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.
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
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. Among
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.