Our Otherworldly Neighbors, the Lu

A depiction of a lu belonging to the royal class

According to the ancient teachings of Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché, the phenomenal universe can be divided in to three worlds: the world of the gods above, the world of the lu [Sanskrit: naga] below, and the world of humans in-between. Interactions between the lu and human beings are especially common due to the fact that we share the same environment. Although the lu are most often associated with bodies of water such as lakes, springs, wells, and waterfalls; they also inhabit cliffs, rocks, trees, and abandoned places such as castles and fortresses.

The different kinds of lu can be categorized in many ways. They can be divided into their five main societal classes: the white royal class, the yellow merchant class, the red priest class, the green servant class, and the mixed-color outcast class. They can be categorized according to their overall demeanor of being either generally peaceful or generally aggressive. Or, among the four kinds of guests* they can be categorized as members of the second, third, or fourth guests. As members of the powerful second guests of exalted qualities, there are eight great lu who act as benevolent protectors. As members of the third guests, some lu are among the magically powerful eight classes of beings who can be helpful when happy, but who can also become aggressive and destructive when they feel that they have been slighted. Lastly, as members of the fourth guests who are in need of our charity, some lu take the form of animals such as snakes or various aquatic creatures. They are often depicted as having a lower body similar to a snake, and an upper body similar to a human.

A ritual lu effigy created with tsampa by Murig Geshe Nyima Kunchap Rinpoche.

Any human activity that creates unpleasant smells, pollution, or destruction of the environment can cause the lu to become upset, or to be afflicted with illness and misfortune. When this occurs, the lu sometimes take action to stop the destruction. Some lu even engage in acts of revenge such as causing illness, epidemics, loss of property, or natural disasters to humans. Specific illnesses are associated with the lu such as boils, abscesses, skin diseases, leprosy, and infertility to name a few. For this reason, the enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap taught ritual methods to communicate with the lu, purify what we have polluted, restore harmony and make amends, as well as methods to subdue the aggressive-natured lu who are not satisfied with peaceful methods. Even for peaceful lu, it is important to communicate with them and present peacemaking gifts in the correct way. For example, according to the Yungdrung Bön religious calendar, there are specific days during each lunar month in which the lu are either more receptive to our requests, or not receptive at all.

Geshe Nyima Kunchap and Geshe Tenzin Yangton performing the Lu Sang, or The Purifying Smoke Offering for the Lu. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

Essential to the ritual offerings for the lu is lu men, or lu medicine. Lu medicine contains: the three white things: milk, unsalted butter, and unsalted cheese; the three sweet things: rock sugar, honey, and brown sugar or molasses; the five grains: rice, wheat, barley, millet, and peas; the five precious things: gold, silver, turquoise, coral, and pearl or conch shell; peacock feathers, Choerospoldia axillaris, kidney-shaped Canavalia gladiate, liver-colored and liver-shaped Entada phaseoloides, sea foam, Bombax ceiba flower buds and flowers, crocodile claw-shaped herbal medicine, right-turning (Bön direction) conch shell, amber, hand-shaped Gymademnia, Terminalia Checula, Terminalia belerica Roxb, Emblica Officinalis, and Meconops. All of these substances are dried and ground into a fine powder and then mixed.

Lu medicine. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

“Through the positive qualities of purifying all of you lu, for both myself and others, may human illness and contagious diseases be stopped!

Act to protect our longevity and our life-force! Act to guard our families and turn back misfortune!

Act to increase our influence and good fortune! Act to bring an abundance of personal power!

Act to connect me with my wealth and resources! Act as a protector and guardian to me!

Selected excerpt from The Purifying Smoke Offering for the Lu translated by Raven Cypress Wood ©2010

Murig Geshe Nyima Kunchap Rinpoche and Raven Cypress Wood prepare lu namkha for the lu ritual of Offering an Ocean of Milk to the Lu. Photo credit: Geshe Tenzin Yangton

On January 26, 2019 at Ligmincha International’s Serenity Ridge Retreat Center in the United States, Murig Geshe Nyima Künchap Rinpoche will be giving a half-day teaching related to the lu, their relationship to humans, how to determine if they have been disturbed, and proper methods to restore harmony. He will be teaching from the Lu Tor, The Ritual of Regularly Giving Torma to the Lu; and the Lu Sang, The Purification and Offering through Smoke for the Lu. Those in attendance will receive transmission for both of these practices. The following day on January 27th, the public is invited as he performs the Lu Ter, Lu Tor, and Lu Sang rituals. For more information or to register, follow the link below:


*The First Guests are the respected guests who are the enlightened beings. The Second Guests are the guests of exalted qualities who are the enlightened and unenlightened benevolent guardians and protectors. The Third Guests are the eight classes of beings. The Fourth Guests are the guests of charity who are beings within the six realms of cyclic existence minus the gods and the demi-gods.

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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Posted on January 5, 2019, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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