Authors: Matteo Pistono
Student of Tertön Sogyal; was also a tertön whose revealed termas fill six volumes.
Another name for Tertön Sogyal.
(1869–1931) Prominent Hui Muslim warlord in northeastern Tibet. Tertön Sogyal had a spiritual connection with his daughter, Shinya; he also had a son, Ma Bufang.
State Oracle of Tibet; the Oracle communicates through possessing a medium, who is always a monk from Nechung Monastery; responsible for protecting the Dalai Lama and strengthening the Tibetan nation.
(d. 1899) Mastermind behind the failed 1899 black magic assassination plot of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama; nephew of Regent Demo of Tengyeling.
(d. 1899) A Nyarong yogi who, taken over by dark forces, attempted to assassinate the Thirteenth Dalai Lama with sorcery in 1899. Also known as Nyarong Tulku or Shiwa Tulku.
Nyala Pema Dündul
(1816–1872) Visionary and meditation master; first teacher of Tertön Sogyal; founded Kalzang Temple in 1860; attained rainbow body. Also known as Khanyam Lingpa.
Nyoshul Lungtok Tenpe Nyima
(1829–1902) Meditation master and supreme among Patrul Rinpoche’s students; the teacher with whom Tertön Sogyal refined his Dzogchen practice.
(8th century) Indian tantric master who established Buddhism in Tibet and concealed treasure teachings throughout the land, to be revealed when most needed. Also known as Guru Rinpoche.
(1891–1950s) Son of Tertön Sogyal and Khandro Pumo.
(b. 1888) Daughter of the Muslim warlord Ma Qi; assisted Tertön Sogyal in the revelation of termas in northeastern Tibet.
One of the two simultaneous reincarnations of Tertön Sogyal, based in Lerab Ling in France; student of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, and Dudjom Rinpoche; author of
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
; founder and spiritual director to Rigpa International.
Sonam Thaye, Lama
One of the two heart-sons of Nyala Pema Dündul; an accomplished yogi who oversaw Tertön Sogyal’s early meditation training.
Tertön Rangrik Dorje
(1847–1903) One of the two heart-sons of Nyala Pema Dündul; founder of Lumorap Monastery in Nyarong; senior spiritual brother to Tertön Sogyal. Also known as Kusum Lingpa.
(1856–1926) One of Tibet’s great mystics and a teacher to the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. His birth name, Sonam Gyalpo, means “King of Merit.” The name was contracted to produce “Sogyal.” Also known as Lerab Lingpa.
Trisong Detsen, King
(742–797) The 38th king of Tibet; invited Padmasambhava to Tibet.
(1884–ca. 1957) Lineage holder and biographer of Tertön Sogyal; student of Dodrupchen Jikme Tenpe Nyima; abbot of Shukjung Monastery. Also known as Tsullo.
(Sanskrit) A wrathful enlightened deity who embodies the activity of all the buddhas and whose practice is utilized to remove obstacles, destroying forces hostile to compassion, and purifying the spiritual pollution; commonly depicted with six arms and three faces, standing in a raging inferno and wielding a phurba (Sanskrit
) that is used to vanquish the self-cherishing ego.
Yeshe Tsogyal, Lady
(8th century) The spiritual consort of Padmasambhava, a realized practitioner who assisted him in the concealment of treasure teachings.
(1845–1911) General of the late Qing era, nicknamed Butcher Zhao, who led military campaigns throughout eastern Tibet. His troops eventually reached Lhasa in 1910, forcing the Thirteenth Dalai Lama into exile.
Map drawn by Jocelyn Slack.
“Shall we take him to the master Nyala Pema Dündul …”:
Nyala Pema Dündul (1816–1872) is also known as Trulzhik Changchub Lingpa, Orgyen Khanyam Lingpa, and Drupchen Nyida Kunze. For a biography in English, see Yeshe Dorje 2013.
Dargye had no intention of allowing his son …”:
The characterization of Dargye is based upon Sherab Ozer Rinpoche interview 1998; Ajam Rinpoche interviews 2001, 2007. For Sogyal’s childhood, see Tsultrim Zangpo 1942, pages 17–22.
“Amgon was a brutal fighter …”:
The stories about Amgon (Gonpo Namgyal Tashi) are from Sherab Ozer Rinpoche interview 1998; Ajam Rinpoche interviews 2001, 2007. See also Yudru Tsomu 2006 and Tashi Tsering 1986.
Among those he waged battles against …”:
The Tibetan government in Lhasa maintained influence in certain areas of Kham through monasteries that represented their interests, mostly by collecting taxes for Lhasa. The Qing’s influence in eastern Tibet was in the form of granting ceremonial titles, known as
to the various Tibetan kings and chiefs, though the Qing were never able to truly exert authority. Any authority in Kham by the Lhasa government, like that of the Qing, was nominal and indirect. In the centuries before Amgon, various decentralized kingdoms and tribal chieftains of Kham in eastern Tibet maintained a balance of power, despite regular armed battles with one another. None of the Khampa kings from Derge, Nangchen, Ling, or Chala were ever able to exert significant control beyond their own tribal area. The vast area of Kham provided a nearly impassable buffer zone between the Tibetan government in Lhasa and the Qing in Peking.
In a surprise attack, Tibetan government cavalry …”:
See Petech 1973, page 56; Tashi Tsering 1986, page 211. Also, Amgon’s death was taken as an ominous forecast for the future of Tibet, as Do Khyentse predicted (Do Khyentse 1997):
When there is a war between devils,
The weasel-headed Chinese slaughterers and the red-faced Nyarong fiend [Amgon],
They will gain victory or lose according to their own actions.
… there is no reason to assist or to harm them.
In the future when there is this war,
Should the Chinese devil gain victory,
The Buddha’s teachings will certainly be harmed.
If the devil from Nyarong is triumphant,
Innocent sentient beings will face calamity.
Therefore, be neutral towards both.
“When Sonam Gyalpo began speaking …”:
Ajam Rinpoche interviews 2001, 2007.
“Commit not a single unwholesome action…”: Praise to Shakyamuni Buddha (rgyud chags gsum pa)
translation courtesy Rigpa.
“Drolma was surprised …”:
Khamtrul Rinpoche teachings 1992 (a), 1992 (b). Khamtrul Rinpoche (b. 1927) is a tertön and Dzogchen master, close associate of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, lineage holder of Tertön Sogyal and Nyala Pema Dündul’s treasure teachings, and former ritual master at Namgyal Monastery.
Pema Dündul saw not only a child …”:
Tsultrim Zangpo 1942, pages 3–8. In Tertön Sogyal’s previous incarnations, he appeared as numerous great bodhisattvas and vidyadhara, including the bodhisattva Vajragarbha, who compiled the Dzogchen teachings given by the Buddha Samantabhadra in the heavenly realm of Akanishtha. Later he appeared as Buddha Shakyamuni’s aunt and stepmother, Prajapati Gotami, the founder of the order of nuns, and in Tibet he appeared as Nanam Dorje Dudjom in the 8th century, Trophu Lotsawa in the 12th century, and the great Rigdzin Gödemchen (1337–1408), founder of the Northern Treasures (
) tradition. Tertön Sogyal was also considered the body emanation of Nanam Dorje Dudjom, the speech emanation of Vajravarahi, and the mind emanation of Guru Padmasambhava.
“Although you will not let your son …”:
Khamtrul Rinpoche 1992 (a) teaching. According to Yeshe Dorje 2013, chapter 9, Nyala Pema Dündul said that Sonam Gyalpo had “an excellent system of energy channels, and without doubt he is an emanation. He should therefore follow me, which will certainly help both the Doctrine [Dharma] and all beings.”
“An emanation of the tantric adept Dorje Dudjom …”: Mirror of Astonishing Manifestations (ngo mtsar ‘phrul gyi me long);
Tsultrim Zangpo 1942, page 12; Khenpo Namdrol Rinpoche teaching 2007.
The king beseeched the venerable …”:
Yudra Nyingpo 2004, pages 85–86.
Padmasambhava’s life was one of miracles …”:
There are many accounts of the life of Padmasambhava written by great scholars or revealed by the tertöns. Some of the most famous of his biographies are the
Tsullo Zanglingma (The Zanglingma Life Story
), named after the Copper Temple at Samye, where it was discovered as a terma by Nyangrel Nyima Özer; the
The Life Story from the Crystal Cave
), revealed by Orgyen Lingpa; the
Golden Garland Chronicles
), discovered by Sangye Lingpa; and the
Tsullo Yikyi Munsel
The Life Story That Dispels Mind’s Darkness
), by Sokdokpa Lodrö Gyaltsen; and Patrick Gaffney’s
The Life of Guru Padmasambhava
in Rigpa 2004. Guru Rinpoche’s life is also recorded in the histories of the different teaching cycles; there exists a famous Indian version compiled by Jetsün Taranatha, and biographies are also found in the Bön tradition of Tibet. Professors Cantwell and Mayer provide insightful academic historical analysis of Padmasambhava in their “Representations of Padmasambhava in early Post-Imperial Tibet” (Cantwell and Mayer 2013).
My father is the pure awareness of rigpa…”:
Rigpa 2004, page 26.
Tantra of the Perfect Embodiment
Yeshe Tsogyal 1993, page v.
Tantra of Perfect Embodiment of Unexcelled Nature (bla med don rdogs ‘dus pa’i rgyud).
Also, the coming of Padmasambhava to the world was predicted in the exoteric sutras, including in the
Immaculate Goddess Sutra,
which states (Yeshe Tsogyal 1993, page 8):
The activity of all the victorious ones of the ten directions
Will gather into a single form,
A buddha’s son, who will attain marvelous accomplishment,
A master who will embody buddha activity,
Will appear to the northwest of Oddiyana.
“The Buddha’s gradual approach …”:
According to this common approach of Buddhism, the story of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni begins upon his awakening more than 2,500 years ago in the Indian village known today as Bodhgaya. It was there where Prince Siddhartha had vowed not to move from his seat until he penetrated the ultimate truth of reality and understood the source of suffering. That night, deep in meditation, he saw how all suffering has a cause and how the very root of suffering is ignorance, like the dimming of the light of awareness. When awareness is dimmed, we are ignorant of the fact that all of existence is in a constant state of flux and that emotions ultimately result in suffering. Continually being in the dark about the truth of impermanence results in an endless cycle of suffering. But, Siddhartha logically understood, if the cause of suffering is removed, then the result will not arise, thus severing the cycle of suffering. While he sat in meditation, Siddhartha conquered the self-cherishing ego that veiled his indwelling light of wisdom. Realizing that the whole of existence is played out in an interdependent web of cause and effect, Siddhartha saw reality as it is and became the Awakened One, a buddha. The historical Buddha did not receive anything when he awakened; instead, he got rid of what was obscuring his innate enlightenment.
In the Great Guru’s supernatural duels …”:
Ju Mipham Rinpoche describes this in his
Kagye Namshe (dpal sgrub pa chen po bka’ brgyad kyi spyi don rnam par bshad pa dngos grub snying po
) (Ju Mipham Gyatso 2000). Thanks to Zach Beer for sharing his unpublished translations of the
The multitude of spirits . .”:
Later, with royal support and Padmasambhava’s blessing, teams of scholars began translating the vast corpus of Buddhist scriptures and commentaries from the famed universities in India such as Nalanda and Vikramasila; philosophical colleges were founded for monks to study the inner science of consciousness; and communities of lay tantric practitioners took root in every valley of the plateau. As Padmasambhava journeyed across Tibet, he bestowed tantric empowerments and offered teachings and instructions to enable his students to fully manifest their true potential.
Termas serve as portals …”:
Tsultrim Zangpo 1942, page 635.
The Great Guru bound various spirits …”:
Ibid., page 637.
“Tibetans are indebted to Padmasambhava …”:
The Dalai Lama said of Padmasambhava (March 21, 2004, in Dharamsala), “It was because of his [Padmasambhava’s] overarching power and strength that the Buddha Dharma was really established in Tibet, and then developed so that all the teachings of the Buddha, including the Mantrayana, were preserved as a living tradition, and have continued down to the present day.” (Note: Mantrayana is often equated with Vajrayana Buddhism.) See Rigpa 2004, page 14.
Padmasambhava declined, invoking what Shakyamuni Buddha had told …”:
Translation courtesy Rigpa.
Do not forget that life flickers by …”:
Yeshe Tsogyal 1993, page 185.
“Have you understood this …”:
Ibid., page 207.
“When Sonam Gyalpo was strong enough …”:
About Sogyal’s hunting and marksmanship, see Tsultrim Zangpo 1942, pages 17–18; Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche teaching 1985; Nyoshul Khenpo 2005, pages 513–514; Khamtrul Rinpoche teachings 1992 (a), 1992 (b).