Despite the tumbleweeds skittering through the abandoned comments section, I happen to find the mystical lives of 17th c. Buddhist yogis in southeastern Tibet to be very interesting. And when you mix in Mongols, why, you’ve got my complete attention. So the rest of you will just have to sit through grandpa’s slide show a little while longer and, shoot, you just might learn you somethin’.
When last we left Terton Migyur Dorje, he was all of 16, having just completed four years of retreat with Karma Chagmed Rinpoche. He’s wandering through Kham, revealing sacred practice places, and Mongols seem to make up a significant percentage of the itinerant population. Another fascinating aspect of Karma Chagmed’s biography of Migyur Dorje is his frank discussion of the proliferation of “false tertons,” those trying to sneak in a name for themselves in the shadows of the authentic channels for Padmasambhava’s revelations. All come together in Part II of our story:
“On another occasion, twenty noblemen came from Mongolia and confronted [Migyur Dorje]: ‘The Tibetans say you are the Great Orgyen (Padmasambhava) in person. Show us the signs of your accomplishment as a support for faith.’ The terton replied:
The Great Orgyen himself will not come now;
I am a terton that he has prophesied.
I have no signs of accomplishment worthy to support your faith
But I will open this sacred place.
“Hearing this, their faith blossomed; they received an empowerment and also kago (a ritual for getting rid of demons).
“The terton told them the following story. In order to suppress the forces of evil spirits and rakshasas (human-eating demons!), Orgyen Padmasambhava built a black stupa made of baked earth in this sacred place. Two years earlier, on a day of clear skies, an inauthentic terton came and senselessly removed the precious substances from within the stupa. Darkness immediately fell over the entire area and a fierce storm gusted, obscuring the path for everyone. In the middle of an open field, the furious wind blew up a rain of rocks the size of soup bowls. For a long time afterwards, thunderstorms nearly destroyed the houses of Datoed. Fiery hailstorms also occurred, an inauspicious sign. Epidemics followed this terton wherever he went. Many people where he stayed suffered diseases such as madness and paralysis. When he performed protective rituals to ward off the obstacles, the situation became even worse.
“Terton Migyur Dorje saw that great harm had come to the local people from this evil man’s deeds of destroying and removing what was inside the stupa and smashing the beautiful casket-shaped rock Guru Rinpoche had crafted to conceal a guidebook to the treasures. He thought the community would benefit greatly if he restored and re-consecrated the stupa. The Great Ogryen himself used his dharma robes to bring the slate from the land of the nagas to help the terton rebuild the black stupa. The slate was unique – white inside and black outside. Unable to find either black earth or good clay, the terton revealed black earth as a treasure and filled the stupa with many kinds of precious gems and samaya substances as well as a wish-fulfilling tree that he revealed as a mind treasure. Thus he restored the stupa and re-consecrated it after hoisting many flags of Mongolia and Tibet.
“The noblemen all lived in fear of this false terton, and although many people asked Terton Migyur Dorje about him, he said nothing insulting. He simply commented, ‘The rock he destroyed was the ornament of the place, but did not contain the treasure casket, which could be either below, or to the right or left of it.’ After he left, the false terton heard what he said, broke the rock into pieces, burnt them, and ground the remains into powder. After throwing the rock powder in the water, he dug the earth where the rock had rested.
“The Mongolian noblemen approached the false terton, saying, ‘Yesterday Terton Migyur Dorje came, opened the sacred place, and revealed many wonderful self-originated objects. If you are like him, show us such things or reveal treasures in front of us. Otherwise, we will destroy your home.’ I heard that the ‘terton’ ran away that night, and that everyone living there, both monks and lay persons of Tibet and Mongolia , stable in their deep faith in the terton, served and made offerings to his monk followers with great respect, welcoming them and bidding them farewell whenever they visited.”
Later, Karma Chagmed recounts different stories of false tertons, and we learn of the peril in trying to put one over on the Mongols:
“Once a small boy vanished from Chakmo Hor (‘Hor’ is another Tibetan word for ‘Mongolia’). After many years his appearance changed, with his face darkening, and he claimed to know about different places and homes through clairvoyance. Shamelessly he deceived everyone, claiming to be an emanation of Orgyen Pema named Ratna Lingpa. Whenever he encountered a beautiful woman, he said she was Yeshe Tsogyal (Padmasambhava’s spiritual consort) and took her away. He collected hundreds of offerings from Dege before Dudul Dorje revealed his falsity. Two months later he was captured and handed over to the Mongol King. After some time, he was killed out of contempt.”