Ngari Panchen

December 17th

Today we continued a series of empowerments related to the Seven Chapters terma. This text was revealed by a terton named Ngari Panchen. He is most well-known in the West for a remarkable book called Perfect Conduct. This book describes all the levels of conduct in the dharma from how to be a monastic or lay person, to how to properly be a bodhisattva in whatever we do, to how to be a tantric meditator.

Ngari Panchen lived from 1487-1542, the period when North America was first being visited by the Europeans. He was an emanation of King Trisong Detsen, the ruler who made Buddhism the state religion of Tibet and invited Padmasambhava to firmly establish the dharma. In his early life he was somewhat of a prodigy because he is said to have mastered and realized the teachings of the Nyingma and the later schools as well as what are known as the major and minor sciences. Maybe this would be like getting doctorates in philosophy, religion, medicine, and science all at once.

Then at 21 he started to meditate more intensively. He went into retreat at pilgrimage sites both in Tibet and in Nepal where he received transmissions and teachings from both Tibetan and Newari gurus. He was a true renunciate, never staying in one place very long and he had few possessions. While in retreat he had many visions of the deities he was meditating on and more importantly he began having dreams and visions of Padmasambhava who bestowed empowerments and blessings on him. At this time he fully recollected his life as Trisong Detsen.

Even with all these incredible experiences it is interesting to note that he did not become very active in teaching until he was 38. Up until that time he concentrated on retreat, receiving teachings and transmissions, and realizing the meaning of all the meditation practices that he had received. This is both startling and humbling to think about, personally speaking. At this time in his life he put a lot of energy into impartially helping the different schools of Buddhism in central Tibet.

Only at the age of 46 did he begin to reveal his termas. Ngari Panchen as a terton was somewhat unusual because he did not have a consort. It is quite rare for a terton be a celibate monastic. Tertons often have a consort, children and possessions. These consort relationships are not ordinary because the consorts are also very well-practice, realized meditators. The terton and the consort find each other, so to speak, because of very strong aspirations made in earlier lives to help each other in revitalizing the teachings. Though they are relatively rare, it is the same situation with female tertons and their consorts.

Ngari Panchen passed away at the age of 56 after having benefited beings widely. His book, Perfect Conduct, Ascertaining The Three Vows remains as one of the main texts on the topic used in the Nyingma lineage.


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