Rites of Wisdom and Protection

The enlightened protector Walchen Gekhö

On the Tibetan lunar calendar, the 23rd-29th of the 8th month is designated as the time for the intensive retreat and practice of the deity Gekhö at Menri Monastery. In 2019, these lunar dates coincide with October 21st-27th on the Western calendar.

The deity Gekhö is closely associated with Mt. Tisé (A.k.a Mt. Kailash) and the ancient land of Zhang Zhung. Among the 360 emanations of this deity is the protector associated with the Aural Transmission of Zhang Zhung, Zhang Zhung Meri. This enlightened deity has both a tantric and a dzogchen empowerment. He is the primary yidam of the Yangtön lineage of lamas which includes the current Menri Pönlop Yangtön Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche.

The enlightened protector Zhang Zhung Meri

“Through the truth of pacification and through these forceful wrathful means, those who are untamed will be tamed. 

Just like adding firewood to a fire, through the afflictions themselves the afflictions are subdued and the demon of mistaken conceptuality is dispelled.”

—Extract from Practice of the Essence of the Fierce Champion Zhang Zhung Meri

All translations and content by Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved. No content, in part or in whole, is allowed to be used without direct permission from the author.

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Clearing Away the Darkness

Butter lamp offering. Photo credit: Unknown

“EMAHO!

Throughout the ten directions of the immeasurable three thousand-fold universe are many kinds of goddesses including the butter lamp offering goddesses.

Within these small, circular containers is placed a wick of twisted gauze.

They are filled with clarified, melted butter which is a divine, concentrated essence.

By lighting these bright offering lamps, the fire of the lamps clears away darkness and obscurations and radiates throughout the vast, clear space of the sky.

I offer this fire which has manifested from the vast space of wisdom to the dimension of the divine assembly of peaceful deities.

And may this offering fulfill my sacred vows with the divine assembly of wrathful deities.

Please accept this enjoyable offering!”

— Extract from Raising a Victory Banner of Butter Lamps

All translations and content by Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved. No content, in part or in whole, is allowed to be used without direct permission from the author.

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Offering Everything that is Good

Women of Lubrak, Mustang symbolically offering the entire internal and external universe to the places of refuge. Photo credit: Unknown.

“EMAHO!

To the great, unmatched lama possessing characteristics,

I present unequaled external, internal, and secret offerings.

Externally, I offer the environment and the beings within it.

Furthermore, I offer my own body and its vitality as an ornament.

I present these offerings with non-attachment.

Internally, I offer the arising of my mental and physical aggregates.

I offer my accumulated realization that whatever arises as subject and object is illusory.

Furthermore, I present these offerings within the vast space of self-liberation.

Secretly, I offer the natural radiance of my unborn mind, which is

unceasing and understands whatever arises as enlightened manifestation and wisdom.

Furthermore, I present these offerings within a completely vast and all-pervasive space.”

— Extract from Offerings for the Lama

All translations and content by Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved. No content, in part or in whole, is allowed to be used without direct permission from the author.

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Homage to the Spiritual Master

Monks at Menri Monastery welcome HH 34th Menri Trizin Rinpoche upon his return to the monastery. Photo credit: Unknown.

“Above the crown of my head upon a throne of a lotus, sun and moon is the essence of all victorious ones, my kind lama.

I pray to those who have the ability to lead beings out of cyclic existence. Grant your blessings so that I may effortlessly accomplish benefit to self and others!”

— Extract from Tsa Lung Sol Dep, Supplication Prayer for the Practice of the Channels and Winds written by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche

All translations and content by Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved. No content, in part or in whole, is allowed to be used without direct permission from the author.

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Anniversary of the Parinirvana of HH 33rd Menri Trizin Rinpoche

Memorial Chorten at Menri Monastery for His Holiness 33rd Menri Trizin Lungtok Tenpe Nyima Rinpoche. Photo credit: Unknown

On the 24th day of the 7th lunar month in the Western year 2017, His Holiness 33rd Menri Trizin Lungtok Tenpé Nyima Rinpoche displayed his realization by passing into nirvana from his physical body. On the Western calendar of 2019, this date coincides with September 23rd. On this day, Yungdrung Bön religious centers worldwide will recognize this auspicious day with special prayers and ritual.

Golden statue of HH 33rd Menri Trizin Rinpoche in his home village.

Supplication Prayer to H.H. 33rd Menri Trizin

“The omniscient wisdom of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions is condensed into a single essence in you, Highest One.

You carry out the enlightened activities of spreading the vast and profound teachings of Tönpa Shenrap.

To you, Lungtok Tenpé Nyima, I supplicate and pray.”

“EMAHO!

To the lama who is the embodiment of all of the Victors and spiritual masters,

who acts principally through the accomplishment of Bön for sentient beings who are as limitless as the sky,

I offer prostrations with my body, prostrating with my arms, legs and head!

I prostrate with my speech, chanting with a joyous and inspired melody!

I prostrate with my mind, prostrating with single-pointed motivation and devotion!

May the negative actions and defilements of my three doors become purified!”

— Extract from Offerings for the Lama

All translations and content by Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved. No content, in part or in whole, is allowed to be used without direct permission from the author.

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Iconography: Animals Under a Throne

Sherap Jamma with lions underneath her seat as painted by Lama Kalsang Nyima. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

Iconography is the use of images and symbols to convey meaning or concepts especially in a spiritual context. The iconography within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition is detailed within many volumes of scriptures. Symbolic meanings are specific and often complex depending upon the context. Meaning is attributed to includes composition, proportions, color, hand objects, clothing, ornamentation, etc.  Sometimes, a few of these details are left to the interpretation of the artist but they are most often prescribed within the sacred text.

Elephant throne

A throne depicting elephants under the main figure

The Tibetan thangkha is a painting on canvas that is framed in brocade and has dowels at the top and bottom to enable the painting to be hung and also rolled like a scroll.  These paintings are rolled from the bottom towards the top.  There are often ties at the top that are used to fasten the rolled painting and allow it to be easily carried.

Horse throne

A throne depicting horses under the main figure

An example of the use of iconography within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition is demonstrated by the images of animals depicted underneath the throne of enlightened deities. This position symbolizes that the deity tames or transforms the quality associated with the animal. According the oral teachings of the preeminent scholar and spiritual master His Eminence Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche, the five common animals depicted in this way symbolize the following:  the lion symbolizes anger, the elephant symbolized ignorance, the garuda symbolizes desire, the horse symbolizes jealousy, and the dragon symbolizes pride.

Garuda throne

A throne depicting garudas under the main figure

For example, although the buddha Sherap Jamma has all of the perfected qualities, emphasis is placed on her teaching sentient beings to transform anger and hatred into love and kindness.  This is symbolized by lions being depicted on the throne underneath her as she sits peacefully.

Throne with all 5 animals

A throne depicting each of the five animals.All translations and content by Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved. No content, in part or in whole, is allowed to be used without direct permission from the author.

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The Mind of the Lama

HE Menri Ponlop Yangton Trinley Nyima Rinpoche helps a student during an exam at Menri Monastery. Photo credit: Unknown.

“EMAHO!

Enlightened Ones of the ten directions who appeared in the past,

Enlightened Ones of the ten directions who appear in the present,

Enlightened Ones of the ten directions who will appear in the future,

the Mind of the lama is the embodiment of all these Enlightened Ones of the three times.”

— Extract from The Spontaneous Wish-Fulfillment of Removing Obstacles from the Path

For more about this important Yungdrung Bön prayer, see https://ravencypresswood.com/publications/

All translations and content by Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved. No content, in part or in whole, is allowed to be used without direct permission from the author.

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May We Be Protected from External, Internal & Secret Obstacles!

The protector temple at Tashi Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India. Photo credit: Unknown

Within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition, Sipé Gyalmo, The Queen of Phenomenal Existence, is an enlightened being that principally acts to guard and protect the tradition and its followers. Being an enlightened being, her wisdom and compassion are without either limitation or bias. As a protector, she appears wrathful and fierce in order to show her power and fearlessness in conquering any obstacle or perceived enemy. These include external obstacles such as danger from external forces including natural disasters, internal obstacles such as illness, and secret obstacles such as anger and greed. Ultimately, she aids the practitioner in conquering the most secret obstacle which is ignorance of the true nature of the mind.

Each month of the lunar calendar there is a day designated especially for the practice of Sipé Gyalmo who appears riding a red mule. During the 7th lunar month of each year, it is the 4th day. During 2019, this date coincides with September 3rd.

Sipé Gyalmo, the Queen of Phenomenal Existence, who rides a red mule. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

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Daily Practices: The Cleansing Water Rite

H.E. Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche offers cleansing water to a monk at Triten Norbutse Monastery in Nepal. Photo credit: Samaya Producciones.

Within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition, there are many rituals to imbue water with the power to wash away contaminations and defilements. Because they pollute our individual forces of good luck, vitality, power, etc., they can attract negative circumstances or illness, they can decrease our longevity and increase circumstances of disharmony and conflict. Contaminations and defilements are created through many kinds of behavior and environmental factors such as breaking one’s vows or encouraging others to break their vows, interfering with the spiritual practice or virtuous activity of others, negative astrological constellations, etc. Therefore, each morning upon rising, it is traditional for monks, nuns, genyen, and even ordinary practitioners to perform a cleansing water rite. When the rite is performed by a lama for others, the water is poured onto the crown of the head and then a small amount of the water is given to drink. Having done so, the practitioner imagines that even the most subtle obscurations, contaminations and defilements are completely washed away.

“Anyone affected by contaminated energy, latent karmic potentialities, misfortune or defilements, having recited the mantra into clean water and ritually washed, even karmic defilements will be purified.”  

—From Benefits of the Recitation Practice of the Precious Lamp (The MA TRI Mantra)

The MA TRI mantra on a cliff face in Tibet. Photo credit: Unknown.

“Having washed with this water, I clearly imagine that any remaining contamination is washed away because of this medicine.

Without exception, any migrating being will be released from all suffering and misery, and illness and injury will be pacified. 

Obstacles along with their causes will be overcome. Both the lifespan and virtuous merit will increase. 

Glory and fame will spread, and the ripening of karma will be purified.”

—From The Cleansing-Rite Mantra of Nampar Jompa

“If you recite the mantra to good quality water mixed with powdered, medicinal incense and then cleanse with that water, all illness and sickness caused by negative forces will be pacified and all defilements and contaminations will be purified.”

—From The Heartdrop of Jamma

(For more information about The Heartdrop of Jamma and its translation, see previous post: https://ravencypresswood.com/2019/07/20/the-practice-of-jamma-chenmo-the-great-loving-mother-2/

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Compassionate Refuge and Protection

The Great Lama Drenpa Namkha.

The 10th lunar day of each month is the time to practice Drenpa Namkha and his two sons, Tséwang Rikdzin and Pema Tongdrol according to the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition. August 10th 2019 is the 10th day of the 6th lunar month. Drenpa Namkha was an historical figure who realized complete liberation and is revered as both a great lama and also a yidam, or meditational deity.

“EMAHO! 

May the collective, compassionate blessings of the Victorious Ones of the 10 directions come for the welfare of sentient beings in this world. 

I pray for uninterrupted blessings from the subduer of demons, Drenpa Namkha.

Now, during this negative time, the forces of good are lost and the forces of evil rule the land. 

You are surrounded by the gods and goddesses of the earth and their retinues. 

I pray to the Great Lama and his two sons, to the subduer of demons, Drenpa Namkha,

may the forces of good have power to act in this world!

My present and future refuge and protector, bless me to accomplish all of my intentions!”

— Extract from the Fourteen Verse Supplication to the Subduer, Drenpa Namkha

All translations and content by Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved. No content, in part or in whole, is allowed to be used without direct permission from the author.

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The Monastery of Blissful Meditation: Déden Samten Ling

Samling Temple complex. Photo credit: Unknown

The high altitude temple of Déden Samten Ling, or simply Samling, has been significant in the preservation of the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition.  The main temple was established more than 900 years ago by Yangtön Gyaltsen Rinchen in a remote and mountainous region of Dolpo, Nepal near the Tibetan border.  Since that time, this monastery, as well as others in Dolpo, has been maintained by a hereditary line of lamas within the Yangtön family. (For more information about the prestigious Yangtön family lineage, see previous post: https://ravencypresswood.com/2017/05/27/yangton-sherap-gyaltsen/)

map of dolpo copy

According to a text of the Yangton family lineage, some time during the 13th century Yangtön Gyaltsen Rinchen was staying near Mt. Tisé in Western Tibet (a.k.a. MT. Kailash) when he was visited in a dream by the Bönpo sage and great lama Drenpa Namkha.   The Yangtön lama was instructed to travel to Dolpo and build a temple.  Traveled the distance to Dolpo and having searched throughout its rugged terrain, Yangtön Gyaltsen Rinchen had a series of auspicious dreams while staying in the area of Bijer that convinced him that he had finally found the proper place to construct a Yungdrung Bön temple.

Chortens of Samling. Photo credit: Unknown.

Yangtön Gyaltsen Rinchen was the first of many Yangtön lamas at Samling who collected and preserved sacred texts.  Because of this, many volumes of texts have been throughout the course of many centuries. It was during a trip to Samling Monastery in 1961 that Dr. David Snellgrove discovered a copy of the Zi Ji, a hagiography of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap. He subsequently wrote and published one of the first English language translations of a Yungdrung Bön text, The Nine Ways of Bön.  The Zi Ji text that he consulted for his translation was estimated to be approximately 400 years old.

Left: H.E. Menri Ponlop Yangtön Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche, Center: H.H. 33rd Menri Trizin Rinpoche, Right: Yangtön Lama Sherap Tenzin Rinpoche. Photo credit: Unknown.

Currently, Lama Sherap Tenzin Rinpoche is the head of the monastery.  He was born in 1953 and has received extensive religious training and has been trained in the science of Tibetan medicine.

In the Language of Zhang Zhung: Gyer


The ancient land of Zhang Zhung had a written language with multiple scripts and practiced the Yungdrung Bön teachings.  Many Yungdrung Bön texts were originally written in the Zhang Zhung language and later translated into Tibetan, Sanskrit, Chinese, etc. as the teachings dispersed to other countries due to political circumstances. Each Zhang Zhung king had a personal Yungdrung Bön lama that would perform the necessary prayers and rituals as well as act as a spiritual guide.

In the Zhang Zhung language, “gyer” literally means “to recite or to chant with a melody” and it is equivalent to the Tibetan word “bön.” “Gyer ro” means “priest” or more literally “the one who recites” and is the equivalent to the Tibetan word “bönpo.” “Gyer pung” means “lopön” and refers to an educated lama who teaches the scriptures. “Gyer ngor” means “shenrap.”

Gyer Pungs Nangzher Lopo

The great 8th century scholar, Yungdrung Bön lama, and royal priest to the Zhang Zhung king was Gyer Pung Nanghzer Lopo. He is an important lineage holder of the Zhang Zhung Nyen Gyü, the Aural Transmission of Zhang Zhung. Among Yungdrung Bön texts, this scripture was protected by Gyer Pung Nanghzer Lopo and therefore never needed to be hidden due to the political persecution of the Yungdrung Bön religion. Because of that unique circumstance, there was never a gap in these teachings being handed down directly from teacher to student.

All translations and content by Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved. No content, in part or in whole, is allowed to be used without direct permission from the author.

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New Publication: The Heartdrop of Jamma

During the 23rd-29th lunar days of the 5th Tibetan month at Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India, monastic residents will be undergoing the practice of Jamma Chenmo, the Great Loving Mother. These lunar dates correspond with the Western calendar dates of July 25th-31st 2019. Also known as Jamma, Sherap Chenmo or Künsel Jamma, she is a fully enlightened buddha who is also commonly practiced as a yidam deity.

To coincide with this auspicious time, Sacred Sky Publications is publishing The Heartdrop of Jamma translated and annotated by Raven Cypress Wood. This text, also known as the Jamma Nying Tik is an aural transmission that was given to H.H. 22nd Menri Trizin Sonam Lodro Rinpoche by a manifestation of Jamma known as Khandro Sherap Lo Pélma, the wisdom mother who increases the intellect. In the practice of The Heartdrop of Jamma, each part of the practitioner’s body is transformed into an aspect of Jamma. In that way, one’s entire body becomes the enlightened mandala of the Loving Mother.

“From the syllable RU at each hair of the body manifests the 5,500 primordial shen, the spiritual heirs of Jamma. I prostrate to the Mother of heaven and earth; the mother of the grounds and the paths and the different kinds of authentically established existence, to the mother who gives birth to the Victorious Ones’ spiritual heirs!

From the syllable PA at each hair of the head manifests the limitless hundreds of thousands of Jamma emanations. I prostrate to the Mother who turns back enemies, obstacles, illnesses, and negativity; the Mother who is the glorious guide along the path!

— From The Heartdrop of Jamma

This booklet includes annotated, color images of Jamma along with her five wisdom manifestations and her eight manifestations that protect from fear. Additionally, there is a brief biography of H.H. 22nd Menri Trizin Sonam Lodro. In order to further support the practice, the booklet concludes with the translation of Removing Obstacles from the Path, another aural transmission of Khandro Sherap Lo Pélma that is often practiced as a daily recitation in the Bönpo community and considered a powerful means of protection and support.

“I pray to the 360 manifestations of Great Jamma. Single Mother for everyone who is without refuge or a protector remove external, internal and secret obstacles which are enemies along the path! Grant your blessings that my wishes will be spontaneously accomplished!”

— Extract from The Heartdrop of Jamma

This publication can be purchased by following the link below:

https://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?keyWords=Jamma+Nying+Tik&sorter=relevance-desc

All translations and content by Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved. No content, in part or in whole, is allowed to be used without direct permission from the author.

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Anniversary of the Birth of the 33rd Menri Trizin

His Holiness 33rd Menri Trizin Lungtok Tenpé Nyima Rinpoche

The 15th day of the 5th month on the lunar calendar this year coincides with July 16th on the Western calendar. This is the birth anniversary of the 33rd Throne Holder of Menri Monastery, His Holiness Lungtok Tenpé Nyima Rinpoche. This is a powerful day to engage in virtuous practice, recite prayers and mantra, and especially renew spiritual vows.

“You, my Lama, who has brought cyclic existence and nirvana under your power,

I and your other followers request,

please bestow benefits that are as limitless as the sky to migrating beings!

Please grant our wishes to be continuously without separation from your presence!

Continuously hold us with your unequalled compassion, I pray!”

— Excerpt from Offerings to the Lama

All translations and content by Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved. No content, in part or in whole, is allowed to be used without direct permission from the author.

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Homage to the Supreme Place of Refuge

HH 34th Menri Trizin Rinpoche and HE Menri Ponlop Rinpoche. Photo credit: Unknown

“To the embodiment of all the places of refuge, the root lama,

I pay homage, admit my wrongdoing, present offerings, and supplicate!

Please pacify all obstacles, and guide me along the path of liberation!

Bestow your blessings that my wishes will be spontaneously fulfilled!”

— From The Spontaneous Wish-fulfillment of Removing Obstacles from the Path

The full English, Spanish and Portuguese translation of The Spontaneous Wish-fulfillment of Removing Obstacles from the Path is freely offered for personal use by Raven Cypress Wood. Go to the Publications page for the download link.

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Birthday Celebration of His Holiness 14th Dalai Lama

HH 14th Dalai Lama with HH 34th Menri Trizen. Photo credit: Unknown.

July 6th is the birthday of the one born as Lhamo Döndrup recognized at the age of two, and formally installed at the age of fifteen as the leader of the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism and therefore also the spiritual leader of Tibet.  Upon his enthronement, he was renamed Jetsun Jampel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso: Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate Defender of the Faith who is an Ocean of Wisdom.   He is referred to as Yizhin Norbu Rinpoche, the Precious Wish-fulfilling Jewel.  He is known around the world as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

Especially on this day, it is beneficial to make offerings and to offer prayers for his long life.

Prayer for the Long Life of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Gang ri ra wé kor wé zhing kham su
In a heavenly realm, surrounded by a chain of snow mountains,

Pen dang dé wa ma lü jung wé né
The source of all happiness and help for beings

Chenrezik wang Tenzin Gyatso yi
Is Tenzin Gyatso, Chenrezik in person.

Shyap pé kal gyé bar du ten gyur chik
May his life be secure for hundreds of eons!

All translations and content by Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved. No content, in part or in whole, is allowed to be used without direct permission from the author.

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The Virtuous Practice of Making Sa Tsa

Cremation sa tsa of HH 34th Menri Trizin Rinpoche. Photo credit: Unknown

A sa tsa is a small replica of a chorten (Sanskrit: stupa) or enlightened being that is made out of clay with a sa tsa mold.  This mold both shapes and imprints the clay.  Within the sutra tradition, making sa tsa can be one of the daily practices of generosity and is considered a method of accumulating merit.  The practice of making sa tsa was described by Buddha Tönpa Shenrap among the virtuous practices of lay practitioners, or genyen. 

“If someone wants to earnestly give up negative and non-virtuous behavior and take up the activities of the ten virtues, or is a follower of The Way of the Genyen, or if they want to learn the virtuous practices of the Shen, the offering of sa tsa has three sections. These are the preliminary practice of creating the enlightened image, the main practice of ritually consecrating the image with blessings, and the final practice of sealing the object-less roots of virtue and aspiration by dedicating.”

— From The Ritual of Sa Tsa from The Way of the Genyen within the Zi Ji by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen

Sa tsa painted gold. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

There are detailed instructions for creating sa tsa which include specific mantras and visualizations to use while searching for and collecting the clay, cleaning the clay, kneading the clay, shaping the clay, blessing the clay etc. In general however, one begins by requesting the blessings of the lama, taking refuge and generating the mind of enlightenment.  Then, the clay is ritually purified with water and incense. The sa tsa mold is prepared by lightly coating the inside with butter or oil.  The clay is kneaded and molded into shape, and firmly pressed into the mold.  From the bottom-center, a small portion of clay is removed in order to create a cavity.  Within this space is placed mantras of enlightened body, speech, mind, quality and activity; as well as a powdered mixture of the five precious things: gold, silver, turquoise, coral and crystal; blessed herbal medicine known as mendrup, the six excellent substances, and the five grains.  Clay is then used to close this space and seal these substances within each of the sa tsa.

Left: A large sa tsa mold                          Center: Detailed inside of mold            Right: Smaller mold with unfinished sa tsa

Once the clay has dried, the sa tsa are painted silver or gold and then consecrated.  Traditionally, the sa tsa are then placed within a chorten or a tsa khang, a sa tsa house, that will protect the sa tsa from the elements.  These tsa khang can be located anywhere but are often found at sacred places and are located so as to make circumambulation of the structure possible.  In the absence of a tsa khang, sa tsa are also placed in caves at the top of mountains or at pilgrimage places.

Sa tsa in the form of the enlightened Buddha Sherap Jamma. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood.

Cremation sa tsa can be made to benefit a being that has died by adding a small amount of the cremation ash to the substances placed within the sa tsa. By establishing this connection between the deceased and an enlightened image, it supports circumstances for a positive rebirth. In the case of the passing of a realized spiritual master, cremation sa tsa can be made which then act as sacred relics and objects of devotion for the disciples.

Sa tsa at Tashi Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India. Photo credit: Lee Hartline

“According to the Teacher’s words, if the followers of The Way of the Genyen or any other members of the Bön community practice this with faith, having created and consecrated even a single [sa tsa] in an enlightened form, the virtue cannot be exhausted even with the passing of many thousands of eons. It is not possible to measure or count the positive qualities.

Because of that, one should have faith and train in this profound virtuous practice of the shen. One should properly increase the roots of virtue in this way.  From this precious cause of liberation for sentient beings, completely pure and perfect buddhahood can be attained. Hold this firmly in your mind!”

—— From The Ritual of Sa Tsa from The Way of the Genyen within the Zi Ji by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen

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The 1st Yungdrung Bön Chorten in the United States

Yungdrung Kolek Chorten before installation of the Küntu Zangpo statue. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

The first Yungdrung Bön chorten [Sanskrit: stupa] in the United States has been constructed at the Serenity Ridge Retreat Center of Ligmincha International located in Virginia, United States. This chorten is designed according to the specific style of The Elegant Yungdrung Chorten, or Yungdrung Kolek Chorten. It has been sponsored by Vicki Wheaton in memory of her deceased husband and deceased mother. Land for the chorten was donated by Ligmincha International and its spiritual director, Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche. The knowledgeable Khedup Gyatso, who directed the construction of both the cremation chorten and the memorial chorten for H.H. 33rd Menri Trizin Rinpoche at Menri Monastery, also directed the construction and installation of sacred items within the chorten at Serenity Ridge.

Left: Khedup Gyatso directing the building, Center: sa tsa and juniper being placed inside, Right: Vicki Wheaton placing Yungdrung Bön texts inside the chorten.

Rising up through the center of the chorten is a sok shing, a pillar of vitality. The sok shing is empowered with the five warrior seed syllables and wrapped in cloth and string of the five colors. Attached to the sok shing is a golden yungdrung, a clear crystal, a variety of five precious gems, five grains, five fruits, white mustard seeds, and black mustard seeds.

Left: A section of the wrapped sok shing. Right: Close-up of the five grains affixed to the sok shing.

Also within the chorten are many Yungdrung Bön texts from the three lineages of sutra, tantra and dzogchen. Each of this texts were checked to ensure that they were complete with no pages missing or damaged. Consecrated clay molds of sacred forms, called sa tsa, were made either in the form of a chorten or Sherab Jamma. Each of them contain the mantras of enlightened body, speech and mind, consecrated rice, as well as powdered medicine and incense from Tibet. There are a total of 110 sa tsa within the chorten.

The Elegant Yungdrung Chorten also contains many sacred images of deities and mandalas including images of H.H. 33rd Menri Trizin Lungtok Tenpé Nyima Rinpoche and H.E. Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche; hair and cremation ash of H.H. 33rd Menri Trizin Lungtok Tenpé Nyima Rinpoche; and many kinds of medicine and excellent substances.

Mold forms for the clay sa tsa. Left: Outside of the chorten-style sa tsa mold. Center: Inside of chorten sa tsa mold. Right: Inside of the Sherap Jamma-style sa tsa mold.

The Tibetan word “chorten” is a compound of two words and literally means “support for offerings.” As part of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap’s teachings regarding The Fifth Way: The Way of Lay Practitioners, he first introduced the construction of chortens as a support for the practice of purification and the accumulation of merit. Each aspect of a chorten is symbolic and its placement, shape, and size are all specific. The first chorten that the Buddha instructed his disciples to build was The Elegant Yungdrung Chorten.

“In order to teach future generations, and because it is necessary to purify defilements and perfect the accumulation of merit, establish a chorten to act as a support for devotional prostrations and circumambulations.”

—Words of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap from his hagiography Radiant Splendor, also known as the Zi Ji.

These exact measurements illustrate the self-nature of the divine. By using the correct measurements to construct a chorten, it becomes a proper dwelling place for enlightened energy. It is said within the texts that if a chorten is built for the buddhas’ relics, even defilements from the five heinous acts will be purified and it is needless to say that lesser acts will be purified. The potency of the exalted good qualities of the relics is inconceivable. Through these limitless exalted qualities and power, whoever makes a request at a chorten containing the buddhas’ relics by prostrating, circumambulating or making offerings can purify the two kinds of defilements and complete the two kinds of accumulations.

“The Teacher, having opened the mandala of the mu tri gods, performed a vast investiture and consecration ceremony from the completely pure tantra The Body of Those Who have Gone Beyond Bliss. Then, he gave it the name “Yungdrung Kolék Chorten, The Elegant Yungdrung Chorten.” At this, all of the gods above, the lu below, and the human beings in-between were joyous and offered praise.”

—From The Fifth Way: The Way of Lay Practitioners within the hagiography of Tönpa Shenrap entitled, Radiant Splendor, also known as the Zi Ji.

The newly constructed Elegant Yungdrung Chorten at Serenity Ridge will be consecrated by H.H. 34th Menri Trizin Lungtok Dawa Dargyal Rinpoche during his visit and teachings at Serenity Ridge during the summer retreat of 2019.

Sa tsa of Sherap Jamma that were placed inside the chorten. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood.

All translations and content by Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved. No content, in part or in whole, is allowed to be used without direct permission from the author.

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A Modern Day Buddha

The 13th day of the 4th month on the lunar calendar is the anniversary of the parinirvana and rainbow body of the Yungdrung Bön scholar and meditation master, Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche. This year, that date coincides with June 15th on the Western calendar. For more details about this accomplished spiritual master, see previous post: https://ravencypresswood.com/2015/05/31/anniversary-of-shardza-tashi-gyaltsen-attaining-the-rainbow-body-2/

During his lifetime, although Shardza Rinpoche spent a great deal of time in solitary retreat or teaching, he was also a prolific author and was able to complete many volumes of writing including his renowned five treasuries.

“The three jewels are the infallible, constant place of refuge.

The mother and son are the single refuge from the prevalence of the five degenerations.*

Sidpé Gyalmo is the supreme mother and protector of the teachings.

Greatly kind lama, embodiment of all of the victorious ones, think of me!

I pray single-pointedly that my wish for all obstacles to be removed will be perfectly accomplished!”

— Written by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche

* The Five Degenerations are: 1)The degeneration of time due to strife, 2) the degeneration of the life-span, 3) the degeneration of the body, speech and mind of sentient beings, 4) the degeneration of the afflictive emotions due to the five poisons, and 5) the degeneration of the view due to erroneous views and misconceptions.

All translations and content by Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved. No content, in part or in whole, is allowed to be used without direct permission from the author.

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Homage to the Spiritual Masters!

H.H. 34th Menri Trizin Rinpoche and H.E. Menri Pönlop Rinpoche visit the medical college at Menri Monastery. Photo credit: Unknown.

EMAHO!

To the lama who is the embodiment of all of the Victors and spiritual masters,

who acts principally through the accomplishment of Bön for sentient beings who are as limitless as the sky,

I offer prostrations with my body, prostrating with my arms, legs and head!

I prostrate with my speech, chanting with a joyous and inspired melody!

I prostrate with my mind, prostrating with single-pointed motivation and devotion!

May the negative actions and defilements of my three doors become purified!”

—Extract from Offerings for the Lama

All translations and content by Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved. No content, in part or in whole, is allowed to be used without direct permission from the author.

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