Monthly Archives: August 2023

Apocalyptic Times and the Revelation of Rigdzin Gödem’s Transparent Contemplation of Samantabhadra

by Jean-Luc Achard


In his Garland of Jewels (Rin chen phreng ba), a fascinating work devoted to the “General Presentation of the Cycles of Teachings of the Northern Treasures” (Byang gter gyi chos skor rnams kyi spyi chings), Setön Pema Wangchen (15th c.) provides a brief analysis of the period in which Rigdzin Gödem was to reveal the treasure of the Transparent Contemplation of Samantabhadra (Kun bzang dgongs pa zang thal). Basing himself on a series of prophecies, Setön uses five main sources from which he has extracted brief excerpts. These are the subject of the present short paper.

In general, termas are said to be revealed during particularly difficult moments in history, in the course of degenerate times and situations. In traditional Tibetan context, this is often described as periods plagued with spiritual decay, a general decline in virtues, a fall of the royal (or local) Houses, internal conflicts, a general disintegration of familial structures, moral corruption and so forth. This degeneration of times is also expressed in the form of demonic manifestations, the spread of vicious behaviors, epidemics, epizootics, etc. For instance, in the Three Kinds of Lamps (sGron ma rnam gsum), the conditions requiring the revelation of Gödem’s terma are termed as follows:

During the period of degeneration and bad times (associated with) this Treasure,
At the time when the king falls into the populace,
When butchers become leaders of men,
When quarrels rage between fathers and siblings,
When divine supports2
 are destroyed and broken to pieces,
When one is being deceived by beloved companions,
When discord spread between masters and disciples,
When teachers are put to the sword,
When tantrikas perform (only) village rituals,
When foxes wear the hide of lions,
When Gongpo spirits carol songs,3

When scholars sell (teachings) like charlatans,
When attachments and aversions blaze like fire,
When human corpses are scattered
4 across the plains,
A noble emanated individual (arising)
From this Compassion of mine, (Orgyen) Pema,
Will come before this mountain
And, at that time, will excavate this treasure
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  1. I would like to thank Marianne Ginalski for her kind suggestions and corrections. []
  2. See below for details. []
  3. On ‘gong po, see Nebesky-Wojkowitz,Oracles and Demons of Tibet, pp. 283-285. []
  4. The verb that is used is ‘grems pa (spread out, display, etc.) in the original text. Funnily enough, Setön, in his Garland of Jewels (Rin chen ‘phreng ba, p. 30) reads that as ‘grims pa, as if understanding the verse as meaning something like “zombies rambling in the flatlands”. []
  5. sGron ma rnam gsum, p. 36: gter ‘di dus ngan snyigs ma’i dus: rgyal po dmangs su ‘bebs pa’i dus : shan pas mi mgo byed pa’i dus:  pha spun dme ‘khrug byed pa’i dus: lha rten bshig nas brdung ba’i dus: snying brtse’i grogs kyis bslu pa’i dus: slob dpon slob ma rnyog pa’i dus: dge bshes gri ru ‘chi ba’i dus: sngags pa grong chog byed pa’i dus: seng lpags wa yis gon pa’i dus: ‘gong pos rgyang glu len pa’i dus:  mkhas pas zog po brin pa’i dus:  chags sdang me ltar ‘bar ba’i dus: mi ro thang la ‘grems pa’i dus: padma nga yi thugs rje las: sprul pa’i gang zag dam pa gcig:  ri bo ‘di’i mdun du ‘byung :  de dus gter ‘di ‘don par ‘gyur:. []