Himalayan Art Resources

Tradition: Terma, Revealed Treasure (Main Page)

Nyingma Main Page

Subjects & Topics:
- Terma, Revealed Treasure Explanation (below)
- Padmasambhava Main Page
- Rinchen Terdzo Master List
- Initiation Cards Sets Page
- Confusions
- Others...

Revealed Treasure (Terma) is a concept originating in Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhism with the Nyingma Tradition. It is a belief that Padmasambhava and a few of his principal disciples concealed both religious teachings and sacred objects throughout the Himalayas and Tibet to be discovered by future generations when necessary.

The iconography of the deity figures of Revealed Treasure can be divided into four categories:
[1] figures based on the Guhyagarbha Tantra model,
[2] figures based on the Eight Pronouncement Heruka deities,
[3] completely new deity figures most often based on the figure of Padmasambhava,
[4] figures based on deities of the Sarma traditions.

Jeff Watt [updated 6-2017]


"In the Nyingma Tradition, there is the lineage known as Terma (Treasure), which comes from the great Master of Uddiyana, Padmasambhava, who, after coming to Tibet, manifested all the many common and uncommon Dharma teachings for the King (Trisong Deutson) and his followers. They then gathered these together in order to protect and preserve the Dharma for the sentient beings of future degenerate times, and conceal them as mind and earth treasures. At appropriate times as a source of benefit and happiness for sentient beings and the Dharma.

There are also many renowned Lineages of Pure Visions and of 'Ear Whispered Transmissions' existing in both 'new' and 'old' Secret Tantras.

Some scholars have questioned the validity of these Holy Treasures, but they need to examine the purpose and necessity of Terma. That these Treasures are the authentic Dharma is established by the three standard criteria of logical argument. So please be careful, because criticizing the Dharma with anger is a grave fault and will only cause your defilements to increase, becoming thick and heavy.

The "One Hundred Thousand Verses of the Prajnaparamita Sutra" etc. were Treasures revealed by Nagarjuna. Furthermore, many great Saints discovered and revealed Treasures of Sacred Writings of the Secret Tantra from the Stupa of Dhumathala in Uddiyana. And so, even in the Noble Land of India, we find Treasure revelations (Terma) occurring. There are many logical arguments concerning this, but I shall not present them here."

(Excerpt from the Opening of the Dharma, A Brief Explanation of the Essence of the Limitless Vehicles of the Buddha. Written by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro. Translated by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Gyatso, Malaysia, October 1984).
The images below are selected examples representing each of the main subject categories that the Nyingma artworks have been divided into, accompanied by a written explanation.