Lineage in General

DSC07519Lineage formation permeates religious traditions. In Buddhism, lineage serves as an important role and organizational framework for connecting members of specific schools, factions, or institutions. It is the natural outcome of the recognition of authority, especially given the development of different schools of thought. In Buddhism, different individual schools created lineages, and they did so retroactively in an attempt to shape past history in ways that would enhance group status.

The most common practice was to link their teachings to past authorities and ultimately to the founder of Buddhism, Shakyamuni Buddha himself, thus legitimizing their own principles and practices, and shielding them from accusations of unorthodoxy. In this way, lineage in the Buddhist context was associated with such notions as identity, legitimacy, and orthodoxy. Lineage was particularly important in East Asia, Central Asia, and the Northern Transmission of Buddhism in Tibet, where it served as the primary means of ascribing identity, by linking and grouping individuals on the basis of their affiliations, whether as master-disciple, as patriarchs of a particular school, as a succession of monastery abbots, or as succession of a hereditary line.

The formation of different Buddhist schools of thought, based on various Dharma genealogies, has structural parallels with the Asian propensity for honoring ancestors and maintaining clan solidarity. There is a domestic reverence for ancestors, and for biological lineages, throughout East Asia and central Asian Buddhist cultures. The living clan head was responsible for decisions affecting clan welfare and prosperity, for the preservation of clan identity, and for the perpetuation of its legacy. The authority of the clan head was symbolically linked to the clan progenitor and the preserving of its culture and tradition. Thus, the exceptional teachings and practices of a particular lineage would become very much indispensable to a particular lineage’s day-to-day life.

The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism

The Nyingma School has the longest established history of transmission of all of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The Nyingma School primarily relies on the Old Translations, particularly of Tantric texts, and its Tibetan origins are traced to Buddhist pioneers of the time during ‘trio of Abbot Shantarakshita, Acharya Padmasambhava, and Dharma King Trisong Deutsen (Khen-Lob-Choe-Sum). This early translations were prepared by realized masters whose own spiritual attainments guided their translations and are considered to be more close to the original Indian texts. According to the Nyingma lineage histories, the original teacher of the Dharma that came to be associated with the Nyingma was Samantabhadra (Kuntu-Sangpo), who is the ‘primordial Buddha’ and who embodies the truth body or Dharmakaya of all Buddhas. The Nyingma School also identifies Vajradhara (who is said to be an emanation of Samantabhadra), and the five Buddha families, as the original promulgators of many of its teachings and practices. These are said to be the ‘Complete Enjoyment Bodies’ or Samboghakaya Buddhas, whose teachings are primarily adapted to the cognitive capacities of very advanced practitioners. In addition to these exalted figures, this lineage also has a succession of distinguished human teachers, the most important of which is Padmasambhava, also known by Tibetans as ‘Guru Rinpoche’, the ‘Precious Master.’ Guru Rinpoche was from North India. This great tantric Yogi was instrumental in the introduction of Buddhism into Tibet. Because of the Nyingma lineages’ strong links to Guru Rinpoche, as well as to other great early teachers such as Vimalamitra, Vairocana, and Shantarakshita, etc. the lineage is often considered to represents the most authentic and complete teachings of the early masters who introduced Buddhism into Tibet.


Nyingma tradition contains an exceptional array of intersecting lineages, including lineages of transmitting Vinaya teachings and practices, Sutras, Tantras, including the “Kama” or ‘canonical teachings’, and “Terma” or ‘hidden treasure-teachings’. The tradition of ‘Kama’ teachings is to be recognized as of crucial importance for Nyingma masters, which begins with the Primordial Buddha Samantabhadra, and consists of doctrines, texts, practices, rituals, and realizations that have been passed on from master to disciple in an unbroken chain of succession. The ‘Kama’ teaching tradition is divided into three main groups:

(1) Apparitional or Illusory (Ju), which consists of the eighteen tantric cycles of Mahayoga, and for which the primary text is the Secret Basic Essence Tantra (Jud-Sangwa-Nyingpo);
(2) Sutra (Dho) which includes the Anuyoga practices and realizations, and for which the primary text is the Collection of Sublime Vision Sutra (Dho-Gong-Dhue);
(3) Mind (Sem) which includes the teachings of the Great Perfection (Dzogchen).

All of these teachings originate with Samantabhadra, who embodies the essence of the enlightened mind of all Buddhas. He skillfully and spontaneously emanates the teachings throughout all of space in ways that are appropriate to the spiritual capacities of sentient beings. He radiates a fivefold light that emanates from the sphere of reality Dharmata (Choe-Nyid) that represents a Mandala, which is found throughout all aspects of space and time. He effortlessly emanates teachings, which are entrusted to Vidyadhara ‘awareness-holders’ (Rigzin,), who in turn pass on those, which are appropriate to particular disciples. Initially they are given to Dorje-Choerab, the awareness-holder of the Samboghakaya realm. He passes them on to the Dakini Legi-Wangmo-Che and Vajrasattva. These beings practice the teachings and in turn pass them on to human adepts.

Broadly, there are three great Transmissions consisting of (a) the Distant Lineage of Transmitted Precepts (Ring-Jud-Kama), (b) the Close Lineage of Treasure (Nye-Jud-Terma), and (c) the Profound Pure Vision Teachings (Zab-mo-dhag-nang). The first is the distant lineage of the teachings (Kama), which is concerned with the teachings of Mahayoga, Anuyoga, and Atiyoga. These are collectively transmitted as ‘the trio of Sutra, magical net, and mind class’ (Dho-Ju-Sem-Sum).

The second is the ‘Close Lineage of Terma’, which in turn contains the teachings referred to as ‘the trio of Guru, great perfection, and the great compassionate one’ (La-Dzog-Thug-Sum), these teachings are attributed to the Guru Padmasambhava, the Great Perfection, and Thug can be Gyalwa Gyatso, or the Great Compassionate one, Avalokiteshvara.

The third is the profound pure vision lineage, in this stream of transmission, Guru Padmasambhava appears in reality to the ‘Treasure-revealers’ (Tertons) and speaks in person.

By far the most influential of the Nyingma teachers is Guru Padmasambhava, who received the teaching transmission from Manjushrimitra (Jampel-Shenyen) and Prahevajra (Garab Dorje), and his missionary work spread the lineage into Tibet. He is believed to be the ‘Second Buddha’ and many events of his early life closely paralleled similar events in the life of Shakyamuni Buddha. His enlightened activity in Tibet is inconceivable, and his journey to Tibet was a triumphant victory over demonic obstacles bent on keeping Buddhism out of the country. The Nyingma School has a distinctive classification of Buddhist teachings into Nine Yanas or Vehicles (Thegpa). The first three vehicles are commonly recognized as ‘trio of Shravakayana – ‘Vehicle of Hearers, Pratyekabuddha – ‘Vehicle of Solitary Realizers’, and Bodhisattvayana – ‘Bodhisattva Vehicle’. The next three are connected with the Outer Tantras: Kriyatantra ‘Action Trantra’, Caryatantra ‘Performance Trantra’, and Yogatantra. The final three vehicles are the Inner Tantras: Mahayoga, Anuyoga, and Dzogchen Atiyoga.

This spiritual path of nine vehicles is divided into four categories: (1) Basis continuum (Zhi-Jud), (2) Path continuum (Lam-Jud), (3) Fruit continuum (Drey-bue-Jud), and (4) Method continuum (Thab-Jud). The first refers to Samantabhadra, the primordially enlightened truth body Dharmakaya that is beginningless and endless and perfectly free from all defects. The basis is also the correct view (Ta-wa-Yang-Dhag), which has three aspects: entity (Ngo-wo), nature (Rang-Zhin), and compassion (Thug-Je). The ‘Path Continuum’ refers to practices that eliminate the afflictions through the accumulation of merit and wisdom. These serve as antidotes to the tendencies toward the afflictive obstructions and the obstructions to omniscience. The path continuum also embraces all Mahayana teachings and practices, which together constitute innumerable paths to enlightenment. The ‘Fruition Continuum’ refers to the eleventh ‘level’ Bhumi, the attainment of enlightenment after training as a Bodhisattva. The ‘Method Continuum’ refers to the enlightened being’s ability to work constantly and effectively for the benefit of sentient beings.

After the dissemination of the Nyingma lineage into Tibet, the Tantric lineages were practiced and preserved by the great Indian and Tibetan masters, such as: Vairocana, Ma Rinchen Chok, Nyak Janakumar, and Nub Sangye Yeshe. In particular, the Mahayoga lineages were primarily preserved and transmitted by So-Yeshe Wangchuk, Surpoche, Surchung, Drobukpa, and their successors. The highest level amongst the nine vehicles (Yanas) is Atiyoga, and these teachings trace back to Surativajra (Garab Dorje), a form body emanation of Vajrasattva. He passed them on to human masters such as Manjushrimitra, Sri Sinha, and Janasutra. Shri Simha imparted these teachings to Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra, and Vairocana. The ‘Great Perfection’ or Dzogpachenpo is the ultimate view of the Nyingma tradition. The Dzogchen teachings are subsumed under three classes: (1) Mind-class (Sem-Dhe), (2) Class of Vast Expense (Long-Dhe), and (3) Class of the Secret Instruction (Men-Ngag-gi-Dhe). Vairocana was the primary transmitter of the first two classes of Atiyoga teachings. Guru Padmasambhava and Vimalamitra transmitted the lineages of the Secret Instruction Class of Atiyoga Tantra.

According to the ‘Six Transmission Lineages’ of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, this Dzogpachenpo lineage permeates both the ‘Canonical Oral teachings’ (Kama) and the Hidden Treasure teachings (Terma). The first lineage passed from the primordial Buddha Samantabhadra through Vajrapani or Vajrasattva to the Vidyadhara Garab Dorje, and is called the ‘Mind-to-mind Transmission of the Victorious Ones’ (Gyalwa-Gong-Jud). This lineage transmission traces its origin to the exalted intention of the primordial Buddha Samantabhadra, which confers the realization of the Dharmaka truth body, as a blessing upon the male and female Sambhogakaya (enjoyment body) Buddhas.

The second lineage descends from Garab Dorje through Manjushrimitra, Shri Simha, Padmasambhava, Janasutra, Vimalamitra, and later to Vairocana. This lineage transmission is called the ‘Symbolic Lineage of Vidyadhara Awareness-holders’ (Rigzin-Dha-Jud). This is the lineage through which non-human and human awareness-holders of the higher spiritual accomplishments symbolically revive the teachings from the Bodhisattvas of the tenth level or Bhumi. More specifically, this refers to the transmission of advanced Bodhisattvas such as Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, and Vajrapani who communicated with their respective disciples by means of symbolic gestures rather than words. It also refers to the mode in which the earliest human progenitors of the Atiyoga lineage received and transmitted their highest teachings.


The Bodhisattva Manjushri, whose sword of wisdom cuts through ignorance. Within the tradition of the Gesar teachings, Manjushri represents the Enlightened Body aspect of Gesar.

The third lineage is the ‘Aural Lineage Transmission of Authoritative Personages’ or the ‘Human Ear-whispered lineage’ (Gang-Zag-Nyen-Jud), and refers to the historical line of accomplished masters who have been responsible for aurally transmitting the Buddhist teachings through successive generations. This lineage was transmitted from Garab Dorje, Manjushrimitra, Shrisimha, and then to Indian-born teachers, Padmasambhava, Janasutra, and Vimalamitra. They, together with the Tibetan-born teacher Vairocana, received the transmission of this lineage directly from them, and transmitted in Tibet, and it has been transmitted from Guru Padmasambhava till present master in an unbroken chain.

The forth lineage transmission is known as the ‘Aspirational Prayer and Empowerment’ (Mon-Lam-Wang-Kur) lineage. This lineage was empowered by Padmasambhava and entrusted to those chosen disciples who would become future Tertons or ‘Treasure-revealers.’ This refers to the treasure-revealers (Tertons) of the hidden teaching-texts, as identified through the solemn confirmation of their concealers, that is, Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyal.

The fifth lineage transmission is the ‘Prophetically Declared’ (Ka-Bab-Lung-Ten), which is the successive transmission through prophetic declaration, such as the treasure-revealer (Terton) of the concealed texts identified from the authoritative prophesies of Guru Rinpoche. Whereas the fourth lineage transmission was bestowed during the time of Guru Rinpoche, the fifth lineage is comprised of those Tertons who took rebirth after the time of Guru Rinpoche, as prophesied by him.

The sixth lineage transmission is the ‘Dakini’s Seal of Entrustment’ (Khadro-Ted-Ja) or the lineage protected by Dakinis, through which the treasure-revealers (Tertons) are granted codified teachings by the Lord of the Treasure (Ter-Dhag) in the fulfillment of the concealer’s, that is Guru Rinpoche’s, former aspirations.

The basic treatises of the Treasure Teachings (Terma) are the ‘Eight Heruka Sadhana Practices’ (Drubpa-Kajed) literally meaning ‘Eight Commandments of Accomplishment’, which were brought to Tibet by Guru Padmasambhava. These are based on the tantras of the teaching class and contain instructions on how to practice the instructions of the ‘Inner Tantras’. Each Sadhana (ritual cycle) is connected with a particular text, Mandala, Mantra, Deity, and family of Buddhas. They constitute a complex and interrelated system of visualization and practice aimed at developing the awareness of trainees by dividing tantric practice into discrete but connected Sadhanas. The first five are related to the ‘Five Family of Meditation Buddhas’ (Gyalwa-Rig-Nga) (Akshobhya, Vairocana, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, and Amoghasiddhi) and have Sadhanas that enact and cultivate the existence, teachings, mind, virtues, and activities of the Buddhas. These are called the five sets of deities beyond the cyclic existence or trans-worldly class. The last three are referred to as ‘worldly class’.

This profound teaching of the ‘Eight Heruka Sadhana Practices’ trace its origin to the Vajra-word of the Samantabhadra Heruka to the complete pure cycle of disciples in the Buddha’s realm called Akanishtha, the heaven beneath none (Wog-Min). Later these eight Heruka Sadhanas were revealed by the ‘eight Mahasiddhas’ from eight precious boxes. The eight Mahasiddhas are: (Acharya Humkara, Manjushrimitra, Nagarjuna, Padmasambhava, Dhanasamskrita, Vimalamitra, Rombuguhya, and Shantigarbha). The ‘Eight Commandments of the Assemblage of Sugatas’ (Ka-Jed-Dhe-Sheg-Dhue-Pa) was later revealed by Guru Padmasambhava and conferred to Dakinis. These Mahasiddhas elucidated the thought and subject matter of these texts of the ‘eight Heruka Sadhana Practices’ and collected the ‘four wheels of exalted body of Manjushri. The tenets indicating the meaning of each eightfold sets of practice (Drub-Dhe-Jed), was transmitted from Manjushrimitra’s ultimate essential points of the ‘Eight Commandments’ consisting threefold class: generation stage, completion stage, and the great perfection (Kyed-Dzog-Dzogchen-Sum). The Tantra, oral transmission, and pith-instruction (Jud-Lung-Men-Ngak-Sum) are transmitted from Vimalamitra. There are the three aspects of Yogas (Nal-Jor-Nam-Sum) transmitted from Acharya Nagarjuna, and Mahayoga, Anuyoga and Atiyoga (Yoga-Nam-Sum) transmitted from Acharya Padmasambhava. The threefold view, conduct, and practice (Ta-Chod-Drubpa-Sum) was transmitted by Acharya Humkara. The teachings of Acharya Dhanasamskrita can be condensed into two aspects: view and conduct (Ta-Chod-Nyie), and Acharya Rombuguhya’s teachings can be condensed into the fortress of view (Ta-Wai-Dzong), which is the recognition of awareness and the ravine of meditation (Gom-Pay-Trang), which means the visualization, manifesting as undistracted awareness display. The final treatise of the eight Heruka Sadhanas is the teachings of Acharya Shantigarbha consisting of life-force (Sog). The ultimate destination of all practices is the same.

Acharya Padmasambhava gave the ‘Assemblage Deities of Padma’s speech’ (Pema-Sung) of Hayagriva to the Tibetan king Trisong Deutsen. The enlightened activities of the deity Vajrakila (Phurpa-Trinley) was given to the Dakini Yeshe Tsogyal and Lhabu Arya Sahle. The teachings on the embodiment of Manjushri (Jampal-Ku) was propagated in Tibet by Acharya Shantigarbha. The cycle of teachings on the perfect mind (Yang-Dak-Thug) was propagated in Tibet by Acharya Humkara. The cycle of teachings on the nectar of excellent qualities (Dhud-Tsie-Yonten) was propagated in Tibet by Vimalamitra. According Jamgon Kontrul, all the hosts of deities in the Nyingma tradition of the ‘nine stages of vehicles’ (Theg-Pa-Rim-Gu) and the ‘Four Tantra Classes’ (Jud-Dhe-Zhie) of New or Sarma are condensed into these eight commandments of the Heruka Sadhanas.

In Tibet, there are twenty-five disciples of Guru Padmasambhava, and eight main disciples who received the cycle of teachings on the ‘Eight Commandments of Practice’ Drubpa-Kajed.

The commandment of the ‘Lotus-like speech’ or Padma-Sung, was received by Gyalwa-Chogyang of Ngenlam. Gyalwa-Chogyang of Ngenlam was one of the first seven monks trained and ordained by Shantarakshita and also one of the eight main disciples of Guru Padmasambhava. Gyalwa-Chogyang of Ngenlam visited India many times and translated numerous texts. The Lotus-like Voice or Speech Padma-Sung is the second of the ‘Eight Sadhana Commandments’ or Drubpa-Kajed. The ‘Lotus-like Speech’ or Padma-Sung is a transmission of for practicing Hayagriva (Ta-Drin) or the ‘Horse-necked One’ as Yidam. This Yidam symbolizes the enlightened speech of the Buddhas and the instructions related to this form of Hayagriva are based on the ‘Three Neighs of the Horse.’ Guru Padmasambhava received this Sadhana Commandment – the ‘Lotus-like Speech’ teachings from the Indian Siddha Nagarjuna, and this transmission was bestowed on Gyalwa Chogyang of Ngenlam in Tibet, as the primary lineage holder. Having received the instruction, he practiced at Samye-Chimphu and accomplished realization. The whole cycle of the ‘Collected Intention of Yidam, Meditation Deity, the Supreme Steed Display’ Yidam-Gongdue-Tachog-Rolpa was taught by Guru Padmasambhava at the supplication and request made by Gyalsey Muni Tsenpo (39th emperor of Tibet, son of Dharma King Trisong Deutsen). The recipients of this entire Yidam-Gongdhue cycle of teachings were the ‘Seventeen Fortunate Disciples’ Lechen-Chedbu-Chu-Dhun, including Arya Sahle, and then it was concealed as treasure-teachings (Terma). Later in Tibet, the great Terton Tagsham Nuden Dorje was born as the reincarnation of Arya Sahle, and revealed the entire cycle of treasure-teachings. Thus Hayagriva became one of the primary Yidams or meditation deities of the Tagsham tradition. Hayagriva practice is the ‘Supreme Steed Display’ Tachog-Rolpa, and Tagsham Nuden Dorje gave the entire teachings related to this practice to his disciples Terton Choeje Lingpa, Rigzin Thutop Lingpa or Samten Tenzin, and others.

In the 17th century, the first Ripa throne-holder and the 2nd Ripa Trulku, the Ripa Pema Dejed Rolpa (1803-1880), (the supreme head of both the family and the Dharma lineages of Rigon Tashi Choeling Monastery), while continuing with the existing Barom Kagyu teachings and practices that he inherited several centuries before. He received numerous Tagsham teachings from the 4th Tagsham Chogtrul Kungsang Gyepai Dorje and Gyalchen Lama Thrinley Dorje. The Ripa Pema Dejed Rolpa practiced mainly on Tagsham Laphur, the ‘Inseparableness Practice on Lama/Guru and Phurpa/Vajrakilaya of the Tagsham tradition’, and also the ‘Mind-Sadhana of Guru Rinpoche’ Tagsham Lama Norbu. From then on the Tagsham teachings began to be propagated and practiced by the Ripa lineage masters up to and including the present throne-holder of the Ripa family and the supreme head of Ripa lineage, H.E. Kyabje Terton Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche, along with his sons Dhungsey Gyetrul Jigme Rinpoche, the Ripa lineage heir, and Dhungsey Lhuntrul Dechen Gyurme Rinpoche.

Tertons and Terma: Treasure-revealers and Treasure Teachings

The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism is home to a transmission of Buddhist teachings known as the ‘Treasure Tradition’ (Ter-Lug), a unique religious system that only recently has become the focus of attention in the West. The Treasures are most often comprised of spiritual instructions concealed by enlightened beings for the purpose of discovery at a later predestined time when their message will invigorate the Buddhist teachings and deepen spiritual understanding. Central to this process is the figure of the ‘Terton’ or Treasurer-revealer – the person who acts as a medium for the re-emergence of this inspired material into the human world. The Tibetan term ‘Terton’ is sometimes also rendered as ‘treasure discoverer.’ Accordingly, beginning in the 11th century and continuing into the present, the Nyingma School identifies a large number of Treasure revealers and grants authoritative status to their discoveries. There are classifications according to their content, nature, manner of concealment, etc. All Tibetan Treasures share the claim that they were concealed during the golden age of the Yarlung dynasty (7th– 9th centuries C.E.) by enlightened Buddhist masters who considered the needs and inclinations of the future followers.

Most of the termas were hidden by Guru Padmasambhava or his immediate disciples; he prophesied the circumstances for the discovery of each Terma and the Terton who would find it. According to the tradition, Tertons are Bodhisattvas who possess special qualities and insights that enable them to find Termas. The great Tertons are emanations of Padmasambhava whose primary purpose is to find the appropriate Terma at the appropriate time. The Nyingma School traditionally traces the beginning of Treasure revelation in Tibet to the master Sangye Lama and Drapa Ngonshe in the 11th century. They were followed by Terton Nyangrel Nyima Woser (1124-1192), and Choekyi Wangchuk (1212-1270), who were referred to as the ‘Sun and Moon’ of Tertons. The Terton tradition continued in the following centuries. This system has proven remarkably effective in regularly breathing new life into the Nyingma tradition while maintaining a perceived link with its origins. Each age finds the Terma appropriate to its spiritual needs, and each new Terma becomes a part of the tradition. The tradition continues today to breathe new life into the Nyingma tradition, and many Terma have been incorporated into other lineages.

For instance, Kyabje Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, and Kyabje Terton Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche are some of the few Tertons of our time. Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche (1904-1987), was recognized as the direct rebirth of Dudjom Lingpa (1835-1904). He was the supreme head of the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Dudjom Rinpoche was born in Southern Tibet in a region called Pemakod, Bome County which is known in Tibetan as a Bey-Yul, or a ‘hidden land’. Dudjom Rinpoche was the root teacher of many of today’s most prominent masters, including His Eminence Kyabje Terton Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche. Dudjom Rinpoche established a number of vital communities of practitioners in India, Nepal and throughout the world. Dudjom Rinpoche was a major Tertons, and his New revealed treasure teachings (Dudjom-Tersar) are well known. The Dudjom Tersaar is the collective name of terma teachings revealed by Dudjom Lingpa and Dudjom Rinpoche. He is considered one of the ‘Hundred Great Tertons’ in the Nyingma lineage. There are four major cycles in the Dudjom Tersar of Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdarl Yeshe Dorje, which are all Mind-treasure teachings (Gong-Ter): (a) the cycle of teachings for the practices on the Outer, Inner, Secret, and Innermost Secret Sadhanas of the Lama or Guru is called ‘Tsokyi-Thugthig; (b) the cycle of teachings for the practices of the meditation deity (Yidam) is called ‘Pudri-Rekpung’; (c) the cycle of teachings for the practices on the Outer, Inner, Secret, and Innermost Secret Sadhanas of the Dakini (Khadro) is called ‘Khadro-Thugthig); and (d) the cycle of teachings on Guru Dorje Drolo. Among the widely read works of Kyabje Dudjpm Rinpoche are ‘The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, Its Fundamentals and History’, which he composed soon after his arrival in India as an exile.

Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991), was a highly accomplished Vajrayana master, poet, scholar, and head of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism from 1987 to 1991. He was born in Eastern Tibet, Kham Dege, Denkhog, to a family directly descended from the 8th century Tibetan great king Trisong Deutsen. When he was seven, he was recognized as one of the reincarnations of the great Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892) by Shechen Gyaltsab Rinpoche (1871-1926). Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche spent thirteen years in silent retreat in remote hermitages and caves near his birthplace, and later became principal teacher to His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the Nyingma tradition, including Dzogchen. He was a dedicated exponent of the nonsectarian Rime movement in Tibet and tirelessly worked to uphold the Dharma through the publication of texts, building of monasteries, and stupas. The Mind-treasure teachings (Gong-Ter) revealed by Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche are: ‘Jampal-Nying-Thig’- the ‘Heart Essence of Manjushri’, the ‘Dzong-Trang’- the ‘Fortress Ravine of Nectar Medicine’, ‘Drol-Jang’ – Outer, Inner, and Secret Sadhanas of Green Tara’, ‘Guru Drakpo’ – Sadhana, Empowerment, Activity and Feast Offering of the ‘Wrathful Guru’, ‘Lhatsun-Lhadrub’, ‘Pema-Tseyi-Nying-Thig’, which is a practice of longevity based on Amitayus, ‘Rang-Jung-Pemai-Nying-Thig’ which is the ‘Heart Essence of the Self-born Lotus’, and the practice of the ‘Three Roots’. His writings in Tibetan fill twenty-five volumes. He is regarded as one of the greatest Dzogchen masters of the 20th century, and the very embodiment of Guru Padmasambhava. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was the root teacher of many prominent teachers of today, including His Eminence Kyabje Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche.

In summary, a number of Nyingma monasteries were founded to preserve and transmit the spiritual treasure teachings, including, for example, the monasteries of the Ripa Lineage in Tibet, India, Nepal, and numerous Dharma centers in the West. Thus, many of the Nyingma lineages are based on particular Terma, and the ‘Ripa Lineage’ bases its practices on the transmission of the Tagsham treasure-teachings, and the Mind-treasure Teachings of the Warrior King Gesar, by H.E Kaybje Terton Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche.

Gongter: Mind-Treasure

The ‘Termas’ are said to be hidden throughout the land of Tibet, and they are safeguarded in a way that prevents them from being found before the appropriate time. When conditions are ripe for their dissemination, the Termas are discovered by Treasure-revealers. These people are prophesied by the masters who hid the Terma, and there are strict controls and tests regarding the finding and propagation of Terma. Historically the most influential Terma have been the ‘Eight Heruka Sadhanas’ (Drubpa-KaJed) and the Innermost Essence of the Great Expanse (Longchen-Nying-Thig), which were hidden by Padmasambhava. Other texts were hidden by his consort Yeshe Tshogyal, who memorized his teachings and then concealed them with the help of Padmasambhava.

One of the greatest Treasure-revealers, Nyangral Nyima Woser, speaks of five Treasures. : Amongst them is the category of Spiritual Treasure (Thug-Ter), and these are considered to be particularly important teachings. In the 14th century, however, this notion of spiritual Treasure appears to function as the etymological inspiration for the concept of ‘Mind-Treasure’ (Gongter). The Mind-Treasure, which although at first a semantic synonym for Spiritual Treasure (Thug-Ter), is developed by later writers such as Jamgon Kongtrul and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo into a prominent Treasure category by denoting a Treasure that is concealed in and revealed from the Treasure-revealer’s mind.

The earliest occurrence of the term ‘Mind-Treasure’ appears to stem from the 14th century works of Longchenpa (in particular his Innermost Essence of the Dakini) and Orgyen Lingpa (in his famous Chronicle of Padmasambhava). According to the ‘earth Treasures’ (Sa-Ter) and ‘mind Treasures’ (Gong-Ter), the earth Treasures are divided into ‘actual earth Treasures’ (Sa-Ter-Ngoe) and ‘rediscovered Treasures’ (Yang-Ter), while mind Treasures consist of ‘actual mind Treasures’ (Gong-Ter-Ngoe) and ‘recollected Treasures’ (Jey-Dren-Ter). The basic division of earth and mind Treasures forms the primary structure for Jamgon Kongtrul’s work while the remaining sub-categories are encountered throughout the text as he discusses the revelations of individual figures, in particular those of Khyentse and Chokling. However, Mind Treasure Teachings are revealed purely from the mind of the Treasure revealer where Padmasambahva is claimed to have originally concealed them. For instance, His Eminence Kyabje Terton Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche is one of the few living Tertons in this era who revealed various mind-treasure teachings (Gong-Ter). He was recognized as an incarnation of Terton Yonge Migyur Dorje (1628/41-1708) by Dungsey Phagchok Shedrub Tenzin (a son and spiritual heir of Tibet’s great Yogin, Drubwang Shakya Shri).


Vajrasattva, the Boddhisattva primarily associated with peace, purity and Enlightened Mind, often at the center of many tantric mandalas. His two other principal aspects are as Vajrapani (Lord of Secrets), which, in the Gesar tradition, also represents Enlightened Mind, and as Vajrakilaya, the wrathful aspect of Vajrasattva that subdues negativity.

He was also recognized by Nyakrong Terton Jigme Choejung Lingpa as the manifestation of Dho Khyentse Yeshe Dorje (1800-1866). Kyabje Terton Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche is currently the Supreme Head of the Ripa Lineage of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism and holder of the Tagsham lineage. At the age of thirteen he had a direct vision of Guru Rinpoche who gave him the empowerment of the ‘Display of Awareness’ ‘Rig-Tsal’ and the secret name Dorje Zijid Tsal. Thus empowered as the Guru’s regent, thereafter he revealed mind treasures of the awareness display. He repeatedly saw visions of the enlightened warrior-king Gesar of Ling and, being the reincarnation of Gesar’s elder brother Gyatsa Shalkar, clearly remembered his former life. Kyabje Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche’s Mind-treasure teachings are characterized by the cycle of ‘Rig-Sum-Nor-Bue-Gong-Dzod’ – the ‘Jeweled Treasure Thought of the Three Families’ including the practices of the ‘Three Roots.’ Guru Practices comprise the peaceful and wrathful aspects of Guru Rinpoche’s abridged, medium, and extensive Sadhanas and Droje Drolo’s Cycle of teachings. The ‘Meditation Deity’ or Yidam Practices consist of Vajrasattva and Vajrakilaya’s Cycle of teachings.

The Dakini or Khandro Practices contain Dakini Yeshe Tsogyal’s abridged and extensive Sadhanas. The vast cycle of mind-treasure teachings ‘Rigsum-Norbue-Gongdzod’, principally encompass the four aspects of Gesar: wrathful, pacifying, enrichment, and magnetizing; these are called the four enlightened activities, which are also connected with the hundred peaceful and wrathful deities (Zhi-Tro), and as a protector under the form of Gesar Drala. According to the Sadhana Practices of Gesar as Lama (La-Drub) and the Secret Practice (Sang-Drub), there is the section of mind-treasure called ‘Rigsum-Sangwe-Thigle’ – the ‘Secret Essence of the Three Families.’ The Cycle of Teachings called ‘Yang-Zab-Thug-Thig’ – the practice of the ‘Vast and Profound Heart Essence,’ consists of the Practices of Vajrakilaya, Vajrasattva, Dorje Drolo, and Yeshe Tsogyal. The Cycle of Teachings called ‘Rig-Dhue-Lamai-Thug-Drub’ – the ‘Compendium of the Three Families, Heart Practice of the Lama,’ consists of all the peaceful and wrathful Deities ‘Zhi-Tro’. To this day, the Mind-treasure teachings of His Eminence flow spontaneously and continuously from the vast expanse of his mind-stream.