Category Archives: Iconography

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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Celebration of the Second Buddha: Nyamme Sherap Gyaltsen

The 5th day of the 1st month of the Tibetan lunar calendar is the celebration of the birth and cremation of Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen.  In 2019, this date in the Western calendar is February 9th. Within the Yungdrung Bön tradition, Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen is often referred to as the Second Buddha.  He was a reincarnation of Yikyi Khye’u Chung, one of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche’s sons. Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen was responsible for uniting the three transmissions of sutra, tantra and dzogchen as well as founding one of the largest Yungdrung Bön monasteries in Tibet, Tashi Menri Ling.

Born in 1356 in the region of Gyalrong into the Dru lineage, as a child, he could recite mantra and read scripture without having studied.  At the age of ten, he decided to become a monk.  In 1387 at the age of 31, he entered the prestigious Yeru Wensaka monastery and eventually became its abbot.   During a journey to Eastern Tibet, Yeru Wensaka was destroyed by flooding and mudslides.  After returning, he searched the ruins of the monastery for artifacts.  He took these and established Tashi Menri Monastery further up the same valley.  It was now 1405 and he was 50 years old.

Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen was known throughout Tibet as a great scholar and prolific writer on the many varied subjects within the Bön scriptures.  He also exhibited many miracles and signs of his spiritual realization.  Twice, he flew up into the sky.  During one of these flights, he burned his hat with the rays of the sun.

Nyamme Sherap Gyaltsen handprint

Nyamme Sherap Gyaltsen’s hand print in stone

In 1415 at the age of 60, he passed away.  His body levitated high into the air, but due to the many heartfelt prayers of his disciples, the body came back down.   During the cremation, rainbows appeared and an eagle circled three times around the cremation area before disappearing into the West.

Today,  Bönpos will spend the day with their eyes looking skyward.  If you are lucky enough to be visited by a vulture on this day, it is said to be an auspicious sign of having received the blessings of the lama known as the Second Buddha, the Unequaled One, Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen.

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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Protection for Travelers


When traveling, one can specifically include the Goddess of Travel, Chammo Lamlha, in the morning smoke offering, and also offer her torma in the evening, while asking for her protection. Although there are longer invocations of her and her retinue, this is a concise invocation that was written by His Holiness 23rd Menri Trizen Nyima Tenzin Rinpoche when he saw her in a vision at the age of thirteen.

SO!  Within a mandala of luminous and beautiful jewels,

Seated upon a golden hornet,

Is the majestic and youthful goddess,

Chammo Lam Lha, together with her retinue.

Come here now and keep your protection vow!

Please accept these offerings of smoke and torma.

Act as my companion.

Expel the causes for harm and obstacles.

Please act to accomplish this entrusted activity!

Translation Raven Cypress Wood ©2015 All Rights Reserved. No publication permitted.

 

The Fierce, Secret Tamer of Demons

Walchen Gekho with his consort, Queen of the Drala

On the 23rd day of the Eighth Tibetan month, Western calendar date October 2nd 2018, Tashi Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India will begin an intensive seven-day retreat for the yidam Gekhö. Specifically, they will perform the practice from the text compiled by His Holiness 1st Menri Trizen Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoche, “Gekhö Sangwa Drakchen, The Fierce, Secret Gekhö.” This retreat will conclude on the 29th lunar day, October 8th 2018.

The tantric cycle of Gekhö contains 360 deities, and within the cycle of the Father Tantras he is the manifestation of enlightened quality within the Five Supreme Embodiments. (See previous post: https://ravencypresswood.com/2016/06/05/the-five-supreme-embodiments/

He was the deity of the ancient land of Zhang Zhung and his tantric practice was widespread throughout the realm. It is said that he originally descended upon the sacred mountain of Gang Tisé (aka Mount Kailash), and he and his retinue dwell there. However, even though there is a close association with an earthly abode, he is not a worldly guardian. Rather, he is the embodiment of enlightened energy that manifests as a meditational deity and enlightened protector for the practitioners of Yungdrung Bön. The epithet “Gekhö” in the Zhang Zhung language means “demon tamer.”

“In order to lead those who have not gained realization, Walchen Gekhö possesses the Five Bodies and the Five Primordial Wisdoms. Through the truth of pacification, and through these forceful, wrathful means, those who are untamed will be tamed.” ~From the Essence Practice of the Fierce Champion, Zhang Zhung Meri

One manifestation of Gekhö is Zhang Zhung Meri. This yidam deity is closely associated with the dzogchen practice of the Zhang Zhung Nyen Gyü, The Aural Transmission of Zhang Zhung. The practice of dzogchen is, by definition, perfected and beyond needing to apply any methods to develop it. However, because the practitioners of dzogchen have not yet fully realized this primordial perfection, the deity Zhang Zhung Meri offers protection and support.

Translation and copyright Raven Cypress Wood ©2018 All Rights Reserved

The Field of Accumulation: The Yidams

Tsok zhing according to Menri

Tsok zhing according to MenriThe Yungdrung Bon Merit Field of the Menri Tradition

In the Yungdrung Bön tradition, the place where the deities and objects of veneration are gathered is called the “Tsok Zhing”, the “Field of Accumulation”.  It is also sometimes translated as the “Field of Merit” or the “Merit Field” because what is being accumulated by paying homage and making offerings to this place is merit, or virtue.  This is the Merit Field according to the Menri Tradition from a drawing done by the great master and scholar HE Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche.

Yidams are deities who have their own individual cycles of practice with the aim of acquiring the qualities and blessings of the yidam being meditated upon.  In general, these cycles of practice are centered around an individual retreat in which the practitioner focuses upon self-transformation into the deity, recitation of the deity’s mantra, along with any other ritual or meditation specific to the deity which support the attainment of the deities qualities and blessings.  There are yidams specific to a family lineage, to monastic lineages as well as personal yidams.  Some of the vows associated with yidam practice are general to all, and some vows are specific to each yidam.  Some yidams are represented more than once to signify their different tantric cycles.

#2-4, 14 & 18: The Five Supreme Embodiments of the Father Tantra (See previous post:https://ravencypresswood.com/2016/06/05/the-five-supreme-embodiments/)

1. Zhiwa Künnang Khyappa: This yidam represents all peaceful yidams

2. Trowo Tsochok Khagying: This yidam is an embodiment of the Enlightened Mind of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche.

3. Walsé Ngampa: This yidam is an embodiment of the Enlightened Body of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche.

The Yidam Walse Ngampa, Embodiment of the Enl ightened Body

4. Lhago Tokpa: This yidam is an embodiment of the Enlightened Speech of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche.

5. Sangwa Ying Rol

6. Tséwang Rikdzin: As a long life deity, this yidam is white in color.

7. Magyü Sangchok Tartuk: This yidam is the principal deity of the Mother Tantra and is also known as Tukjé Galpo.

8. Drenpa Namkha

9. Bumpa

10. Rampa

11. Rolpa

12. Dütsi Yungdrung Khyilwa

13. Takla Pudri Marpo

14. Gekho Sangwa Drakchen:  This yidam is the embodiment of the Enlightened Qualities of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche.

15. Trowo Druksé Chempa: This yidam is the Embodiment of the Enlightened Activities of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche.

16. Meri Walchen Gekho

17. Chidul Yidam Gyatso Trogyal Raksha Khagying

18. Sangpur

19. Walsé Khyungnak Trowo Karpo

20.Wal Khyung Marpo

Yidams of the Other Tantras

#22-#25 The Four Principal Enlightened Ones (See previous post https://ravencypresswood.com/2016/08/20/the-four-principal-enlightened-ones/)

21. Gyepa Kunnang Khyapa

22. Tönpa Shenrap Miwo

23. Sipa Sangpo Bumtri

24. Lhachen Shenlha Ökar

25. Yumchen Satrik Érsang

26. Shenrap Nampar Gyalwa

27. Namdak

28. Jamma

29. Mélha

30. Kéngtsé Lenmé

31. Sherab Mawé Séngé

The Yidam Mawe Senge

32. Dülchok Tönpa Tritsuk Gyalwa

33. Jamma

34. Namdak

35. Mönlam Taye

36. Menlha

37. Künying

38. Gényen Tékpa Lha

39. Jamden

40. Dükhor

41. Künrik

42. Gyalwa Gyatso

43. Namjom

The Yidam Namjom, aka Nampar Jompa, and his emanations.

Sacred Form

A Collection of Sacred Yungdrung Bon Objects. Photo credit: Unknown

Victory Over Ignorance

Gyaltsen or Sign of Victory

As one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols, the gyaltsen or sign of victory, symbolizes victory over all obstacles especially the demon of ignorance.

The Everlasting Yungdrung Bön

Special mandala offering with chakshing and flaming jewels presented to HH 33rd Menri Trizen Rinpoche and HE Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche in 2016 by the Worldwide Yungdrung Bon community.

 

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

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