The Great Terton Pema Lingpa

Brief of Terton PemaLingpa’s past incarnations

pema-lingpaTerton Pema Lingpa was inseparable from Guru Padmasambhava throughout his rebirths and represented guru’s enlightened activity. In Nyingma tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism, Pema Lingpa is the most important figure next to/after Guru Rinpoche. He is often referred to as “Ugyen Padmey Gyaltshab” meaning the representative of Guru Rinpoche.

In the past, Terton Pema Lingpa manifested in the form of following great masters and khandros (consort):

  1. Lhacham Padmasel (daughter ofKing Thrisong Deutsen),
  2. Sangye Kyid (consort of Terton Nyangrel NyimaOdzer),
  3. Jomo Padma Drolma (esoteric consort to the great Guru Chokyi Wangchuk),
  4. Rinchen Dragpa,
  5. Terton Padma Ledrel Tsal,  and
  6. Longchen Rabjam (1308-1364)

Great Longchen Rabjam equalled the Great six Ornaments and two supreme ones of the Nalanda University fame, in realization and knowledge. He was regarded as actual manifestation of the pinnacle of pundits of the land of Arayas,Vimalamitra.

He mastered in all the teachings he received and attained the victorious state of the primordial Buddha/protector, and exhibited an enormous enlightened activity by reaching the peerless teaching of Atiyoga (Dzogchen), benefiting countless beings.

Longchen Rabjam passed away into the ultimate state of reality in 1364 leaving behind the following prophecy:
My self- endowment shall bring satisfaction in others
My emanated rebirth will benefit Tharpaling (the land of liberation)
At that time, you all, the great disciples
I pray that we meet again and be relished with the joy of  Dharma.

Terton Pema Lingpa and his role in the discovery and spread of Buddhism

 87 years after the prophecy, Pema Lingpa was reborn but this time, as one of the five King Treasure Revealers.  Accompanied by wondrous signs and miracles, such as witnessing three sun rises, and pitching of rainbows, he was born to father Dhendrup Zangpo and mother Pema Drolma in 1450AD in Tang valley of Bumthang, Bhutan, corresponding to the 15th day of first month of Iron Horse Year of the Bhutanese lunar calendar.
As an incarnation of the omniscient Longchen Rabjam, he demonstrated extraordinary talents from his childhood. Even without extensive formal learning he became proficient in the art of writing and other artistry skills at a very young age. In 1476, when he was 25 years corresponding to the 10th Day of the Seventh Month of Fire Monkey year, he had the actual vision of Guru Padmasambhava who entrusted him with an inventory of 108 profound treasures.  The first treasure revealed by Pema Lingpa was the teachings of Secret Heart Essence of the Luminous Expanse (klongsal sangwa nyingchued) from Mebartsho (the burning lake).
On the 24th Day of the Tenth Month of the same year, amidst a huge gathering of spectators at Mebartsho, he pronounced holding a burning offering lamp in his hand, “if I am the manifestation of devil, I shall submerge in this lake and if I am the spiritual son of Guru Padmasambhava of Odiyana, I shall interact/discover the desired wealth and emerge out of this lake with the lamp still burning”.  Having wished, he jumped into the lake. As the crowd was waiting in disbelief and despair, Pema Lingpa emerged out of the lake with the lamp still burning and carrying the treasure of Buddha’s statue, and a sealed skull-cup filled with samaya substance on his other hand. This occasion roused fervent faith in him even amongst the disbelievers! Principally, the lake earned the name Mebartsho, burning lake from that day.
Over the years Pema Lingpa revealed numerous treasures from number of sacred places of Bhutan and Tibet, to name a few:

Place Name Treasure or teaching revealed
Lhadrak, near Kenchogsum lhakhang, Bumthang Eight Heruka’s Mirror of the mindཔད་གླིང་བཀའ་བརྒྱད་ཀྱི་དཔེ་ཆ – བཀའ་བརྒྱད་ཐུགས་ཀྱི་མེ་ལོང་
Tharpaling, Bumthang Fire and Wind of the miniature wrath of Guruཔད་གླིང་ལུ་གུ་རུ་དྲག་པོ་ཆུང་བ་མེ་རླུང་འཁྱིལ་བའི་དཔེ་ཆ།
Kurje, Bumthang Garland of flames of the Great Red of wrathful Guru པད་གླིང་ལུ་གུ་རུ་དྲག་པོ་ཆེ་བ་མེ་ལྕེའི་ཕྲེང་བའི་དཔེ་ཆ།Long life accomplishment manual (sadhana)ཚེ་སྒྲུབ་ནོར་བུ་ལམ་ཁྱེར་གྱི་དཔེ་ཆ།
SengeKhetshug, Bumthang Guru’s Medium Wrath that tames all beingsཔད་གླིང་ལུ་གུ་རུ་དྲག་པོ་འབྲིང་བ་འགྲོ་བ་ཀུན་འདུལ་དཔེ་ཆ།
Rimochen, Bumthang Avalokitesvara’s Lamp that Dispels Darknessཐུགས་རྗེ་ཆེན་པོ་མུན་སེལ་སྒྲོན་མེད་ཀྱི་དཔེ་ཆ།Little Offspring of the AtiyogaTantraརྫོགས་ཆེན་རྒྱུད་བུ་ཆུང་གི་དཔེ་ཆ།
SengeDongcen, LhodakKharchu region of Tibet The Nine Cycles of Innermost Secret-as subsection of ocean of Jewels of the Guru’s Mind Accomplishmentབླ་མ་ནོར་བུ་རྒྱ་མཚོའི་དཔེ་ཆLife force Dragger of the Kilayaཡང་གསང་སྐོར་དགུའི་དཔེ་ཆ།The long life sadhana of vajra-garland


The Red-Horse that subdues Haughty Spirits


The cycle of protector Mahakala

Samye Chemphu, Tibet The condensed intentions of the all purity of the Great Perfection- Detailed  instructions  on  yogic  exercises and transformational  body  movements  and  breathing  techniques as  well  as  Dzogchen  meditation  techniquesརྫོགས་ཆེན་ཀུན་བཟང་དགོངས་འདུས་ཀྱི་དཔེ་ཆ།
Dobo Dragmar, Tibet The aggressive Vajrapaniཕྱག་ན་རྡོ་རྗེ་གཏུམ་པོའི་དཔེ་ཆ།The Iron-Haired Dark Hayagrivaརྟ་མགྲིན་ནག་པོ་ལྕགས་རལ་ཅན་གྱི་དཔེ་ཆ།
ThraringTshal Do, Tibet The Vajrapani that subdues the Haughty spiritsཕྱག་ན་རྡོ་རྗེ་དྲེགས་པ་ཀུན་འདུལ་གྱི་དཔེ་ཆ།

At the age of 32, on the 15th Day of the Fourth Month of Iron-Ox year, while sleeping, he had a vision where three fairies came to invite him with a white horse. He rode the horse and accompanied by the three fairies arrived at Zangdopelri (abode of Guru Rinmpoche). There he received the complete empowerments of the Ocean of Jewels of Lama’s Mind (བླ་མ་ནོར་བུ་རྒྱ་མཚོའི་དབང). At the same time Guru Padmasambhava granted him many other profound teachings and prophecies.

Besides revealing treasures and teaching which benefitted sentient beings, he constructed and renovated many monasteries. Pema Lingpa constructed Tamzhing Lhendrup Choling (popularly known as Tamshing Monastery), Kunzang Drag, Dchen Ling in Bumthang; and Kunzangling in Kurtoe to name a few. He renovated and re-consecrated the monasteries of Samye, Lhodrag and Lhalung in Tibet; and Kenchosum and Jampa Lhakhang in Bumthang.

Terton Pema Lingpa attained nirvana at the age of 72, in 1521 AD (the 3rdDay of the First Month of Iron Snake year of the 9th Rabjung cycle) at Tamshing Lhundrup Choeling,  after granting his last teachings to his  students. His passing away was accompanied by wondrous signs and omens.  Every person in Choekhor village heard the melodious sound of Jaling (religious flute) and cymbals that reverberated across the sky including shaking of the earth for a while. The sky was filled with rainbows and flower-drizzles.

As prophesised by Guru Padmasambhava in the following verse:

For the flourishing of his (Pema Lingpa) teachings
And if his descendants were to exist through the future generations
His body should be concealed behind the wall of hundred thousand statues….

Pema Lingpa’s kudung (physical remains) which got shrunk to an elbow length was preserved in a stupa made of an alloy of gold and silver; and was placed on the top floor of Tamzhing monastery. Later, for the benefit of Buddha dharma and sentient beings it was shifted to Kheng Tagma, Zhemgang. Today the precious kudung is well-preserved at Yungdrung Choeling temple in Langthel,Trongsa. It was moved from Kheng Tagma to Yungdrung Choeling temple on the advice of 7th Sungtrul Rinpoche, Ngawang Choeki Lode for the stability and harmony of the country.

Pema Lingpa is the living vehicle to spread and continue Buddhism in Bhutan and beyond for the wellbeing and awakening of all sentient beings. Pema Lingpa not only revealed and spread the profound teachings of Buddha and Guru Padmasambhava, and left a continuing legacy of outstanding students and masters including his own ancestral lineage. List of Pema Lingpa’s outstanding students include Terton Chogden Gonpo, Terton Lethro Lingpa, Drupthop Choeje Kunga Legpa, Drupthop Karchen Kundrag, and the 7th  Karmapa – Choedrag Gyatsho to name a few.

The world and Bhutan in particular is fortunate to have  uninterrupted lineage of  Pema Lingpa’s incarnations, his heart son Thuksey Dawa Gyaltshen and his heart grandson Gyalse Pema Thinley even to this day.

Emanation Ancestral Lineage of Terton Pema Lingpa