Category Archives: Dolpo

To Act with Compassion

An older horse that has been protected and blessed through the Tshe Thar ritual in honor of HE Menri Ponlop Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche. Photo credit: Unknown

Within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition, there is a ritual for protecting the life of animals that are destined to be killed. This ritual is known as Tshe Thar, life release or freeing life. In Tibet, it is common to purchase live fish just after they have been caught and release them back into the lakes or to purchase yaks and allow them to live out the full length of their life span.

HH 34th Menri Trizin, Latri Nyima Dakpa Rinpoche, and Geshe Nyima Künchap Rinpoche performing the Tshe Thar ritual for a fish release. Photo credit: Angel R. Torres

An individual or group requests a lama to perform the tshe thar ritual either as a general practice of compassion, on a particular auspicious day, as a method to protect the longevity of a lama, or to prolong the life-span of an ill person, etc.

“Marvelous source of the teachings who holds the treasury of all exalted qualities, the lama has the control of discipline through many activities.

He is the unequaled lord of the teachings and the ornament of the crown of the head.”

— Extract from The Skillful Method of Saving the Life of Beings and Setting Them Free

The ritual begins with the usual preliminary practices of taking refuge in the places of wisdom and enlightenment, generating a fervent intent towards enlightenment for one’s self and others, admitting and purifying non-virtue that one has committed, and setting a boundary to prevent disturbances to the ritual. Then, the lama generates their body, speech and mind as the enlightened body, speech and mind of the wisdom deity and bestows blessings and empowerment upon the animals. To mark this and to indicate that the animals are forever protected, a sacred badge containing the mantric syllables of the wisdom deity is affixed to the animals. In conclusion, prayers of good fortune and aspiration are performed and the virtue of the activity is dedicated for the benefit of all sentient beings.

“Although it is difficult to produce the four kinds of thoughts of enlightenment,

compassion is easy if one’s self is used as an example.”

— Words of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché from The Fifth Way: The Way of Those Who Follow Virtue

A yak in Dolpo, Nepal that has been protected and blessed through the Tshe Thar ritual. Photo credit: Geshe Tenzin Yangtön

“Through the blessings of saving the life of these beings and setting them free for the benefit of pacifying the obstacles of the sponsors, may obstacles be pacified!

May the lifespan be undiminished! May the lifespan not be lost! May the lifespan be long!  

You, animals whose lives have been saved, having attained a precious human body in the future, may you have the good fortune of practicing the Yungdrung Bön!

— Extract from The Skillful Method of Saving the Life of Beings and Setting Them Free

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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Ritual for Communal Harmony and Prosperity


Murig Geshe Nyima Kunchap Rinpoche leads a Sherap Jamma ritual for the Yungdrung Bon community in the Dolpo capital of Dunai, Nepal. Photo credit: Unknown.

A Rich Tradition: Barlé Gonpa

Murig Geshe Nyima Kunchap bestowing an empowerment of longevity at Barle Gompa 2018. Photo credit: Unknown.

A twenty minute walk from the village of Barlé in Dolpo, Nepal is the Barlé gonpa called Yungdrung Shuk Tsal Ling. The main part of the temple located next to the lama residence is said to be over 500 years old. The surrounding area is very green in Summer and the village residents rely heavily upon agriculture. Although the village is a mix of both Bön and Buddhist families, they visit each other’s temples and sacred sites.

Left: Barle Rinpoche Right: Barle Rinpoche with Geshe Kunchap Rinpoche

The Barlé gonpa was renovated by the father of Barlé Lama Tsukphü Gyaltsen, who assisted in the work. Although most of the Barlé lamas have been ngakpas, or householder lamas, Barlé Lama Tsukphü Gyaltsen did not want to follow this lifestyle and instead received monk’s vows at the age of eighteen. He traveled to Samling and stayed there for three years. He received teachings and initiations from Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche as well as from Sangye Tenzin Rinpoche. Eventually, he returned to the village of Barlé and immediately began to look for a proper place for secluded meditation.

The cave hermitage of Barle Rinpoche. Photo credit: Geshe Nyima Kunchap

A thirty minutes walk from the gonpa, up a steep cliff, he found the spot that he was looking for. The nearby rock formation naturally resembled a chorten and there was a stone painting of the enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap nearby. Here, he began to construct Drak Gön hermitage, literally “Stone Temple Hermitage.” The first part was completed in 1962. For thirty years, from 1970-2000, he remained in retreat at the hermitage. On the 27th lunar day of the 4th month in the Western year 2000, his outward breath stopped. His body remained in the five-fold meditation posture for three full days.

Recently erected chorten overlooking Barle village. Photo credit: Geshe Nyima Kunchap.

After the passing of Barlé Rinpoche, his nephew Lama Lhakpa assumed the duties of the main lama of Barlé. He was a householder and lived in the lama residence. He unexpectedly passed away in 2015 and his son took up the duties of being the village lama.

Murig Geshe Nyima Kunchap Rinpoche with the residents of Barle at the newly erected chorten. Photo credit: Unknown

Both a relative and student of Barlé Lama Tsukphü Gyaltsen Rinpoche, Murig Geshe Nyima Kunchap Rinpoche was born in the village of Barlé. At the age of eight, he began learning the Tibetan language and thangkha painting. At the age of fourteen, he learned to make torma and practiced the ngondro, or foundational practices. Strongly wanting to become a monk, he left the village of Barlé and made his way to India where he received renunciate vows from HH 33rd Menri Trizen Rinpoche and HE Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche. Completing his studies in the dialectic program, he received his doctorate of Geshe in 1994. Subsequently, he worked as the Bön department chairmen at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Varanasi. He founded and acted as president of the Dolpo Bon Society and founded the Dolpo Bon School for girls and boys. Although he travels worldwide teaching and performing rituals of the Yungdrung Bön tradition, he regularly returns to the village of Barlé. Most recently, he personally sponsored the construction of a sacred chorten in the village. (See previous post: https://ravencypresswood.com/2018/07/21/a-chorten-for-barle-village/) In these ways, he continues to preserve and expand the rich Yungdrung Bön traditions of his lineage for the benefit of the Barlé residents, and beyond.

Geshe Kunchap Rinpoche leading the consecration ritual for the newly erected chorten in Barle village. Photo credit: Unknown

The tulku of Barlé Rinpoche was recognized at an early age in the village of Barlé. He naturally showed the signs of being familiar with the life of his previous incarnation, Barlé Lama Tsukphü Gyaltsen Rinpoche.

Barle Tulku, Tsewang Rigdzin Gyaltsen. Photo credit: Unknown

Although a difficult decision for his mother, she agreed to have him go to Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India in order to receive the proper training.Geshe Nyima Kunchap has taken personal responsibility to ensure his well being and education.

Geshe Nyima Kunchap Rinpoche and Tulku Tsewang Rigdzin Gyaltsen. Photo credit: Unknown.

 

A Chorten for Barlé Village

Chorten in Barle Village Dolpo, Nepal. Photo credit: Geshe Nyima Kunchap Rinpoche.

In the village of Barlé located in Dolpo, Nepal and approximately 185 miles from Kathmandu, a new Yungdrung Bön chorten (Sanskrit: stupa) has been erected by Murig Geshe Nyima Künchap as a gift to the village residents. The chorten is located near the Barlé gompa. From July 22nd to July 28th, Geshe Künchap Rinpoche will perform the full consecration of the chorten.

Inside Barle stupa. Photo credit: Geshe Nyima Kunchap Rinpoche

Inside the chorten above the doorways, it is ornately painted with sacred Yungdrung Bön images. In the four directions, are the Four Principal Enlightened Ones: Satrik Érsang, Shenlha Ökar, Sangpo Bumtri, and Tönpa Shenrap. As is traditional, each of these enlightened ones is surrounded by two hundred fifty Buddhas for a total of one thousand Buddhas. (For more information about the Four Principle Enlightened Ones, see previous post: https://ravencypresswood.com/2016/08/20/the-four-principal-enlightened-ones/ ) On the ceiling above are nine mandalas whose purpose is to act as an appropriate dwelling place for the related enlightened qualities. In the center is the mandala of the Sutra of the Indestructible Vast Expanse (Tib. mdo g.yung drung klong rgyas). Then, beginning in the East (middle left) and continuing counter-clockwise, are the mandalas of: The Peaceful AH that Clears (Tib: zhi ba a gsal),  Red Garuda (Tib: khyung dmar), The Stages of Walsé (Tib. dbal gsas las rim), the Great Mother Jamma (Tib: rgyal yum byams ma), Complete Space (Tib: Kun dyings), the Precious Lamp of the MA TRI (Tib: ma tri rin chen sgron ma), Shenrap Nampar Gyalwa (Tib: gshen rab rnam rgyal), and The Lamp that Purifies Obscurations and Removes the Darkness (Tib: sgrib sbyong mun sel sgron ma).

Geshe Kunchap preparing a ritual palace for the lu spirits. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

Murig Geshe Nyima Künchap Rinpoche was born in the village of Barlé and spent many years as a student of his root lama, Barlé Rinpoche. In 1982, he received ordination as a monk from HH 33rd Menri Trizen and HE Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche. In 1994, after many years of rigorous study, he received his geshe degree from Menri Monastery. He is a master of sutra, tantra, and dzogchen. However, he is considered a ritual specialist. Of the 360 rituals given by the Enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche, it is believed that only 68 remain. Geshe Künchap Rinpoche holds the transmission, empowerment, and teaching for each of these 68 rituals.

Murig Geshe Nyima Kunchap Rinpoche. Photo credit: Unknown

Raven Cypress Wood ©2018

The Great Yangtön: Yangtön Sherap Gyaltsen

Yangton Chenpo Sherap Gyaltsen

Yangton Sherap Gyaltsen on a thankgha comissioned by Geshe Tenzin Yangton. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood


Ancient Family: 

The history of the Yangtön lineage is closely interwoven with the history of the Yungdrung Bön tradition itself. It is said that two of Lord Tönpa Shenrap’s disciples were Yangtön lamas. And during the reign of the first Tibetan king, Nyatri Tsenpo in the second century B.C., the official priest for the king and the kingdom was a Yangtön lama.

The name “Yangtön” is an abbreviation of the ancient Zhang Zhung family name “Ya Ngal” and “Tönpa” together meaning “Teacher of the Ya Ngal clan.”  The original seat of the Ya Ngal clan was at Taktse Jari in Upper Tsang, Tibet.  This is where Yangtön Sherap Gyaltsen was born during the Fire Snake year of 1077 AD.  Because it was prophesied that he would be an emanation of the ancient lama Pangla Namshen, he was also called by this name.  In his youth, he studied under many lamas including the first abbot of the famous Yeru Wensaka Yungdrung Bön Monastery, Druchen Yungdrung Lama.  He devoted himself to study and there were no Buddhists who could defeat him in a debate.  He eventually became known as “Yangtön Chenpo”, the Great Yangtön.

At the age of 27, he took two wives although he had no children with either of them.  He intently practiced the Yungdrung Bön tantric teachings and attained great magical power.  He preferred a life of practice and isolation to a worldly life and would often go alone to a mountain and enter into retreat.  In addition to his magical power, he also had many visions and meditative experiences.  Once while he was meditating, a woman appeared and asked,

“How much knowledge do you have?” He replied, “I am completely knowledgeable.” At that, the woman became unhappy, and crying, she left.  He thought, “When I told her that I was knowledgeable, she became unhappy,  If she appears tomorrow, I should tell her that I don’t know anything.”  The next day, the woman appeared and asked the same question as before.  This time, he replied, “I don’t know anything.  Are there any good qualities that you could teach me?”  Happy with the response, she answered, “If you want to learn some good qualities, in a cliff of lu and demons, never seeing the sun or moon, lives Ronggom Tokmé Zhikpo.  Go there and you will have some great things to learn.”  Having said this, she left.   Just hearing this, Yangtön Chenpo’s heart was overcome with joy and he neglected to ask where to find the lama.  He waited for the woman to appear the next day but she did not return.  After a week had passed, he decided that he could wait no longer and that he must go and find this lama.

Tibet to Mustang: Searching for the Lama    

Yangtön Sherap Gyaltsen was the first of his family to leave Taktse Jari.  He first traveled throughout Amdo and Kham for three years looking for Ronggom Tokmé Zhikpo, but did not find him.  After that, he went to Central Tibet and searched for the lama there for three years, but did not find him.  Then, he went to Ngari and searched for three more years, but did not find Ronggom Tokmé Zhikpo.  Utterly despondent, he decided to return.  When he reached Mustang, he ran into two men who were playing a game of dice.  One of the gambling mantras went like this, “Never seeing the sun and moon, the yogi Ronggom Tokmé Zhikpo knows!”  Upon merely hearing this, Yangtön Chenpo’s body began to shake.  Thinking that it would now be possible to meet with the lama, he became delighted and began to laugh.  But then he thought that maybe it wasn’t possible because even though he had spent nine years looking, he hadn’t found the lama.  He then began to weep.  He asked the two men where the lama lived and they replied, “Below, near Lowo Montang in a cliff of lu and demons, in the upper part of the valley.  At this, he went to find the lama.  Prior to their meeting, Ronggom Tokmé Zhikpo had a dream in which he was told that an emanation of Pangla Namshen would arrive and that he should give him teachings.  The next day, Yangtön Chenpo finally met with his lama, Ronggom Tokmé Zhikpo, and began receiving profound instructions from him.

Teachings and Legacy                                                                                                                                                              

Tokmé Zhikpo gave Yangtön Chenpo the Upper Transmission of the Aural Lineage of Zhang Zhung.  Previously, he had received both the Upper and Lower traditions of the Aural Transmission from Lama Orgom Kundrol, teachings and transmissions from the AH Tri Dzogchen from Me’uton Lhari Nyenpo, as well as many pointing out instructions.  He had the good fortune to meet with and receive teachings from many lamas.  At the Zangri Shar Monastery, he went before the great teacher of the Me’u lineage, Khepa Palchen, for a ritual cutting of his hair and receiving vows.  He was known as a teacher who had received the signs of accomplishment for the full development of training in sutra, tantra and dzogchen.  In modern times, that would be similar to the title of ‘Geshe’, ‘Lopon’ or ‘Khenpo’.

He settled in Gyal Zhug Dong Kar in Mustang, Nepal  where he established a hermitage called Kyaru Gon. To some of his disciples he taught the Extensive Aural transmission of Zhang Zhung, to others he taught the medium-length text, and to still others he taught the condensed version of the Aural Transmission.  These became three distinct transmissions known as the ‘Upper Transmission”, the “Lower Transmission”, and the “Intermediate Transmission”.   He practiced wherever he went and exhibited numerous signs of his realization.  With his third wife, he had a daughter and two sons. His sons were named Bumje Ö and Tashi Gyaltsen.  They became lineage holders of the Southern Lineage of Transmissions which also included the esteemed Druchen Gyalwa Yungdrung who composed the widely used practice text for the Aural Transmission of Zhang Zhung commonly referred to as the Chaktri.  

For many generations, both the transmission of the Experiential teachings of the Aural Transmission of Zhang Zhung, and the practice of Zhang Zhung Meri, had become separated from the transmission of the precepts of the Aural Transmission of Zhang Zhung into two distinct Upper and Lower lineage transmissions. Yangtön Sherab Gyaltsen reunited these two transmission lineages and out of kindness towards future students, he wrote down some of the Aural Transmission of Zhang Zhung teachings along with their commentaries. According to prophecy, his life span was to be 75 years long. However, it is said that writing down these secret teachings created an obstacle that caused him to die at the age of 63.

“Within a palace of great bliss where he resides,

is the all-knowing tulku with braids of hair,

prophesied as a mighty, victorious Lord, a realized Shen,

At the feet of Yangton Chenpo, I pray!”

From A Mala of Pearls, Invocation of the Yangtön Lineage, translated from the Tibetan by Raven Cypress Wood.

Raven Cypress Wood©2017

Special thanks to Menri Lopon Yangtön Trinley Nyima Rinpoche, head teacher at Menri Monastery, for sharing the ‘Yangtön Chenpo’ entry from his forthcoming Tibetan language Encyclopedia of Yungdrung Bön.  For more on this invaluable work, please see previous post:https://ravencypresswood.com/2013/09/20/the-mighty-task-of-preserving-ancient-knowledge/

Sacred Beauty

Prayer Wheel and tsa tsa house in Tsarka Dolpo, Nepal. Photo credit: Geshe Tenzin Yangton

Sacred Architecture

During the renovation work at the Yungdrung Bon chorten in Dunai, Nepal. Photo credit: Geshe Murik Nyima Kunchap Rinpoche

The Precious Master who Guides Us

His Eminence Menri Lopon Trinley Nyima Rinpoche in Dolpo, Nepal. Photo credit: Unknown

News Update: Yungdrung Bon Temple Destroyed by Fire

Srib phyogs Bon gon in Tarap before fire

Sip Chok Yungdrung Bon Temple complex in Tarap, Dolpo prior to the fire

On March 8, 2016, the Yungdrung Bön temple of Deden Püntsok Ling, located in Dolpo, Nepal was completely destroyed by fire.  This temple complex is located in the Sip Chok area of Dho Tarap and is commonly referred to as the Sip Chok Gompa or the Bön Tarap Gompa.  The temple is run by the Yangton family and is headed by a Yangton lama.  He is a householder and tantric practitioner.  Responsibilities for the temple are traditionally handed down to sons, nephews or grandsons.

Sip Chok Yungdrung Bon Temple complex in Tarap, Dolpo after the fire

Because the head lama’s house is located some distance from the temple, the fire was not noticed until the flames were visibly engulfing the structure.  Everything was destroyed.  In addition to the many ritual items such as sacred masks and drums, the temple contained many old, handwritten scriptures.  Some of these old scriptures had been written with ink of gold.

Srib phyogs temple in Tarap Dolpo burned ritual items

This village is a mix of Nyingma and Yungdrung Bön families.  Although the Bön families are greatly outnumbered, there is a good relationship between the two religions.  However, the Bön families have fewer resources to draw upon.  One young member of this Yangton family received his geshe degree last year and is doing his best to organize reconstruction of the temple and restoration of the many sacred texts and ritual items.

Srib phyogs temple in Tarap Dolpo burned ritual items 2

In addition to the long range goal of building a new temple and replacing statues and thangkhas, the immediate urgency is to acquire enough basic ritual items and texts so that needed rituals and religious services can be performed for the villagers.  The Sip Chok Bönpo community is very saddened by this great loss and are open to any support from the worldwide Bönpo sangha.  If you are interested in aiding this recovery process in any way, please email Raven at RCW108@gmail.com and you will be given direct contact information for those organizing the restoration.

Srib phyogs temple in Tarap Dolpo burned texts 2

Community Blessings

HE Menri Lopon Yangton Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche bestows empowerment upon the Dolpo community

Blessings of the Lama

H.E. Menri Lopon Yangton Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche giving blessings near Puksumdo Lake Dolpo, Nepal. Photo Credit: Unknown

Sacred Activity

His Eminence Menri Lopon Yangton Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche consecrates a Yungdrung Bon stupa in Dolpo, Nepal. Photo Credit: Unknown

Sacred Yungdrung Bon Temple in the Himalayas

Shrine inside the Yungdrung Bon temple of Yanggon Thongdrol Puntsok Ling in the village of Tsarka in Dolpo, Nepal

 

Ritual at Samling Gompa

Inside the Yangton Temple of Samling in Dolpo, Nepal during a ritual feast offering

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