Category Archives: Prayer and Ritual

Protecting the Mind with Mantra

The benefits of reciting mantra [Tibetan: nyén pa] are vast and without measure. Although there are thousands of mantra within the Yungdrung Bön tradition, there is one mantra known as The Great Mantra. It is commonly referred to as the MA TRI mantra. This mantra has eight syllables: OM MA TRI MU YÉ SA LÉ DU. In general, the power of a mantra is in the sound and vibration of each syllable. They are like a vibrational seed of energy that gives birth to a specific energy and power. For this mantra, the first two syllables are the seed syllables of a male and female buddha. The remaining six syllables are the sound of the six buddhas that guide sentient beings out of suffering and misery caused by the five poisons of anger, attachment, jealousy, pride, and ignorance.

From Thirty-three Benefits of the MA TRI Mantra:

“This is the heart mantra of all the buddhas. It is of benefit for sentient beings at the end of the eon when their lifespan has become shorter and there is less morality.”

And,

“The recitation of this mantra is enough. It is the fundamental essence of the entire collection of sacred teachings. It is the ultimate of all recitations. It is the innermost essence of all meditations. It is a sacred connection for sentient beings during a dark time.”

— Words from the mouth of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché

The great mantra has many profound benefits and meanings. However, it is not necessary to be familiar with the thousands of pages of teachings and commentary devoted to the MA TRI mantra. In order to receive benefit from the mantra, it is enough to recite it with openness and trust. A mantra can be recited anytime, anywhere, out loud or silently if necessary. Especially when the mind is disturbed by inner or outer circumstances, focusing on the recitation of mantra has the immediate effect of protecting the mind from negativity and increasing a positive and beneficial state of mind.

“OM MA TRI MU YÉ SA LÉ DU

Alas! Fortunate Ones Listen!

Right here and now, because of our ignorance and delusion we have not attained mastery of the experience of awareness, and we wander throughout cyclic existence. We take on the magical illusion of solid flesh and undergo many kinds of suffering and misery.

There is no final escape. How sad!

Noble Ones who wish to travel the path of liberation in order to escape from that suffering and misery and arrive at a place of bliss, proclaim the melody of the MA TRI MU YÉ!”

And,

“OM MA TRI MU YÉ SA LÉ DU

Alas! Fortunate Ones Listen!

The many troops of mental dullness are the first.

The mighty coat of armor of pride is the second.

The trained army of envy is the third.

The sharp weapons of anger and hatred are the fourth.

These are the four frightening enemies that come from behind.

Noble Ones who wish to be delivered from those enemies, proclaim the melody of the MA TRI MU YÉ!”

— From Inspirational Verses Regarding the MA TRI written by the tertön Tülku Loden Nyingpo

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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Ripening the Mind-stream with the Practice of Realizing Impermanence

A traditional offering of butter lamps for the deceased. Photo credit: Unknown

In the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition, the practice of realizing impermanence is used as a method to ripen the mind-stream of an individual in order to prepare a solid foundation for further spiritual development. By reflecting upon the truth of the impermanent nature of all worldly phenomena, the wild mind that craves entertainment and distraction, and constantly seeks things to acquire or posses, is tamed. When the truth of impermanence is deeply realized rather than merely understood intellectually, the mind has a more open and relaxed relationship with worldly phenomena. Positive experiences such as love and joy are more appreciated since they are understood to be fleeting. Patience with discomfort and suffering is easier knowing that it too will not last. For the spiritual practitioner, the realization of the truth of impermanence turns the mind away from meaningless distraction and towards the spiritual path.

Traditionally, in order to deeply realize impermanence, the practitioner would reflect upon worldly phenomena. For example, thinking about how each season has come and gone since childhood, or the constant changing of the weather. Often the practitioner would go to the cremation ground or cemetery and reflect upon the fact that no matter how powerful, rich, famous, or adored a human being has ever been, no one has been able to live forever. In modern times, the truth of impermanence can be seen throughout the world.

As a support for the practice of realizing impermanence, the English translation of The Chanted Verse of Impermanence from the Aural Transmission of Zhang Zhung is being made publicly available for personal use. While undergoing the practice of realizing impermanence as a foundational practice, this prayer is chanted before and/or after a fervent period of reflection. Once impermanence has been realized and the mind has been tamed, this prayer can be chanted daily as a reminder and motivation to remain focused upon meaningful activities of body, speech and mind. The translation can be downloaded from this link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/146WL9uyT8u842TVHKnmXJH60CHr5dHJz/view?usp=sharing

“Even though all phenomena change, I alone expect to be permanent.

How sad!

Bless me that the realization of impermanence will arise in my mind-stream!

When thinking of death, I am instantly without distraction, but then I become lazy and procrastinate.

How sad!

Bless me that the realization of impermanence will arise in my mind-stream!”

—From The Chanted Verse of Impermanence

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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3rd Anniversary of the Parinirvana of H.H. the 33rd Menri Trizin Rinpoché

Menri Monastery shrine dedicated to H.H. 33rd Menri Trizin Rinpoché. Photo credit: Khenpo Nyima Künchap Rinpoché.

On the 24th day of the 7th lunar month in the Western year 2017, His Holiness the 33rd Menri Trizin Lungtok Tenpé Nyima Rinpoché displayed his realization by passing into nirvana from his physical body. In 2020 this date coincides with September 11th. On this day, Yungdrung Bön religious centers worldwide will recognize this auspicious day with special prayers and rituals.

Golden statue of HH 33rd Menri Trizin Rinpoché in his home village.

Supplication Prayer to H.H. the 33rd Menri Trizin Rinpoché

“The omniscient wisdom of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions is condensed into a single essence in you, Highest One.

You carry out the enlightened activities of spreading the vast and profound teachings of Tönpa Shenrap.

To you, Lungtok Tenpé Nyima, I supplicate and pray.”

“EMAHO!

To the lama who is the embodiment of all of the Victors and spiritual masters,

who acts principally through the accomplishment of Bön for sentient beings who are as limitless as the sky,

I offer prostrations with my body, prostrating with my arms, legs and head!

I prostrate with my speech, chanting with a joyous and inspired melody!

I prostrate with my mind, prostrating with single-pointed motivation and devotion!

May the negative actions and defilements of my three doors become purified!”

— 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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Practicing Generosity and Non-attachment

His Eminence Menri Ponlop Yangtön Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche being offered a mandala representing all inner and outer offerings. Photo credit: Unknown

“Mandala Offering

Emaho!

Within a golden mandala of a boundless buddha realm are arranged heaps of beautiful and brightly shining precious jewels.

These vast clouds of offerings, both real and imagined, that include the completely fulfilling and marvelous wealth and riches of both gods and humans,

I and all other sentient beings present this offering to the three precious jewels in order to perfect the two accumulations of merit and wisdom.

Please accept this with your compassionate blessings!”

— From The Accomplishment of Purifying Defilements with DU TRI SU, A Lamp that Clears Away the Darkness and Shakes the Depths of Cyclic Existence

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 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.

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