Karseng Rinpoche Brings Trungpa Rinpoche’s Treasure Teachings to the West


During Karma Senge Rinpoche’s first visit to the West in 2003, the Shambhala community learned that Trungpa Rinpoche had discovered a number of terma teachings during his early life in Tibet. Gradually, through Karma Senge Rinpoche’s successive visits, we have come to understand that not only was Trungpa Rinpoche a tertön in his youth, but he was a major tertön, the discoverer of several complete cycles of precious and unusual ati treasure teachings. The Avalokiteshvara abhisheka, which took place in Halifax in May, is the first of these practices to be transmitted fully to Trungpa Rinpoche’s Western students. This abhisheka is being given in Toronto this weekend (June 29-July 1) and will be given in Vancouver the following weekend (July 6-8). If all goes as planned, it will also be conferred in several US cities and practice centers next year.

Trungpa Rinpoche extracted his first major cycle of treasure teachings, while still quite young, from within the rock face of a cave on Kyere Shelkar, the mountain behind Kyere monastery. Many people witnessed the event. They say that the rock container that held the terma was quite warm when it was revealed. They heard music, and saw rainbows and other auspicious signs. In addition to sacred texts and sadhanas, the terma included a prophetic guide to Trungpa Rinpoche’s activities as a terton in Tibet. This guide described where each terma would be found and the circumstances of its discovery. It also identifies Kyere Shelkar as the primary location where Trungpa Rinpoche’s terma teachings would be revealed.

Before he left Tibet, the Vidyadhara discovered three major cycles of terma teachings. The last of these was given to him by the dharma protector Ekajati. She arrived from the sky during a drupchen, or practice intensive, at Kyere Monastery. She was holding a treasure container, which she placed in his hands. The many monks and lamas who were there felt the ground shake and heard various sounds. Some saw rainbows and a rain of flowers. From the outside, the container looked like a stone. Inside it was made of precious jewels. The Vidyadhara placed it on the shrine and the drupchen continued. As the practice session was concluding several days later, the treasure container opened of its own accord, revealing paper scrolls marked with dakini script. The Avalokiteshvara sadhana being conferred by Karma Senge in the West was among the many texts found there.

Kyere Shelkar, the mountain where Trungpa Rinpoche discovered many terma teachings; photo by Jessie Litven

Trungpa Rinpoche’s treasure teachings also include a black Vajrayogini sadhana, a wrathful guru yoga practice, a series of chod practices, and much more. The translators continue to work on these texts, and Karseng Rinpoche plans to transmit these practices to us in the years to come. Carolyn Rose Gimian had the following to say about the importance of these treasures in a recent sangha announce posting.

The teachings that Karseng Rinpoche is planning to present, beginning with the Avalokiteshvara Abhisheka, will confer upon the Vidyadhara’s Western disciples the cycle of dzokchen, or ati, teachings that were preserved in Tibet. (Many were lost.) This material casts many of his Western teachings in a new light. One may begin to see how the ati teachings pervaded everything he taught.

This material only adds to the importance of remaining true to the spirit and the letter of the dharma teachings that the Vidyadhara imparted to his Western students. It can only deepen and expand the possibilities. These very important, root teachings were discovered by someone with whom we have a deep dharmic connection. It is our unique heritage being given back to us.


Robin Kornman -- professor of comparative literature, senior dharma teacher, and member of the Nalanda Translation Committee -- died in 2007. In the decade before his passing, he focused mainly on translating the Epic of Gesar of Ling, now published by Penguin Random House. For more about Robin's life please visit Remembering Robin.