Dorje Lingpa, the third Kingly Terton

February 12th

Dorje Lingpa was the third Kingly Terton, the third in the succession of tertons who were direct reincarnations of King Trisong Detsen who firmly planted the dharma in Tibet with the help of Padmasambhava in the ninth century. Dorje Lingpa was born central Tibet in 1346. Central Tibet is where the ancestral kings, Trisong Detsen and his predecessors, lived and where the Tibetan dharma first flourished.

At the age of seven Dorje Lingpa took monastic vows and studied sutra and tantra thoroughly. Then, at 13, he found his first treasury of termas by following a terma inventory that had belonged to Guru Chokyi Wangchuk, the second of the Kingly Tertons who had passed away 75 years earlier. This was a very large cache of termas that consisted of several sections each of which had 108 sub-divisions. While some written termas may come as a complete text written out in the hand of Padmasambhava, Yeshe Tsogyal or another of Padmasambhava’s disciples, many written termas are just a fragmentary text that then triggers a recollection in the mind of the terton. This power of retentive memory continues to intrigue me. At the age of 13, I was working on memorizing the first few songs on American Graffiti.

When Dorje Lingpa was 15, while he was practicing in one of Padmasambhava’s caves of attainment, Padmasambhava actually appeared to him, constructed a mandala, and gave him empowerment. At that time Dorje Lingpa received 108 terma scrolls along with sacred substances and other objects. He also discovered four volumes of texts that had belonged to King Trisong Detsen. These events in his youth were just the start of Dorje Lingpa’s activity. He was quite prolific, if that is the right word, and discovered 43 major terma troves and many other minor ones. There are about 20 different termas associated with him spread throughout the entirety of the Rinchen Terdzo. These include one Bön terma. Dorje Lingpa also discovered termas about medicine and astrology.

Much later, at Chuwori, the mountain retreat and cave complex southwest of Lhasa founded at the time of Trisong Detsen, Dorje Lingpa emanated two bodies and publically extracted termas from two places simultaneously and he left impressions of his feet that plunged about forearm’s length into solid rock. Padmasambhava,Yeshe Tsogyal and Vairocana (the great early translator of whom Jamgon Kongtrul is emanation) appeared and taught him on several occasions. The many gods and demons of Tibet appeared to him and he taught them too, giving them empowerments.

Dorje Lingpa passed away at the age of 65, but his corpse did not decay for three years. This phenomenon is not unique. Today in Thailand several realized practitioners’ bodies today remain without decay at their monasteries. What is more surprising in the case of Dorje Lingpa is that sometimes this body would give teachings. After three years his body was finally cremated with many amazing signs. His family lineage continues to this day in the area south of Tibet around Sikhim.

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