Lineage is an important concept in Buddhism in general, and in Tibetan Buddhism in particular. It describes a succession of spiritual adepts linked by a teacher-student relationship in an unbroken line, so that teachings and practices are passed down through generations of practitioners. A lineage provides a living validation of the teachings and practices of a given tradition and confirms its authenticity.
In Tibetan Buddhism a number of lineages can be traced back to Guru Rinpoche, the historical Buddhist master who established Buddhism in Tibet. Guru Rinpoche, who himself attained complete buddhahood, concealed many teachings for future generations. In fact, most of these teachings were concealed by Guru Rinpoche’s principle disciple and consort, the Yeshe Tsogyal. The teachings she concealed, called treasures or termas, have been and will be discovered over the centuries by destined meditation masters known as treasure revealers or tertons. Once discovered, treasure teachings are practiced and preserved as they are passed down from teacher to student—often through a line of incarnations of the treasure revealer.
Termas are considered especially relevant and powerful in the conferring of blessing in this present age. It is thought that terma teachings are custom-made for the time they are to be discovered and disseminated.
Speaking about the Barway Dorje terma practice of Guru Rinpoche, Lama Tashi Topgyal gave the following teaching:
[From a teaching by Lama Tashi Topgyal given at Kunzang Palchen Ling in 2005. Translated by Lama Yeshe Gyamtso. Transcribed by Linda Lee. Edited by Basia Coulter.]
This combined practice is a convenient and easily performed combination of the outer, inner, secret, and very secret gurusadhanas. And it was taught for the benefit of beings of the future by Guru Rinpoche to his disciple, Yeshe Tsogyal. At his instruction, she wrote down this liturgy that he taught. She did not write it in conventional Tibetan; she wrote it in symbol script. And you will see some of that symbol script at that point in the Tibetan text. Then she concealed this for the benefit of future beings.
When we think about this, we often think that this was sort of a random process; that she found a convenient cave somewhere, that she contained the text in some kind of impermeable container, and hoped that eventually someone would find it. it is not like that at all. There is nothing random about any of this. When Guru Rinpoche taught this to Yeshe Tsogyal, he did so with the omniscient knowledge of who would have contact with it in the future. When she wrote this down, she wrote it down in consideration of the actual needs of future disciples. It is very personal. It is very intimate. It is very much based upon their omniscient understanding of who would practice these liturgies, when in the future they practice them, what their needs and ability would be.
That means that practices like this are—to use English colloquialism—they are not off the rack. They are tailor made for you as an individual. You, as an individual, were known by Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyal when they composed these texts. Your needs and abilities were taken into consideration. That is why Yeshe Tsogyal said, “All beings in the future who are interested in these treasures will all be those who have established a karmic connection with them in the past. Therefore, have joy and confidence. These words of mine are more precious than gold.” We find these words in the autobiography of Terchen Barway Dorje and in the great biography of Yeshe Tsogyal discovered by Taksham Nuden Dorje as well. They are often quoted.
What did Yeshe Tsogyal mean? She meant that nobody bumps into this stuff by accident. Nobody who finds these teachings is unworthy of them. Everyone who has the good fortune to encounter teachings such as this practice, teachings which are still warm with Guru Rinpoche’s and Yeshe Tsogyal’s breath, every person who comes into contact with these teachings does so because of their own previous aspirations, and their own previous karmic connection. It is actually impossible that a being could bump into this by accident. Therefore never think, “These teachings are wonderful, but I am unworthy of them.” If you were unworthy of them, you would not even know about them. The fact that you have come into contact with these things is an absolute guarantee that you are one of the people for whom these specific teachings were designed; designed in their omniscient wisdom by Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyal.
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