Category Archives: Sacred Scriptures

The Three Essence Mantras of Yungdrung Bön

3 Essence mantra on pecha edit

In the Yungdrung Bön tradition, there are three mantras that collectively embody the entirety of the teachings of the enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché.  They are commonly known as the Nyingpo Namsum, the Three Essence Mantras.  The Yungdrung Bön teachings are like an ocean.  There are 84,000 teachings.  These can be condensed into the Nine Ways of Bön.  These Nine Ways can be further condensed into the three views of sutra, tantra and dzogchen.  These three views can be condensed into the Three Essence Mantras.  That is why they are called ‘Essence’ mantras.  Practicing these Three Essence Mantras can bring the result of practicing the Nine Ways of Bön.  Even simply reciting these mantras with faith and devotion without understanding their meaning or individual practices can bring blessing and power to the practitioner.  During the preliminary practices which prepare the spiritual practitioner for further development and advanced practices, each of these Three Essence Mantras are recited 100,000 times.  It is common for even Bönpo laypeople to recite each of these mantra a minimum of 108 times every day.  During recitation of any mantra, it is proper to not engage in any other kinds of speech and to refrain from eating, drinking, coughing, sneezing, spitting or any strong expulsion of breath.  In this way, the power of the mantra is not lost or diminished.  Once the recitation is complete, it is traditional to blow onto the mala and therefore bless it with the energy of the mantra.  the practitioner can also blow the energy of the mantra recitation onto any areas of pain on the body, to the heart area, or onto food and drink.  To fully receive the benefit and blessings of reciting any of these Three Essence Mantras, it is essential to receive transmission for them from an authentic and qualified Yungdrung Bön lama.

Each of these mantras have their own practice and visualization.  They are also directly related to the three Enlightened Bodies: Bön ku-the Enlightened Body of the Ultimate Nature, Dzok ku-the Enlightened Body which displays all of the Perfected Qualities, and the Tul ku-the Enlightened Body which actually manifests as form.  Traditionally, the mantras are recited in this order:

SA LE O mantra carved into stone. Photo credit: Unknown

The Essence Mantra of the Bön ku:

AH OM HUNG A AH KAR SA LÉ Ö AH YANG OM DU

Because this is the Essence Mantra of the Bön ku, it is related to the dzogchen view.  This mantra is commonly called the SA LÉ Ö mantra.  According to the dzogchen teachings, it is said that if a practitioner is having trouble recognizing the true nature of their mind, it is suggested that they recite this mantra.  Although mantras are not like language in having a direct conceptual meaning, each syllable of each of these mantras has an exact energetic purpose and meaning.  This Essence Mantra of the Bön ku can be summarized as “May I recognize my own natural mind!”

The MA TRI mantra carved into a mountain in the Himalayas. photo credit: Unknown

The Essence Mantra of the Dzok ku:

OM MA TRI MU YÉ SA LÉ DU

Because this is the Essence Mantra of the Dzok ku, it is related to the tantric view.  This mantra is commonly called the MA TRI mantra and is also known as The Great Mantra.  This essence mantra embodies the energy of Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché and Sherap Chamma, the Wise Loving Mother as well as Buddha’s six enlightened manifestation in each of the Six Realms: hell, hungry ghosts, animal, human, demi-gods, and god.  These six manifestations of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap are known as the Six Subduing Shen.  Each year around the time of the Tibetan New year in Dolpo, this mantra is recited continuously, without any interruption, for 15 days.

The DU TRI SU mantra placed into a rock wall. Photo credit: Unknown

The Essence Mantra of the Tul ku:

AH KAR AH MÉ DU TRI SU NAK PO ZHI ZHI MAL MAL SO HA

Because this is the Essence Mantra of the Tul ku, it is related to the sutric view.  This mantra is commonly called the DU TRI SU mantra.  The first four syllables represent the Dershek Tsozhi, the Four Principal Enlightened Ones of Yungdrung Bön who are Satrik Érsang, Shenlha Ökar, Sangpo Bumtri and Lord Tönpa Shenrap.  The following syllables represent purification of the lower realms and protection from inner and outer negative forces.  According to the Great Lama Drenpa Namkha, if this mantra is recited and blown to the sole of the feet of a sentient being that is dying, it is pushing the being’s conscious towards the crown of the head and that being will not be born into the lower realms.  Also, if one experiences nightmares, reciting this mantra in the morning will dispel the negative energy.

In the Himalayan region, it is traditional for a Bönpo family to have one or all of these Three Essence Mantras carved into wood or stone and hung above the entrance to the home.  Carving these mantras into stone, printing them on prayer flags or wearing amulets containing these mantras brings immeasurable blessings and protection.

Raven Cypress Wood© All Rights Reserved

The Eight Freedoms & The Ten Endowments

monks seat with name

In the Yungdrung Bön tradition, when one is born into existence as a human being, it is believed to be a great opportunity to practice and develop spiritually.  Additionally, it is important to recognize and take advantage of having The Eight Freedoms and The Ten Endowments.

The Eight Freedoms

  1. Free from being born into a hell realm
  2. Free from being born into the hungry ghost realm
  3. Free from being born into the animal realm
  4. Free from being born a barbarian
  5. Free from being born as a long-lived god
  6. Free from being born with wrong views
  7. Free from being born in a time without enlightened beings
  8. Free from being born deaf or mute

The Ten Endowments

The Five Endowments Found within Oneself:

  1. Having been born a human being
  2. Having been born in a central region
  3. Having been born with all of one’s faculties
  4. Being engaged with a proper lifestyle that does not conflict with spiritual practice
  5. Having faith in the sacred teachings

The Five Endowments Found with External Circumstances:

  1. An Enlightened Being has appeared
  2. The Enlightened Being has shared the teachings
  3. The teachings still exist
  4. The teachings are practiced
  5. There are those who are kind-hearted towards others and share the teachings

The Five Buddha Families of the Yungdrung Bon

Salwa Rangjung and consort

Within the Yungdrung Bön tradition, there are the Five Buddha Families.  Each deity is associated with specific colors, hand objects, wisdoms, elements. organs, impure aspects that are purified, etc.  Here are listed a few of these characteristics along with a line of scripture from the prayer known to Western students as The Precious Garland, an aspirational prayer to support those who have recently died.

Salwa Rangjung is associated with the Eastern direction. This deity is yellow in color, associated with the pure dimension of the element of earth and the consort is the khandro of the earth element.  This deity is associated with Mirror-like Wisdom and the Yungdrung Family.

“When the energy of the earth element dissolves into the water…and the yellow light of one’s own self appears, may I recognize it as the enlightened dimension of Salwa Rangjung.”

Gawa Dondrup and consort

Gawa Döndrup is associated with the Southern direction. This deity is blue in color, associated with the pure dimension of the element of water and the consort is the khandro of the water element.  This deity is associated with All-accomplishing Wisdom and the Precious Jewel Family.

“When the energy of the water element dissolves into the fire…and the pure essence of the water arises as a blue light, may I recognize it as the enlightened dimension of Gawa Döndrup.”

Jetak Ngome and consort

Jetak Ngomé is associated with the Western direction. This deity is red in color, associated with the pure dimension of the element of fire and the consort is the khandro of the fire element.  This deity is associated with Discriminating Wisdom and the Lotus Family.

“When the energy of the fire element dissolves into the wind…and the red light of one’s own self appears, may I recognize it as the enlightened dimension of Jetak Ngomé.”

Gelha Garchuk and consort

Gelha Garchuk is associated with the Northern direction. This deity is green in color, associated with the pure dimension of the element of wind and the consort is the khandro of the wind element.  This deity is associated with the Wisdom of Equanimity and the Dharma Wheel Family.

“When the energy of the wind element dissolves into the consciousness…and the green light of one’s own self appears, may I recognize it as the enlightened dimension of Gelha Garchuk.”

Kunnang Khyappa and consort

Kunnang Khyappa is the central deity of the Five Buddha Families. This deity is white in color, associated with the pure dimension of the element of space, and the consort is the khandro of space. This deity is associated with the Wisdom of Emptiness and the Suchness Family.

“When consciousness dissolves into the base-of-all…and the intermediate state of clear light arises, may I recognize it as the enlightened dimension of Kunnang Khyappa.  Having recognized these experiences as illusory, may I awaken into the self-aware absolute reality!”

Translated from the Tibetan by Raven Cypress Wood

The Sixth Way: The Way of the Fully Ordained

Yungdrung Bon nuns in Tibet. Photo credit: Mary Ellen McCourt

Within the Nine Ways of Bön, the Sixth Way is the Way of the Fully Ordained.  Or, literally translated, the Way of the Straight and Righteous.  This involves accepting the renunciation vows of a monk or nun and living accordingly.  A novice receives 25 vows that form the basis of taking the further vows of the fully ordained.  For monks, there are 250 vows for full ordination.  For nuns, there are 360 vows.  According to the words of the enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap:

“In front of the abbot, the teacher and the witness, accept the vows with joy, faith and devotion.  Abandon the karmic tendencies of the three poisons.”

During Lord Tönpa Shenrap’s time in the human realm, he demonstrated the path of monastic discipline by becoming a monk.  At that time, he was known as Tritsuk Gyalwa.

Lord Tonpa Shenrap demonstrating the path of monastic discipline. In this form, he is known as Tritsuk Gyalwa.

“Don’t hate enemies or turn and go the other way.  Don’t be attached to friends and relatives.  Don’t cherish wordliness.  Body and mind should be single-pointed and at ease.  In your outer conduct, don’t act in an agitated manner.  In your inner ethics, don’t wander in to laziness.”

Raven Cypress Wood© All Rights Reserved

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Sacred Scripture

This old, illustrated scripture begins with the phrase, “In the language of the sacred Yungdrung…”

The Illustrated Scripture

Illustration of the Supreme Deity Sangpo Bumtri from an old Yungdrung Bon text

Sipa Sangpo Bumtri, Deity of Phenomenal Existence, is one of the Four Transcendent Lords of the Yungdrung Bön.  The other three are The Great Deity Shenlha Ökar, The Great Mother of Space Satrik Ersang and Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche.  These Four Deities are traditionally displayed together in every Yungdrung Bön temple and are often surrounded by the 1,000 Enlightened Beings.

The Forty Magical Letters of Zhang Zhung

 Over 18,000 years ago, the founder of the Yungdrung Bon tradition was born into a human body and was known as the Supreme Shen, the Enlightened Teacher, Buddha Tonpa Shenrap Miwoche.  He had many students and his teachings flourished in the ancient kingdom called Zhang Zhung.

This ancient kingdom included what is now Western Tibet and the sacred Mount Tise, also known as Mount Kailash.  The Zhang Zhung language includes forty letters, and  according to Yungdrung Bön texts, these ‘Forty Magical Letters’ were taught by Tonpa Shenrap Miwo. The two standard scripts were called Zhang Zhung mar chen and Zhang Zhung mar chung, ‘excellent capital letters of Zhang Zhung’ and ‘excellent lesser letters of Zhang Zhung.’ 

Zhang Zhung mar chen and mar chung samples

Above, a sample of Zhang Zhung mar chen. Below, a sample of Zhang Zhung mar chung. Both have the corresponding Tibetan script underneath. (Zhang Zhung fonts from the website: himalayabon.com)

The divine words of the Buddha Tonpa Shenrap were written down using this script.  Due to the murder of King Ligmincha of Zhang Zhung by king Trisong Detsen of Tibet in the 8th century, the Zhang Zhung kingdom fell and the power and influence of Tibet increased.  Therefore, the Zhang Zhung script was transformed and called ‘Tibetan’.  According to the ‘Far-reaching Lamp of Clarity’:

“Mar chen was changed into [the formal Tibetan] u chen script, and mar chung was changed into informal script.”

A Yungdrung Bon ritual text begins a section with “According to the language of Zhang Zhung Mar…”

Today, the titles of many Yungdrung Bön texts are written in both the Zhang Zhung mar chen script as well as in the Tibetan script.  Additionally, many Zhang Zhung words are found within the texts and even significant section headings are given in both the Zhang Zhung and Tibetan language.

The title page from a Yundgrung Bon text with the title written in Zhang Zhung script above and Tibetan script underneath.

For more information regarding the Zhang Zhung language: (all English language sources)

  • The Light of Kailash Vol 1 and 2 by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche
  • A Lexicon of ZhangZhung and Bonpo Terms edited by Yasuhiko Nagano & Samten Karmay
  • Zhang Zhung-Tibetan-English Contextual Dictionary by Namgyal Nyima

The Saint. Founder of the Lineage: The Guidance of AH

Teacher of the Me'u Lineage, The Saint, The Supreme Gongdzo Ritropa

Teacher of the Me’u Lineage, The Saint, The Supreme Gongdzo Ritropa

Within the Yungdrung Bon tradition, there are three primary lineages of Dzogchen teachings.  These teachings contain the highest and most advanced view and are found within the Ninth Way among the Nine Ways of Bon.  One of these three lineages is called AH Ti, or The Guidance of AH.  The founder of this tradition was the lama from the family lineage of Me’u named Gongdzo Ritropa.  He is commonly referred to simply as Dampa, The Saint.  Born in 1038 in the Shang area of Tibet, he was the oldest of four brothers.  Although he was forced to marry at the age of eighteen, he left married life in search of spiritual teachings.

He primarily received teachings from eight different lamas.  Deciding that he would be of greater benefit as a monk, he requested ordination.  So at the age of 24, he received the full monk’s vows.  Following the advice of one of his lamas, he decided to spend his time as a reclusive practitioner rather than as a scholar.  In Karpo Drak, he remained in solitary retreat for twelve years.  He  showed many signs of accomplishment such as flying through the air and leaving his hand and foot prints in stone.

In addition to material that he collected from other sources, he added his own mind treasure to his teachings known as The Guidance of AH.  He organized these dzogchen teachings into eighty practice sessions.  In the 13th century, the holder of the lineage A Zha Lodro Gyaltsen condensed the number of practice sessions to thirty.  Later in the same century, the lama Dru Gyalwa Yungdrung further condensed the practice into fifteen sessions and composed the text The Guidance of AH in Fifteen Sessions.  This text is widely used today among dzogchen practitioners.

An Ocean of Knowledge and Wisdom

Personal Library of the Yungdrung Bon Sage Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen

Personal Library of the Yungdrung Bon Sage Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen

Buddha Tonpa Shenrap’s 2nd Deed: Spreading the Teachings

second-deed
Buddha Tönpa Shenrab teaching subjects such as medicine, divination, astrology, and ritual

Tönpa Shenrap began the spread of the Yungdrung Bön by first giving teachings related to cosmogony and cosmology to two of his primary disciples, Malo and Yalo, to bodhisattvas who had descended from heaven to receive the teachings, and to many other powerful, worldly deities.  Then to the gods of Mt. Meru and other deities, he taught powerful methods for subduing negative forces.  Traveling to the city of Langling, he taught from the 100,000 verses of Perfecting.  In Olmo Lungring, countless human and non-human beings gathered including those who were to be lineage holders.  To this assembly, he taught the Nine Ways of Bön.

More specifically, it is said that on the 30th day of the lunar month, that Buddha Tönpa Shenrab taught the beings of the formless realm.

On the 1st of the lunar month, He taught the gods who reside in space in the highest realm.

On the 8th of the lunar month, He taught the clear-light gods.

On the 13th of the lunar month, He taught the tsangri gods.

On the 14th of the lunar month, He taught the gods of the form realm.

On the 15th of the lunar month, He taught on Mt. Meru to the gods of the desire realm.

On the 16th of the month, He taught the gods of Gyalchen Rikshe.

On the 22nd of the lunar month, He taught the demi-gods.

On the 29th of the lunar month, He taught the (sanskrit: naga) of the desire realm.

Therefore, these days are significant in the Yungdrung Bön lunar calendar.

Ancient Printing Method

Woodblocks for printing texts

Woodblocks used for printing the sacred texts

The Third Way: Obtaining Realization and Power from an Enlightened Source

The Third of the Nine Ways of Bön is called The Way of The Shen of Magical Power and includes practices for venerating a yidam, a meditational deity, or a spiritual master.   Then, the practitioner uses mantra together with mudras, symbolic hand gestures, in order to accomplish a goal such as requesting assistance from powerful worldly spirits to remove obstacles or subdue malevolent forces. In general, these practices involve the three stages of:1) praise and service, 2) practice and attainment, and the 3) application of appropriate ritual activities.  A yidam is an enlightened being who has manifested in a specific form that embodies specific enlightened qualities that a practitioner can perfect within themselves by meditating upon that yidam deity.  For example, the yidam Red Garuda is often practiced to gain influence and power over natural forces in order to avert natural disasters.  These practices require an advanced ability to focus and visualize, deep devotion and faith in the yidam as well as the need to undergo a prolonged, solitary retreat of single-pointed practice in order to acquire the power of the yidam.  For this kind of practice, the enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap has advised that the practitioner should go to a wrathful place such as a mountain that is known to have wrathful energy or to a cemetery.  Wrathful retreat places are described as being desolate, infertile areas with jagged rocks or mountains with rough energy.

white caves of mustang(Meditation caves in Mustang, Nepal)

It is also necessary for the practitioner to take and strictly keep all of the vows related to such a tantric practice.  Then, having properly prepared the necessary ritual items,  the practitioner sets both an external boundary and an internal boundary.  The external boundary keeps away any disturbance from the external world which might interrupt the retreat.  The internal boundary keeps the practitioner’s mind focused and protected from distracting thoughts.  For the Praise and Service part of the practice, the practitioner performs the practice while continuously imagining the enthroned deity in the space just in front and above their head.  Generating immense trust and devotion to the deity and a steadfast intention to benefit other beings is of utmost importance.  From the words of Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwo:

“One should exert one’s self in the three kinds of longing devotion to them.  One should seek them out like a child who is unable to bear even a moment of separation from the mother.  One should seek them out like a needed guide along a dangerous path which is filled with dangers and peril.  One should seek them out like the desire to be with an intimate friend who thinks only of you and no one else.”

For the Practice and Attainment part of the practice, it is important to know how to properly prepare the ritual offerings, the appropriate mandala, and the shrine. One also needs to know which sacred instruments will be needed, how to play them and the specific melody for the practice, as well as how to perform the appropriate mudras.  These mudras, or sacred hand gestures, are an important method of communication with the unseen.  Everything must be clean and of the best quality that is available according to the practitioner’s  circumstances.  All of the ritual activities must be properly performed.  Otherwise, it is possible to create obstacles because of  errors.  Therefore, by carrying out these ritual activities properly and with undistracted focus, the practitioner unites his body, speech and mind with that of the deity and becomes inseparable from the deity’s qualities and wisdom.  In this way, blessings and both ordinary and extraordinary spiritual abilities are received from the deity.

3 mudras

(There are many types of mudras, or symbolic hand gestures.)

For the Application of Ritual Activity part of the practice, having attained the blessings and power of the deity, the practitioner now has the ability to subdue forces which are harming others or interfering with the practice of virtue or other religious activity.  Therefore, acting from a foundation of compassion and with the intent to be of benefit, the practitioner overcomes these malevolent forces.  From the words of Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwo:

“If people who enter and practice this Third Way do not have compassion as the base, they are like a seed thrown on infertile ground.  If the seed is thrown in a dry place, how can it grow?  Thus, one must have faith which will benefit one’s self as well as having compassion which will benefit others.”

These teachings are contained within the external, internal and secret tantras.  Their primary goal is to have an immediate result and to bring happiness and help to beings during this very lifetime.

The Four Immeasurable Qualities: Equanimity

4 immeasurables btang snyoms Equanimity One of the Four Immeasurable Qualities is ‘Equanimity‘.  In the Tibetan language, it is ‘Tang Nyom‘.  Tang Nyom is the practice and aspiration to perceive all beings in the same way rather than with the bias of the labels ‘friend’ or ‘enemy’.  Seeing them otherwise is due to a lack of understanding of the true nature of reality.  Therefore, it is important to train the mind to perceive all beings with a benevolent attitude and cultivate the authentic quality of Equanimity, or Tang Nyom, towards all beings.

The Mighty Task of Preserving Ancient Knowledge

Menri Lopon Rinpoche working at his laptop profile

HE Menri Lopon Rinpoche, head teacher of Menri Monastery, is nearing completion of an Encyclopedia of Bon Religion.

Lopon Rinpoche’s new encyclopedia contains more than twelve thousand different entries, which include a comprehensive set of articles and definitions used in the Yungdrung Bon religion and by Bonpo practitioners. Even the largest reference works currently available in Tibetan or English do not include most of the information that will be available in this new work. Entries include:

  • Tibetan and Zhang Zhung words and terminology specific to the Bon religion
  • Biographies of Bonpo scholars and practitioners, both historical and contemporary
  • Descriptions of significant places in Bon history
  • Descriptions of Bon religious symbols, images and objects
  • Names and descriptions of Bon deities

Scholars of Tibetan culture regularly have problems understanding the language in texts of the Yungdrung Bon religion because such texts use words that are often different, or have different meanings, than the terminology used by Tibetan Buddhists.

A work of this scope on this subject has never been published before. The Encyclopedia is in the Tibetan language, but after initial publication, Lopon Rinpoche hopes to have it translated into English.

We have begun collecting donations to help with translating and publishing this book in English. Any amount would be a great help and greatly appreciated.

Donations can be sent to Khyungdzong Wodsel Ling at the following address or use the PayPal button below (please put “encyclopedia” in the memo box):

Dika Ryan
1977 N. New Hampshire Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027

(This article originally appeared at http://kwling.org/projects/encyclopedia-of-bon/)

Prayers for Wealth and Harmonious Circumstances

ser od norbu

Beautifully illustrated, this text is for the generation and increase of wealth, good luck and supportive circumstances.  This, and various other texts, can be found in the home of laypeople.  On a chosen auspicious day each year, one or more monks are requested to come and read these texts out loud in the family home so that the family may receive the blessings of the prosperity practice as well as the virtuous activity of hosting the monks during the recitation.

What are the Nine Ways of Bon?

Dolpo-Samling

(Samling Monastery in Dolpo, Nepal)

There are three hagiographies of Buddha Tönpa Shénrap Miwoché’s life.  They are commonly known as the Do Düs, the short version which has only one volume.  The Zer Mik is the medium length version with 2 volumes.  The Zi Ji is the long version and has 12 volumes containing a total of 61 chapters.  All of these texts are classified within the Kangyur.  It is within the longer version, the Zi Ji, that the teachings of Yundgrung Bön are explained by the Buddha within the context of nine different ways, or vehicles.  The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Ways are classified as The Causal Ways, or the Bön of Causes.  The 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th Ways are classified as the Ways of the Result, or the Bön of the Fruit.   The 9th Way contains the teachings of the Great Perfection, or Dzogchen.  From the 1st to the 9th Way, the view, or perspective, of the methods and teachings becomes increasingly higher.  However, even though one is a practitioner of a higher ‘Way’, this does not exclude the practice of one or more of the lower ‘Ways’ should the need arise.   Although the methods differ, all of the Nine Ways have compassion as their base.

In centuries past, during times of persecution, the Bönpo would hide their texts rather than have them destroyed.  Later, after the political environment had changed and they were no longer in danger, the texts would be searched for and brought out from their hiding places.  In this way, there came to be three different classifications of the Nine Ways of Bön according to the region in which the texts were found after being hidden.  These three are referred to as The Southern Treasures, The Northern Treasures, and The Central Treasures.

In 1961, the Rockefeller Foundation gave funds to various universities who had established Tibetan studies programs in order to allow them to invite Tibetan scholars for a 3 year period.  Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche, Geshe Lungtok Tenpa’i Nyima Rinpoche, the future abbot of Menri Monastery, and Geshe Samten Karmey were invited to England by David Snellgrove.  During this time, Yongdzin Rinpoche suggested the translation of excerpts of the Nine Ways based upon the Southern Treasures.  Yongdzin Rinpoche personally selected the passages that David Snellgrove translated.  In 1967, these excerpts were published as The Nine Ways of Bön.  At that time, very little was known about the Yungdrung Bön tradition among Western scholars.  There was a great deal of theorizing and conjecture.  So, although Snellgrove’s translation of the text is quite accurate, his own personal conclusions as to the origins and influences of the Yungdrung Bön should be taken within the context of the time in which he was writing.  However, to-date, his translation remains the only extended translation of the Nine Ways that is available.

(en español: https://losnuevecaminos.wordpress.com/about/)

The Nine Ways of Bön according to the Southern Treasures:

1. The Way of the Shen of Prediction: This Way includes divination, astrology, various rituals, and medical diagnosis.

2. The Way of the Shen of the Phenomenal World: This Way includes rituals dealing with communication with external forces such as rituals of protection, invocation, ransom of the soul and life-force, and  of repelling negative or harmful energies.

3. The Way of the Shen of Manifestation: This Way includes venerating a deity or master and then applying mantra and mudras in order to accomplish a goal such as requesting assistance from natural energies.

4. The Way of the Shen of Existence: This Way is primarily focused upon rituals for the dead and methods to promote longevity for the living.

5. The Way of the Virtuous Lay Practitioners: This Way specifies the proper conduct of lay person taking vows.

6.  The Way of the Fully Ordained: This Way specifies the proper conduct for those who are fully ordained practitioners.

7. The Way of the White AH: This Way is primarily focused upon tantric practice using visualization.

8. The Way of the Primordial Shen: This Way is primarily focused upon higher tantric practice.

9. The Unsurpassed Way: This Way is primarily focused upon the practice of Dzogchen, or The Great Perfection.  This Way does not rely upon antidotes of any kind, ritual or practice with a meditational deity.  It is concerned with the realization of the true nature of one’s own mind.

Blue like the Clear, Open Sky

blue text

In the Bön Buddhist tradition, the color blue has great, meaningful significance.  Specifically, the blue of the clear, open, vast expanse of the sky.  Among the five schools of Tibetan Buddhism, only Bönpo monks have blue on their robes.  In ancient times, Bön practitioners wore blue robes.  Bön texts are wrapped in blue cloth, the stiff top and bottom covers which protect the paper are blue, and all page edges are painted with blue ink.  Here, a sacred scripture is written on blue paper.

Teachings as Vast as the Ocean

bon canon

The sacred teachings of the Yungdrung Bön are so immense that they are said to be “vast like an ocean”.  All of these many volumes are divided into two primary classifications.   A scripture is either part of the ‘Ka‘, teachings given by the enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwo, or they are part of the ‘Ka Ten’, teachings and commentaries based upon the words of Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwo.  There are 175 volumes of texts within the Ka and over 300 volumes of texts within the Ka Ten.

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