Category Archives: Prayer and Ritual

Fierce Protection: The White Umbrella Goddess of Yungdrung Bön

White Umbrella Goddess of the Five Families.

Throughout Tibet, it is common to see sacred images of a white-colored female protector, standing, with many arms and legs, wearing a skirt, and holding an umbrella. This is Duk Kar or Duk Karmo, White Umbrella Goddess. She is also called Tsuktor Barma, Blazing Crown Protuberance Goddess. She is revered in both Buddhism and Bön. The images of both religions are depicted quite similarly although they do have differences. However, the essence is the same: absolute and fierce protection from a base of compassion.

“Fear of an age of epidemics,

fear of violent epidemics,

fear of epidemics that last a day, a week, a month, or a year;

eliminate all of these as well as any other poison of unhappiness!

Destroy them with your phurba!”

— Extract from The Secret Sutra of White Tsuktor

And

“With the intense devotion and aspiration of my three doors to the Victorious Mother, Goddess of great love, Duk Kar, I Ioffer this request.

Reverse the discordant conditions for the 404 kinds of diseases, especially the 18 kinds of plagues!

Reverse all the waves of infectious diseases and epidemics!

Turn back all infectiouse diseases, violent illnesses and harm doers that damage the lifespan and the vitality!”

— Extract from The Complete Accomplishment of Aspirations Through Tsuktor Duk Kar’s Protection and Reversal of Interferences

In the Yungdrung Bön tradition, she manifests is three primary forms: White Umbrella Goddess of the Five Families, White Umbrella Goddess of Longevity, and White Umbrella Goddess of Prosperity. Among these, the principal deity is White Umbrella Goddess of the Five Families. In this form, she is called Tsuktor Rikngag Duk Karmo, White Umbrella Goddess who has the Five Families as a Crown Ornament. She stands in the midst of kalpa-destroying blazing flames, upon a throne of a sun, moon, and above intertwined arrogant demons. Her body is white and she has a thousand heads each with crown protusions and the face of Satrik Érsang. She has a thousand arms each holding a weapon with which to protect sentient beings. The right hand in front of her body holds a precious umbrella and the left hand holds a sharp blade (some images depict the left hand holding a vase.) Her 500 left legs are extended and suppress dü, srin, and gyalpo. Her 500 right legs are bent and overpower the groups of dön. She has eyes on the palm of each hand and the soles of each foot. She is adorned with crystal necklaces and wears a precious silk skirt.

“Emaho! How wonderful!

The essence of space, the Bönku is Sherap Jamma.

Complete resources and qualities, the Dzok ku is Lha Shen Sipa.

The emanation, the Tülku is Tsuktor Duk Kar Lhamo.

I supplicate to the three states of these perfect buddhas!”

— Extract from Spontaneous Accomplishment of the Purpose of Supplicating the Lineage of Duk Kar

In the East, North, West, South are her manifestations associated with the Yungdrung, Jewel, Lotus, and Wheel Buddha Families. Each have the body-color associated with their respective direction, stand upon a cushion of a sun, moon and lotus in the midst of blazing flames, have five faces, six arms with the middle two arms holding a sword and a phurba, four legs standing atop various demons and evil-minded beings, and wear an ornamented skirt.

Duk Karmo text with depictions of the deity and the terton Kündrol Drakpa. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

“Extend the lifespan that has been depleted and produce good fortune where it has deteriorated!

Bring healing where the radiant complexion has faded away and increase longevity, prosperity, merit, and friends and family!

Please bestow favorable conditions for an abundance of auspiciousness, and pacify unfavorable conditions and obstacles!

Manifesting as a protector within our world, act so that bad years and epidemics do not arise!

Bring peace where there is warfare!

Bring timely rainfall, continual harvests, and auspiciousness!

Goddess, through your compassion, act on behalf of the peace, happiness, and prosperity of all sentient beings of the world!”

— Extract from The Practice of the White Umbrella Goddess, Source of the Crown Protuberance of All Those Who Have Gone Beyond Bliss

Tibetan translation 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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Protecting and Blessing the Mind with The Great Mantra

The MA TRI mantra at Gonggyal Monastery in Nya Rong, Tibet. Photo credit: Unknown

OM MA TRI MU YÉ SA LÉ DU

Within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition the eight-syllable mantra OM MA TRI MU YÉ SA LÉ DU is known as the great mantra and is commonly referred to as the MA TRI mantra. It is the Essence Mantra of the Dzok ku, the enlightened state that embodies all perfected positive qualities and wisdoms. The sound and power of this essence mantra gives rise to the enlightened qualities and blessings of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché and Buddha Sherap Jamma as well as the six buddhas who offer guidance to liberation for the the six kinds of sentient beings within cyclic existence: hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, demi-gods, and gods.  Each year around the time of the Tibetan New year in Dolpo, Nepal, this mantra is recited continuously without any interruption for 15 days. It is one of the three essence mantras of the Yungdrung Bön tradition that is recited a minimum of 100,000 times as a preliminary practice in order to prepare the student’s mind for further spiritual practice. The benefits of reciting this mantra are vast and beyond the imagination.

OM MA TRI MU YÉ SA LÉ DU

Alas! Fortunate Ones Listen!

The long flowing river of birth is the first.

The thunderous waterway of aging is the second.

The raging whirlpool of illness is the third.

Death that has no escape is the fourth.

These four are the demon rivers from which there is no escape.

Noble ones who wish to cross over those rivers, proclaim the melody of the MA TRI MU YÉ!

 

OM MA TRI MU YÉ SA LÉ DU

Alas! Fortunate Ones Listen!

The excellent means of accomplishment is the first.

Discovering the stairway to higher states is the second.

The blissful stairway of gods and humans is the third.

Traveling upon the stairway of joyful effort is the fourth.

These four are the four stairways to travel for the path of liberation.

Noble Ones who wish to ascend those stairways, proclaim the melody of the MA TRI MU YÉ!”

— Excerpt from Inspirational Verses Regarding the MA TRI written by the 13th century Tulku Loden Nyingpo.

The MA TRI mantra above a doorway. Photo credit: unknown

“This mantra is the heart elixir of the princpal teachings. It is a sacred connection for sentient beings during a dark time.  It is a key to the collection of sacred teachings  It is a lamp that clears away the darkness of ignorance.  So that sentient beings during the 500 years-long time of darkness will not have to exert themselves in meditation and accomplishment, this mantra recitation is the practice advice.

This recitation practice of the MA TRI is a precious lamp. Whoever goes before an esteemed lama or sacred support such as a shrine, chorten, or sacred statue, if they recite the mantra while performing prostrations and circumambulation and making prayers of aspiration, whatever they wish for will be quickly accomplished.”

— Extract from 32 Benefits of the Recitation Practice of the Precious Lamp

Tibetan translation 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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How to Restore the Lifespan by Saving the Life of Other Beings

Azyl, a horse that was designated for slaughter, wearing the symbol of his protection in his mane after Geshe Gyatso performed the Tsé Thar ritual dedicated for the long life of H.E. Menri Pönlop Thrinley Nyima Rinpoché. Photo credit: Drenpa Namkha Foundation

In both the Yungdrung Bön and the Buddhist religious traditions, the ritual known as “Life Release” is widely practiced. In Tibetan, the short name is “Tsé Thar” which means “to save or free life.” The full name of the ritual is “Tsé Thar Tang Tap, The Skillful Method of Saving the Life of Beings and Setting Them Free.” Animals that are destined to be slaughtered for food or slaughtered for other purposes are rescued and then set free to live out the full length of their natural lifespan. A sponsor purchases the animals, has the appropriate rituals performed, and then releases the animals back into their natural environment. In the Himalayas, this practice is commonly performed for domestic herding animals or for fish. Herding animals are marked with a special tag or sign that indicates their protected status.

H.H. 34th Menri Trizin, Latri Kenpo Nyima Dakpa Rinpoché, and Khenpo Nyima Künchap Rinpoché performing the Tsé Thar ritual for a fish release. Photo credit: Angel R. Torres

The human lifespan can be weakened or cut unnaturally short due to the seeds of our negative karma meeting with secondary conditions and resulting in accidents, ill health and disease. In the same way, the seeds of our positive karma meeting with secondary conditions such as participating in the life release ritual brings results such as restoring our natural lifespan and removing obstacles that could cause accidents, illness or disease.

The Tsé Thar ritual is specifically used to restore and protect the lifespan. Traditionally, it is performed during the obstacle years during the ages of 1, 9, 13, 25, 37, 49, 61, 73 and 81, when someone is seriously ill in order to reverse any negative circumstances contributing to the illness, and it is performed in order to protect and extend the longevity of loved ones, spiritual teachers, etc.

In this way, the life release ritual not only benefits the animals that are rescued, it also benefits the sponsors, those performing the ritual, and those for whom the ritual is dedicated. Additionally, the ritual is a practice of the two accumulations of merit and wisdom, it develops our compassion and loving kindness, and it develops generosity and purifies greed through the act of giving safety and protection.

Azyl at his sanctuary. Photo credit: Drenpa Namkha Foundation

In 2018, a group of H.E. Menri Pönlop Thrinley Nyima Rinpoché’s students raised funds in order to rescue Azyl, a beautiful older horse that was destined to be slaughtered. He was moved to an animal sanctuary, the Tsé Thar ritual was performed and Azyl was given a symbolic badge of protection. Later, the Tsé Thar ritual was performed for all of the other animals living at the sanctuary. Azyl continues to live out his life at the sanctuary while being fed and cared for with funds donated by the worldwide Yungdrung Bön community. Some of these students have formed the Drenpa Namkha Foundation which funds Azyl’s care. Anyone can either be a one-time sponsor or ongoing sponsor of Azyl’s life release and dedicate that sponsorship for the longevity of one’s self, a loved one, or a spiritual teacher. Donations can easily be made through this link: http://drenpa-namkha.org/en/423/  You can contact the Drenpa Namkha Foundation here: e-mail kontakt@drenpa-namkha.org

“Through the blessings of saving the lives of these beings and setting them free, may the lifespan be undiminished!
May the lifespan be long!
May joy and happiness be accumulated!
May power and riches spread and flourish!
You, animals whose lives have been saved, having attained a precious human body in the future,
May you have the good fortune to practice the Yungdrung Bön!”

— Extract from The Skillful Method of Saving the Life of Beings and Setting Them Free

The ritual itself begins with the preliminary practices of cleansing with water and smoke, setting a boundary, going for refuge, generating compassion and the intention of enlightenment, as well as the admission of wrongdoing and purification. The main part of the Tsé Thar ritual begins with specific mantras to generate the power of longevity and then a blessing and consecration. After that, the animals receive the empowerment of the sacred syllable ‘A.’ In conclusion, prayers of aspiration, good fortune, and dedication are recited. 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 this way, animals destined for slaughter are forever protected and allowed to live out their natural lifespan while also having received sacred blessings and a connection to the teachings so that their future rebirth with be positive and they will have the opportunity to engage in spiritual practice.

Azyl after his life release ritual. Photo credit: Drenpa Namkha Foundation

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 Thirteen Yungdrung Bön Activities for a Meaningful Human LIfe

Khenpo Nyima Künchap Rinpoche reciting scripture. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

The Thirteen Yungdrung Bön Activities are practices that perfect the two accumulations of merit and wisdom. These activities develop our positive qualities and diminish negative tendencies, and provide a way to take advantage of our precious human life. Engaging in these activities also has the benefit of protecting the mind from fear, anxiety and obsessive thoughts by focusing upon sacred actions of body, speech and mind.

  1. Writing the sacred syllables
  2. Reading sacred books
  3. Reciting the scriptures
  4. Turning the wheel of Bön
  5. Presenting offerings and prostrations
  6. Stopping ordinary speech and maintaining silence
  7. Reflecting upon the meaning of the words
  8. Listening to the sacred teachings for one’s self
  9. Teaching the sacred teachings for others
  10. Meditating upon the actual meaning
  11. Practicing towards a goal
  12. Exerting one’s self in performing virtuous activity
  13. Exerting one’s self with the causes to obtain a precious human body

Instructions for writing the Tibetan syllable AH. The syllables are drawn from the top downwards and from left to right.

“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!

Through the force and the power of this, wherever I am, may the labels “illness,” “hunger,” “weapons,” “conflict,” and “disharmony” not even exist!”

— Extracted from The Spontaneous Wish-fulfillment of Removing Obstacles from the Path, The Oral Transmission of Khandro Shérap Lopélma

For the full English, Spanish, or Portuguese translation of The Spontaneous Wish-fulfillment of Removing Obstacles from the Path, The Oral Transmission of Khandro Shérap Lopélmafollow this link to the Publications page of this website. https://ravencypresswood.com/publications/ This prayer is commonly recited each day within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition.

A young monk making an offering of light at Menri Monastery. Photo credit: Unknown.

Present and Future Refuge

The Great Lama and yidam deity, Drenpa Namkha

“Now, during this negative time, infectious diseases and epidemics occur,

heat and cold within the body are reversed, and medicine doesn’t help.

You are surrounded by the Medicine Buddha and his retinue.

I pray to the Great Lama and his two sons, to the subduer of demons, Drenpa Namkha: completely overcome infectious diseases and epidemics!

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 all of my intentions!”

— Extracted from The Prayer of Fourteen Stanzas to Drenpa Namkha translated by Raven Cypress Wood

In general, there have been three separate manifestations of Drenpa Namkha. Each was a reincarnation of the previous manifestation. There was the Drenpa Namkha of the ancient kingdom of Tazik, Drenpa Namkha of the ancient kingdom of Zhang Zhung, and Drenpa Namkha of Tibet. Drenpa Namkha of the ancient kingdom of Zhang Zhung was a prince who lived during 914 BC. He married an Indian Brahman girl and had twin sons, Tséwang Rikdzin and Péma Tongdrül, who were born in the year 888 BC.

Drenpa Namkha of Tibet was born in the year 753 AD in Southern Tibet.  During this time, the kingdom of Tibet was ruled by King Trisong Detsen who had many Bön priest in his court, including Drenpa Namkha. When the king decided to convert the kingdom to the new Indian religion of Buddhism, he began to drive out the Bön priests and to destroy their texts. The Bön lamas were given the choice of exile from the kingdom, suicide, or conversion to the new religion.  Many lamas chose to escape with texts and to try and preserve the teachings elsewhere. Drenpa Namkha chose to stay and protect the teachings and the texts from within Tibet. So, at the age of 31, he cut his own hair with a blade of gold and ordained himself a Buddhist.

After his conversion, he had many YUngdrung Bön texts hidden within chortens, statues and columns at the monastery of Samyé. He continued to compose texts and to teach. Among his many students was the king himself, Trisong Detsen. Years later, the king allowed him to openly return to his practice of the Yungdrung Bön teachings.

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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