My morning reading practice leads me to reflect upon terma, various forms of hidden teachings or “treasure texts” key to Vajrayana or Tibetan Buddhism. According to these traditions, certain forms of knowledge can be and have been hidden away by esoteric means. The idea, however, is that these occulted bodies of knowledge don’t simply disappear from history in any permanent sense. Think of them, rather, as texts temporarily buried from view, locked away in underground vaults or the depths of some sort of transhistorical collective unconscious, so as to be rediscovered at auspicious times by future generations of adepts known as “tertöns.” According to scholars, there are at least two kinds of terma: earth-treasures and mind-treasures. Earth-treasures manifest externally as texts, images, ritual instruments, and medicines, whereas mind-treasures appear (or “undergo deconcealment”) directly within the mind of the adept, as in mindstream transmission from a guru to a practitioner.
I panic, respond with a sense of claustrophobia to circumstance. How does one catalyze, how does one activate, live intentionally via will and wish? My Theravada Buddhist mentors suggest I think in terms of “dark night” and “spiritual abyss.” Is it foolishly egocentric of me to long instead for bliss and joy? Must we always obey the dictates of work and suffering? I wish to be outdoors sometimes, listening to the language of birds, dogs barking occasionally in the distance. Yet I also long for the company of Sarah. Train horns, police sirens, cellphone-chatting neighbors: no matter. Let us learn to live happily and helpfully toward others. Trust it, I tell myself. Trust the process. Trust whatever is happening — this haunting, this spell of fear. Let moments fall around us like rain.