In the Yungdrung Bön tradition, when someone dies and enters the forty-nine day period of the intermediate state between death and rebirth, there are many ways to offer support for the one who has died. One of these ways is the Mang Ja , or large tea ceremony. During the tea ceremony sponsored by the family of the deceased, each nun is given tea, a snack, and a small donation. Afterwards, everyone participates in offering prayers for the deceased in order to alleviate their suffering in the transition between death and rebirth, and to support their liberation from cyclic existence. Traditionally, a tea ceremony is sponsored each of the seven weeks of the intermediate state, or bardo. However, if this is not possible due to the financial circumstances of the family, a tea ceremony during the first and seventh week, or at least the seventh week is sponsored. Through the offering of this donation and sustenance to the ordained, merit is generated on behalf of the deceased. This merit, together with the prayers, acts as a positive support to alleviate suffering, support the circumstances for a positive rebirth, and ultimately, lead to complete liberation.
“Like the sun rising at dawn, through uncontrollable power, may the teachings of Yungdrung Bön spread!”
From A Storehouse of Treasure, The Main Practice of Blue Dzambhala
Translation: Raven Cypress Wood
The Eight Branches of Divine Bön are:
- The Branch of Prostrating
- The Branch of Making Offerings
- The Branch of Admitting Wrongdoing
- The Branch of Rejoicing
- The Branch of Requesting Enlightened Beings to Stay
- The Branch of Requesting Enlightened Beings to Turn the Wheel of Bön
- The Branch of Aspiration Prayers
- The Branch of Dedicating
The Branch of Prostrating is an antidote to pride.
“To the supreme speech of Tönpa Shenrap, which is ornamented with the magical letters,
To His scriptures that remain until the present day,
I prostrate with the devotion of my body, speech, and mind.”
The practice of offering prostrations is one of the foundational practices within the Yungdrung Bön tradition. As a method of purifying the mind-stream, the practitioner performs one hundred thousand prostrations as part of the nine preliminary practices. By properly performing the physical movement of the prostration, one engages the devotion of the door of the body. By reciting prayers of refuge while prostrating, one engages the devotion of the door of speech. By visualizing the field of refuge filling the entire space and also imagining that all sentient beings join together in prostrating, one engages the devotion of the door of the mind.
The Branch of Making Offerings is an antidote to greed.
“Having set out this ornament of unsurpassed offerings,
and magically emanated offerings that fill the entire sky,
I present these clouds of unsurpassed offerings to the Enlightened Ones of the three times.”
Within the Yungdrung Bön tradition, there are many different kinds of offerings. These include the daily five offerings of butter lamps, pure water, food, flowers, and incense. There is also the four daily offerings of generosity which are the offering of smoke of purification, the water offering, the burnt food offering, and the offering of the body. Among the foundational practices is the practice of the mandala offering. In this practice, one imagines offering the entire three-thousand-fold universe and all of its contents to the field of accumulation. See previous post regarding the Five External Daily Offerings: https://ravencypresswood.com/2017/01/14/the-five-daily-offerings/
The Branch of Admitting Wrongdoing is an antidote to hatred.
“With my body: the acts of murder, stealing, and sexual misconduct,
with my speech: speaking lies, slander, and divisive speech,
with my mind: ignorance, and wrong views, etc.,
whatever wrongdoing that I have committed due to the three poisons,
in the presence of the Enlightened Ones, the loving protectors,
without concealing anything, and with regret and sorrow,
I openly admit my wrongdoing.”
The practice of admitting wrongdoing depends upon four powers: the power of witness in the presence of the field of accumulation or other sacred objects, the power of openly admitting wrongdoing, the power of regret, and the power of purification. Through this practice, karmic negativities which obscure spiritual development and realization can be purified.
The Branch of Rejoicing is an antidote to jealousy.
“Whatever virtue that is performed by any migrating sentient beings in this world,
whatever merit is accumulated by any migrating beings,
I rejoice because of all of this merit.”
Rather than being jealous towards those who have greater circumstances for making offerings or donations, supporting lamas, attending retreats and empowerments, or performing other spiritual activity, the Yungdrung Bön practitioner rejoices in the good fortune and accumulation of merit of others.
The Branch of Requesting Enlightened Beings to Stay is an antidote to ignorance.
“From this time forward, as a result of accomplishment,
in order to completely destroy the doors of the three negative places of rebirth,
I pray to the Enlightened Ones to please not go beyond the places of the six destinies of migrating beings.”
By requesting the Enlightened Beings to stay and act for the benefit of sentient beings, rather than abiding in a state beyond cyclic existence, we activate their compassionate blessings.
The Branch of Requesting Enlightened Beings to Turn the Wheel of Bön is an antidote to wrong views.
“In order to empty cyclic existence of those who have been pulled into transmigration,
I request You to stay during this eon for the benefit of migrating beings,
and teach all the various scriptures of the Bön of truth,
the magical speech which opens the mouth which has been mute.”
The Branch of Aspiration Prayers is an antidote to doubt.
“From the three doors of my body, speech, and mind,
continually forsaking the ten non-virtues,
like an ever-flowing river, may I continually perform the ten virtues!”
There are many aspiration prayers, or mönlam, within the Yungdrung Bön scriptures. One of the well-known and often recited aspiration prayers is the Tséwang Mönlam. This profound prayer is recited during the forty-nine day period after death for those who have died, on auspicious days, during eclipses of the sun or moon etc. By following the link below, a pdf of the English translation of the prayer is offered free for the personal use of Yungdrung Bön practitioners. The download link is located under “Freely Offered Translations.” It is free for personal use, but no publication of any kind is allowed. https://ravencypresswood.com/publications/
The Branch of Dedication Prayers is an antidote to attachment.
“Whatever virtue has been accumulated through inviting the enlightened beings, prostrating, making offerings, admitting wrongdoing, requesting. and offering prayers of aspiration,
I share with all migrating beings.
Furthermore, in order to attain the unsurpassable result,
I dedicate it for the enlightenment of both myself and others.”
All quotations extracted from “The Small Sutra of the Eight Branches of Divine Bön” found within Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen’s A Tri Ka Lung Gyatso, Guidance of A, an Ocean of Scripture.
Tibetan translation Raven Cypress Wood©2018
Within the Yungdrung Bön tradition, the practice of the Bar Che Lam Sel, or Removing Obstacles from the Path, is a powerful method for removing any kind of obstacle being experienced by the practitioner. From the notation within the text,
“By reciting this “Spontaneous Wish-fulfillment of Removing Obstacles from the Path” a single time, obstacles of an entire year are pacified. By reciting it one hundred times, obstacles of one lifetime are pacified.”
One does not need transmission or instruction in order to recite this prayer. However, if the practitioner is able to receive the oral transmission from a qualified Yungdrung Bön lama, the benefit of the prayer is greatly multiplied. Making a commitment to recite the prayer before a sacred image or shrine, and then fulfilling that commitment, increases the power of the practice by virtue of having fulfilled a sacred commitment. The prayer can be recited at any time, but especially during any experience of problems or obstacles, when starting a business or important endeavor, and during an astrologically calculated “obstacle year” which, according to Tibetan astrology, occurs during the ages of 1, 9, 13, 25, 37, 49, 61, 73 and 81. The prayer can also be taken as a daily practice, or recited for the benefit of others and dedicated to their release from obstacles.
This translation is offered to all Yungdrung Bön practitioners for their personal use. A link to download the pdf can be found at the end of this article. May we all be free from obstacles and have positive circumstances that support our continual spiritual practice and development!
The Google Doc link below will provide access to download the pdf of the translation.
Within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition, the powerful wealth deities act to protect and increase the success, wealth, merit, health, and positive circumstances of Yungdrung Bön practitioners. Kubera, also known as Blue Dzambhala or Dzam Ngön, is one of these wealth deities. Along with propitiation and mantra recitation, Kubera is offered sang, smoke purification and offering, in the morning, and torma in the evening.
“In the midst of a mound of many kinds of wish-fulfilling jewels, and seated upon a magically emanated turquoise-colored horse, is the miraculously born Kubera. His body is a brilliant, dark-blue color. He wears a helmet of crystal upon his head, and a coat of armor upon his body. In his right hand, he lifts a golden sword that rains down precious things, and clears away obstacles for Bön practitioners. In his left hand, he holds a mongoose. From the mouth of the mongoose, precious jewels overflow and come forth. Without exception, he clears away the suffering and misery of poverty for all sentient beings. Above his right and left shoulders, two iron hawks soar and circle overhead. Two tigers leap in front of him, and behind, two lions run. His inner retinue consists of one hundred-thousand deities who resemble him, and his outer retinue consists of millions of deities who surround him.”
~From A Storehouse of Treasure, the Main Practice of Blue Dzambhala
According to the Yungdrung Bön religious calendar, the lunar dates each month that are specified for Kubera propitiation and practice are: 4, 8, 11, 13, 15,17, 27, and 30.
Tibetan translation by Raven Cypress Wood ©2015 All Rights Reserved
In order to give the example of how to practice, Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché retreated to the isolated Nine-leveled Yungdrung Mountain deep in the forest. His disciples followed him to the mountain and naturally formed two groups of practitioners. The first group was further divided into two groups led by Tsünpa Khyappa and the Buddha’s son, Tobu Bumsang. To these two groups, Lord Shenrap taught the highest view of the single sphere, dzogchen. This is like the sun that dawns and immediately dispels the darkness. Therefore, this is known as a direct path to realization.
The second group of practitioners were led by his eldest daughter, Shensa Nechen. To these practitioners, he taught the wisdom of awareness and the purification of obscurations. This is like the moon that increases by stages until it is fully illuminated. Therefore, this is known as a gradual path to realization.
Lord Shenrap gave instructions for these disciples to remain in solitude and practice in an undistracted and hidden way, like a wounded deer. In this way, the Enlightened Lord and his disciples remained in solitude on the Nine-leveled Yungdrung Mountain for many years.
Raven Cypress Wood©
Each year in the weeks after the Tibetan New year, students at Menri Monastery in India, enter into an extended retreat for the wisdom deity Mawé Senge, Lion of Exposition. The retreat begins on the 24th lunar day of the month and concludes on the 30th lunar day. This year that coincides with the Western dates March 10 through March 17, 2018. The intention of this retreat is to develop and sharpen the student’s intellect related to their upcoming studies. The practice of Mawé Senge is performed intensely each day, and the mantra of the deity recited as much as possible, but at least one hundred thousand times.
“I go for refuge to the wisdom deity for the intellect.
I generate the supreme mind for the benefit of vigorous training in the highest wisdom.
Having compassionately purified all karmic obscurations without any exception,
please bestow the attainments of an increased intellect, useful knowledge, and a divine voice.”
From The Short Practice of Mawé Senge
Tibetan translation: Raven Cypress Wood
The 5th day of the 1st month of the Tibetan calendar is the celebration of the birth and cremation of Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen. In the Western calendar year of 2018, that date falls on February 20th. Within the Yungdrung Bön tradition, Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen is often referred to as the Second Buddha. He was responsible for uniting the three transmissions of sutra, tantra and dzogchen as well as founding one of the largest Yungdrung Bön monasteries in Tibet, Tashi Menri Ling.
“King of great bliss, embodiment of Küntu Zhangpo and Gyalwa Düpa,
You are like the wisdom deity, Mawé Sengé, never forgetting what you have perceived.
You are the unequaled crown ornament of the Bönpo world.
At the feet of Sherap Gyaltsen, I pray.”
See previous post for more information about Naymme Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoche: https://ravencypresswood.com/2016/02/13/celebration-of-the-second-buddha-nyamme-sherap-gyaltsen-2/
In Tibetan astrology, there is a twelve-year cycle. Each of these years is characterized by a different animal and associated with one of the five elements. Therefore, a full cycle of the twelve animals being associated with each of the five elements is sixty years. The twelve animals according to the Yungdrung Bön texts are the Rat, Elephant, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Horse, Snake, Sheep, Garuda, Monkey, Dog and Pig. Each animal is associated with a specific element for its life-force as well as a specific direction which is determined by the life-force element. Not only are these twelve animals associated with a particular year, they are also associated with particular months, days and hours.
Feb 16, 2018 begins the Tibetan New Year, or Losar, and the year of the Earth Dog. People born during a Dog year will have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with the symbol of the Dog. (These years correspond with the Tibetan lunar calendar and begin sometime between late January and early April.) In astrology, the element which governs the life-force of the Dog is Earth and its positive direction is Northwest. So, if a Dog person wanted to strengthen their life-force, they would focus upon strengthening the element of Earth internally and externally. Because the positive direction is Northwest, facing this direction while meditating, engaging in healing practices or just relaxing and taking deep breaths is beneficial.
In general as an astrological symbol, the Dog person is loyal, straightforward, and honest. Because of their desire to offer their help and support, they are diligent and responsible with tasks. The Dog person takes great care in all that they do and is methodical and precise. Because of this, they do not like to be rushed in completing tasks or making decisions. Others can become frustrated at the Dog person’s seeming inertia when actually they are diligently analyzing the situation in order to be certain in making the correct decision. This tendency towards analysis and judgement can be in excess and lead the Dog person to overly analyze situations and consequently fall into despair or pessimism. For this reason, the Dog person can be seen as quite serious. However, they do not take their loved ones for granted and their relationships are long-lasting.
The Dog’s soul day is Monday and its life-force day is Wednesday. These are the best days for beginning new projects and activities that are meant to increase or develop something. The obstacle day is Thursday. This day is best for purification and letting things go. It is not a favorable day for beginning new activities.
Dog years include: 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, and 2018
Raven Cypress Wood© All Rights Reserved
“So that I, and all other sentient beings without exception, may purify obscurations, perfect the accumulations, and look upon the divine face of the deity, I present this victory banner of butter lamps to the assembly of external and internal peaceful and wrathful deities who have gone beyond bliss.
Performing mainly for our kind mothers and fathers, who are the sentient beings within the three realms of cyclic existence, and with compassion for those in the realm of the bardo, having purified all negative actions, karmic potentialities and defilements, may they be liberated from the places within the six realms of cyclic existence! May they reach the Five Families of Those who have gone beyond bliss!”
From Raising a Victory Banner of Butter Lamps found within The Tantra of the Assembly of Peaceful and Wrathful Deities.
Tibetan translation by Raven Cypress Wood ©2017
The 15th day of the 12th lunar month, January 31, 2018 in the Western calendar, is the 18,035th birth anniversary of the founder of the Yungdrung Bön tradition, the Enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwo Künlé Nampar Gyalwa. Already an enlightened being, Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche chose to be born into this world in order to guide beings from suffering to liberation. He was born into the royal Mu lineage in the kingdom of Tazig Olmo Lungring.
“Because of teaching everything within phenomenal existence as well as primordial existence, He is Tönpa, the teacher. Because his mind spreads out from within the space of absolute reality, He is Shen,wise. Because of arising as the highest from among the Victors and the Victors’ children, He is the rap, the highest. Because of teaching human beings, His body color and hand attributes are Mi, human. Because the 84,000 doors of Bön fall like a rain shower of teachings, He is wo, lord. Because of arising as the protector of everyone, He is Kün, all. Because of great recitation within the unsurpassed view, He is lé, within. Because of abiding within purely non-conceptual space, He is Nam, complete. Because of remaining unmoved from within that state of non-conceptual space, He is par. Because of conquering hindrances such as wrong views and demons, He is Gyal, victorious. Because of the changeless nature of these exalted qualities, He is called the omniscient, completely pure, supreme teacher, Tönpa Shenrap Miwo Künlé Nampar Gyalwa. Thus it is said.”
~From The Sky-Ladder of Freedom: An Abridged Commentary Regarding the Meaning of the Words of the Mantric Praise of Jamma, the Deity Who Protects from All Things
Traditionally, the anniversary of his birth has been celebrated on the 15th day of the 1st month of the lunar calendar. However, based upon research by the renowned Yungdrung Bön scholar and supreme lama, His Eminence Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche, the actual date is believed to be the Full Moon day of the last month in the Tibetan lunar calendar. This is a powerful and auspicious day for performing virtue or spiritual practice. The benefits of these activities are greatly multiplied.
“He is the Supreme Teacher, One who has gone beyond bliss, an authentic and completely Enlightened Being, a manifested Buddha, Tönpa Shenrap Miwo. His face is like the sun and moon and he sees throughout the ten directions. His divine Body is so beautiful that one cannot look away. In his right hand, he holds a golden chakshing painted with a turquoise yungdrung which shows that he is Lord of the 3,000-fold universe and Conqueror of this world system. His left hand holds the mudra of equipoise which shows that he has destroyed the door to birth into the lower realms of cyclic existence.”
~From the sacred Yungdrung Bön scriptures
Read more about Buddha Tōnpa Shenrap Miwoche’s birth at the previous post: https://ravencypresswood.com/2013/09/19/buddha-tonpa-shenraps-1st-deed-birth/
All translations from the Tibetan by Raven Cypress Wood© All Rights Reserved
SO DRUM AH KAR MU LA TING NAM Ö DU MU YÉ TSÉ NI DZA
~Essence mantra of the deity of longevity, Lama Tséwang Rikdzin
In the Yungdrung Bön tradition, the longevity practice of Lama Tséwang Rikdzin is foremost among the many longevity practices within the religious tradition. Indestructible: The Longevity Practice of Lama Tséwang Rikdzin by Raven Cypress Wood contains the English translation of the longevity practice of Lama Tséwang Rikdzin from the Tséwang Jarima Chok Dü scripture. From the foreword written by Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche:
“The wisdom of Tséwang Rikdzin and the practices associated with this teaching can help us retrieve, extend, and enhance our life force: healing environmental, physical, emotional, and energetic imbalances in our lives. Strengthening and extending our lifespan provides more time for our spiritual development and for serving and benefiting other sentient beings.”
Lama Tséwang Rikdzin is the embodiment of the Five Buddha Families and can therefore bestow any quality or wisdom that is needed. In this particular practice, the attainment of longevity, physical health, vitality, and a complete and healthy soul are emphasized.
“Lama Tséwang Rikdzin is a tülku whose heart emanations are sent forth throughout the ten directions. He has power over longevity and protects the lifespan and prosperity of all practitioners.”
Excerpt from ‘Indestructible: The Longevity Practice of Lama Tséwang Rikdzin”
This book is suitable for both those familiar and those unfamiliar with the practice. It includes information regarding the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition, Lama Tséwang Rikdzin, and the root text which contains the longevity practice. The book is available as a hardback edition with color images and text, or a black and white paperback edition. It can purchased through the Sacred Sky Press online store at: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/SacredSky
“We pray for the mending of all of our lifespan that has been torn.
We pray to be reunited with all of our lifespan that has been separated from us.
We pray for all of our lifespan that has been dispersed to be gathered back together.
May our prosperity and our lifespan be deathless and indestructible!”
Excerpt from ‘Indestructible: The Longevity Practice of Lama Tséwang Rikdzin”
The Thirteen Bön Activities:
- Writing the syllables
- Reading sacred books
- Reciting the scriptures
- Turning the wheel of Bön
- Presenting offerings and prostrations
- Stopping ordinary speech and maintaining silence
- Reflecting upon the meaning of the words
- Listening to the sacred teachings for one’s self
- Teaching the sacred teachings for others
- Meditating upon the actual meaning
- Practicing towards a goal
- Exerting one’s self in performing virtuous activity
- Exerting one’s self with the causes to obtain a precious human body
Engaging with these activities is a practice of the two accumulations of merit and wisdom.