A Kingly Minister

February 16th 2009

Chogyal (King of Dharma) Ratna Lingpa was born in 1403 in Lhodrak, Southern Tibet, the birth place of Marpa the Translator who lived 300 years earlier. All tertons have a direct connection with in a former life to Padmasambhava, like the Five Kingly Tertons who were successive reincarnations of King Trisong Detsen. Ratna Lingpa was like a king of the teachings during his life, but at the time of Trisong Detsen he was Langdro Konchok Jungnay, one of Trisong Detsen’s ministers as well as being a close student of Padmasambhava.

Ratna Lingpa was exceptional in that no only did he learn to read and write by the age of six, he remembered his past lives clearly so that he could teach the dharma to himself and others by the age of eleven. When he was 27, Padmasambhava appeared to Ratna Lingpa as a man wearing a yellow hat and robe, and gave him a long inventory of termas to find in his life. Ratna Lingpa went on to discover 25 large terma troves. There are about fifty of his termas to be found in the Rinchen Terdzo.

I think one of the reasons Ratna Lingpa was called a king of dharma may be connected to the manner in which he gave teachings. There were never any obstacles—nothing ever went wrong—and there were many miracles that happened when he taught. While miracles are unusual, to me it seems more remarkable to be without obstacles. This detail is of note because of the Buddhist teaching about cause and result, often simply called karma.

Everything in our experience happens because of, as the result of, previous actions most of which were performed during previous lives, not our present one. It may sound absurd to think that former lives are somehow real, but genetics and so on only explain how our bodies get here; sciences has no decent explanation for how the consciousness connects with the body. The consciousness is what moves between lives. Consciousness in its totally purified and perfected state is the realized buddha nature, but usually it is covered with a great many strong tendencies and subtle habitual patterns.

These patterns generally dictate our birth, what kind of parents we find ourselves bound with, along with where we are born. In life these patterns pre-color our experience, our outlook. So, to say a set of teachings happened without obstacle would be to say that the karma of everyone involved with the teachings along with the teacher was free of causes for obstacles. Here in India we’ve had no major obstacles, but we’ve seen a great many minor ones such as power failures, illnesses and so on. This is due to karma.

Because everything was so perfect, Ratna Lingpa was able to discover all the termas that had been hidden for him to find in his current life. He then went on to find termas that had been concealed for him to discover in his next two lives. This resulted in him also being known as Shigpo Lingpa and Drodul Lingpa. There are other tertons who have similar names which can be a bit confusing.

There is another detail to his life that makes him somewhat akin to Jamgon Kongtrul and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. Ratna gathered and preserved the transmission of the Nyingma tantras. The tantras are the original vajrayana texts, the root texts of the oral tradition from India. The Nyingma tantras had not been gathered into a single collection by Ratna Lingpa’s time, and he recognized they were about to disappear. So he traveled everywhere to collect all the texts, found the one remaining lineage holder in order to receive the transmission himself, collected and arranged everything, and re-vitalized the oral transmission lineage. It is thanks to him and Jigme Lingpa, who later re-edited the collection, that the Nyingma tantras are available in our time.

Today we continued to the end of the empowerments for pacification of various sorts of difficulties. Most of these empowerments were related to ultimate pacification of bad karma and obscurations—what Ratna Lingpa seemed to have accomplished in his life. Then we had two long life abhishekas. We’ll continue with this series of tomorrow.

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