Description and sketch of the Chenpo Terma (pre-earthquake)

What can I say.  This doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing, though in some cases that’s what we had to do to see our way around!  Imagine Tibetan buddhas and demons in the blank areas (and you’ll just have to imagine what my unskilled drawings of those would look like).   What I’ve drawn were the unusual parts,  unusual because they are so different than designs traditionally found in Tibetan holy sites.

The wall decorations, including the parts I sketched, were well preserved, and easy to see – except that our battery-powered light sources got low and we had to rely on torch-light until we were ready for our ascent.  The actual size of what you see in the drawing was maybe as high as a two-story building.  Big.  The lines of the center “starburst” were made up of mostly of red coral and turquoise.  Our Tibetan guide Chonyi described it as the “jewel.”  Because of the stone inlay design it did bear strong resemblance to the jewelry common to Tibet.   The white “wave” segments away from the center were apparently made of carved bone, probably yak bone.   And the gold dots you see were just that – dinner-plate-sized protrusions covered with precious metals.

The room where we found it was a sort of portrait hall with one prominent wall (featuring this design).  The other walls tapered steeply in an efficient and cautious geometry.  The ceiling, walls, and floor of the cave-like room were made of earth and covered with some kind of natural plaster.  Stones were embedded in the floor but their formations seemed random.  Hard to examine because cave debris had settled on it.  Apparently the ancient Naljorpa, or wizard, who protects the site from an external cave nearby, is not also a housekeeper.

An inscription, credited to Dolpopa Sheyrab Gyalten and in Tibetan, of course, read

“The ground of emptiness is naturally noncomposite radiant light”

Another inscription, outside the entrance to the hall, was a dedication.  It read

“Erected in 1633 by Taranatha’s volunteer army with the mission that the wisdom treasure [terma] inside be protected during hostile times ahead”

We were able to make rubbings of the inscriptions, but it will take some time to render them here.  I only hope the interior hall, which has never to my knowledge been photographed or preserved in any way, was not destroyed in the earthquake.

Continue reading

Recent events in Tibet that brought me to the Blogosphere

As you probably know, there was an earthquake in eastern Tibet on April 14.  I was there when it hit; north of the epicenter, at a site in Amdo (Qinghai Province).  The exact location of the site, referred to in some legends as the Chenpo Terma, had been a mystery to all but a handful of Tibetans for over 300 years.

I had been to the site only the day before with my travel partners.  The experience was transformative (more – much more – about that later).  No booby traps.  No skeletons.  Technical difficulties were all that vexed us, but that’s common in remote places like the Tibetan Plateau.  We planned to go back the next day better prepared, with our solar camera batteries fully charged, weather cooperating.

The quake hit early the next morning.  We were safe, thank goodness, having camped nearby but (for no particular reason) well away from rock formations that toppled or shifted during the quake.  From what we could tell when we returned to the site, the quake destroyed the only entrance, blocking us from going in again, and may well have destroyed its internal structure.

I have really done a lot of soul searching since then.  I already knew quite a bit about the Chenpo Terma’s history and meaning, but the time I had experiencing it first hand, and nailing down the first glimmer of a coherent physics since then, make me feel determined to not let superstition sway me.   The coincidence of the earthquake the day after our entering the Chenpo Terma was too much for many.  Those who allowed us to visit are questioning everything all over again.  Maybe I should have taken a hint.

There are those, some of whom I do not wish to upset and some I wouldn’t mind a bit upsetting, who take task with me trying to make this common knowledge.  I have come to terms with the fact that I may be betraying the “natural order of things.”  It comes down to the difference of my new view of the natural order of things since.

Continue reading