Category Archives: Five Elements

The Sadak Nye Lam Dé Zhi Ritual: Restoring Environmental Peace & Harmony

Mandala palace for the Sadak Nye Lam Dé Zhi ritual.

At Triten Norbutse Monastery each year during fourth lunar month from the 12th – 16th lunar days the Sadak Nye Lam Dé Zhi ritual is performed. In 2020, these dates coincide with June 3rd-6th. This ritual is performed in both monasteries and households throughout Tibet and His Eminence Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoché has established this ritual as part of the yearly religious calendar at Triten Norbutsé Monastery. It is more commonly referred to by its shortened name “Nye Lam Dé Zhi” and monks often refer to it simply as “the Summer ritual.” The literal English translation of “Sadak Nye Lam Dé Zhi” could be rendered as “the four kinds of shortcut to the sadak.” The term “sadak” means rulers of the earth and the ritual primarily addresses four specific groups of sadak within this broad category: 1) the lu [Sanskrit: naga] who are associated with bodies of water, 2: a subgroup of sadak that are associated with the earth and soil 3) nyen who are associated with open fields and the sky, and 4) tö who are associated with boulders and cliffs especially red boulders and rocks. The purpose of the ritual is to appease, restore and cleanse all the worldly spirits due to disturbances caused by humanity. Thereby, it restores harmony between us and heals the natural environment and its elements of earth, water, fire, and wind. The Nye Lam Dé Zhi text that is used for the ritual was discovered as a terma, or hidden treasure, by Pönsé Khyunggö Tsal in the 12th or 13th century at Mt. Tisé [a.k.a Mt. Kailash.]

The Nye Lam Dé Zhi ritual includes prayers of apology to the four groups of worldly spirits for disturbing them by cutting trees, interfering with the natural course of waterways, digging into the earth, destroying or moving rocks, and generally causing the destruction of the natural environment. Our manipulation and control of these natural systems causes imbalances and disharmony between the elements and becomes a source of disruption, illness and upset for these worldly spirits. Therefore, we are subjected to epidemics, droughts, failing crops, increasing violence and military conflicts, as well as natural disasters from the elements such as floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, and landslides.

Namkha and offerings for the Sadak Nye Lam Dé Zhi. Photo credit: Unknown

Through their acceptance of our offerings and our heartfelt words of apology during the Nye Lam Dé Zhi ritual, we request that they stop causing or supporting the occurrence of epidemics, natural disasters, droughts, military conflicts, accidents, and misfortune etc. This ritual action combined with meditative focus has the power to pacify the vengeful and aggrieved minds of these spirits and therefore avert any further harm or injury caused by them. Additionally, these spirits will act to support and increase our prosperity, protect and increase crops and domestic animals, protect us from danger and accidents, and generally act on our behalf.

In general, it takes many monks for four full days to complete the preparations for the size of the ritual performed at the monastery. The construction of the dö, which represents the entire universe, begins with the creation of a sand mandala which is an architectural representation of the immeasurable palace within which the enlightened deities and worldly deities will be ritually invited to reside and stay during the ritual presentation of the offerings.

Yungdrung Bön monks creating the sadak nyelam sand mandala at Gyalshen Institute. Photo credit: Unknown.

In the center of the mandala upon four petals are the four seed syllables of the four principal enlightened lords of the Yungdrung Bön tradition: 1) Satrik Érsang, 2) Tönpa Shenrap, 3) Sangpo Bumtri, and 4) Shenlha Ökar. (For more information, see previous article: https://ravencypresswood.com/2016/08/20/the-four-principal-enlightened-ones/ ) Just beyond that is the four seed syllables of the four principal ones that subdue the four kinds of worldly spirits and the seed syllables for the four subduing garudas. Beyond that in the outer corners of the mandala are the seed syllables for the four kinds of worldly spirits which are the primary focus of the offerings and recitations. Beyond that are the four gateways in each of the four directions which are the entrances into the mandala palace. This palace is then filled with thread-crosses and torma that act as a support for the presence of the deities and worldly guests. It is then ornamented with greenery, grains, and other precious substances. Surrounding it are the various offerings that will be presented.

The actual ritual begins with the usual preliminaries which purify and consecrate all of the offerings, ritual implements and participants. Then, a brief ritual is performed in order to ask the earth goddess, Sayi Lhamo, for her permission and blessing to perform the Sadak Nye Lam Dé Zhi. Then, a ritual boundary is established that will remain until the conclusion of the ritual. These preliminaries are only necessary at the beginning and will not be performed again in the following days. After the preliminaries, the enlightened deities are invited to take their seats within the mandala palace, their respective mantras are recited and offerings are presented to them. Similarly, the subduers and the worldly spirits are invited. This too only needs to be performed once. Now that the presence of the deities is within the mandala palace, no one is allowed to come near the ritual dö unless it is to present offerings or pay homage. Much of the rest of the ritual recitations such as praising the qualities of the deities and the respective prayers for presenting each type of offering are repeated throughout the course of each of the days of the ritual. In conclusion, the four groups of spirits having become completely satisfied and happy with the ritual are asked to return to their respective homes. Then, prayers of aspiration for health, happiness, prosperity and good fortune are recited with the final prayer being that of dedicating the merit of the virtuous ritual activity for the benefit of all suffering beings. During this multi-day ritual performance, the specific texts associated with the lu, sadak, nyen and tö [Lu Bum, Sadak Bum, Nyen Bum, and Tö Bum] are continually recited by groups of monks in ancillary rooms.

In addition to the elaborate ritual of the Sadak Nye Lam Dé Zhi, there is much guidance and skillful methods for our interactions with the worldly spirits within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition. Following these instructions prevents us from disturbing the spirits within the environment or creating an imbalance of the natural elements while still providing for ourselves from the earth’s resources. For example, before beginning the construction of a building, it is important to examine the characteristics of the land in order to locate the appropriate place to dig into the earth. Traditionally, areas of land are seen in the form of a turtle. If you build upon the turtle’s ‘head’, then the spirit of the land will die and the soil will become barren and empty. The best is to build within the area of the turtle’s ‘stomach’ because there is more empty space in this area and no ‘major organs’ will be disturbed. Once the appropriate location has been determined, it is then important to communicate with the spirits residing at that location and to assure them that you mean no harm to them and that you apologize in advance for any disturbance created by the construction. In this way, we maintain a harmonious relationship with the environment and its inhabitants while also mindfully providing for our needs as human beings.

A ritual often used for groundbreaking is entitled Nang Sa Nang Gyé Düs Pa and referred to simply as Nang Sa, Permission for the Land. 

“AH OM HUNG

To the gods above, the lu below, and the nyen in-between, 

to the thirty nyenpo above, the nine kinds of yen töpo in-between and the eleven greater yen upon the earth,

to the local spirit owners of this mountainous area and to the eight classes of gods and demons of this isolated place,

accept this torma made of the essence of grain together with this golden drink.

Now, because of my melody and offering this precious torma, whatever my activities upon this land or wherever I travel in any direction upon this land, don’t become jealous or upset.”  

— Condensed extract from Permission for Using Land from the Eight Classes of Gods and Demons

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.

Don’t want to miss a post? Scroll to the bottom and click “Follow this blog.”

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..

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

Don’t want to miss a post? Scroll to the bottom and click “Follow this blog.”

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.

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.

Don’t want to miss a post? Scroll to the bottom and click “Follow this blog.”

The Twelve Animals of Tibetan Astrology: The Pig

In Tibetan astrology, there is a twelve-year cycle.  Each of these years is characterized by a different animal and associated with one of the five elements.  Therefore, a full cycle of the twelve animals being associated with each of the five elements is sixty years.  The twelve animals according to the Yungdrung Bön texts are the Rat, Elephant, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Horse, Snake, Sheep, Garuda, Monkey, Dog and Pig.  Each animal is associated with a specific element for its life-force as well as a specific direction which is determined by the life-force element.  Not only are these twelve animals associated with specific years, they are also associated with specific months, days and hours.

Feb 05, 2019 begins the Tibetan New Year, or Losar, and the year of the Earth Pig.  People born during a Pig year will have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with the symbol of the Pig.  (These years correspond with the Tibetan lunar calendar and begin sometime between late January and early April.)   According to Tibetan astrology, the element which governs the life-force of the Pig is Water and its positive direction is North.  So, if a Pig 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 as an astrological symbol, the Pig person is honest and uncomplicated. A Pig person is straight-forward, but not in an aggressive way. They are often seen as “good, down-to-earth” people by others. This is because the Pig person does not harbor hidden agendas. They can be trusted and relied upon. In general, they have many friends to whom they are generous and jovial, and are always willing to be helpful. However, the Pig person can have difficulty setting boundaries and saying ‘no.’ And because they tend to be naive, it is possible for them to be taken advantage of by others. Although the Pig person is generous, they also enjoy having money for themselves and living in leisure and comfort. For this reason, the pursuit of pleasure and entertainment can become imbalanced and lead to excess.

The Pig’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.

Pig years include: 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, and 2019

If you were born during a previous year of the Pig, this year as well as other Pig 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.

Raven Cypress Wood© All Rights Reserved

Don’t want to miss a post? Scroll to the bottom and click “Follow this blog.”

The Twelve Animals of Tibetan Astrology: The Dog

In Tibetan astrology, there is a twelve-year cycle.  Each of these years is characterized by a different animal and associated with one of the five elements.  Therefore, a full cycle of the twelve animals being associated with each of the five elements is sixty years.  The twelve animals according to the Yungdrung Bön texts are the Rat, Elephant, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Horse, Snake, Sheep, Garuda, Monkey, Dog and Pig.  Each animal is associated with a specific element for its life-force as well as a specific direction which is determined by the life-force element.  Not only are these twelve animals associated with a particular year, they are also associated with particular months, days and hours.

Feb 16, 2018 begins the Tibetan New Year, or Losar, and the year of the Earth Dog.  People born during a Dog year will have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with the symbol of the Dog.  (These years correspond with the Tibetan lunar calendar and begin sometime between late January and early April.)   In astrology, the element which governs the life-force of the Dog is Earth and its positive direction is Northwest.  So, if a Dog person wanted to strengthen their life-force, they would focus upon strengthening the element of Earth internally and externally.  Because the positive direction is Northwest, facing this direction while meditating, engaging in healing practices or just relaxing and taking deep breaths is beneficial.

In general as an astrological symbol, the Dog person is loyal, straightforward, and honest. Because of their desire to offer their help and support, they are diligent and responsible with tasks. The Dog person takes great care in all that they do and is methodical and precise. Because of this, they do not like to be rushed in completing tasks or making decisions. Others can become frustrated at the Dog person’s seeming inertia when actually they are diligently analyzing the situation in order to be certain in making the correct decision. This tendency towards analysis and judgement can be in excess and lead the Dog person to overly analyze situations and consequently fall into despair or pessimism. For this reason, the Dog person can be seen as quite serious. However, they do not take their loved ones for granted and their relationships are long-lasting.

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

Dog years include: 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, and 2018

If you were born during a previous year of the Dog, this year as well as other Dog 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.

Raven Cypress Wood© All Rights Reserved

Harmony and Disharmony of the Five Elements

“From totally void emptiness, a totally clear light appeared. That light…came into being as a luminous wheel, whirling spontaneously. From the self-produced energy of the wheel, weightless wind came into being. The moving energy of the wind grew stronger and stronger and…from the energy of the wind, heat came into existence. From the clash between the heat of fire and the cold of the wind, moisture and water came into being. Subtle and coarse particles gathered in the water, and when their energy developed, they came into being as the Golden Earth that Supports Everything.”
~from the Yungdrung Bön text: The Precious Citadel where Everything is Brought Together as translated by Donatella Rossi in The Light of Kailash By Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche

The Five Elements of Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth are the basis for all the exists.  These elements are in constant relationship with one another, and it is this harmony, disharmony, balance or imbalance that determines the health or disease of organisms as well as the development or disintegration of dynamic systems.  Many cultures around the world acknowledge the importance of the Five Elements in both mundane and spiritual activities.  Within the Yungdrung Bön tradition, each element has its own distinctive qualities which are represented by a specific color, shape, sound, and direction.  Within our physical bodies, the Earth element is related to our flesh, the Water element is related to our blood, the Fire element is related to our internal  heat, the Wind (or Wood according to astrology) element is related to our breath and movement within the body, and the Space (or Metal according to astrology) element is related to our consciousness.

Among the Five Elements themselves, one way of describing their interactions is through the  five kinds of relationship: Mother, Friend, Self,  Child, and Enemy.  The relationship of ‘Mother’ is the one of greatest harmony.  The relationship of ‘Friend’ is very harmonious.  The relationship of ‘Son’ is considered to be neutral.  The relationship of ‘Enemy,’ as the name indicates, is considered to be the one of greatest conflict.  The relationship of ‘Self’ occurs when the same elements encounter one another.  This can either be good or bad depending upon the specific element involved.  Therefore, the possible relationship combinations for the Five Elements are defined as the following:

Mother: these relationships are considered the most harmonious

  • Earth is the mother of Metal
  • Metal is the mother of Water
  • Water is the mother of Wood
  • Wood is the mother of Fire, and
  • Fire is the mother of Earth

Friend: these relationships are considered to be very harmonious

  • Earth is a friend to Wood
  • Wood is a friend to Metal
  • Metal is a friend to Fire
  • Fire is a friend to Water, and
  • Water is a friend to Earth

Son: these relationships are considered to be neutral, and are in fact the ‘Mother’ relationships in reverse

  • Earth is the son of Fire
  • Fire is the son of Wood
  • Wood is the son of Water
  • Water is the son of Metal, and
  • Metal is the son of Earth

Enemy: these relationships are considered the least desirable and most destructive, and are in fact the ‘Friend’ relationship in reverse

  • Earth is an enemy to Water
  • Water is an enemy to Fire
  • Fire is an enemy to Metal
  • Metal is an enemy to Wood, and
  • Wood is an enemy to Earth

Self: When two of the same elements meet, the quality depends upon the elements involved

  • Earth to Earth and Water to Water are both considered to be a good combination, but not as positive as the Friend relationship
  • Fire to Fire and Metal to Metal are both considered to be a bad combination, but not as negative as the Enemy relationship

There are many ways to apply this knowledge in daily life.  For example, by understanding the relationship between the element of the lunar year and an individual’s astrological elements, it can be determined what kind of elemental forces will be active for that individual for any given year.  The year 2017 is ruled by the element of Fire, which is actually the energy of wangtang, or personal charisma for people born in that year.  For those born in Earth years, the Fire Element (lunar year) to Earth Element (individual birth year) is in a Mother relationship as regards the wangtang.  Therefore, these people might feel very strong personal power and charisma during this lunar year.  However, for those born in a Fire year, it is a Self relationship considered to be bad.  This indicates that it is possible for these people to experience a decrease of power and influence, and perhaps even encounter bad luck.  Knowing this, before any negativity develops, this individual could benefit from activities and/or practices that would increase their wangtang such as wealth practices, making offerings, or other virtuous spiritual activity.  This is but one example of how the Five Elements directly influence our daily lives.  With this knowledge, we can support our health and prosperity as well as support our spiritual practice and growth.

Prayers for Peace and Harmony

Prayer Flags at Tashi Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India. Photo credit: Unknown

The Twelve Animals of Tibetan Astrology: The Garuda

In Tibetan astrology, there is a twelve year cycle.  Each of these years is characterized by a different animal and associated with one of the five elements.  Therefore, a full cycle of the twelve animals being associated with each of the five elements is sixty years.  The twelve animals according to the Yungdrung Bön texts are the Rat, Elephant, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Horse, Snake, Sheep, Garuda, Monkey, Dog and Pig.  Each animal is associated with a specific element for its life-force as well as a specific direction which is determined by the life-force element.  Not only are these twelve animals associated with a particular year, they are also associated with particular months, days and hours.

A bronze image of a Garuda

Feb 27, 2017 begins the Tibetan New Year and the year of the Fire Garuda.  (For the Yungdrung Bön, it is the year of the Garuda.  Others use the symbol of the rooster.)  The Garuda is a bird both historical and mythical in scope similar to the Thunderbird.  It is intricately associated with Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché and the ancient kingdom of Zhang Zhung and Mount Tisé a.k.a. Mount Kailash. People born during a Garuda year will have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with Garuda.  (These years correspond with the Tibetan lunar calendar and begin sometime between late January and early April.)   In astrology, the element which governs the life-force of the Garuda is Metal (space) and its direction is West.  So, if a Garuda person wanted to strengthen their life-force, they would focus upon strengthening the element of Metal internally and externally.  Because the positive direction is West, facing this direction while meditating, engaging in healing practices or just relaxing and taking deep breaths is beneficial.

In general as an astrological symbol, the Garuda person has a zest for life and is uncomfortable with the limitations of tradition and convention.  The Garuda has confidence in itself and is ambitious with goals that can often seem unrealistic to others.  However, it is a perfectionist and a master of organization that is able to find a way to accomplish difficult tasks.  The Garuda‘s joy and charisma attracts many friends who benefit from its spontaneous generosity.  Its flair for life and confidence in itself also attracts the attention of powerful people who help the completion of its goals.  In some, this unshakable confidence might lend itself to conceit and self-centeredness.  The Garuda finds the most joy when it remains balanced rather than caught in a cycle of highs and lows.

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

Garuda years include: 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, and 2017

If you were born during a previous year of the Garuda, this year as well as other Garuda 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.

Raven Cypress Wood© All Rights Reserved

Ancient Symbols

The chakshing, hand object of Lord Tonpa Shenrap Miwoche, and the Yungdrung Bon flag atop Menri Monastery in Dholanji, India. Photo credit: Unknown

%d bloggers like this: