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Rebirth and Tertons

From: (John Cleaver)
Subject: Re: Rebirth and Tertons (Was Rebirth and Tradition (Was Re: Tibetean .
Date: Fri, 1 Mar 96 00:37 GMT

In-Reply-To: <>
Tyagi asks:

>Fascinating.  Are these termas left there by gods, then?  Mystical
>teachers?  How do they get where they are before we gag them forth?

The term 'fascinating' suggests to me that perhaps you are hinting at 
sarcasm. However, I take you at your word; this stuff is pretty hard to 
swallow, although not as hard to swallow as the tulku business.

What follows is what I have understood from a Nyingma text. There may be 
other explanations. 

The terma is essentially an insight into a high level of realisation. The 
teacher gives the teaching to the student, the teaching 'takes', and the 
teacher sees that the teaching has taken. The teacvher sees that the 
teaching has value in the future, and performs the following steps:

1) Implants the teaching in the heart chakra of the pupil. The insight is 
buried below the cloak of karmic obscurations, and is immune to the 
karmic effects of any actions the implantee might perform in subsequent 
lives. It is preserved unchanged (unlike verbal teachings, which decay 
with the passing of generations).

2) Prophesys the circumstances of the rediscovery of the teaching. The 
prophesy is not a forecast, it has the power to change the future.

3) Entrusts the teaching to a guardian, normally a naga, dakini or 

4) Sometimes, a 'reminder' or physical article, such as a text or rupa, 
is concealed, in a tree, or a rock, or a lake, or in the sky. Or in some 
other place. The guardian is required to guard this article also.

At the time when he recieves the teaching, the terton gains the 
realisation embodied in the teaching. This is always at least dzog-rim 
realisation. The teacher must have realisation of dzog-chen to implant 
the teaching.

In a subsequent rebirth, the student learns of the duty he/she must 
perform from clear visions, etc. He then performs the  actions required 
of him. This might include uncovering a physical object, such as a text, 
or it might not. The original insight that he obtained at the time of 
implantation is aroused.

This insight must then be practised by the terton until it is clear - to 
reveal the teaching before it is clear can destroy it. Ifg a text is 
involved, the text is often written in dakini writing (AFAIAA, this is 
like magic writing, although it looks like deva-nagari script to me - I'm 
no scholar of Indian literature!). It is said that sometimes the text 
changes, sometimes the meaning changes, and sometimes both change. The 
terton must keep it to himself until everything is stable.

The terton inevitably realises the original insight embodied in the 
teaching; that is to say, the terton realises dzog-rim (completion-stage).

The idea is that the teaching that is recovered is completely 
uncorrupted, since it was buried beyond the reach of karma, and since the 
realisation involved neccessarily incorporates the insight that time is 
imaginary. So 'fresh' termas are considered 'better' than traditional 
teachings, because they are not subject to the corruption that oral 
traditions are subject to.


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