Category Archives: Prayer and Ritual

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..

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Anniversary of the Human Birth of Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché

Lord Tonpa Shenrap Miwoche. Photo credit: Khedup Gyatso.

The 15th day of the 12th lunar month, February 9th, 2020 on the Western calendar is the 18,037th 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.

“Namo!  You are the supreme teacher, one who has gone beyond bliss, an authentic and completely enlightened being, a manifested buddha and teacher, Tönpa Shenrap Miwo. 

You have the wisdom of omniscience and possess both great compassion and skillful means.  You are without emotional afflictions and have ceased all defilements.  You have power and clear self awareness.  A marvelous emanation, you have cleared all obstructions and destroyed the door to birth into cyclic existence.  

Your face is like the sun and moon, and you see throughout the ten directions.  100,000 light rays emanate from your divine body.  You are adorned with ornaments which are like rainbows and your divine body is so beautiful that one does not know how to look away. 

In your right hand, you hold a golden chakshing painted with a turquoise yungdrung which shows that you are lord of the 3,000-fold universe and conqueror of this world system.  Your left hand holds the mudra of equipoise which shows that you have destroyed the door to birth into the cyclic existence of lower rebirth. 

May the cycle of manifested teachings completely turn, I pray!  Please hold us within your compassion myself and all other sentient beings without exception! 

I feel remorse for everything immoral and improper that has been experienced because of the power of the afflictive emotions.  I feel regret!  

Through this open admission of wrongdoing, please agree to cleanse and purify me, I pray! 

Free me from the ocean of suffering and misery of cyclic existence, I pray! 

AH OM HUNG SÉ LA GYER RO HRUN PUNG YÉ SOHA”

— Extracted from Homage to the Enlightened State of the Omniscient Tûlku

Tibetan translation 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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Removing Obstacles in Dolpo, Nepal

Muri Khenpo Nyima Künchap Rinpoche performs the Takla Mebar dokpa ritual in Dunai. Photo credit: Khenpo Nyima Künchap Rinpoche.

Recently, Muri Khenpo Nyima Künchap Rinpoche traveled to his Dolpo Bön School in Dunai Dolpo, Nepal. During his time there, he performed the Takla Mebar ritual for removing obstacles for the benefit of the local population.

Takla Mebar dokpa ritual in Dunai Dolpo, Nepal. Photo credit: Khenpo Nyima Künchap Rinpoche.

“From the syllable SO at the center of the golden locket at his heart, rays of light spin to the right. Radiating outwards throughout all phenomenal existence, they incinerate obstacles and enemies. Returning, the light is gathered together and becomes a wrathful fortress. 

He shouts the great sounds of certainty HA! and RAM! and the demons as well as those who have violated their vows fall down unconscious. He shouts with his thunderous, terrifying voice and binds into his service the gods and demons of the phenomenal universe.”

— Excerpt from The Concentrated Essence of the Red Razor

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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Takla Mebar dokpa. Photo credit: Khenpo Nyima Künchap Rinpoche.

The Meaning & Benefit of Offering Torma

100,000 torma offering to the enlightened protector Sipé Gyalmo. Photo credit: Unknown

The offering of torma is a common practice within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition. The Tibetan term “torma” [gtor ma] literally means “something that is thrown, tossed, or strewn.” This refers to the action of many kinds of torma being tossed into the sky as an act of offering. However, not every torma is offered in this way. External torma can be offerings of the three white things: butter, milk, and salt-free cheese, and the three sweet things: honey, crystallized sugar, and dark sugar such molasses or maple syrup. External torma are also commonly made from roasted barley flour called tsampa which is mixed with sacred substances and shaped according to the particular kind of offering being made. In general, peaceful offering torma of this kind have a round base and wrathful torma have a triangular base. One of the many kinds of daily offering torma within the Yungdrung Bön tradition is the water torma which is one of the four daily offerings of generosity.

Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché was born into the human realm in the ancient land of Tazik. He only traveled into the country of Tibet one time. During this brief visit, his teachings to the Tibetan people were centered around compassion and the use of torma as offerings as a substitute for killing animals to use as offerings.

Geshe Nyima Kunchap Rinpoche and Geshe Tenzin Yeshe Rinpoche prepare to perform the daily water torma offering. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

Every kind of torma offering has three parts: the preparation, the main practice and the conclusion. The specifics of these are according to the particular practice being performed and the kind of torma being offered. In general, When preparing the torma, the hands and utensils are washed and any container or plate used to present the torma must be clean and without any defect or damage. After being properly made and arranged, it must be ritually cleansed with incense and water. Having generated an intention of compassion and generosity, the torma is offered to a clean place. When possible, the torma are tossed onto roofs as being a place free of the defilement of having been walked upon and also being a higher place to offer to higher beings. For offering to lower beings, the torma are placed upon the ground in a clean place.

“Come here now and keep your protection vow! Accept these offerings of smoke and torma! Act as a companion to me! Expel the causes for harm and obstacles! Act to accomplish this entrusted activity!” 

— Extract from The Invocation of Chammo Lamlha, Goddess of Travel

Various peaceful and wrathful torma offerings. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

The recipients of the torma offerings are both the enlightened beings as well as the six kinds of beings within cyclic existence. The recipients can be classified in many ways. They can be classified into four categories known as “The Four Guests.” These are 1) the guests of reverence which are the enlightened beings, 2) the guests of exalted qualities which are the powerful, worldly protectors, 3) the guests who are among the eight classes of spirits and demons, and 4) the guests of compassion or charity. We offer to the enlightened beings to purify our sacred commitments with them, elicit their blessings and protection, and to develop our positive qualities of devotion and generosity. We offer to the worldly protectors in order to elicit their powerful and magical protection. We offer to the eight classes of spirits and demons in order to repay any karmic debts that we might owe to them so as to pacify any feelings of revenge or harm that they might harbor against us. And we offer to the guests of charity to alleviate their suffering and misery.

Torma offerings for the lu. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

“I offer this inexhaustible, decorated torma to the twenty-five classes of lu* who are surrounded by millions of friends and associates. Because we dig the earth, break the rocks, chop down trees, drain the ponds and streams, create contaminated smoke, and commit immoral acts near the homes and places of the lu; they faint, go mad, become angry, or grow weak.

Regardless of whatever violence, disagreements, or ill will have occurred in the past, because of offering this torma of nectar, may the diseases of the lu be pacified! May their hopes and wishes be fulfilled!”

— Extract from The Ritual of Regularly Giving Torma to the Lu

*Lu [Sanskrit: naga]

In general, the offering of torma increases wealth and resources. Secret torma is the offering of the body such as in the practice of chod. This conquers the view of the self as inherently existing. Ultimately secret torma is maintaining the view without self-grasping. This increases realization and is the greatest of all torma offerings.

Additionally, by offering torma we naturally practice six of the ten perfections.

  1. By giving food and water, we engage in the practice of perfecting generosity.
  2. By ensuring that everything is clean, we engage in the practice of perfecting discipline.
  3. By offering charity without greed or resentment, we engage in the practice of perfecting patience.
  4. By putting forth the effort to continually offer torma, we engage in the practice of perfecting joyful effort.
  5. By abiding in meditation, we engage in the practice of perfecting concentration.
  6. By understanding the emptiness of the giver, the recipient and what is given, we engage in the practice of perfecting wisdom.

The ritual specialist Geshe Nyima Kunchap Rinpoche offering a water torma to the lu. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

By offering torma we engage in the vow of individual liberation through our act of generosity and therefore eliminating the mind of harming other beings, and we engage in the bodhisattva vow through offering to the guests of charity. Additionally, our longevity, merit, good fortune and personal power increase. And we purify the causes to be reborn into the lower realms.

Yidam torma of the lama, yidam and khandro of the Mother Tantra. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

It is important to note the difference between “offering torma” and “yidam torma.” Although both are referred to as “torma” they serve very different purposes. A yidam torma is also prepared from tsampa mixed with sacred substances and has a specific form and attributes according to the associated meditational deity or yidam. However, the purpose of the yidam torma is to act as a sacred support for the presence of the deity during empowerments and meditation upon the yidam. This kind of torma is not offered. Once it has been consecrated, it is placed in the highest position upon the shrine and treated as the sacred abode of the deity.

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 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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