“Guru Rinpoche replied: The time for propagating this teaching has not yet arrived, so it should be concealed. When I placed the casket containing the scripture of the Heart Essence on the top of the king’s daughter’s head, princess Pema Sal, I made the aspiration for it to be her allotted teaching. Several lifetimes after she dies, she will meet again with this teaching. You must conceal it as a terma treasure for that purpose.” (Guru Rinpoche Terma Teaching)
When Padmasambhava arrived in Tibet, he attracted a core group of disciples to receive his Tantric instructions and empowerments. In addition to the overt instructions, these disciples also became the repositories of covert terma (hidden treasure). Working together, Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal burried the terma’s instructions and revelations deep within the hidden recesses of the disciples’ minds and the Himalayan landscapes. Generations later, in a subsequent rebirth, these same disciples ‘rediscovered’ the terma.
Tibetan Buddhism has been shaped by generations of terma and tertons (discoverers). The magical texts have provided a continuous fount of spiritual instructions for Tibetans and by extension, the greater world of Buddhist practitioners. For Tibetans, the terma are living proof of Padmasambhava’s unbroken commitment to watch over their land and people.
Near the end of our journey, the Triptych Journey team arrived in the fertile valley of Bhumtang, Bhutan. Our timing was auspicious: the village was celebrating the annual dance festival, which included a performance of a dance Terma (termas can come in many forms, including mind, earth, sky, and dance).
Over the course of two days, local Bhutanese gathered in a monastery courtyard to watch the performance. The audience, however, wasn’t just there for entertainment- it is believed that observance of the dance terma reminds viewers of the impermanence of life; provides information for crossing the bardo state (between death and birth); and can guide the individual towards liberation from rebirth.