The Parinirvana of Drupchen Namkha Gyaltsen

 

Drupchen Namkha Gyaltsen Rinpoché visiting with HE Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoché. Photo credit & copyright: Christophe Moulin 2007. Used with permission.

On the 21st day of the 12th lunar month, February 14th 2020 on the Western calendar, the greatly accomplished Yungdrung Bön yogi Drupchen Namkha Gyaltsen Rinpoché passed into nirvana at Pal Shenten Dargyé Tashi Ling Monastery in Nyarong. Drupchen Namkha Gyaltsen was a famous ascetic who lived many years in solitary retreat. On the day of his passing, auspicious signs manifested such as rainbows in the daytime sky. This news was kept secret until February 19th. And due to the current restrictions related to the prevention of spreading infectious disease, there was no traditional public gathering or presentation of offerings.

Drupchen Namkha Gyaltsen at Tsédruk Monastery. Photo credit: Unknown

Born in 1956, the accomplished dzogchen master Namkha Gyalstsen became a well-known yogi, or naljorpa, who was respected for his incredible strength and fortitude while enduring hardships. He continuously observed the vows to abstain from meat and from eating food later in the day. From the renowned Tsukpü Ösal he received the teachings and transmissions for the preliminary practices and the primary practices of meditation. He then stayed within his own hermitage at the Tsédruk monastery. His focus was mainly upon the external, internal and secret doors of Bön contained within Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen’s Five Treasuries including the practices of ngöndro, meditation, tsa lung, rushen, chulen, etc. Applying the key points of these practices, he had many experiences of accomplishment.

He continuously practiced difficult austerities. For example, he traveled to Mount Tisé (Mount Kailash) and Bönri and  performed 100 full-length prostrations during his circumambulations. Also, from 1986 until 2002, like a wounded deer, he stayed by himself in solitary retreat and completely focused his mind upon practice. He led meditation retreats for male and female yogis who showed signs of accomplishment including signs of heat. After 2002, he traveled to other remote retreat places including the hermitage of Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoché where he continued his meditation, study, and disciplined practices. The quality of his meditation and his ascetic practices become legendary.

Rainbow light appeared in the sky on the day of his passing. Photo credit: Unknown

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The Tibetan New Year: Removing Obstacles & Making Aspirations

Monk dancers at Tokden Monastery performing sacred dance during the gutor ritual in preparation for the Tibetan New Year. Photo credit: Unknown.

The Tibetan New Year, known as Losar, falls upon the 1st lunar day of the 1st lunar month each year. In 2020, this day coincides with February 24, 2020 on the Western calendar. In the weeks leading up to Losar both the monasteries and households are busy with preparations. It is customary to make many fried Tibetan cookies known as khapsé. These khapsé are offered to the shrine and also to guests during and after the Losar celebration. Wheat grass seeds are planted in small pots and the young green shoots are placed with the other offerings as a symbol of a good harvest in the coming year. Monasteries and nunneries prepare for the traditional sacred dances as well as the end-of-year prayers and rituals.

Ransom offering effigy. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

In the monasteries, the extensive ritual of the wrathful yidam Phurba known as the Tro Phur gutor chenmo begins the ceremonial conclusion of the previous year. This ritual lasts for three days and includes many sacred dances called cham as well as elaborate rituals for removing any obstacles or negativity from the previous year. This important gutor ritual begins on the 27th lunar day and concludes on the 29th lunar day of the 12th month. The monastic gutor ritual concludes in the evening of the 29th with the removal of the main prayer flag from the courtyard. In 2020, these days coincide with February 20th-22nd.

On the 29th lunar day, which is called nyi shu gu, all Tibetans clean their homes and clear their debts from the previous year. In 2020, this day coincides with February 22nd. That evening, a dokpa ritual of turning back negativity is performed in each household. The family shares a special stew of nine ingredients called gu thuk. Although there can be regional variations, according to HE Menri Pönlop Rinpoche, these nine ingredients are meat, wheat, barley, rice, cheese, corn, troma (a himalayan root vegetable), salt, and water. Cooked with the stew are balls of dough which contain items that are meant as a playful divination that reveals the character of the family members who receive them in their bowl of stew. Rather than the actual items, the name of the symbols can also be written on a small piece of paper and placed inside the balls of dough. There is some variation of the items used but for example, whoever receives cotton in their ball of dough will have good health all year. Whoever receives chili is said to be sharp-tongued, and whoever receives the white stone is said to be a good-hearted person, but the recipient of charcoal is a black-hearted person, etc.

Everyone saves a small amount of the last of their stew to be used as a ransom offering for the negative spirits of the previous year. This ritual payment settles any remaining karmic debts with negative spirits so that they become satisfied and go away happy. An effigy of a human is made and importantly must include representations of each of the five senses. Along with the leftover stew, each person also makes a karmic debt torma. This is a small ball of dough that has been rubbed over the body from head to toe in order to absorb any illness or negativity. Then, the ball of dough is squeezed inside the hand so that each of the fingers make an impression. This karmic debt torma is placed on the offering plate with the effigy along with a piece of hair and a string from the clothing of each family member. A small candle is placed on the plate in front of the effigy and it is lit before the ransom is carried out by one of the family members.  Once it has been left in an appropriate place, the person leaving it must not look back as they rush back home.

After the offerings have been collected and before the effigy is carried out, a prayer is recited to formally present the offerings to the spirits and request that in exchange for the ransom, they not create any trouble. The following prayer is from the dokpa ritual of the enlightened fierce deity Nampar Jompa.

The fierce enlightened deity Nampar Jompa.

“OM

Come here, all you spirits who have a commitment to the teachings of the Buddha!

Come all gods, humans and demi-gods, all spirits that cause harm or disease, all male and female demons. Without excluding anyone, all you spirits come!

Accept this ransom torma which repays my karmic debts. Do not cause harm to this family or community and don’t create any obstacles to our spiritual practice!

Now, each of you happily return to your homes and listen to the noble teachings of the Buddha.

If you don’t go but instead try to stay here, then I will manifest as the fierce Nampar Jompa and will rip apart your body, life-force and power with my mudra and weapon!

SO OM BA DZRA TRO TA SUM TRI GHA TSA YA GHA TSA YA 

NÖ JÉ JUNG PO A MU KHA RA YA HUNG PÉ

On the 30th, New Year’s Eve, the houses are decorated, the shrines are cleaned, and fresh offerings are placed on them. It is common for people to be up most of the night preparing for the next day. Even so, they rise early the next morning to perform the offering of purifying smoke and to make aspirations for the new year. The first spring water of the new year is considered very auspicious and it is common for people to go directly after midnight and try to be the first to collect water to offer on their shrine. Generally, on New Year’s Day everyone stays at home or only leaves home to go to the monastery in order to pray and make offerings.  However, on the 2nd and 3rd days of the new year, it is customary to spend the day visiting friends and extended family in order to strengthen the positive energy and harmonious bonds for the coming year.

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The Immeasurable Benefit of Raising Prayer Flags

Yungdrung Bön lungta prayer flags available for a limited time from Nine Ways. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

Lungta Prayer Flags Available from Nine Ways

In honor of the Tibetan New Year, Nine Ways is offering traditional Yungdrung Bön lungta prayer flags during the 1st lunar month. These prayer flags are available while supplies last for those within the continental United States. For a $20 donation, you will receive a set of 15 14″ x 11.5″ Yungdrung Bön prayer flags that have been specially designed to include two spaces that are designated to write the name of an individual onto each flag, personalizing the prayers. For example:

“May ____________________’s lifespan, vital life-force, health, personal power, lungta, and good fortune spread and develop!”  

You will also receive translation of the prayers and mantras on the flags. These prayer flags have already been consecrated and blessed. To order, email Raven Cypress Wood at RCW108@gmail.com with the number of prayer flag sets wanted, address etc. Donations can be made through Paypal to the same email, via GooglePay, or check. If the prayers for refuge, generating the mind of enlightenment, admission of wrongdoing and the dedication of merit are needed, please include that request in the email and the English language translation of these prayers will be included.

Each prayer flag has 2 places designated to include an individual’s name.

Prayer flags originated with the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition and the teachings of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché.  According to the eminent scholar Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoché, in ancient times the Bönpo would blow mantras and prayers onto strips of colored wool. These strips of wool were then draped over the branches of bushes and trees. This practice eventually evolved into the kind of prayer flags that we are familiar with today. According to the modern-day saint Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoché, the very best size for a prayer flag is five arm spans,  the next best is three arm spans, and other sizes are acceptable as long as they are larger than the palm of the hand. Writing the prayers and mantras in gold or silver is the very best, using cinnabar is next best and writing with ink mixed with various medicines and the six excellent ingredients, or other blessed substances is the minimum.

Before being raised, prayer flags must be consecrated and blessed. Then, in the early morning or at least before noon, one must perform the practices of going for refuge, generating the mind of enlightenment and admitting wrongdoing and receiving purification. Then, the flags are hung outside where they will be exposed to the wind.  Preferably, in a high and clean place where they can be left undisturbed. Afterwards, prayers of aspiration and dedicating the merit of the virtuous activity are performed.  When prayer flags are raised in this proper way, the benefit is unimaginable. Some of the best days for raising prayer flags are during the 1st month of the lunar New Year especially on the 3rd day, on the auspicious lunar days of full moon, new moon, 8th, or 22nd, on the anniversary of the birth or paranirvana of a buddha, or whenever the sacred teachings of Yungdrung Bön are being bestowed.

As for the extensive benefit of raising prayer flags, it is said if they are raised atop a high mountain, whoever eats food or drinks water from that mountain or whoever sees the flags with their eyes, they will attain buddhahood. If they are raised at a sacred place, that person will definitely be reborn into a buddha land. In general, prayer flags support the fulfillment of the wishes and intentions of this lifetime and the attainment of buddhahood in a future lifetime. Raising prayer flags purifies negative actions of body, speech and mind. Even the most vile of actions can be purified when prayer flags are established in the proper way and with sincerity. Additionally, they can remove obstacles for the recently deceased. According to Shardza Rinpoché:

“After someone has died during the 49 days of the intermediate state, if 49 prayer flags are established, the deceased will certainly not fall into lower rebirths.”

As for the power of raising prayer flags,

“Raising 1,008 prayer flags is better than a shen of magical power erecting a buddha statue made of gold.”

Also from Shardza Rinpoché:

“It is said that if prayer flags are raised at the riverbank of a large city, the sentient beings of that area will attain buddhahood. In those places, harm from epidemics and poison will never strike. If they are raised at the riverbank of a retreat place or gompa, the virtuous practice and vows of any spiritual friend or advisor of that place will be renewed.”

And from Drupthop Atang Tsazen Rinpoché:

“Having written these secret yungdrung mantra such as the mantras of the buddhas, the 100-syllable mantra, the three essence mantras, or the six syllables upon cotton or tree bark; when it is exposed to the wind whoever among sentient beings sees it with their eyes will obtain a state of happiness.”

A windhorse carrying a flaming jewel.

There are many kinds of prayers and mantras that are appropriate to be written on prayer flags, By far, the most common type of prayer flags are raised to increase lungta. Lungta is sometimes translated as the force of good luck. It is the force that has the ability to uplift the other individual forces of health, vitality, charisma, and the soul. When the lungta is weak however, the other individual forces will become diminished. Lungta [Tib. rlung rta] means “windhorse” and it is this image that is depicted at the very center of the prayer flag. This symbolizes the incredible speed with which prayer flags can raise the lungta. Each of the four corners display one of the four guardian animals of the four directions: a lion, tiger, garuda, and dragon. Most often, prayer flags are grouped together as a set of five with each flag being one of the colors of the five elements. The elements and their corresponding colors are: earth=yellow, water=blue, fire=red, air=green, and space=white.

Lungta-type flags are not raised for the deceased since their primary activity is to strengthen and protect the health, lifespan etc. However, when raising lungta prayer flags, the merit of that virtuous activity can be dedicated to those who are deceased along with all other sentient beings..

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Anniversary of the Human Birth of Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché

Lord Tonpa Shenrap Miwoche. Photo credit: Khedup Gyatso.

The 15th day of the 12th lunar month, February 9th, 2020 on the Western calendar is the 18,037th 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.

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.

“Namo!  You are the supreme teacher, one who has gone beyond bliss, an authentic and completely enlightened being, a manifested buddha and teacher, Tönpa Shenrap Miwo. 

You have the wisdom of omniscience and possess both great compassion and skillful means.  You are without emotional afflictions and have ceased all defilements.  You have power and clear self awareness.  A marvelous emanation, you have cleared all obstructions and destroyed the door to birth into cyclic existence.  

Your face is like the sun and moon, and you see throughout the ten directions.  100,000 light rays emanate from your divine body.  You are adorned with ornaments which are like rainbows and your divine body is so beautiful that one does not know how to look away. 

In your right hand, you hold a golden chakshing painted with a turquoise yungdrung which shows that you are lord of the 3,000-fold universe and conqueror of this world system.  Your left hand holds the mudra of equipoise which shows that you have destroyed the door to birth into the cyclic existence of lower rebirth. 

May the cycle of manifested teachings completely turn, I pray!  Please hold us within your compassion myself and all other sentient beings without exception! 

I feel remorse for everything immoral and improper that has been experienced because of the power of the afflictive emotions.  I feel regret!  

Through this open admission of wrongdoing, please agree to cleanse and purify me, I pray! 

Free me from the ocean of suffering and misery of cyclic existence, I pray! 

AH OM HUNG SÉ LA GYER RO HRUN PUNG YÉ SOHA”

— Extracted from Homage to the Enlightened State of the Omniscient Tûlku

Tibetan translation by Raven Cypress Wood

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The Twelve Animals of Tibetan Astrology: 2020 Year of the Metal Rat

According to Tibetan astrology, there is a repeating twelve-year cycle.  Each year 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 specific years, they are also associated with specific months, days and hours that attributed the characteristics of that particular animal.

Monday February 24, 2020 is the Tibetan New Year and begins the year of the Metal Rat.  Therefore, people born during this year would be a Metal Rat and would have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with the Rat.  (It is important to remember that this year corresponds with the Tibetan lunar calendar which begins somewhere between February and mid-March each year.) In both the Tibetan and Chinese languages, the words for ‘rat’ and ‘mouse’ are the same. Similarly, the words for ‘iron’ and ‘metal’ are the same. So, it could also be referred to as the year of the iron mouse. However, because of the inference of meaning in the English language for these terms compared with the specific characteristic qualities they are meant to convey, it will be referred to as the year of the metal rat in this article.

People born during a Rat year will have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with the symbol of the Rat.  According to Tibetan astrology, the element which governs the life-force of the Rat is Water and its positive direction is North.  So, if a Rat person wanted to strengthen their life-force, they would focus upon strengthening the element of Water internally and externally.  Because the positive direction is North, facing this direction while meditating, engaging in healing practices or just relaxing and taking deep breaths is beneficial.

In general, the Rat symbolizes prosperity because of their propensity to accumulate wealth and enjoy success. They can be generous with their wealth but they can also become overly attached to their luxury which can manifest as selfishness. The Rat is adaptable and flexible and can use most circumstances to their advantage. Because of this, they are successful with many of their objectives.

The Rat is colorful, charismatic and enjoys being around others. They can be generous and engaging, although these interactions can be motivated by a need to reinforce the ego and pride. Once they trust someone, they are sentimental and generous within the relationship and can be a trusted intimate. They appear smart and relaxed. However, when a Rat feels frustrated or betrayed it is important for them to rely upon their calm due to the possible reflex of aggression and revenge.

The Rat‘s soul day is Wednesday and its life-force day is Tuesday.  These are the best days for beginning new projects and activities that are meant to increase or develop something.  The obstacle day is Saturday.  This day is best for purification and letting things go.  It is not a favorable day for beginning new activities or risky activities.

Rat years include: 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, and 2020

If you were born during a previous year of the Rat, this year as well as other Rat years are considered a time of vulnerability to obstacles. This same astrological principal applies for all of the other eleven animal signs during their associated year. Therefore, it is recommended to engage in practices that support vitality, good fortune and spiritual merit such as hanging prayer flags, having a soul and life-force retrieval ritual performed, restoring any deterioration or violation of one’s spiritual commitments or any damaged relationship with one’s spiritual brothers and sisters, and/or performing prayers and rituals to remove obstacles. In general, making an effort to engage more with virtuous activities of body, speech and mind and committing to engage less with non-virtuous activities is supportive. According to the words of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché, the practice of developing sincere unbiased and unlimited compassion is the greatest of all protections.

A common prayer within the Yungdrung Bön tradition that is used to remove obstacles is the Bar Che Lam Sel, The Spontaneous Wish-fulfillment of Removing Obstacles from the Path. The English, Spanish and Portuguese translations of this prayer are offered free for personal use on the Nine Ways Publications page. Click on the Publications tab above and scroll down to the download links for the prayer.

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An Aspiration Prayer of Giving and Receiving: Gift Translation

The modern-day saint Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche depicted as both a yogi and a scholar.

As a gift to the world-wide Yungdrung Bön sangha in order to support their spiritual practice, Nine Ways is offering a free and publicly available download for the English translation of the prayer Tonglen Mönlam: Aspiration Prayer of Giving and Receiving written by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoché. The Tibetan word tonglen [Tib. gtong len] literally means to give and to receive. In general, this practice is used to develop an unbiased and unlimited quality of compassion.

The sutric practice of tonglen supports practitioners to develop the wisdom of equanimity and the quality of compassion towards all other sentient beings that are suffering and seeking happiness without restrictions towards those considered strangers or enemies. From that openness and having generated an authentic heart-felt compassion, the suffering of others is accepted through the inhalation of the breath. With the exhalation, whatever is needed or wanted for their happiness is sent to them. When beginning the practice, it can be supportive to begin with sentient beings for whom there is a natural openness and kindness and then to expand to those for whom there are neutral feelings and then to those for whom there are uncomfortable or negative feelings. This same perspective can be used for one’s own suffering and feelings of discomfort.

In this prayer, the realized saint Shardza Rinpoché begins by taking refuge in the three jewels and relying upon the truth of the teachings. He then prays to ripen both the suffering and the happiness of sentient beings. This line is further explained near the end of the prayer in the phrase “having liberated both happiness and suffering into the space of the primordially pure base…” These lines point out that the ultimate nature of both happiness and suffering is the same pure space from which everything arises and everything dissolves. Therefore, when breathing in the suffering of others, it is with this realization that the suffering liberates into the pure, primordial space of wisdom.

The translation if offered for free but is restricted to personal use only. The download link for the English translation of the prayer can be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1cTqrSneJpPCnsjxqOClkDU5euRfaxmHY/view?usp=sharing

For other free translations and publications of Yungdrung Bön texts, go to the Publications page of this website or click on this link: https://ravencypresswood.com/publications/

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Happy Zhang Zhung New Year!

Ceremonial dance during Himalayan Losar. Photo credit: Unknown

January 25th, 2020 is the 1st day of the 12th month according to the Tibetan lunar calendar. This was Losar, or New Year’s Day, for the ancient kingdom of Zhang Zhung that ruled over a vast area including Tibet.

Today is also known as Sonam Losar, Himalayan Losar, or Peasants Losar. It continues to be widely celebrated in Dolpo, Nepal as well as in select other regions of Tibet. Originally, it was celebrated as the beginning of the New Year throughout all of Tibet. However, the modern date that is celebrated by all Tibetans as the beginning of the new year is the 1st day of the 1st lunar month. This is the Royal New Year and in 2020 that date coincides with February 24th.

For those celebrating today as New Year’s Day it is the beginning of the male metal rat year.

The 1st king of the ancient land of Zhang Zhung, King Triwer Lajé.

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Removing Obstacles in Dolpo, Nepal

Muri Khenpo Nyima Künchap Rinpoche performs the Takla Mebar dokpa ritual in Dunai. Photo credit: Khenpo Nyima Künchap Rinpoche.

Recently, Muri Khenpo Nyima Künchap Rinpoche traveled to his Dolpo Bön School in Dunai Dolpo, Nepal. During his time there, he performed the Takla Mebar ritual for removing obstacles for the benefit of the local population.

Takla Mebar dokpa ritual in Dunai Dolpo, Nepal. Photo credit: Khenpo Nyima Künchap Rinpoche.

“From the syllable SO at the center of the golden locket at his heart, rays of light spin to the right. Radiating outwards throughout all phenomenal existence, they incinerate obstacles and enemies. Returning, the light is gathered together and becomes a wrathful fortress. 

He shouts the great sounds of certainty HA! and RAM! and the demons as well as those who have violated their vows fall down unconscious. He shouts with his thunderous, terrifying voice and binds into his service the gods and demons of the phenomenal universe.”

— Excerpt from The Concentrated Essence of the Red Razor

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Takla Mebar dokpa. Photo credit: Khenpo Nyima Künchap Rinpoche.

A New Abbot of Barlé Gompa

Khenpo Nyima Künchap Rinpoché receiving representations of enlightened body, speech and mind.

On the 13th lunar day of the 11th month, Western date January 8, 2020, Muri Geshe Nyima Künchap Rinpoché was enthroned as the new abbot, or khenpo, of Barlé Gompa, formally known as Barlé Yungdrung  Shuk Tsal Ling located in Barlé village Dolpo, Nepal. Both His Holiness 34th Menri Trizin Lungtok Dawa Dargyal Rinpoché and His Eminence Menri Ponlop Yangtön Thrinley Nyima Rinpoché requested of Geshe Nyima Künchap that he become the khenpo of Barlé Yungdrung Shuk Tsal Ling.

At the enthronement ceremony, Khenpo Nyima Künchap Rinpoché was presented with a mandala offering as well as representations of enlightened body, speech and mind. Many villagers attended the ceremony at Menri Monastery and offered Khenpo Rinpoché silk khatas. On this special occasion, an auspicious light snow began to fall over the monastery. This was the first snowfall in 23 years.

For more information about Barlé gompa, see previous post: https://ravencypresswood.com/2018/08/11/5053/

Khenpo Nyima Künchap Rinpoche with HE Menri Ponlop Rinpoche after his enthronement watching the auspicious snowfall at Menri Monastery.

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