Category Archives: Tibetan Lunar & Religious Calendar

665th Birth Celebration of the Second Buddha: H.H. the 1st Menri Trizin Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché

Shrine display at Menri Monastery honoring HH 1st Menri Trizin Rinpoche. Photo credit: Unknown

The 5th day of the 1st month of the Tibetan lunar calendar is the birth celebration of His Holiness the 1st Menri Trizin Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché also known as the second buddha. In 2021, this date coincides with  February 16th on the Western calendar and is the 665th year. H.H. Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché was a reincarnation of Yikyi Khye’u Chung, one of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche’s sons. He was responsible for uniting the three transmission lineages of sutra, tantra and dzogchen as well as founding one of the largest Yungdrung Bön monasteries in Tibet, Tashi Menri Ling.

Born in 1356 in the region of Gyalrong into the Dru lineage, as a child, he could recite mantra and read scripture without having studied.  At the age of ten, he decided to become a monk.  In 1387 at the age of 31, he entered the prestigious Yeru Wensaka monastery and eventually became its abbot.   During a journey to Eastern Tibet, Yeru Wensaka was destroyed by flooding and mudslides.  After returning, he searched the ruins of the monastery for artifacts.  He took these and established Tashi Menri Monastery further up the same valley.  It was now 1405 and he was 50 years old.

H.H. Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché was known throughout Tibet as a great scholar and prolific writer on the many varied subjects within the Bön scriptures.  He also exhibited many miracles and signs of his spiritual realization.  Twice, he flew up into the sky.  During one of these flights, he burned his hat with the rays of the sun.

Nyamme Sherap Gyaltsen handprint

Nyamme Sherap Gyaltsen’s hand print in stone

In 1415 at the age of 60, he passed away.  His body levitated high into the air, but due to the many heartfelt prayers of his disciples, the body came back down.   During the cremation, rainbows appeared and an eagle circled three times around the cremation area before disappearing into the West.

Today,  Bönpos will spend the day with their eyes looking skyward.  If you are lucky enough to be visited by a vulture on this day, it is said to be an auspicious sign of having received the blessings of the lama known as the Second Buddha, the Unequaled One, H.H. Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché.

Tibetan translations 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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Happy Tibetan New Year! Losar Tashi Delek Pün Sum Tsok!

Tibetan prayer flags at Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

“May the life force and vitality increase!

May the body’s strength increase!

May personal power and influence increase!

May the force of good luck be well developed!

May the soul and prosperity increase!

May the life force, vitality, health, personal power, soul, and lungta be well developed!

May all lungta, soul, and prosperity that have been diminished become well developed!

Essence of the three jewels and a supreme rarity, kind root lama, please think of me!

May external, internal, and secret obstacles be cleared!

May these wishes bring the accomplishment of all goals and intentions!”

— Prayers from a Yungdrung Bön lungta prayer flag

Tibetan translations 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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The Tibetan New Year: Removing Obstacles & Making Aspirations

Ransom effigy. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

The Tibetan New Year, known as Losar, falls upon the 1st lunar day of the 1st lunar month each year. In 2021, this day coincides with February 12, 2021 on the Western calendar. In the weeks leading up to Losar both the monasteries and households are busy with preparations. It is customary to make many fried Tibetan cookies known as khapsé. These khapsé are offered to the shrine and also to guests during and after the Losar celebration. Wheat grass seeds are planted in small pots and the young green shoots are placed with the other offerings as a symbol of a good harvest in the coming year. Monasteries and nunneries prepare for the traditional sacred dances as well as the end-of-year prayers and rituals.

Khenpo Tenpa Yungdrung Rinpoche with New Year khapsé. Photo credit: Unknown

In the monasteries, the extensive ritual of the wrathful yidam Phurba known as the Tro Phur gutor chenmo begins the ceremonial conclusion of the previous year. This ritual lasts for three days and includes many sacred dances called cham as well as elaborate rituals for removing any obstacles or negativity from the previous year. This important gutor ritual begins on the 27th lunar day and concludes on the 29th lunar day of the 12th month. The monastic gutor ritual concludes on the evening of the 29th with the removal of the main prayer flag from the courtyard. In 2021, these days coincide with February 8th-10th.

On the 29th lunar day, which is called nyi shu gu, all Tibetans clean their homes and clear their debts from the previous year. In 2021, this day coincides with February 10th. That evening, a dokpa ritual of turning back negativity is performed in each household. The family shares a special stew of nine ingredients called gu thuk. Although there can be regional variations, according to HE Menri Pönlop Rinpoche, these nine ingredients are meat, wheat, barley, rice, cheese, corn, troma (a himalayan root vegetable), salt, and water. Cooked with the stew are balls of dough which contain items that are meant as a playful divination that reveals the character of the family members who receive them in their bowl of stew. Rather than the actual items, the name of the symbols can also be written on a small piece of paper and placed inside the balls of dough. There is some variation of the items used but for example, whoever receives cotton in their ball of dough will have good health all year. Whoever receives chili is said to be sharp-tongued, and whoever receives the white stone is said to be a good-hearted person, but the recipient of charcoal is a black-hearted person, etc.

Everyone saves a small amount of the last of their stew to be used as a ransom offering for the negative spirits of the previous year. This ritual payment settles any remaining karmic debts with negative spirits so that they become satisfied and go away happy. An effigy is made which must include representations of each of the five senses. Along with the leftover stew, each person also makes a karmic debt torma. This is a small ball of dough that has been rubbed over the body from head to toe in order to absorb any illness or negativity. Then, the ball of dough is squeezed inside the hand so that each of the fingers make an impression. This karmic debt torma is placed on the offering plate with the effigy along with a piece of hair and a string from the clothing of each family member. A small candle is placed on the plate in front of the effigy and it is lit before the ransom is carried out by one of the family members.  Once it has been left in an appropriate place, the person leaving it must not look back as they rush back home.

After the offerings have been collected and before the effigy is carried out, a prayer is recited to formally present the offerings to the spirits and request that in exchange for the ransom, they not create any trouble. The following prayer is from the dokpa ritual of the enlightened fierce deity Nampar Jompa.

The fierce enlightened deity Nampar Jompa.

“OM

Come here, all you spirits who have a commitment to the teachings of the Buddha!

Come all gods, humans, and demi-gods, all spirits that cause harm or disease, all male and female demons. Without excluding anyone, all you spirits, come!

Accept this ransom torma which repays my karmic debts. Do not cause harm to this family or community and don’t create any obstacles to our spiritual practice!

Now, each of you happily return to your homes and listen to the noble teachings of the Buddha.

SO OM BA DZRA TRO TA SUM TRI GHA TSA YA GHA TSA YA 

NÖ JÉ JUNG PO A MU KHA RA YA HUNG PÉ

On the 30th, New Year’s Eve, the houses are decorated, the shrines are cleaned, and fresh offerings are placed on them. It is common for people to be up most of the night preparing for the next day. Even so, they get up early the next morning to perform a ritual fumigation offering and to make aspirations for the new year. The first spring water of the new year is considered very auspicious and it is common for people to go directly to the community well after midnight and try to be the first to collect water to offer on their shrine. Generally, on New Year’s Day everyone stays at home or only leaves home to go to the monastery in order to pray and make offerings.  However, on the 2nd and 3rd days of the new year, it is customary to spend the day visiting friends and extended family in order to strengthen the positive energy and harmonious bonds for the coming year.

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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Anniversary of the Human Birth of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché

Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché. Photo credit: Khedup Gyatso

The 15th day of the 12th lunar month, January 28, 2021 on the Western calendar is the 18,038th birth anniversary of the founder of the Yungdrung Bön tradition, the Enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwo Künlé Nampar Gyalwa.  Already an enlightened being, Buddha 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

According to the text, today is a particularly auspicious day to recite The Tséwang Mönlam, Tséwang’s Precious Mala of Beneficial Aspiration Prayers. This prayer has been translated into English by Raven Cypress Wood and made publicly available for personal use. To find the download link for the translation, go to the Publications page of this website or click https://ravencypresswood.com/publications/ and scroll down.

Tibetan translations 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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Advice for Spiritual Practitioners from the Renowned 8th Century Master, Drenpa Namkha

20th Century mural in Bhutan depicting Drenpa Namkha.

“There are three things that a spiritual practitioner must have in order to attain the state of the Three Enlightened Bodies.

  1. The Seven Things to Meditate Upon 
  2. The Three Applications 
  3. The Three Detachments 

The Seven Things to Meditate Upon:

  • Impermanence
  • The difficulty of acquiring a precious human birth
  • The faults of cyclic existence
  • The truth of cause and effect
  • Compassion
  • Refuge and Generating the Mind of Enlightenment
  • Emptiness

The Three Applications:

  • Having understood the faults of cyclic existence, one must apply the practice of refuge.

    “Wherever one is born within cyclic existence, there remains suffering and misery. From that realization, may I gain renunciation!”                                                                                                                                                                                 

    — From An Ocean of Instructions Regarding the Teachings of AH by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche

  • Having understood the truth of cause and effect, one must apply the avoidance of non-virtuous actions.

    “The infallible result of both good and bad actions is certain. May I be watchful about what to accept or reject!”                         

    — From An Ocean of Instructions Regarding the Teachings of AH by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche

  • Having practiced loving kindness and compassion, one must act to benefit other sentient beings.

    “Without exception, suffering and misery arise from wanting happiness for only myself. However, a perfect buddha arises from the mind that focuses on benefiting others.”                                                                                                                                    

    —From Forty-three Trainings for an Enlightened Mind by H.H. the 22nd Menri Trizin Sonam Lodro Rinpoche, also known as Sherap Gongyal

The Three Detachments:

  • Having understood impermanence and the faults of cyclic existence, one should detach from this life.

    “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!

    Bless me to be mindful of death!

    Bless me to overcome deep attachment!

    Bless me that renunciation will arise in my mind-stream!

    Bless me to recognize everything as illusion!”                                                                                                                         

    — The Truth of Impermanence from the Aural Transmission of Zhang Zhung

  • Having experienced great compassion, one should detach from self benefit.

    “The sentient beings of the three worlds have the same nature as my mother and father. What benefit is my own happiness when they are suffering? Because of that and in order to liberate the limitless sentient beings from the ocean of suffering and misery, I generate the mind of enlightenment.”                                                                                                                                

    —From Forty-three Trainings for an Enlightened Mind by H.H. the 22nd Menri Trizin Sonam Lodro Rinpoche, also known as Sherap Gongyal

  • Having meditated on emptiness, one should detach from grasping things as inherently existing.

    “From this day forward, having recognized everything as self-energy and self-appearance, may I have no attachment to cyclic existence!”                                                                                                                                                                                       

    — From Aspiration Prayer of Giving and Receiving by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche

Free, publicly available English translations of The Truth of Impermanence prayer and Aspiration Prayer of Giving and Receiving have been made available for personal use. For the links to download these prayers, go to the Publications page of this website: https://ravencypresswood.com/publications/

For more information about the great spiritual master Drenpa Namkha, go to this previous article: https://ravencypresswood.com/2016/05/06/practice-of-the-great-lama-drenpa-namkha/

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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