Monthly Archives: January 2023

Notes on the History of the Revelation of the Treasure (gTer bton pa’i lo rgyus)

Jean-Luc Achard

Copyright © BDRC 2023, Work no. W2PD17457.

The text summarized below is the first work opening the dGongs pa zang thal cycle included in the initial volume of the sNga ‘gyur byang gter chos skor phyogs bsgrigs collection published in India, in 2015.1 It relates the history of the revelation of the Treasure (gter ma) that would make up the dGongs pa zang thal itself, during the spring season of 1366. It is a fascinating narration since the largest part of it is told in the first person by Rig ‘dzin rGod ldem (1337–1408), highlighting the events that would later be incorporated—practically verbatim—in the rGod ldem biography.2 In its last part (p. 6), the narration appears a little rambling but it synthesizes in a few words the events that took place and the importance of both the location of the Treasure site (gter gnas) and the influence of the teachings discovered therein.

[P.2] The gter ma of the dGongs pa zang thal was hidden by ācārya Padmasambhava on the rocky mountain looking like a heap of poisonous snakes. The mountain itself is not named but it is Mount Zang zang lha brag (although the name Zang zang lha brag seems to be also used for the actual cave where the treasure was found).3 The key necessary for opening the treasure site was also hidden by Padmasambhava, this time on the peak of Mount Ri bo bkra bzang.4 The Index (kha byang) and the Itinerary Manual (lam byang) were hidden in a place called Grom pa rgyang, located in gTsang. Actually, from the biography of Rig ‘dzin rGod ldem, this is a reference to a temple built in this location.5

On the eighth day of the snake month of the year 1366,6 during the conjunction of the rGyal and Phur bu constellations,7 dNgos grub rgyal mtshan (i.e., Rig ‘dzin rGod ldem) and a couple of devoted companions8 headed out to excavate the Treasure. At dawn, they saw a sign manifesting in the form of a luminous white ray coming from the eastern direction and entering Mount Ri bo bkra bzang.9 The exact place was a spot where snow had just fallen on a rock. They started to dig below it and found a stone reliquary that had been hidden amidst a charcoal deposit.10 Within that rGod ldem extracted a white stone having the shape of a pillar and the length of a finger span.11

[P. 3] Then, on the fourth day of the sheep month,12 again at the period corresponding to the conjunction of the rGyal and Phur bu constellations, rGod ldem stated that it was time to excavate the Treasure. Thus, together with Ri khrod pa Sangs rgyas bstan pa and Rig ‘dzin mgon po, they started the journey to Zang zang but on their way they encountered numerous demonic obstacles. So they decided to stop and recite prayers to Padmasambhava,13 after which a five-colored rainbow started to shine continuously in the sky.
When they reached the foot of the mountain looking like a heap of poisonous snakes, three rainbows looking like stretched out white silk arose. For two days, they searched the middle part of the great rocky mountain until they actually found the place, a discovery that was marked by the manifestation of rainbows. They started to recite prayers and after sunset, the cave where they were practicing began to tremble and shake. They understood that this was a sign indicating the coming of the Lord of the Treasure (gter bdag).14

[P. 4] Thereafter, around midnight, using butter lamps for progressing in the dark, rGod ldem saw a rock on the south-west, marked with a vajra-cross (rdo rje rgya gram) and inserted the key below it. A hidden door opened in the rock and rGod ldem could see there was a small cave inside, containing small brook pebbles and charcoal.15 He cleared this material away and found a square blue stone-box with door ornaments sealing it with silver-colored nails. On the top of the stone was a light blue snake figure, with a yellow belly.16 Its head was turned towards the south-east and at the level of its heart were three protruding precious jewels. Inside the snake, rGod ldem found a scroll and some jewels. The entire inner part of the serpent artifact was of golden color and contained a thumb-sized jewel but since nothing was mentioned about it in the Index or Inventory Guide (Kha byang),17 rGod ldem decided to leave it there.
Then, he opened the central door of the Treasure and found three scrolls (shog dril), three phur bu, all fully wrapped into a brown piece of silk. From the four directions within the central cache, he found two sets of mother and son texts in scroll form, as well as the carved seed-syllables of the four female gate keepers (sgo ma bzhi)18 and eight mother and sons texts about medicine. From the four other caches around the central one, he found various kinds of jewels, including four royal soul-turquoises (bla g.yu) which the Lord of the Treasures ordered him not to take out. Inside the key itself, he found seven scrolls including an Inventory Guide of Treasures (gTer gyi kha byang).

[P. 5] He then filled the treasure-box with slivers of a Ficus tree,19 as well as grains and five kinds of jewels, the whole being used as substitute for the Treasure (gter tshab).20 The actual revelation of the Treasure took place at the exact time of the breaking of dawn.21 Having taken the Treasure with them, rGod ldem and his companions left the location. At that time, a ray of light coming from the sun directly entered the cave in the form of a rainbow, while a heavy rain started to fall in all the region.22 Wherever they went, rainbows would fill the sky in the manner of five-colored domes and as they arrived at the foot of Mount Ri bo bkra bzang, rays of light spread toward the west within a sky of a ruby color, a pure vision that was witnessed by all, great and small. During the night, there was an earthquake and numerous impressive omens occurred. After that, wherever they went, there were indications that people would have faith in the Treasure.

At this point of the narration, there is an implicit break where the text refers to the Seven Principles of the Precepts (associated with) the Key Points of the Heart Drops (sNying tig gnad kyi man ngag don bdun)23 explaining that vulture feathers started to appear on rGod ldem’s head when he was twelve and that they turned into white hair when he was twenty-one. One day, when he was twenty-seven,24 as he was in front of Mount Ri bo bkra bzang, he found a round leather pouch (rgyal pa) of an oily color, as if filled with milk. Upon tasting it, he found that it was actually filled with amṛta (bdud rtsi).25

[P. 6] As a synthesis, the last part of the text recalls that at the age of 30 (in 1366),26 rGod ldem revealed the “Great Treasure” (gter chen), i.e., the dGongs pa zang thal collection. The following year, in 1367 (lug gi lo), together with a party of devoted followers, he went back to the place where he had discovered the Treasure key in Ri bo bkra bzang and found out that a tree had grown there.27 Upon reaching the top of the mountain, numerous auspicious omens occurred that were witnessed by all those accompanying him. 

During this degenerate age, the teaching of this Treasure will, for a time, bring happiness to the realm of Tibet. The very place where the Treasure was excavated will also bring prosperity around.

In the future, Speech and Mind Emanations (gsung dang thugs kyi sprul pa) will come from Yang le shod in Nepal to sKyid rong in Mang yul, and in Ri bo bkra bzang itself they will find a self-arisen practice sanctuary (rang byung gi sgrub gnas) where they will see signs of Padmasambhava’s Body, Speech, and Mind. This will bring great benefit to beings. These teachings will be spread by fortunate ones at the southern frontier of Tibet.

The history of the excavation of the Treasure of the rocky mountain resembling a heap of poisonous snakes by Rig ‘dzin rGod kyi ldem phru28 can was redacted at the practice sanctuary (sgrub gnas) of gNa’ mo lung.




Byang gter lugs kyi rnam thar dang ma ‘ongs lung bstanCollected Biographies and Prophecies from the Byaṅ gter tradition, Reproduced from manuscripts from the library of Bla-ma seṅge of Yol-mo, Gangtok, 1983.

Herweg, Jurgen Wilhelm

The Hagiography of Rig ‘dzin Rgod kyi ldem ‘phru can And Three Historic Questions Emerging from It, MA, University of Washington, 1994, 329 pages.

Makhija, I.K; Sharma, I.P.; Khamar, D.

“Phytochemistry and Pharmacological properties of Ficus Religiosa: an overview, Annals of Biological Research, 2010, vol. 1, no. 4, pp. 171-180.

Rig ‘dzin rGod ldem  (1337–1048)

 gTer bton pa’i lo rgyus, in sNga ‘gyur byang gter chos skor phyogs bsgrigs, s.l., 2015, vol. 1, pp. 1-6. BDRC W2PD17457. Smanrtsis Shesrig Spendzod, Leh, 1979, vol. 93, pp. 1-7.

— Ri bo bkra bzang gi gnas bshadgNas chen byin ‘beb kyang zer: ri bo bkra bzang gi gnas bshad yang zer: bod khams kun la dgos pa’i lung bstan ces kyang zer ba, in Drag po rang ‘byung rang shar chen po’i rgyud dang bka’ brgyad kyi bsnyen thabs ‘das pa’i zhal lung sogs bcasA Collection of Byang gter Texts, Delhi, 1975, vol. 2, pp. 145-169. BDR:W30291.

Sangs rgyas bzang po (15th c.?)

Legs par bshad paʼi gter mdzod blo gsal yid la dgaʼ ba ster byed, in bKaʼ gdams gsung ʼbum phyogs bsgrigs thengs gnyis pa, vol. 16, Si khron dpe skrun tshogs pa si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2007, pp. 33-115. BDRC bdr:MW1PD89084_1850BB.

Tulku Thondup Rinpoche            

Hidden Teachings of Tibet, An Explanation of the Terma Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, edited by Harold Talbott, Wisdom Publications, London, 1986.

Turpeinen, Katarina Sylvia

Vision of Samantabhadra – The Dzokchen Anthology of Rindzin Gödem, PhD, University of Virginia, 2015, 276 pages.


  1. dGongs pa zang thal, vol. 1, pp. 1-6. It is also included in the Smanrtsis Shesrig Spendzod collection, vol. 93, Leh, 1979, pp. 1-7. However, the text is missing from the A ‘dzom sgar edition as already noted by Turpeinen (in Vision of Samantabhadra – The Dzokchen Anthology of Rindzin Gödem, p. 27). []
  2. Most of the events related to the discovery are told in the biography and can be found in Herweg, The Hagiography of Rig ‘dzin Rgod kyi ldem ‘phru can, passim, although my understanding differs from his on several details. []
  3. There is a very puzzling statement in Herweg, op. cit., p. 16 n. 46, about this toponym. The mountain itself is called Dug sprul spungs ‘dra (“Like a Heap of Poisonous Snakes”) which is attested in other sources, starting with the gTer bton pa’i lo rgyus. []
  4. Ri bo bkra bzang is the main sacred mountain next to rGod ldem’s birth place. See rGod ldem, Ri bo bkra bzang gi gnas bshad, passim. []
  5. Herweg, pp. 85-86 (I thank Jay Valentine for sharing with me his ocrized version of Herweg’s Master of Art thesis). Grom ba rgyang is a hermitage (dben gnas) with a temple (gtsug lag khang) that was probably the place where these texts were discovered. This was for instance a place where bKa’ gdams Sangs rgyas bzang po wrote some of his personal composition; see inter alia his Legs par bshad paʼi gter mdzod blo gsal yid la dgaʼ ba ster byed in which the colophon (p. 115, last line) indicates that Sangs rgyas bzang po wrote his work in the great temple of Grom pa rgyang, the hermitage enjoyed by numerous accomplished scholars (…mkhas grub du ma nye bar rten pa’i dben gnas/ grom pa rgyan gyi gtsug lag khang chen por…). []
  6. Corresponding, according to Herweg (p. 93), to Sunday, 19th April, 1366. []
  7. This refers to a very precise manner of calculating time which eludes me. What I have understood of these calculations is that this conjunction corresponds to early morning, around 7:00 am, given the month of April (it should be a different hour in autumn, winter and summer). This is an issue that should be corrected if needed. []
  8. They are identified below as being Ri khrod pa Sangs rgyas bstan pa and Rig ‘dzin mGon po. []
  9. Most evidently, the place where the ray hit the mountain indicated the precise location where they had to dig. []
  10. Charcoal appears regularly in the narratives about gter ma revelation. It is used to prevent dampness and underground insects to deteriorate Treasures, even though the latter are generally placed in stone-boxes or stone-caskets (but see Thondup, Hidden Teachings of Tibet, p. 70, who indicates that the sgrom bu (chest or casket) containing the gter ma can be “made of precious gems, metals, wood, clay, or stone”). []
  11. Since the place where this object was discovered is Ri bo bkra bzang, according to prophetic guides (lung byang) it is clear that it is the key (lde mig) necessary to open the Treasure in Zang zang lha brag. []
  12. Corresponding, according to Herweg (p. 94), to Sunday, 14th June, 1366. []
  13. He is simply referred to as the gu ru in the text. []
  14. The main guardian of these teachings is Ekajāti under the form named rDo rje khro gdong ma. []
  15. We have seen the potential role of charcoal above in note 8. The use of gravel or chippings—and in the present case brook pebbles (chu rdo)—is clearly made for preventing dampness and enabling drainage. The presence of these tangible, practical elements gives weight to the reliability or trustworthiness of these narratives. []
  16. This was not a living reptile or a drawing but rather a three-dimensional artifact. []
  17. This text is possibly the Kha byang gter gyi bang mdzod included in Collected Biographies and Prophecies of the Byaṅ gter tradition, pp. 265-272 (thanks to Jay Valentine for identifying the text). As we shall see just below, during this discovery, rGod ldem found another “inventory” text simply entitled gTer gyi kha byang. []
  18. These four guardians are counted among the Zhi khro and despite their outer wrathful appearance are said to belong to the peaceful deities (zhi ba). They are: 1) She with a Horse head (rTa gdong ma) holding a hook, 2) She with a Sow head (Phag gdong ma) holding a lasso, 3) She with a Lion Head (Seng gdong ma) holding a chain, and 4) She with a Wolf Head (sPyang gdong ma) holding a bell. []
  19. byang chub kyi shing bu, the Ficus Religiosa (the Pipal or Ashvatta tree). It is under a Ficus that Śākyamuni obtained Buddhahood, hence the sacred nature of this species. In Ayurveda, parts of the tree are used to treat several illnesses (from dysentery to tuberculosis and so forth; see Makhija et al., “Phytochemistry and Pharmacological properties of Ficus Religiosa”, p. 172 et seq.) and in the practice of bcud len, it is also included in pills aimed at rejuvenating the body and getting rid of stress (not to mention the treatment of type 2 diabetes; see id., p. 175). []
  20. When a gter ston reveals a Treasure, he is supposed to leave a “treasure substitute” (gter tshab) to the Treasure Lords, in exchange for the substances, artifacts or texts he excavates. As shown by Tulku Thondup (op. cit.,p. 84 and 257 n. 240) the contents of these substitutes might be indicated in the Prophetic Guide (Lung byang) that the gter ston is supposed to have discovered before excavating the Treasure. Such a Guide may also have been previously discovered by another gter ston who may then hand this list to the predestined gter ston. []
  21. As an auspicious sign, indicating the favorable dissemination of the teachings in the future, the light of dawn dispelling the darkness of the night symbolically illustrates the light of knowledge (gained through the practice of the gter ma) dispelling the darkness of ignorance. []
  22. This is an indication of the purification of sins being potentially still active in the gter ston and his assistants. Actual meteorological events and their symbolic meaning are here again totally fused together. []
  23. dGongs pa zang thal, vol. 3, pp. 285-303. []
  24. Most certainly around 1364 (the year Klong chen pa passed away). []
  25. This is most probably not a casual discovery but something that must be counted among his gter ma. Finding peculiar substances such as those liberating upon taste (myong grol) are not rare among Treasure revelations. See Thondup, op. cit., pp. 152-153. []
  26. He was actually twenty-nine according to our comput. []
  27. Since only a year had elapsed, the “tree” might simply have been a shrub at that time. Or this is again a symbol annunciating the perennity of the dGongs pa zang thal revelation. []
  28.  Phru in the text but it should be corrected to ‘phru. Apparently the sNga ‘gyur byang gter chos skor phyogs bsgrigs editor did not use the Smanrtsis Shesrig Spendzod version which had been corrected and provided the reading ‘phru in which the ‘a chung was added as a correction. []

An Unknown Master of Rig ‘dzin rgod ldem: Sba ston/rGa ston dpal ba and Mañjuśrī’s Dzogchen

Rigdzin Gödem – Unknown source.

An Unknown Master of Rig ‘dzin rgod ldem: Sba ston/rGa ston dpal ba and Mañjuśrī’s Dzogchen: Rig ’dzin rGod ldem in the ’Jam dpal rDzogs chen lineage stemming from Sar ban phyogs med (XIth century) and its possible connections with ’Jam dpal tshe bdag

During my preliminary investigation in the fifth Dalai Lama’s Record of Teachings Received (gSan yig), I spotted the presence of Rigdzin Gödem in the context of a little-known lineage, that of ’Jam dpal rdzogs chen. There is actually no doubt about his identity, as the next figures in the lineage are very well-known masters of the Northern Treasures.

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The Life of Gönpo Wangyal (1845-1915)

Thanks to Dr. Martin Boord and David Cowey for the kind revision of the version of this text that is about to be printed in the introduction of our translation of Tülku Tsullo’s practice manual for the Direct Revelation.

Gönpo Wangyal: vignette from the 16-volume edition of the Complete Works of Tülku Tsullo: vol. 5.

Gönpo Wangyal (mGon po dbang rgyal, 1845-1915) was a Nyingma master, active in the Golok area. He was the nephew and successor of Terchen Nüden Dorje of Khordong (‘khor gdong gter chen Nus ldan rdo rje). He was the head of the Khordong monastery for many years and did much to make it a stronghold, in the Golok area, of both the Jangter and the revelations of his uncle Terchen Nüden Dorje. He was himself a tertön who mostly had revelations connected to the practice of Chöd (gcod).

Here is a short summary of Gönpo Wangyal’s biography by Tülku Tsullo (sprul sku tshul khrims bzang po, 2014: vol. 8 p. 1-110). I also used a shorter one (30 p.) in the History of the Jangter (Byang gter chos ’byung) by Chöying of Khordong (Byang gter phyogs bsgrigs : vol. 62, p. 757-787).

Tsullo’s biography starts with a summary of Gönpo Wangyal’s previous lives in India and Tibet. He was regarded as an emanation of Buddhas’s disciple Ananda, of Atsara Sale (Yeshe Tsogyal’s legendary male consort), Phadampa Sangye, Drapa Ngönshe, and, as for his Jangter connections, of Legdenje (Legs ldan rje) and Yölmo Tülku Tendzin Norbu (Yol mo sprul sku btTsan ‘dzin nor bu), etc.

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Table of Contents of the 1978 Edition of the Byaṅ gter rdzogs chen dgoṅs pa zaṅ thal and Thugs sgrub skor

by Jean-Luc Achard (CNRS, CRCAO)

Copyright © BDRC 2023, Work no. W4CZ1105.

The two cycles from the Northern Treasures catalogued in the list below are the rDzogs chen kun bzang dgongs pa zang thal and the Thugs sgrub kyi rtsa ba gsang ba rin po che’i ‘dus pa, both discovered by Rig ‘dzin rGod ldem (1337–1408). The reproduction of the texts is based on “an ancient manuscript from the monastery of Gsang-sngags-chog-gling in Spiti, H.P.” In other words, what has been published in this collection in three volumes is a handwritten copy in dbu med based on the original manuscripts.

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Northern Treasures Works by mNga’ ris paṇ chen Padma dbang rgyal (1487–1542) kept in the Potala

by Jean-Luc Achard (CNRS, CRCAO)

There is one single volume, in manuscript form, of works attributed to mNga’ ris paṇ chen Padma dbang rgyal (1487-1542), collated under the reference “Potala number 01272” and kept in the Potala Library. This volume contains only eleven individual texts which merely give an incomplete picture of the numerous works authored and revealed by Padma dbang rgyal. These eleven texts are:

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