Category Archives: Iconography

666th Birth Celebration of the Second Buddha: H.H. the 1st Menri Trizin Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché

Shrine display at Menri Monastery honoring HH 1st Menri Trizin Rinpoche. Photo credit: Unknown

The 5th day of the 1st lunar month is the birth celebration of His Holiness the 1st Menri Trizin Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché who is known as the second buddha in the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition. In 2022, this date coincides with  March 7th on the Western calendar. His Holiness Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché was a reincarnation of Yikyi Khye’u Chung, one of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche’s sons. He united the three transmission lineages of sutra, tantra and dzogchen that had become widely dispersed, and he founded one of the largest Yungdrung Bön monasteries in Tibet, Tashi Menri Ling.

Born in 1356 in the region of Gyalrong into the esteemed 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.   While he was traveling in Eastern Tibet, Yeru Wensaka was destroyed by flooding and mudslides. Upon returning, he searched the ruins of the monastery for any salvageable artifacts. With these precious objects, he established Tashi Menri Monastery on higher ground within the same valley. It was 1405 and he was 50 years old.

nyamme sol dep framed

His Holiness 1st Menri Trizin 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 left the shell of his physical body. His body levitated high into the air, but due to the fervent prayers of his disciples, the body returned to the earth. During the cremation, rainbows appeared and a large bird circled three times around the cremation area before disappearing into the West.

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

Among his numerous writings, is the commonly recited Eight-branched Aspiration Prayer, Mönlam Yenlak Gyepa. When offering aspiration prayers, we imagine that every sentient being is offering the prayers in unison with us. This limitless group of beings includes humans, nonhumans, unseen spirits, and those we consider “enemies.” All sound is perceived as the sound of the prayer being recited and the vastness of space is imagined as filled with buddhas and bodhisattvas that are delighted by the virtuous activity that spontaneously activates their immeasurable compassion. By offering the prayers in this way, and then dedicating the merit of the practice for the welfare of all sentient beings, the power of the practice is inconceivable and the benefit is sealed and can never be destroyed. 

The English language translation of the Eight-branched Aspiration Prayer, Mönlam Yenlak Gyepa is publicly available for personal use and can be downloaded from the Publications page of this website. Click on the Publications tab above and then scroll down the page to the download link.

Tibetan translations by Raven Cypress Wood

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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665th Birth Celebration of the Second Buddha: H.H. the 1st Menri Trizin Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché

Shrine display at Menri Monastery honoring HH 1st Menri Trizin Rinpoche. Photo credit: Unknown

The 5th day of the 1st month of the Tibetan lunar calendar is the birth celebration of His Holiness the 1st Menri Trizin Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché also known as the second buddha. In 2021, this date coincides with  February 16th on the Western calendar and is the 665th year. H.H. Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché was a reincarnation of Yikyi Khye’u Chung, one of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche’s sons. He was responsible for uniting the three transmission lineages 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.

H.H. Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché 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, H.H. Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché.

Tibetan translations by Raven Cypress Wood

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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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

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