple how-to manual. Padmasambhava himself gave extraordinary advice on how to utilize these profound teachings. Such connectedness is immense and having all of these complete is what is meant by ‘Dechen Lingpa as the path’.
What’s more, in order to guide sentient beings to the state of true and complete enlightenment a terton, to truly be a major terton, needs to have three termas, called la, dzog, and tuk. La is guru yoga, dzog is Dzogchen, and tuk is the Great Compassionate one, Avalokiteshvara. If a terton does not possess all three, then he is not a major terton, only a minor terton. But in the case of Chokgyur Lingpa, he had many different kinds of guru sadhanas, many kinds of Dzogchen teachings and many kinds of sadhanas and teachings of Avalokiteshvara. So, because Chokgyur Lingpa, in actuality, through his activity, connects sentient beings with the state of enlightenment, which is the state of great bliss, he has the name Dechen, great bliss.
As the fruition, his name is Zhikpo Lingpa. Zhik means dissolve, destroyed and Zhikpo means the one for whom everything – all the ordinary concepts of this mundane world – has dissolved, fallen away, collapsed; not only for himself but for anyone who becomes connected with his terma teachings and applies them. Such individuals will attain the same state of true and complete enlightenment, known as ‘the collapse of confusion’. In short, because of the basis of the eminence as the ground, connecting with the path of great bliss, all the concepts of this world, of delusion, fall apart and are totally obliterated.
This was just a brief explanation of the Chokgyur Lingpa’s three titles: Chokgyur Lingpa as ground, Dechen Lingpa as path and Zhikpo Lingpa as fruition.
Even though Chokgyur Lingpa was an extraordinary incarnation from the very beginning, while he grew up he was repeatedly accepted by Guru Padmasambhava and given transmissions and teachings in visions and so forth. Through his practice he attained a high level of realization. It is said that his level of realization was identical with that of the Indian master Saraha. Without any effort whatsoever he could manifest miracles. such as flying through the sky, staying underwater for long periods and. People saw him stay underwater for an hour, move through solid rock, set his vajra and bell in mid-air and even fly. He performed these great miracles in Eastern Tibet where he left imprints of his hands and feet and took termas out of solid rock. Many of the places where he performed these miracles can still be visited today.
From the time Chokgyur Lingpa revealed his teachings until this very day, there have been quite a few practitioners who attained rainbow body at the end of their lives. Other practitioners attained great levels of experience and realization for themselves and for others they taught, wrote texts, defeated opposing views and so forth. The number of those who benefited, progressed on the path and had some degree of realization and were liberated is beyond count.
All of his reincarnations and many of his descendents have been great realized masters. Chokgyur Lingpa’s daughter, Konchok Paldron had four sons, and if you ponder their life examples, activity and number of students, it is inconceivable – truly amazing!
Stories, history, are usually made up by ordinary mortals. But what I have said here was not made up by myself. Both the great Jamyang Khyentse as well as Jamgon Kongtrul taught it. Even the great terton himself explained it as I have. Moreover his chief disciples, there were twenty-five major holders of his lineage, belonged to all the schools of Tibetan Buddhism, without any sectarianism. All four schools, without exception, accepted Chokgyur Lingpa as an authentic master.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that other teachings and other traditions are not special. Nor am I saying all this just because these are my father’s teachings. Everything I have said is born out by actual facts and adorned with the experience of pith instructions. This not my own invention. The great masters, Jamyang Khyentse, Jamgon Kongtrul and Chokgyur Lingpa’s own disciples all described Chokgyur Lingpa’s teachings in this way and I am merely repeating what they said. Even if I had a personal opinion, about anything, it actually wouldn’t count for much.
When the sun shines, it illuminates, dispels darkness, brings warmth and ripens things and when the full moon shines on a dark night, you can see the way and in the hot season, the moonlight is cooling. In the same way, Chokgyur Lingpa was someone who the majority of masters accepted upon simply hearing his name and connecting with his teachings, without any dispute or effort of their own.
Not only are the root termas that Chokgyur Lingpa revealed extremely profound and beautiful, but Jamyang Khyentse and Jamgon Kongtrul wrote a lot of arrangements and additional texts, which are amazing and extremely impressive, utterly unique.
From Chokgyur Lingpa’s own time until now, the tantras, statements and instructions for these teachings, along with their lineages, have not been broken or damaged. Two tulkus were acknowledged by both Jamyang Khyentse and Jamgon Kongtrul and both were disciples of the two Jamgons. There has never been a single dispute, argument, misunderstanding or break of samaya between those two incarnations, nor has there ever been any disharmony between the followers of these two incarnations. The subsequent lineage holders and descendants of these two masters have all been great knowledge-holders, great vidyadharas – there is not a single ordinary person among them! Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche has passed away, but his sons are still alive and one of them is one Chokgyur Lingpa’s tulkus.
I don’t know what will happen to the teachings of the Chokling Tersar in the future. I don’t know whether they will be retained or disappear or whether they will be corrupted. This depends upon the merit of the general community of beings. It would probably be better if they did not disappear, because when such teachings are present it brings benefit and happiness to sentient beings. And who knows? maybe in this part of the world, the teachings will spread and flourish, I certainly hope that they do.


Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche is the oldest son of Neten Chokling. His monastery, Pema Ewam Chogar, is in Bir, India.

Translated by Erik Pema Kunsang. Editors: Marcia Binder Schmidt and Michael Tweed.



 

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