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Mystic Pema Lingpa: traveling in the footsteps of Bhutan's "Treasure Revealer"

Updated: Jan 14, 2020


A stone painting of a Buddhist Arhat or teacher ona stupa wall in Bhutan

A stone painting of a Buddhist Arhat or teacher ona stupa wall in Bhutan


Spiritual heir to Padma Sambhava, “Lotus Born Guru of the Himalayas”, Pema Lingpa was one of five sovereign Himalayan Tertons or Treasure Revealers (there were over a thousand minor tertons).

The impact of these spiritual masters reverberated across the pan-Himalayan region, including Bhutan, Tibet, Ladakh, Nepal, the former kingdom of Sikkim and, some believe, even Mongolia. Their specialty was unearthing ancient teachings from the landscape (including caves, lakes, cliffs and mountains) as well as their own “mindstreams” and those of their predecessors, often unlocking key texts written in undecipherable “fairy” or Dakini script.

Often, the task of bringing back the ancient “lost” teachings required equal parts contemplation, inspiration and daring as well as physical feats (as when Pema Lingpa entered the burning lake in the mountains of central Bhutan, butter lamps in hand, reclaiming sacred scriptures that inspire to this day). Our resident teacher and traveling companion Sarah Harding will help us navigate the series of mystic revelations and teachings that are his legacy as we traverse the landscape of his birth.

Our journey takes us along the same paths he walked, through hidden villages and into shrines that have not changed much since his lifetime in the 15th century. We stop at his home in Tamshing, catch a performance of one of his famed mask dance compositions, learn about his spiritual legacy from Sarah and Bhutanese lamas and perhaps, even, receive an audience with his current living incarnate.

Along the way we stop to admire the Himalayan scenery, poised lushly between the afterglow of spring and the summer rains soon-to-come. Our mornings and evenings will include meditation, teaching and discussions with Sarah, who is also the author of Creation and Completion: Essential Points of Tantric Meditation, available from Wisdom Publications.



Days 1&2: Arrive in Paro. Explore the many exquisite temples along the valley floor. Study and discussion~basic introduction to Pema Lingpa and his life. Days 3 & 4: Transfer to the capital and browse the markets. ~General introduction to reincarnation philosophy and the contemporary work and influence of secular and spiritual heirs of Pema Lingpa. Hike to the Tango Buddhist College or the Chari "Iron Mountain" Retreat. Days 5 & 6: Transfer to Wangdue valley with a stop at the Dochula Pass. ~An account and discussion of Princess Pemasal's dialogue with the Lotus Born Guru regarding the prophesies surrounding the birth of Pema Lingpa. Corollary discussion~the status of women in Vajrayana Buddhism. Explore Punakha Valley, including the Hall of 100 Pillars and the Yuelay Namgyal Pagoda. Day 7: Transfer to the Phobjikha Valley and Gangtey Monastery, home of the Gangtey Trulku Rimpoche, current living emanation of Pema Lingpa. Day 8: Walking tour of the Phobjikha Valley floor and a visit with monks at the monastery. Possible audience with Gangtey Rimpoche. Day 9: Transfer to Bumthang Valley. Day 10: Visit Tamshing monastery, birthplace of Pema Lingpa, with meditation and offerings. Day 11: Hike to the Burning Lake and Pema Ling nunnery.~Discussion on the conversations of the master Namkhai Nyingpo with the Princess Dorji Tso (described in the Life and Revelations of Pema Lingpa ). Day 12: Possible audience with the current incarnation of the Namkhai Nyingpo Rimpoche (depending on rimpoche's schedule) or a walking tour of the sacred Jambay Lhakhang and Kurjey Monastery. Day 13: Excursion to Ura or Shingkhar Valley, gateway to east Bhutan. ~Discussion on the impact of Guru Padmasambhava on the Himalayas. Day 14: Return transfer to Wangduephodrang. Day 15: Return transfer to the capital. Dinner reception with Bhutanese guests. Day 16: Free day to explore Thimphu and visit area monasteries. ~General introduction to the dialogue of Princess Trompa Gyen with the Guru. Day 17: Performance of Pema Lingpa's mask dance at the Royal Academy of Performing Arts. Day 18: Transfer to Paro Valley and hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery. Day 19: Return flight to Bangkok or another gateway city.