Thank you to Minling Jetsün Dechen Paldrön, and Jigme Chödrön for preparing this article for the Chronicles.
The Rinchen Terdzöd (the Precious Treasury of Terma) is considered to be one of the greatest and most important compilations in the Nyingma Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism and contains more than 64 volumes that are mainly the direct teachings of Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra and Vairotsana, hidden during their own time to be discovered in the future when the time was right. The 15th Gyalwang Karmapa described the collection as “the quintessence of the ocean-like teachings of the sugatas, the profound Vidyadhara Pitaka of the Early Translation School.” Treasure revealers, called tertons, discovered them during the 9th to 19th centuries. They completely accomplished the termas or treasures they discovered and then transmitted them to fortunate students. These precious terma teachings have been transmitted in an unbroken lineage to students and practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism today.
The Rinchen Terdzöd contains the texts necessary to bestow the related empowerments and explanations to practice them. They are in the ‘close lineage’ of transmissions and were collected and compiled particularly by two great masters, Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, who did the actual compiling and editing, and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo who traveled throughout the land of Tibet for many years, collecting teachings that were on the verge of extinction. These masters, both great tertons in their own right, rediscovered many termas that had originally been discovered and then hidden again for future generations.
Also often credited with the compilation is Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa who provided additional texts. All three of these great masters were proponents of the Rime movement or non-sectarian tradition. This does not mean that they desired the abolishment of lineages or even the merging of lineages, but instead they completely respected and understood the various paths or streams and themselves practiced and accomplished them, bringing about maturation and liberation.
In regards to Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, “Because he was endowed with the vast power of pure vision and devotion towards all the philosophical systems, and was completely free from bias and bigotry, his students were countless and included all disciples from all the schools of Tibetan Buddhism- Sakyapa, Kagyupa, Nyinmapa and Gelukpa.” (History of the Nyingmas, by Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche)
But the “seed” of the Rinchen Terdzöd, that which initially inspired the three great compilers is called the Död ‘Jo’i Bum Zang (‘dod ‘jo’i bum bzang) and was compiled by the great Minling Terchen Gyurme Dorje or Terdag Lingpa. Terdag Lingpa, a pioneer in the spirit of Rime, was not only a great treasure revealer himself but also worked tirelessly and with unflagging devotion to compile and preserve teachings that were on the verge of being lost. Terdag Lingpa not only restored and re-transmitted the termas of great tertöns such as Nyangrel Nyima ödzer and Guru Chökyi Wangchuk, he was also responsible for maintaining the vitality of other traditions and schools such as Jonangpa, Shangpa, Chöd, Phodongpa and others. The Great Fifth Dalai Lama was a most generous sponsor of Terdag Lingpa and his activities and the two maintained a close teacher/student relationship. It was with such a vision of preservation of precious teachings that Terdag Lingpa, along with his brother Lochen Dharmashri, compiled the Död Jo’i Bum Zang which contained the termas of various tertöns of the past, many of whose works were in danger of being lost. Many masters have even said that in compiling the Rinchen Terdzöd, Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, an emanation of the great translator Vairocana just like Terdag Lingpa, took birth to carry forward the great work begun in his former lifetime as Terdag Lingpa.
The Rinchen Terdzöd contains only the authentic termas, the original words of Padmasambhava and those mentioned above, prophesized directly by Shakyamuni Buddha. Today, this is of utmost importance for students of Tibetan Buddhism to understand, as it is said, “During the defiled age the transmitted empowerments and instructions have become adulterated like milk in the market place. Because their lineages have been interrupted by many lineage holders, the fresh descent of their blessing has been weakened by many violations of the commitments, as well as by pollution of the teachings due to interpolations. But regarding the contents of the treasures, the discoverers of treasure were emanations who had been taken into the following of the great Padmasambhava of Oddiyana himself, and had thus obtained complete transmission of the empowerments and instructions which bring about maturation and liberation. By bringing forth in this way profound doctrines which embody the unfading moist breath of the dakinis, they form ‘close lineages,’ unequalled in the splendour of their blessings.” (History of the Nyingmas, by Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche)
This Precious Treasury of Terma, the Rinchen Terdzöd, was last bestowed at Mindrolling Monastery in India in 1978-79 by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and the lung (oral reading transmissions) was bestowed by His Holiness Dodrubchen Rinpoche. Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche bestowed the empowerments at the request of Kyabje Mindrolling Trichen who wished for the young generation of that time, including both his daughters, Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche and Jetsün Dechen Paldrön, as well as many other eminent rinpoches currently practicing and teaching the dharma today such as Sechen Rabjam Rinpoche, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Tsike Chokling Rinpoche, Khyentse Yeshe, Palyul Karma Kuchen Rinpoche, Lhatrul Rinpoche, Chogtrul Rinpoche, Dzatrul Rinpoche, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, Ogyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, Mugsang Kuchen Rinpoche and many others to receive these precious teachings.
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche bestowed the Rinchen Terdzöd five times in his lifetime, the 1979 empowerments at Mindrolling being the fifth and final time. Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, with infinite kindness and vision, bestowed the Rinchen Terdzöd in Mindrolling in the greatest possible detail taking close to nine months to transmit the entire precious treasury of termas. Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche is also one of the main teachers responsible for the reprinting of all the volumes of the Terdzöd in India, as they were highly fragmented and again on the verge of being lost due to the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959. Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche also disseminated hundreds of entire volumes at no cost to numerous monasteries, institutions and libraries, in this way helping to secure these precious volumes for future generations.
Today the Rinchen Terdzöd is currently being bestowed at Mindrolling monastery in India, once again due to the vast vision, aspiration and inspiration of Kyabje Mindrolling Trichen Rinpoche. In the face of Kyabje Rinpoche’s great aspiration, repeated heartfelt supplications were made for several years to Kyabje Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche, one of the senior-most teachers in the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, by the sangha of Mindrolling to bestow the Rinchen Terdzöd for the benefit of all practitioners of the Buddhadharma. To the great good fortune and joy of everyone at Mindrolling, Rinpoche most graciously agreed to it and all auspicious circumstances arose.
Just as in the past when, “Terdag Lingpa did not lock up in a treasury all the things bestowed upon him from the 5th Dalai Lama and others or offered up by the faithful…he newly gathered 300 members of the sangha…(creating the monastic center known as Ogyen Mindrolling)…and ensured that they would not be bereft of the appropriate requisites and so provided them with their quarters, images, books, stupas and other items of worship and the supplies and provisions required for the rites of attainment and worship” (History of the Nyingmas, by Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche). In accordance with the wishes of Kyabje Mindrolling Trichen, her root guru and father, Her Eminence Mindrolling Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche is sponsoring the entire event, providing housing and meals for all of the eminent rinpoches, tulkus, khepos, and about 4000 monks, nuns and lay practitioners from around the world.
In all more than 4000 people have gathered and are receiving the empowerments which began on the 8th of November, 2008 (10th day of the 9th lunar month) and the lung on the 13th of November (15th day of the 9th lunar month). The empowerments are expected to be concluded on the 15th day of the 1st month of the new Tibetan year with approximately 800 empowerments having been bestowed.
Currently in attendance at Mindrolling are more than 170 tulkus and 50 khenpos. Most of the young Nyingmapa tulkus are present, including some who will most likely be the main holders of the Rinchen Terdzöd and empower the next generation of students. These include His Holiness Yangsi Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche as well as His Holiness Khamtrul Rinpoche, His Eminence Yangsi Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, His Eminence Lhatrul Rinpoche, His Eminence Chögön Rinpoche, His Eminence Tsoknyi Rinpoche, His Eminence Satrul Rinpoche, His Eminence Nechung Kuten Rinpoche and the many eminent Rinpoches of Mindrolling.
The first abhisheka of Rinchen Terdzöd is the Mindrolling Vajrasattva. On the first day of the empowerments, Kyabje Tsetrul Rinpoche requested His Holiness Yangsi Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche to distribute the first vase empowerment to the entire assembly. This touching gesture warmly reminded many of the previous Rinchen Terdzöd, kindly bestowed here by Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche thirty years ago. Several of the gathered assembly who were fortunate enough to have been present for those transmissions so many years ago were greatly moved and remarked about such an auspicious coincidence and the wonderful tendrel at the start of these rare and precious transmissions.
Kyabje Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche, who is most graciously and kindly bestowing the Rinchen Terdzöd is the throne-holder of the Dorje Drak Monastery, and the head of the lineage of the Northern Treasures, the tradition which originated from the treasures of the great tertön Rigdzin Godem. Kyabje Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche is renowned as a holder of all the great Kama and Terma traditions of the Nyingmapas, as well as being a great exponent of the Rime tradition. At the age of twenty, Kyabje Tsetrul Rinpoche received the complete empowerments and transmissions of the Rinchen Terdzöd, as well as other transmissions, from the previous Kyabje Sechen Rabjam Rinpoche.
Kyabje Tsetrul Rinpoche is also the unique holder of the most near and immediate lineage of both the Kama and Terma lineages. The compiler of Rinchen Terdzöd, the great master Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye himself transmitted it to the great learned master Dza Phug Khung Tulku Gyurme Ngedön Wangpo who bestowed it in its entirety to the great Vidyadhara master Kyabje Düdjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje. Kyabje Tsetrul Rinpoche received the complete Rinchen Terdzöd a second time from Kyabje Düdjom Rinpoche and therefore, Kyabje Tsetrul Rinpoche’s lineage is considered very close to the original source of transmissions and Rinpoche is renowned as the holder of the very close and near lineage of these peerless transmissions.
In Bhutan, from Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Kyabje Tsetrul Rinpoche also received transmissions for the collected teachings of Mipham Rinpoche and empowerments and transmissions for the Heart Essence of Longchenpa and other dzogchen practices and tantras.
After the invasion of Tibet in 1959, Kyabje Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche was forced to leave Tibet. In exile, he has established a new Dorje Drak monastery in the town of Shimla, and leads the community there.
The present Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpoche, Jigme Pema Thinley Namgyal, who is currently bestowing the lung, was recognised by His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa as the seventh incarnation of Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpoche. The first Namkhai Nyinpo Rinpoche was one of the 25 disciples of Guru Rinpoche and one of the eight great heart sons. Rinpoche received teachings and empowerments from many great teachers including Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, of whom he was a close disciple. Rinpoche is the heart son of Kyabje Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche from whom he received the entire transmission of the Rinchen Terdzöd. At Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche’s request, the present Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpoche has now established a monastery in Bumthang in central Bhutan, known as Kharchu Gompa, where he now resides.
Many other great teachers of the day have come to pay respects and be in the presence of Kyabje Tsetrul Rinpoche and receive the profound teachings, including Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, His Eminence the Sechen Rabjam Rinpoche who is the nephew and disciple of Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and main teacher of the Yangsi Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, and Lodi Gyari Rinpoche, the special envoy to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.Our typical day during the bestowal of Rinchen Terdzöd at Mindrolling begins with rising at 5:00 am, as breakfast is served at 5:30 am. Everyone begins to gather and take their place in the lung shrine room at around 6:00 am. The umdze begins the day’s prayers and offering of the mandala at 6:15 am and His Eminence Namkhai Nyinpo Rinpoche starts with the reading transmission (lung) promptly at 6:30 am. At 9 o’clock Rinpoche allows for a fifteen minute break and then the sangha reassembles and tea is served in the lung shrine room at 9:30. The lung for the day concludes at 11:45 am and then lunch is served at noon.
During this period each day, at approximately 8:30 am Kyabje Tsetrul Rinpoche also arrives at the stupa for the wangdrub, or the preparation for the abhishekas. Rinpoche is greeted each day, before and after his entering the shrineroom, by the faithful who wait diligently to receive Rinpoche’s blessings which he so kindly and graciously confers, always denying any fatigue even with the incredibly long days and nights. Rinpoche finishes with the wangdrub at around 12:00 pm each day and then has a light lunch before returning to the stupa to commence with the bestowal of the day’s set of abhishekas. The Chöpon strikes the gong at the stupa at 1:15 pm, calling the sangha together and shortly thereafter the umdze begins the repetition of the ‘Seven Line Supplication to Guru Rinpoche’ and all await the sound of the gyaling announcing Rinpoche’s arrival.
Most days Rinpoche completes the last abhisheka around 6:30 pm and the final blessing implements are received by the sangha around 7:30. Immediately thereafter dinner is served in the various kitchens around the campus and then the monks of Mindrolling reconvene for the closing protector practice each day. Also during this time Kyabje Tsetrul Rinpoche begins work again in preparing the next day’s abhishekas. The Core Coordinators, the rinpoches and tulkus who are well versed on the Rinchen Terdzöd, begin their work with the chöpons (ritual masters) by preparing the mandala, tormas etc. for the next day’s abhishekas and they end up working very late into the night. The nuns of Samten Tse who are working on translating and providing the daily lists of the empowerments also stay up late preparing the lists of abhishekas for the next day and translating them and finding the relevant texts under the direction of Semo Jetsün Dechen Paldron. Despite her busy schedule and many responsibilities, H.E. Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche has been giving teachings and explanations on the abhishekas and various other related subjects such as the Tantra, Lineage and Transmissions, empowerments etc. Many people, especially the practitioners who do not understand Tibetan have appreciated this very much. Although the days are very long and sometimes one can feel as though sleep is in short supply, the blessings are so immense and the gratitude for everyone-especially Kyabje Tsetrul Rinpoche, who at 86 years old is indefatigable in his accomplishment, devotion and pure love for the dharma, that everyone is happy to be together in this most historic moment and in receiving the unending downpour of blessings.
For more information regarding the Rinchen Terdzöd empowerments currently on-going at Mindrolling Monastery in India, please go to www.mindrolling.org.
Jetsün Dechen Paldrön is the younger daughter of Kyabje Mindrolling Trichen Rinpoche and the sister of Mindrolling Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche as well as the director of the Dharmashri Foundation, the translation group committed to the preservation, continuation and translation of the teachings and activities of His Holiness Mindrolling Trichen Rinpoche and Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche as well as the proliferation, translation and preservation of the teachings in general of the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.
Jigme Chodron is a long term student of Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche and Rinpoche’s personal secretary. She previously resided in New York City and for the past several years has been a resident nun at Samten Tse Retreat Centre in India as well as a summer resident at Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche’s North American Center, Lotus Garden. She has also received numerous teachings and transmissions from Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche and Kyabje Tsetrul Rinpoche.