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The Origin of the Buddha Dharma

Although fully enlightened unborn Dharmakaya, from the viewpoint of ordinary appearances and in order to benefit beings through wisdom and skilful means, Lord Buddha gave rise to the mind of supreme Bodhi, then accumulated vast merits taking rebirths over three great incalculable aeons, eventually displaying the attainment of Enlightenment on the Vajra Seat at Bodhgaya in India. Thereafter, the Buddha turned the wheel of 84,000 Dharma teachings for the sake of sentient beings according to their capacity thus liberating innumerable gods, demigods, nagasyakshas, humans and non-humans from the clutches of cyclic existence. Moreover, Buddha Kashaypa and the Seven Buddhas of the past, the Sixteen Great Arhats, the Six Ornaments and Two Excellent Ones of the world, and numerous other realized siddhas and panditas helped the Buddha’s precious teachings to rise and shine like the sun in the sublime land of India. Then, from that sublime land, the Dharma spread to and grew in the snowy land of Tibet.

According to the White Lotus Sutra, when Buddha, the Great Sage was staying at the bamboo grove, rays of light emitted from the Zoepu on his forehead which went towards the north, at which the Buddha smiled. Then, Nirvirana-vishkambin, one of the eight great Bodhisattvas, requested the Buddha to explain the reasons and conditions for this sign, to which the Buddha replied:

Noble Son, the northern land untamed by the Buddhas of the three times: that remote, snow-covered barbarian land filled with demons and rakshasas, will in the future see the sublime Dharma rising and shining like the sun; and even the sentient beings there will be extremely fortunate and established on the path of Enlightenment. The Bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteśvara will be the patron of that remote land.

Thus, the Buddha related that his teachings would spread far into the north in the future. In many other scriptures, both sutra and tantra, there are similar predictions concerning the spread of Dharma in the land of Tibet.

As predicted, starting from King Nyatri Tsenpo; the first Yarlung Dynasty king of Tibet to the twenty-eighth successor Lha Thothori Nyantsen who was the emanation of the BodhisattvaSamantabhadra, the monarchs helped in preserving and propagating the sacred Dharma in Tibet. During the reign of his fifth successor, King Songtsen Gampo, the emanation of BodhisattvaAvalokiteśvara; the Tibetan script and grammar were introduced into Tibet.

The fifth king following him was the emanation of Bodhisattva Manjushri, the Dharma King Thrisong Deutsen, who with the exalted and pure intention of making the Buddha Dharma spread like the rays of the sun, invited the great abbot Shantarakshita of Zahor, and the great tantric master Padmasambhava of Uddiyana, to Tibet. With their help, the King built the renowned Samye Migyur Lhundrup monastery. Then the unsurpassed great panditas, scholars and translators of India and Tibet brought the Buddha Dharma from the noble land of India to the land of snows, Tibet, translating the original Buddhist scriptures. The teaching, learning, meditation, and practice traditions established during that period subsequently became known as the “Ngagyur Nyingma” tradition, or “The Earlier Translation Old School”.

The schools which began in the later period which started with the translations of the great translator Lochen Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055) are known as the “Chigyur Sarma” or the “The Later Translation New Schools”.

Within the Ngagyur Nyingma are traditions classified as the long lineage of Kama and short lineage of Terma. The Kama tradition is those oral teachings uninterruptedly transmitted from mouth to ear from Buddha Samantabhadra right down to our present root teachers.

In order to prevent the doctrine from declining in future, Guru Rinpoche concealed Terma or spiritual treasures, riches and samaya substances in the snow mountains, rocks and lakes of Tibet and Bhutan to be revealed by emanations of his disciples for the benefit of those with fortunate karma living in the decadent, evil times of later centuries.

The Terma include the Hundred Treasures to Support the King’s Life, the Five Great Mind Treasures, and the Twenty-Five Great Profound Treasures, as well as uncountable unclassified treasures. These profound treasures were concealed to be taken out at the appropriate time according to prophecy by the destined holder of the teachings or the Tertöns. These Terma teachings and empowerments can truly bring beings to spiritual maturation and liberation and are the near lineage like the warm breath of the Dakini from which the vapour has not yet disappeared.

Similarly, as foretold, due to the collective merit of the people, the time was auspicious for the Buddha Dharma to flourish in the medicinal land of Bhutan. Many centuries ago, Bodhisattvas such as Chögyal Drimed Künden lived and demonstrated Bodhisattva activities here, thereby leading numerous beings towards the path of liberation. Moreover, in the 7 th century, the great Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo, through his miraculous powers built 108 monasteries and stupas, including Jampa Lhakhang in Bumthang and Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro.

Then, in 746 ce, the Chakhar Gyalpo, Sindhu Raja invited Lopon Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche), who had been residing for a time at the supreme place of Yangleshö in Nepal, to come to Bhutan. On the way, he subjugated many harmful and malevolent spirits and bound them under oath. Then in Bumthang, Guru Rinpoche subjugated Shelging Karpo and left body print on the cliff and also brought forth the sacred water which can still be seen today at Kurje. Thereby, the Chakhar Gyalpo was also completely cured of his afflictions. Moreover, King Sindhu Raja, Tashi Kheuden, the ministers and subjects were given blessings and empowerments, thereby sowing the seeds of liberation. In addition, Guru Rinpoche concealed numerous treasures in the mountains, cliffs, lakes and valleys in Bhutan.

Then, after the arrival in Bhutan of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, to whom we owe our deepest gratitude, the dual system of government which brought about great reforms in spiritual and temporal practice was established. Thereby a unique and independent religious culture and social system developed in Bhutan, which is worthy of admiration and which the Bhutanese can be truly proud of.

Moreover, from amongst the five King Tertöns, Tertön Ugyen Pema Lingpa, Master of the Southern Treasures took birth in the Tang region of Bumthang in Bhutan and discovered numerous treasures – becoming renowned in Bhutan, Tibet and India. Today Pema Lingpa’s lineage is carried on through three lines of body, speech and mind emanations. In particular, the Gangteng Sangngak Chöling Gönpa, popularly known as Gangteng Gönpa and located in the center of the Medicinal Land, is the seat of the Gangteng Tulku who is the body emanation of Pema Lingpa. The rest of this work focuses on the successive incarnations of the Gangteng Tulku, who have taken successive rebirths and travelled far and wide in the country, benefiting numerous sentient beings through their unceasing spiritual activities.