What did he think about the Aro gTér?

Chimme Rigdzin Rinpoche with Aro students

Chhime Rigdzin Rinpoche with Aro students Ralzhig Pema Legden and Ngakma Lé-kyi

People have conflicting opinions about what Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche thought of the Aro gTér. Many in the Aro sangha feel quite sure that he thought it was valid, based on what he told them. Others on the web say that they are confident he thought it was false, based on what he told them. (I have discussed those on the previous page.) Surprisingly, though, I have found no report of him making an unambiguous statement that he considered it either authentic or inauthentic. So what did he think?

Based on what I have written on the last few pages, I can see four possibilities.

  1. He thought that the Aro gTér was authentic. He led skeptics to believe he thought it was fake because he wanted to rile them up, or to test their understanding of dharma.
  2. He thought that the Aro gTér was not a genuine terma, but that it was harmless. He trusted Ngakpa Chögyam to teach general dharma accurately. Rinpoche did not think it was a big problem if he also taught this false “terma,” because it was at worst a waste of time. He encouraged Aro students to believe the Aro gTér was valid because he did not want to undermine their faith in Ngakpa Chögyam.
  3. He did not know whether the Aro gTér was authentic or not. The Aro gTér passes the duck test: it is consistent with Nyingma dharma. That makes it difficult to dismiss. On the other hand, it is unusual in many ways, which makes it difficult to accept uncritically. Rinpoche liked to inspire people to passionate positions, so he reinforced the enthusiasm of both believers and skeptics.
  4. He knew whether or not the Aro gTér was authentic, but he did not want to say so. To say “I know whether this terma is authentic” is equivalent to saying “I am a Buddha.” There are lamas who are willing to make that implication, but Rinpoche may not have wanted to. In fact, interestingly, I cannot find anyone who says that any lama has stated an unambiguous judgement of the Aro gTér. (The only exception is Ngakpa Chögyam’s account of Düdjom Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentsé Rinpoche.)

I cannot think of any evidence that would be a strong reason to believe in one of these possibilities over the others. It is simply impossible to know what Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche believed. Even if he were alive and we could ask him—he might well tell different people different things.