Terma (Wyl. gter ma) — spiritual treasures hidden by Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyal in the earth and in the minds of disciples to be revealed at the appropriate time by ‘treasure revealers’ or tertöns. Many of these ter were collected by Jamgön Kongtrul and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo into more than sixty volumes, the Rinchen Terdzö, or Treasury of Precious Termas.
Tulku Thondup writes:
- “In order to prevent the deep teachings and sacred objects of tantra from becoming mixed, diluted, or lost in the distant future, and in order to maintain their blessing powers afresh for future followers, Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyal concealed them. They are discovered at the appropriate time by realized masters through their enlightened power.”
Termas can be divided into
- earth termas (Tib. sa ter), which employ physical objects, and
- mind termas (Tib. gong ter), discovered within the mindstream of the tertön.
Sogyal Rinpoche writes:
- ‘Terchö’ literature can be in three parts: Lama, Dzogchen & Tukjé Chenpo (Tib. la dzog tuk sum), i.e. the peaceful and wrathful sadhanas on the Guru (Tib. Lama), teachings on Dzogchen and sadhana cycle on Avalokiteshvara (Tib. Tukjé Chenpo). Another division is into Kagyé, Gongdü and Phurba.
- Examples of gong ter are: the Seven Treasuries of Longchenpa, Mingyur Dorje’s Namchö, Jikme Lingpa’s Longchen Nyingtik and the termas of Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche.
- Examples of 'pure visions' are: Yuthok Yönten Gonpo’s Yuthok Nyingtik, Lhatsün Namkha Jikmé’s Rigdzin Sokdrup and the Great Fifth Dalai Lama’s Gyachen Nyer Nga.
- Andreas Doctor, Tibetan Treasure Literature: Revelation, Tradition and Accomplishment in Visionary Buddhism, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2005.
- Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, Boston: Wisdom, revised edition 2002.
- Janet B. Gyatso, 'Drawn from the Tibetan Treasury: The gTer ma Literature' in Cabezón and Jackson, ed., Tibetan Literature: Studies in Genre, Snow Lion, 1996.
- Tulku Thondup, Hidden Teachings of Tibet: An Explanation of the Terma Tradition of the Nyingma School of Buddhism, Boston: Wisdom, reprint edition 1997.
- Michael Aris, Hidden Treasures and Secret Lives, Motilal Banarsidass, 1988