Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on February 27, 2014

In 2004, along with a group of sangha members, Margaret and I made an eighteen-hour bus trip from Xining, the capital of Quinghai China, to the Yushi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in the central region of Kham in eastern Tibet. We had just flown from Beijing to Xining on a two-hour plane ride. We were heading for the town of Jyekundo on the Tibetan plateau. That trip crossed high passes of over 16,000 feet. The road was so rough that unless you held on, you could bounce all the way up and hit your head on the ceiling, and this was a big tall bus. As for bathrooms and amenities along the way, forget it. For the most part, bathrooms consisted of how far you wanted to walk away from the bus and squat. Some of the ladies had special dresses that reminded me of the old hoop skirts popular around of the time of the American Civil War. Others just kept on walking until they were just specs on the horizon.

The bus trip was long, gray, and weary. To give you an idea how high 16,000 feet is, the hawks and other raptors walk around on the ground holding their wings out because there are no trees to land on; it is so strange to see these huge birds walking around on the ground.

As mentioned, we were on an exhausting 18-hour bus trip to Thrangu Monastery about five miles from the town of Jyekundo for the opening of a new gompa or shrine hall. We were traveling with my teacher for the last 30+ years, the Ven. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, who today is 90-years old. Thrangu monastery was where Rinpoche lived for many years. Perhaps I will write about the Thrangu Monastery part of the trip in another blog. I am sad to say that the great earthquake of April 14, 2010 (6.9 magnitude) destroyed most of Jyekundo and completely demolished the monastery, killing a great many people. The epicenter was located only about 18 miles from the monastery.

Margaret and I finally got to Jyekundo and into our hotel room, which came complete with the occasional large rat. I was already having breathing trouble from the altitude, which included sleep apnea, and eventually bronchitis that required antibiotics. It happens to me every time. Luckily one of my fellow travelers was an acupuncturist, and that helped.

While we were in Jyekundo we had the opportunity to have an audience with Tsikey Choghyur Lingpa Rinpoche, the emanation (reincarnation) of one the great treasure revealers (tertons), where we received his blessing. Chokgyur Lingpa is considered the last of the 100 major tertons and by many the "King of Tertons." In recent times, the Chokgyur Lingpa tulku (rebirth) has had two emanations, the one we met with was born at Tinglung in Derge, recognized by Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, and taken to Kela monastery to be enthroned.

Tertons are dharma "treasure finders" who have special abilities to find dharma teachings that have been hidden by great adepts like Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) in the past. Like timed-release capsules, at the appropriate time when humanity needs a particular teaching arrives, the terton finds it and makes it available. These hidden dharma treasures (called termas) can be physical or mental. If physical, then there actually is a text or ritual item that is hidden in the ground, in a cave, or actually sealed inside a crystal, rock, or tree hollow. Termas may be also hidden in a lake or spring. But there are other kinds of terma as well.

There are what are called Mind Terma (Mind Treasures) that are hidden within the mindstream of the terton himself or in the mind of the guru. These too may be found and brought to light. While physical terma frequently are written texts of scrolls, mind treasures emerge from the mind itself and reveal themselves to the terton.

When a terma is found, whether as a physical text or a mind treasure, it is usually not shared immediately with the public. Typically there is an incubation period, perhaps more like an inoculation, that works in the mind of the terton until he or she understands, experiences, and realizes it fully. Then it is shared. A terton who retrieves such a treasure may have to undergo years of practice until the full import of the teaching has been realized. The mind treasure is so seminal that its activity works in the mind of the terton until it has done its work and is complete.

We spent an evening with Tsikey Choghyur Lingpa Rinpoche and received his blessing. It was a rare opportunity. I enclose some photos.

Dharma teachings are not the only terma that is hidden. As an astrologer I was very interested to find that there are 84,000 astrology teachings that were hidden as terma by the bodhisattva Manjushri, in conjunction with Guru Rinpoche. These astrology teachings originally appeared in out world system in China, where a youthful Manjushri appeared and from the top of his head poured out the 84,000 astrological teachings, and is a story all by itself. This occurred in China at a sacred area called Mt. Wu-Tai-Shan, where five mountains come together to form the number-5 die, four mountains in a square with a fifth one in the center.

On another leg of this same trip, I was able to travel to Wu-Tai-Shan with my teacher and our sangha to offer puja and say prayers on the top of all five mountains. It had an enormous effect on my astrology. Perhaps I will detail that in another blog if there is interest among the astrologically oriented.

[Photos taken by me and other sangha members I was traveling with.]