[[Image:Bhutanese painted thanka of Guru Nyima Ozer, late 19th century, Do Khachu Gonpa, Chukka, Bhutan.jpg|thumb|200px|Bhutanese painted thangka of Tertön Padmasambhava, late 19th century, Do Khachu Gonpa, Mebisa, Bhutan)]
A tertön (Tibetan: གཏེར་སྟོན་, Wylie: gter ston) is a discoverer of ancient texts or "Terma". Many tertöns are considered incarnations of the 25 main disciples of Padmasambhava.
A vast system of transmission lineages developed. Nyingma scriptures were updated by Terma discoveries, and Terma teachings have guided many Buddhist and Bön practitioners.
According to generally accepted history, the rediscovering of Terma began with the first tertön, Sangye Lama (1000–1080).
Tertöns of outstanding importance were
- Padmasambhava (1124–1192),
- Guru Chowang (1212–1270),
- Rigdzin Gödem (1307–1408),
- Dorje Lingpa (1346-1405),
- Ratna Lingpa (1403–1478),
- Pema Lingpa (1450–1521),
- Migyur Dorje (1645–1667),
- and Jigme Lingpa (1729-1798),
- Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820–1892)
- and Orgyen Chokgyur Lingpa (1829–1870).
- The "seal" of all tertöns is said to have been Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892).
In one of his visions, he could clearly see all the Terma that were hidden throughout Tibet and other countries.
He was the only master in Tibetan history to have not only received, but also transmitted the "seven transmissions" (bka' babs bdun), that are the canonical teachings, treasures taken from the earth,
reconcealed treasures, mind treasures, recollections, pure visions, and aural transmissions received in visions. (Ricard, undated).
In the 8th century, Padmasambhava predicted that in the future hundreds of tertöns would spread his teachings.
Throughout the centuries many more people were known as tertön. Five of them were widely recognized as very important ones and called the "five tertön kings:"
- Nyangral Nyima Özer (1124-1192)
- Guru Chökyi Wangchuk (1212-1270)
- Dorje Lingpa (1346-1405)
- Pema Lingpa (1445/50-1521)
- Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892)
Another noteworthy tertön is Tsangpa Gyare, founder of the Drukpa Lineage (12th century).
Consorts, with whom they practice sexual yoga to accelerate and enhance their capacity for realization, are thought to be very important to tertöns. Fremantle (2001: p. 19) states that:
- One of the special requirements for the discovery of termas is the inspiration of the feminine principle, just as it was necessary for their concealment.
The great majority of tertöns have been men, and generally they are accompanied by their wives or female companions (who need not necessarily have a sexual relationship with them).
Alternatively, something representing the tertön's complementary energy, whether male or female, must be present.
Tertön (Wyl. gter ston) — a revealer of spiritual treasures (terma) hidden by Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyal for the benefit of future generations.
Starting with the first tertön, Sangyé Lama (1000–1080) and Drapa Ngönshé (1012–90), discoverer of the Four Medical Tantras, there have been hundreds of masters who specialized in the discovery of terma, continuing up until the present day with Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche and Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.
There are said to be one hundred great tertöns and one thousand minor ones, of whom five in particular are known as the ‘Five Sovereigns’:
Other famous terma masters were:
- the lady Jomo Menmo (1248–1283), the spiritual consort of Guru Chöwang;
- Orgyen Lingpa (1323–c.1360), discoverer of the biography of Guru Rinpoche, the Sheldrakma, and the Kathang De Nga;
- Rigdzin Gödem (1337–1403), discoverer of the Northern Treasures;
- Sangyé Lingpa (1340–1396), who revealed the Lama Gongdü cycle;
- Karma Lingpa (14th. century), the discoverer of the Shyitro Gongpa Rangdrol cycle, from which come the teachings on the ‘Six Bardos’ and the Bardo Thödrol Chenmo;
- Ratna Lingpa (1403–1478) who compiled the Nyingma Gyübum;
- Thangtong Gyalpo (1385–1510), the extraordinary mystic and engineer who lived to the age of one hundred and twenty five;
- Jatsön Nyingpo (1585–1656), who revealed the Könchok Chidü cycle;
- Lhatsün Namkha Jikmé (1597–c.1650), the discoverer of the Rigdzin Sokdrup teachings;
- the Great Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso (1617–1682), who received the twenty-five teachings known as Sangwa Gyachen in pure vision and his disciple and teacher Terdak Lingpa (1646-1714).