Category Archives: Prayer and Ritual

The Power of Aspiration

Yungdrung Bön nun circumambulates. Photo credit: Mary Ellen McCourt

“Never being separate from the divine places of refuge and having brought together the causes and conditions of faith and compassion, may I generate the mind of enlightenment for the benefit of all migrating beings!

With the establishment of mindfulness as well as a vast and pure renunciation, and through the four kinds of miraculous abilities along the path of accumulation, and because of these roots of virtue which are in accord with the path of liberation, may my mind-stream become ripened!

Instantly having perceived the clearly manifest meaning of the essential nature which is non-dual clarity and emptiness, may I be free from the activities of this world and obtain the ground beyond only having a mere taste of experience!

Unwavering from the state of pure space and having accomplished benefit for others through the unsurpassed ten perfections, may I proceed along the path of meditation and fulfill the two accumulations!”

— Extract from The Eight-branched Aspiration 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.

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Lunar Calendar: The Day to Practice Drenpa Namkha & Tséwang Rikdzin

Drenpa Namkha edited(As a meditational deity, Drenpa Namkha is most often depicted in a semi-wrathful form, blue in color and holding a yungdrung in his right hand.)

According to the lunar calendar of the Yungdrung Bön, the 10th day of each month is the day set aside for the practice of the three sages: Drenpa Namkha and his two twin sons, Tséwang Rikdzin and Pema Tongdrul.   On this day, it is appropriate to pay homage and make offerings to these lamas as well as to recite the mantras associated with their respective practices. During the month of November 2019, this day is November 6th.

“Now during this negative time, instances of virtue decrease and the opportunities for good fortune, prosperity and nutrition for the destitute diminishes.  You are surrounded by the wealth deities and their retinues.  I pray to the Great Lama and his two sons, to the subduer of demons Drenpa Namkha, bestow a treasury of riches and prosperity!

Look upon me with your unbiased compassion morning and night during the past, present and future.  Turn back both seen and unseen enemies! My present and future Refuge and Protector, bless me to accomplish my intentions!”

~From the Prayer of Fourteen Stanzas to Drenpa Namkha, translated by Raven Cypress Wood

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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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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Rites of Wisdom and Protection

The enlightened protector Walchen Gekhö

On the Tibetan lunar calendar, the 23rd-29th of the 8th month is designated as the time for the intensive retreat and practice of the deity Gekhö at Menri Monastery. In 2019, these lunar dates coincide with October 21st-27th on the Western calendar.

The deity Gekhö is closely associated with Mt. Tisé (A.k.a Mt. Kailash) and the ancient land of Zhang Zhung. Among the 360 emanations of this deity is the protector associated with the Aural Transmission of Zhang Zhung, Zhang Zhung Meri. This enlightened deity has both a tantric and a dzogchen empowerment. He is the primary yidam of the Yangtön lineage of lamas which includes the current Menri Pönlop Yangtön Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche.

The enlightened protector Zhang Zhung Meri

“Through the truth of pacification and through these forceful wrathful means, those who are untamed will be tamed. 

Just like adding firewood to a fire, through the afflictions themselves the afflictions are subdued and the demon of mistaken conceptuality is dispelled.”

—Extract from Practice of the Essence of the Fierce Champion Zhang Zhung Meri

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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Clearing Away the Darkness

Butter lamp offering. Photo credit: Unknown

“EMAHO!

Throughout the ten directions of the immeasurable three thousand-fold universe are many kinds of goddesses including the butter lamp offering goddesses.

Within these small, circular containers is placed a wick of twisted gauze.

They are filled with clarified, melted butter which is a divine, concentrated essence.

By lighting these bright offering lamps, the fire of the lamps clears away darkness and obscurations and radiates throughout the vast, clear space of the sky.

I offer this fire which has manifested from the vast space of wisdom to the dimension of the divine assembly of peaceful deities.

And may this offering fulfill my sacred vows with the divine assembly of wrathful deities.

Please accept this enjoyable offering!”

— Extract from Raising a Victory Banner of Butter Lamps

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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Offering Everything that is Good

Women of Lubrak, Mustang symbolically offering the entire internal and external universe to the places of refuge. Photo credit: Unknown.

“EMAHO!

To the great, unmatched lama possessing characteristics,

I present unequaled external, internal, and secret offerings.

Externally, I offer the environment and the beings within it.

Furthermore, I offer my own body and its vitality as an ornament.

I present these offerings with non-attachment.

Internally, I offer the arising of my mental and physical aggregates.

I offer my accumulated realization that whatever arises as subject and object is illusory.

Furthermore, I present these offerings within the vast space of self-liberation.

Secretly, I offer the natural radiance of my unborn mind, which is

unceasing and understands whatever arises as enlightened manifestation and wisdom.

Furthermore, I present these offerings within a completely vast and all-pervasive space.”

— Extract from Offerings for the Lama

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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Homage to the Spiritual Master

Monks at Menri Monastery welcome HH 34th Menri Trizin Rinpoche upon his return to the monastery. Photo credit: Unknown.

“Above the crown of my head upon a throne of a lotus, sun and moon is the essence of all victorious ones, my kind lama.

I pray to those who have the ability to lead beings out of cyclic existence. Grant your blessings so that I may effortlessly accomplish benefit to self and others!”

— Extract from Tsa Lung Sol Dep, Supplication Prayer for the Practice of the Channels and Winds written by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche

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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The Virtuous Practice of Making Sa Tsa

Cremation sa tsa of HH 34th Menri Trizin Rinpoche. Photo credit: Unknown

A sa tsa is a small replica of a chorten (Sanskrit: stupa) or enlightened being that is made out of clay with a sa tsa mold.  This mold both shapes and imprints the clay.  Within the sutra tradition, making sa tsa can be one of the daily practices of generosity and is considered a method of accumulating merit.  The practice of making sa tsa was described by Buddha Tönpa Shenrap among the virtuous practices of lay practitioners, or genyen. 

“If someone wants to earnestly give up negative and non-virtuous behavior and take up the activities of the ten virtues, or is a follower of The Way of the Genyen, or if they want to learn the virtuous practices of the Shen, the offering of sa tsa has three sections. These are the preliminary practice of creating the enlightened image, the main practice of ritually consecrating the image with blessings, and the final practice of sealing the object-less roots of virtue and aspiration by dedicating.”

— From The Ritual of Sa Tsa from The Way of the Genyen within the Zi Ji by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen

Sa tsa painted gold. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

There are detailed instructions for creating sa tsa which include specific mantras and visualizations to use while searching for and collecting the clay, cleaning the clay, kneading the clay, shaping the clay, blessing the clay etc. In general however, one begins by requesting the blessings of the lama, taking refuge and generating the mind of enlightenment.  Then, the clay is ritually purified with water and incense. The sa tsa mold is prepared by lightly coating the inside with butter or oil.  The clay is kneaded and molded into shape, and firmly pressed into the mold.  From the bottom-center, a small portion of clay is removed in order to create a cavity.  Within this space is placed mantras of enlightened body, speech, mind, quality and activity; as well as a powdered mixture of the five precious things: gold, silver, turquoise, coral and crystal; blessed herbal medicine known as mendrup, the six excellent substances, and the five grains.  Clay is then used to close this space and seal these substances within each of the sa tsa.

Left: A large sa tsa mold                          Center: Detailed inside of mold            Right: Smaller mold with unfinished sa tsa

Once the clay has dried, the sa tsa are painted silver or gold and then consecrated.  Traditionally, the sa tsa are then placed within a chorten or a tsa khang, a sa tsa house, that will protect the sa tsa from the elements.  These tsa khang can be located anywhere but are often found at sacred places and are located so as to make circumambulation of the structure possible.  In the absence of a tsa khang, sa tsa are also placed in caves at the top of mountains or at pilgrimage places.

Sa tsa in the form of the enlightened Buddha Sherap Jamma. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood.

Cremation sa tsa can be made to benefit a being that has died by adding a small amount of the cremation ash to the substances placed within the sa tsa. By establishing this connection between the deceased and an enlightened image, it supports circumstances for a positive rebirth. In the case of the passing of a realized spiritual master, cremation sa tsa can be made which then act as sacred relics and objects of devotion for the disciples.

Sa tsa at Tashi Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India. Photo credit: Lee Hartline

“According to the Teacher’s words, if the followers of The Way of the Genyen or any other members of the Bön community practice this with faith, having created and consecrated even a single [sa tsa] in an enlightened form, the virtue cannot be exhausted even with the passing of many thousands of eons. It is not possible to measure or count the positive qualities.

Because of that, one should have faith and train in this profound virtuous practice of the shen. One should properly increase the roots of virtue in this way.  From this precious cause of liberation for sentient beings, completely pure and perfect buddhahood can be attained. Hold this firmly in your mind!”

—— From The Ritual of Sa Tsa from The Way of the Genyen within the Zi Ji by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen

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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Aspiration of The First Way

The tree of health and illness. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood.

Germinating and ripening,

like a blaze of good fortune within the realm of appearance and existence,

giving birth to the positive result of longevity, prosperity, and good harvests,

providing healing for the benefit and happiness of migrating beings in the world;

may we have the auspiciousness of The Way of the Shen of Prediction!*

—Excerpt from The Auspiciousness of the Stages of The Nine Ways

*For more information about The First Way, The Way of the Shen of Prediction, see previous post:

https://ravencypresswood.com/2013/03/27/1st-of-the-nine-ways-divination-astrology-and-medicine/

 

All content and translations 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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Essence Mantra of Yungdrung Bön: the MA TRI Mantra

The MA TRI mantra at Tokden Monastery. Photo credit: Unknown.

The MA TRI mantra is one of the three primary essence mantras of the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition. The syllable OM is the seed syllable of the buddha Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché. The syllable MA is the seed syllable of the buddha Sherap Jamma. The remaining six syllables are the seed syllables of the Six Subduing Shen, the buddhas who liberate each of the six kinds of beings from the suffering and misery of cyclic existence.

Lord Tönpa Shenrap and Sherap Jamma according to the practice of the MA TRI.

OM Upon cushions of a sun, moon and lotus and within a beautiful, jeweled palace is the victorious deity and his consort.*  I present this offering of the essence mantra to them along with their retinue.

I request that you receive me within your compassion.  May the defilements and karmic potentialities of both myself and others be purified!  Please bestow both the supreme and the ordinary accomplishments! OM MA TRI MU YÉ SA LÉ DÜ.”

— From Sending Out and Gathering Back with the MA TRI Mantra. Translated from the Tibetan by Raven Cypress Wood

*This refers to Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché and Buddha Sherap Jamma.

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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Lineage of Ancient Wisdom

HH 34th Menri Trizin Dawa Dargye Rinpoche and HE Menri Ponlop Yangton Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche during a ritual at Menri Monastery in Dolanji, Inida. Photo credit: Unknown.

Giving Without Attachment

Mandala Offering at Tokden Yungdrung Bon Monastery. Photo credit: Unknown

“EMAHO!

To the great, peerless lama possessing characteristics, I present unequaled external, internal and secret offerings.

Externally, I offer the environment and the beings within it. I offer my own body and its vitality as an ornament. Furthermore, I present these offerings with non-attachment.

Internally, I offer the arising of my mental and physical aggregates. I offer my accumulated realization that whatever arises as subject and object is illusory. Furthermore, I present these offerings within the vast space of self-liberation.

Secretly, I offer the natural radiance of my unborn mind, which is unceasing and understands whatever arises as enlightened manifestation and wisdom. Furthermore, I present these offerings within a completely vast and all-pervasive space.”

—From Offerings for the Lama. Translated from the Tibetan 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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Accumulating Merit & Wisdom

Photo credit: Jana Kolarik

Through recitation of the sacred Yungdrung Bön texts, we accumulate both merit and wisdom. By making a commitment to recite a certain text every day or a specified number of times and then fulfilling that commitment, the power of our practice is amplified. Recitation of the sacred texts is also one of the thirteen Bön activities. See previous post: https://ravencypresswood.com/2018/01/14/the-thirteen-bon-activities/

As a support to the worldwide Yungdrung Bön community, Raven Cypress Wood has provided her translation of select Yungdrung Bön prayers on this website for the personal use of Yungdrung Bön practitioners. See the Publications page of this website at the link below for more information. https://ravencypresswood.com/publications/

“EMAHO!

Enlightened Ones of the ten directions who appeared in the past,

Enlightened Ones of the ten directions who appear in the present,

Enlightened Ones of the ten directions who will appear in the future,

the Mind of the lama is the embodiment of all these Enlightened Ones of the three times.

To the embodiment of all the places of refuge, the root lama,

I pay homage, admit my wrongdoing, present offerings, and supplicate!

Please pacify all obstacles and guide me along the path of liberation!

Bestow your blessings that my wishes will be spontaneously fulfilled!”

— From The Spontaneous Wish-fulfillment of Removing Obstacles from the Path:

The Oral Transmission of Khandro Shérap Lopélma

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Uplifting Auspiciousness & Good Fortune

His Eminence Menri Ponlop Yangton Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche offering lungta papers to the sky during a ritual to increase good fortune. Photo credit: Unknown

“Having produced within my mind-stream a lack of desire or attachment towards this world, toward friends or enemies, towards material things or property and wealth; and having liberated the knots of greediness regarding subject and object, may I abide in the state of the unmoving, nature of mind!”    

—From the book Indestructible: The Longevity Practice of Tséwang Rikdzin. 

Lama Tséwang Rikdzin was born a human being as one of the twin sons of Lama Drenpa Namkha. But having realized the ultimate result of his practice and thereby transcending cyclic existence, he purified all obscurations and perfected all positive qualities and became an enlightened being. In this way, Lama Tséwang Rikdzin came to be practiced as a yidam deity. Although there are many longevity practices within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition, the practice of Lama Tséwang Rikdzin has become the longevity practice most commonly performed.

To learn more about the book: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/SacredSky

Tibetan translation: 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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Yungdrung Bön Auspicious Days for Spiritual Practice

The Supreme Shen Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché.

According to the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition, each month there are auspicious days which are determined by the teaching activities of the Supreme Shen Buddha Tönpa Shenrap. These are lunar dates according to the Tibetan lunar calendar.

30th Day of the Month, New Moon: On this day, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap taught the beings in the formless realm. This is a good day to purify wrong views. The power of any virtuous activity or meditation performed on this day is doubled. Also, because of its significance in the lunar cycle, it is one of the four monthly auspicious days to perform prayers and virtuous activities, and for those with genyen or monastic vows to avoid eating meat.

1st Day of the Month: On this day, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap taught the space gods in the highest and purest of places in the formless realm. This is a good day to purify greed and attachment and engage in acts of generosity.

8th Day of the Month: On this day, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap taught the clear-light gods. This is a good day to purify broken vows and to recite one of the three essence mantras of the Yungdrung Bön tradition. Also, because of its significance in the lunar cycle, it is one of the four monthly auspicious days to perform prayers and virtuous activities, and for those with genyen or monastic vows to avoid eating meat.

14th Day of the Month: On this day, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap taught the Gaden gods of the form realm. This is a good day to purify sexual misconduct and desire.

15th Day of the Month: On this day, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap taught the gods of the desire realm atop Mt. Meru. This is a good day to purify the killing of someone important such as a lama, a family member or another practitioner in either this or a previous life. Also, because of its significance in the lunar cycle, it is one of the four monthly auspicious days to perform prayers and virtuous activities, and for those with genyen or monastic vows to avoid eating meat.

16th Day of the Month: On this day, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap taught the four great gods of the desire realm and the four great kings. This is a good day to purify disagreements or misunderstandings with parents, a lama, or another practitioner from either this or a previous life.

19th Day of the Month: On this day, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap taught the Tsang Ri gods of the form realm. This is a good day to purify any accidental killing.

22nd Day of the Month: On this day, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap taught the demi-gods of the desire realm who reside on the sides of Mt. Meru. This is a good day to purify the killing of a human being or lying to the lama. Also, because of its significance in the lunar cycle, it is one of the four monthly auspicious days to perform prayers and virtuous activities, and for those with genyen or monastic vows to avoid eating meat.

29th Day of the Month: On this day, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap taught the lu [Sanskrit: naga] of the desire realm. This is a good day to purify stealing during this or a previous life.

The practice of the admission of wrongdoing and purification is a powerful and effective method to purify non-virtuous activities of body, speech and mind and repair our sacred vows and commitments. The efficacy of the practice relies upon the so-called “four powers.” These are 1) the power of witness, 2) the power of openly admitting without reservation the actions of wrongdoing and non-virtue, 3) the power of heartfelt remorse, and 4) the power of vowing to not repeat the negative activities.

“The infallible fruit of both good and bad actions is certain. May I be watchful to accept or reject situations! Having depended upon the practice of admitting wrongdoing by means of the four powers, may all karmic potentialities and defilements be purified!”

— From The Ocean of Instructions Regarding the A Tri Teachings by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche

For the power of witness, the practitioner goes before a sacred object of refuge such as a shrine, a real or visualized image of an enlightened being, or a chorten. Then, the practitioner connects with the actual presence of the enlightened beings in the sky before them. For the second power which is the admission of wrongdoing, the practitioner brings into their awareness all of the non-virtuous activities of body, speech and mind that have been committed in this life, as well as any unremembered activities from this or previous lives. This includes activities of direct or indirect involvement, as well as encouraging or celebrating the non-virtuous activities of others. For the third power, the practitioner generates an intense remorse for all of these actions. For the fourth power, the practitioner makes a firm commitment to not repeat these non-virtuous activities in the future and to instead engage in activities of virtue. In this way, the negative actions and their consequences are purified. At the conclusion of the practice, the practitioner imagines and feels the blessings of the enlightened beings completely purifying them in the form of pure, wisdom light.

“I openly admit to the gathering of buddhas all non-virtue that has arisen from the five poisons from beginning-less time until this very moment. I generate intense remorse for these actions of non-virtue and immorality that I have committed in the past.  I vow that from now on, I will not commit those acts again.  Instead, I will delight in accumulating virtue.” 

— From Homage to the Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwo

All translations from the Tibetan 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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Developing Knowledge & Wisdom

White emanation of Mawé Senge, Lion of Exposition.

After the Tibetan New Year celebrations, students at Menri Monastery in India enter into an intensive retreat to cultivate the qualities of the wisdom deity Mawé Senge, Lion of Exposition. This retreat begins on the 24th lunar day of the 1st month and concludes on the 30th lunar day. In 2019, these dates coincide with February 28th through March 6th on the Western calendar. The intention of this retreat is to develop and sharpen the student’s intellect related to their upcoming studies. The practice of Mawé Senge is performed many times each day and the mantra of the deity is recited as much as possible throughout the retreat, but at least a minimum of 100,000 recitations are completed.

“I go for refuge to the wisdom deity for the intellect.

I generate the supreme mind for the benefit of vigorous training in the highest wisdom.

Having compassionately purified all karmic obscurations without exception,

please bestow the attainments of an increased intellect, useful knowledge, and a divine voice.”  

—From The Short Practice of Mawé Senge. Tibetan translation: Raven Cypress Wood

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Feast Offering to the Deities of the Mother Tantra

Deities of the Mother Tantra. Painted by Lama Kalsang Nyima. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood.

On the 21st and 22nd lunar days of the 1st month, Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India will perform a feast offering to the deities of the Mother Tantra. These dates are February 25th and 26th, 2019 on the Western calendar. For those who have vows with a yidam deity, performing a feast offering is an opportunity to repair any broken vows and to request the blessings and power of the deity.

The source of the Mother Tantra within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition is the primordial Buddha Küntu Zangpo. It has three cycles: external, internal and secret. Each cycle has a root text and a commentary that was written by the sage Milu Samlek. The main yidam of the Mother tantra is Sangchok Thartuk and his consort Khandro Chema Ötso.

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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.

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Tibetan New Year: Purification & Repaying Debts

A ransom offering with hand print dough offerings. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

The Tibetan New Year, called Losar, is February 5, 2019.   This is the 1st day of the 1st month of the Tibetan lunar calendar.  The final month of the lunar calendar is considered a time for purification and cleansing, especially the 26th -29th.  The 29th day of the 12th month is called nyishu gu. In 2019, that date on the Western calendar is February 3rd. On this day, the family gathers together for a special dinner and purification ritual. A special soup of nine ingredients called gutük is made. One of the most important ingredients in the soup is large balls of dough that contain symbolic objects or descriptive characteristics written on paper. Each member of the family must receive one of these balls of dough, and whatever is inside is considered a playful commentary on their character.

For example, whoever receives the ball of dough containing a piece of coal is said to have a “black heart.”  Some of the other possible items that someone might receive are: a piece of wool meaning “kind-hearted,” a sun meaning ‘”light of goodness,” a chili meaning “sharp-tongued,” or salt meaning “lazy.”  Everyone saves a small amount of the last of their soup to be used as a ransom offering to the negative spirits of the past year. This ritual payment settles any remaining debts with the negative spirits so that they become satisfied and go away happy. Along with the leftover soup, each person also offers a karmic debt torma. This is a small ball of dough that has been passed over the body in order to absorb any illness and negativity, then pressed with the fingers of the hand and placed on the offering plate with the other ransom offerings.  A small candle is placed on the plate and lit before it is carried out by one of the family members.  Once the ransom offering has been left in an appropriate place, this person must not look back while returning home.

On the 1st day of the new year, everyone stays at home or goes to the monastery in order to make offerings and prayers.  On the 2nd and 3rd days of the new year, it is customary to spend the day visiting friends and extended family in order to raise the positive energy for the coming year.

“Because of our confusion due to ignorance, we have been killing, and beating others, and stealing their possessions throughout our lives from beginning-less time.  These negative actions have joined together as an immeasurable karmic debt.  And the result of these negative actions has ripened into an experience similar to the cause.  Because of this, I repay my karmic debts owed from previous, present, and future lifetimes.  Through the blessings of the thousand buddhas together with the power of my meditative stability, whatever karmic debts are owed are instantly brought into this ransom offering.” 

Excerpt from “The Skillful Means of Dedicating the Ransom” written by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche and contained within his Yangzab Namkha’i Dzö. Tibetan translation by Raven Cypress Wood

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Anniversary of the Human Birth of Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche

Lord Tonpa Shenrap Miwoche. Photo credit: Khedup Gyatso.

The 15th day of the 12th lunar month, January 21, 2019 on the Western calendar is the 18,036th birth anniversary of the founder of the Yungdrung Bön tradition, the Enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwo Künlé Nampar Gyalwa.  Already an enlightened being, Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche chose to be born into this world in order to guide beings from suffering to liberation.  He was born into the royal Mu lineage in the kingdom of Tazig Olmo Lungring.

Traditionally, the anniversary of his birth has been celebrated on the 15th day of the 1st month of the lunar calendar.  However, based upon research by the renowned Yungdrung Bön scholar and supreme lama, His Eminence Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche, the actual date is believed to be the Full Moon day of the last month in the Tibetan lunar calendar.  This is a powerful and auspicious day for performing virtue or spiritual practice.  The benefits of these activities are greatly multiplied.

“King of Teachers, and the glorious guide through cyclic existence, you are the illuminating light that overcomes all darkness.

A primary medicine that removes the torment of the illness of ignorance, you are the king of the Mu clan, an extraordinary being who took human form.

With an army of immense fire that dries up the ocean and mire of the five poisons, you are a luminous holy man who possesses the special marks and characteristics.

Having undertaken a multitude of hardships, you completed a multitude of activities. Through both the four valid means of cognition and the six valid thoughts, and with great loving kindness, you liberate the migrating beings within cyclic existence.

I prostrate to the manifestation of wisdom, Tönpa Shenrap!”

This Praise and Homage for the Compassionate Teacher was composed by the great Lama Drenpa Namkha and is extracted from “The Definitive Meaning of the Lamp that Dispels the Darkness.”

Tibetan translation by Raven Cypress Wood

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