Biography of Pema Lingpa, Bhutan's famous treasure revealer

Email

Once, he uncovered treasure following instructions from a dream. He would go on to uncover thirty-two treasures during his lifetime.

Of the Five Terton (treasure revealer) Kings, one reigned lofty above the rest. He was born on the 15th day of the second month of the male iron-horse year of the eighth sexagenary cycle. In another language, he was born in the year 1450. 

He came from the Nyo lineage that originated from Tibet. His great-great-grandfather was Jikten Gonpo, founder of the Drigung Kagyu tradition. Jikten Gonpo had a vision that compelled him to send his son to the south, where the son would establish a monastery. The son was named Ziji Pel, who founded Chalkha Gonpa in Paro.

Ziji Pel then sired Tenpai Nyima, who sired Dondrub Zangpo, who then sired our saint-of-the-hour: Pema Lingpa.

At 9 years old, Pema Lingpa became the apprentice of a blacksmith. Over the years, he made iron millstones and iron pans. He also made swords, chain mails and knives. He buried his craft throughout the Bumthang area. 

As he grew older, although he continued as a blacksmith, he developed a penchant for religion.

Pema Lingpa experienced a prophetic dream at twenty-five years old. At that time, he did not understand the dream. Two years later, he fell asleep near Mani Gonpa when a voice told him to wake up. When he did, he saw a monk dressed in rags. The monk handed him a scroll and urged him to read it. 

As soon as Pema Lingpa accepted the scroll, the monk disappeared. Pema Lingpa unfurled the parchment in his hand and read the words on it. It was instructions to gather five friends and go to Naring Drak during a full moon. There, the parchment said, he will learn his destiny from under a rock. Included on the scroll was the key to decode terma (treasure).

Termas are wisdom and teachings that Guru Rinpoche and his followers hid all over Tibet and the Himalayas. Only enlightened tertons (treasure revealers) can find the terma. A code is then required to decode the terma. 

Pema Lingpa followed the directions on the scroll. He found five friends, and they visited Naring Drak at the instructed time. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Pema Lingpa removed all his clothes and jumped into the small lake at the bottom of a cliff. In the water, he found a cave, and in the cave, he discovered stacks of texts.

Back home, nobody could read the text; not his parents, nor his two masters. Pema Lingpa brought the scroll back to Mani Gonpa where he consulted the code given to him by the monk in the rags. Suddenly, he could read the title of the text: Crystallisation of the Tantra of Luminous Space (klong gsal gsang ba snying bcud).

This was the first terma he uncovered. He would find thirty-two within his lifetime.

Pema Lingpa decoded the entire parchment. 

He related the teachings publicly over a time period of three weeks. Every night, a dakini would appear in his dreams to give him instructions and teach him the steps of different sacred dances. 

As time progressed, he uncovered more and more terma. While he received much support, he had his doubters. The local governor questioned his authenticity. Confrontation ensued. The governor gathered a large group of people for an extraction with Pema Lingpa at Naring Drak. He told Pema Lingpa that if the latter was successful in uncovering terma, Pema Lingpa would gain his support. On the other hand, if Pema Lingpa failed at the task, he would be punished for disrupting the district.

Hearing this, Pema Lingpa grabbed a burning lamp and declared, “If I am genuine, let me bring back the treasure with this lamp still burning. If I am a fraud, let me die in the waters below.”

Next, he plunged into the lake. Not long after, he resurfaced. He held in his one hand a box made of joint skulls and a small sculpture. And in his other hand was the butter lamp, its flame still burning bright. Hence, Naring Drak was named Mebar Tsho, or Burning Lake.

Later on in 1482, at the age of thirty-three, Pema Lingpa had a dream. 

In the dream, the protector deity Shelging Karpo told him to go to Kurje to find terma. He obeyed, and received a small box there from the same deity. This became the Lama Drakpo cycle of teachings. 

In 1483, Pema Lingpa uncovered one of his most important treasures, the Lama Norbu Gyatso from Mendo Drak Karpo. 

Throughout his life, he would go on to acquire many important revelations.

In 1520, Pema Lingpa went to Tibet and upon his return to the Bumthang area, three Tsilung sculptures and the Tongwa Kundol sculptures were weeping. 

Other bad omens began to surface too. Eventually, Pema Lingpa fell ill. His sons had dreams that predicted their father’s death. 

The next year, Pema Lingpa passed away. His body was left untouched for nine days, yet it showed no signs of decomposing. Only after that was his body cremated and the remains placed in a stupa at Tamzhing Lhundrub Choling.

Pema Lingpa’s teachings have been transmitted down through three primary lines of incarnation. Today, his influence lives on in idyllic Bhutan, through paintings, statues, and most importantly, the terma he uncovered. 



Related Posts

Guru Padmasambhava - “Return of the Lotus-Born Master” Decrypting...

Guru Padmasambhava - “Return of the Lotus-Born Master” Decrypting the Dakini Code (2019), a feature film directed by...

May 07, 2021 11:36

The Mystery Of Mebar Tsho-The Burning Lake Of Bhutan

The Burning Lake is regarded as one of the most sacred sites in the Kingdom.

Mar 21, 2020 19:28

Cordyceps Sinensis, the super mushrooms of Bhutan

Cordyceps Sinensis has many health benefits, which includes being an aphrodisiac.

Sep 25, 2022 16:50

The King of Bhutan regularly visits his people

The royals of Bhutan have an honourable legacy. Visiting their people is part of it.

Sep 25, 2022 16:35

Here is what you need to know about tailoring in Bhutan

Bhutan continues to train tailors in both traditional Bhutanese tailoring and western dressmaking.

Aug 28, 2022 21:56

There is a love for chess in Bhutan

The Bhutanese chess team showed impressive results at the recent Chess Olympiad.

Aug 18, 2022 22:17

Latest

News

Bhutan to host the world’s toughest race

The race will cover a distance of 222 kilometres through difficult terrain, majestic mountains, and lofty glaciers.

Aug 29, 2022 22:08

New Riverside Market opens in Thimphu

As the old centenary farmers market undergoes its much-awaited renovations, the vendors of the first floor have now set up shop at the new...

Aug 15, 2022 18:04

Features

Cordyceps Sinensis, the super mushrooms of Bhutan

Cordyceps Sinensis has many health benefits, which includes being an aphrodisiac.

Sep 25, 2022 16:50

The King of Bhutan regularly visits his people

The royals of Bhutan have an honourable legacy. Visiting their people is part of it.

Sep 25, 2022 16:35

Business

The enormous role of hydropower in Bhutan

Bhutan uses hydropower to conserve the environment, produce electricity, and achieve economic self-reliance.

Jan 25, 2022 11:43

Online businesses are becoming more and more popular in Bhutan

Even though the Internet was developed in the 1960s, the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan was only introduced to it in June 1999.

Jan 20, 2022 12:41

Sports

More Bhutanese youths are engaged in football

Sitting at the 186th position in the FIFA rankings, Bhutan looks to improve its rankings in the years to come.

Aug 03, 2022 20:19

BOB Bhutan Premier League is coming back soon with a bang

There’s an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation growing in the valleys of Bhutan as football fans in the country await what appears to...

Jul 24, 2022 14:47

Travel

What you need to know about birdwatching in Bhutan

The best seasons and locations for birdwatching in the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Sep 25, 2022 16:57

Bhutan revises its tourism policy to redefine High Value Low Volume tourism

Visitors to Bhutan will now have to pay more than triple the previous Sustainable Development Fees (SDF).

Jul 20, 2022 21:44

Lifestyle

Chillies, a spicy affair in Bhutan

The Bhutanese love it hot.

Jun 07, 2022 23:55

Bhutan is traditionally a matriarchal society

Women are the decision-makers at home, but something is keeping them from public life.

May 27, 2022 22:14

COVID-19

A detailed summary of Bhutan's COVID-19 management and plans moving forward

With offices and all businesses open, movement of vehicles allowed and critical services resumed from 21st March 2022, Bhutan braces for a...

Mar 22, 2022 11:23

Vaccinated tourists to undergo 5-day quarantine in Bhutan from April 25

What you need to know about entering Bhutan from April 25.

Mar 14, 2022 14:21

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!