Category Archives: Tibetan Lunar & Religious Calendar

Sacred Dance for the New Year

Monks perform the sacred dances for the Tibetan New Year at Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India. Photo credit: Unknown

Celebration of the Second Buddha: Nyamme Sherap Gyaltsen

The 5th day of the 1st month of the Tibetan lunar calendar is the celebration of the birth and cremation of Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen.  In 2019, this date in the Western calendar is February 9th. Within the Yungdrung Bön tradition, Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen is often referred to as the Second Buddha.  He was a reincarnation of Yikyi Khye’u Chung, one of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche’s sons. Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen was responsible for uniting the three transmissions 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.

Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen 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, Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen.

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

Losar shrine table copy

Shrine offerings for the Tibetan New Year, or Losar (Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood)

Today begins the year of the Earth Pig.  See previous post. https://ravencypresswood.com/2019/01/26/the-twelve-animals-of-tibetan-astrology-the-pig/

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Anniversary of the Human Birth of Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche

Lord Tonpa Shenrap Miwoche. Photo credit: Khedup Gyatso.

The 15th day of the 12th lunar month, January 21, 2019 on the Western calendar is the 18,036th 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.

“King of Teachers, and the glorious guide through cyclic existence, you are the illuminating light that overcomes all darkness.

A primary medicine that removes the torment of the illness of ignorance, you are the king of the Mu clan, an extraordinary being who took human form.

With an army of immense fire that dries up the ocean and mire of the five poisons, you are a luminous holy man who possesses the special marks and characteristics.

Having undertaken a multitude of hardships, you completed a multitude of activities. Through both the four valid means of cognition and the six valid thoughts, and with great loving kindness, you liberate the migrating beings within cyclic existence.

I prostrate to the manifestation of wisdom, Tönpa Shenrap!”

This Praise and Homage for the Compassionate Teacher was composed by the great Lama Drenpa Namkha and is extracted from “The Definitive Meaning of the Lamp that Dispels the Darkness.”

Tibetan translation by Raven Cypress Wood

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The Fierce, Secret Tamer of Demons

Walchen Gekho with his consort, Queen of the Drala

On the 23rd day of the Eighth Tibetan month, Western calendar date October 2nd 2018, Tashi Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India will begin an intensive seven-day retreat for the yidam Gekhö. Specifically, they will perform the practice from the text compiled by His Holiness 1st Menri Trizen Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoche, “Gekhö Sangwa Drakchen, The Fierce, Secret Gekhö.” This retreat will conclude on the 29th lunar day, October 8th 2018.

The tantric cycle of Gekhö contains 360 deities, and within the cycle of the Father Tantras he is the manifestation of enlightened quality within the Five Supreme Embodiments. (See previous post: https://ravencypresswood.com/2016/06/05/the-five-supreme-embodiments/

He was the deity of the ancient land of Zhang Zhung and his tantric practice was widespread throughout the realm. It is said that he originally descended upon the sacred mountain of Gang Tisé (aka Mount Kailash), and he and his retinue dwell there. However, even though there is a close association with an earthly abode, he is not a worldly guardian. Rather, he is the embodiment of enlightened energy that manifests as a meditational deity and enlightened protector for the practitioners of Yungdrung Bön. The epithet “Gekhö” in the Zhang Zhung language means “demon tamer.”

“In order to lead those who have not gained realization, Walchen Gekhö possesses the Five Bodies and the Five Primordial Wisdoms. Through the truth of pacification, and through these forceful, wrathful means, those who are untamed will be tamed.” ~From the Essence Practice of the Fierce Champion, Zhang Zhung Meri

One manifestation of Gekhö is Zhang Zhung Meri. This yidam deity is closely associated with the dzogchen practice of the Zhang Zhung Nyen Gyü, The Aural Transmission of Zhang Zhung. The practice of dzogchen is, by definition, perfected and beyond needing to apply any methods to develop it. However, because the practitioners of dzogchen have not yet fully realized this primordial perfection, the deity Zhang Zhung Meri offers protection and support.

Translation and copyright Raven Cypress Wood ©2018 All Rights Reserved

Complete Victory Over Negativity

Shenrap Nampar Gyalwa

At Tashi Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India, the 22nd-29th of the 6th Tibetan month (Western date August 4th-10th 2018), is the time for the practice of Shenrap Nampar Gyalwa. This is the wrathful form of the founder of the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition, the enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché. In order to protect the construction of a temple, he spontaneously manifested as Nampar Gyalwa, the Completely Victorious One. See previous post: https://ravencypresswood.com/2016/12/25/buddha-tonpa-shenraps-eighth-deed-the-deed-of-being-completely-victorious/

As one of the nine foundational practices in the Yungdrung Bön tradition, practitioners will recite the mantra of Nampar Gyalwa, known as the 100-syllable mantra, 100,000 times while imagining the purification of all negativity of the three times including every action of body, speech, and mind arising from anger, greed, jealousy, pride, and ignorance.

Homage to the Saint, Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche

Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche. Private collection of Raven Cypress Wood

The 13th day of the 4th month on the lunar calendar is the anniversary of the parinirvana and rainbow body of the Yungdrung Bön scholar and meditation master, Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche. See previous post: https://ravencypresswood.com/2015/05/31/anniversary-of-shardza-tashi-gyaltsen-attaining-the-rainbow-body-2/

Shardza Soldep. Calligraphy: HE Menri Ponlop Trinley Nyima Rinpoche.

“Fearlessly opening the door to a hundred treasuries of the heart of the Buddha’s stainless teachings,

Having the superior capacity of Mawé Senge,

Supreme guide to the self-radiant, self-arising, primordially pure awareness,

To Manga Werzhi* I pray.”

~Homage written in honor of Shardza Rinpoche, and often placed at the conclusion of the commonly used chöd practice written by him entitled, “Giving the Body, the Full Laughter of the Khandro.”

*Zhang Zhung name for Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche.

Tibetan translation: Raven Cypress Wood

 

Celebrating the Sacred

HE Menri Lopon Trinley Nyima Rinpoche lights candles on a cake celebrating the birth of Lord Tonpa Shenrap Miwoche. Photo credit: Unknown

Lunar Calendar: Cutting Hair & Nails

moon phases 4

According to Tibetan astrology, the lunar cycle has a strong influence upon our daily activities.  Therefore, on certain days of the lunar month some activities are avoided while others are emphasized.  For example, the hair and nails are believed to be connected with the vital life-force.  Therefore, when a practitioner is performing longevity practices, the hair and nails are not cut for the duration of the retreat.  Special attention is also paid to which day of the lunar month is favorable for cutting the hair and nails in general.  It is believed that if they are cut on an unfavorable lunar day, it could diminish the vital life-force.

According to Tibetan astrology, the favorable lunar days for cutting the hair and nails are: 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 26th and 27th.  If they are cut on the 8th, it promotes longevity.  If they are cut on the 26th or 27th, it brings good luck.  Unfavorable lunar days for cutting the hair and nails are: 4th, 6th, 15th, 17th and the 30th.  If they are cut on these days, it is thought to be detrimental to vitality and/or good luck.  This belief is especially true when pertaining to a child’s first haircut.

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Prayers of the Lama

HE Menri Lopon Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche during Losar festivities at Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India

Practice of The Great Lama, Drenpa Namkha

drenpa namkha flying(Mural in Bhutan depicting the Great Lama, Drenpa Namkha)

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.

The practices of Drenpa Namkha and Tséwang Rikdzin, are widespread in the Yungdrung Bön tradition.   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 Tazik, Drenpa Namkha 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 Pema Tongdrul, who were born in the year 888 BC.  Some New Bön texts say that Pema Tongdrul is the same person as Padmasambhava.   This manifestation of Drenpa Namkha wrote many Dzogchen texts and is often referred to simply as La Chen, or The Great Lama.

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.)

Drenpa Namkha of Tibet was born in the year 753 AD in Southern Tibet.  He was an accomplished practitioner and renowned scholar.  During this time, the kingdom of Tibet was ruled by King Trisong Detsen.  This king 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 with these words,

“A person who has attained realization would not make a distinction between his son and his enemy.  I have no partiality for anything.  Therefore, I shall be ordained.” (Translation by Samten Karmay from the Treasury of Good Sayings written by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen.)

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

“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 to Drenpa Namkha, translated by Raven Cypress Wood

Time to Practice The Great Lama

drenpa namkha prayer flag with watermarkThis prayer flag contains the image of The Great Lama, La Chen Drenpa Namkha and contains prayers and mantras specific for his practice.  According to the Yungdrung Bön tradition, the 10th lunar day of each month is designated as the time to devote to his practice.

May Auspiciousness Continually Increase!

Prayer flags at Boudha

“May the blazing glory of auspiciousness shine like a meteor even during the day!

May the blazing glory of auspiciousness resound continually even at night!

May there continually be excellent auspiciousness both day and night!

At this very moment, may there be potent, dynamic energy and auspicious good fortune!”

Extracted from the Prayer of Auspiciousness, translated by ©Raven Cypress Wood.

Venerating the Sacred

Tonpa shenrap bday shrine Menri 2015

Shrine during the celebration of the birth of the enlightened Lord Tonpa Shenrab Miwo at Menri Monastery in India. Photo credit: Unknown

 

Anniversary of Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Attaining the Rainbow Body

New Shardza statue edit

Here, Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen is depicted as a yogi by having long hair and wearing a yogic white shawl

The 13th day of the 4th month on the Tibetan lunar calendar is the anniversary of the rainbow body of Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen.   Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen was a Yungdrung Bön monk, teacher, scholar and realized practitioner of the modern age.  In 1934, he attained the rainbow body, Tibetan jalu, which is a sign of high realization in the practice of Dzogchen.  Essentially, the practitioner has purified their karma and realized the ultimate state of mind such that at the moment of death, the five elements which construct the physical body dissolve into pure light rather than degrading.  In this way, over the course of a few days, the physical body proportionally shrinks and, in some cases, completely disappears leaving only the hair and nails.

Hair and nails of Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen that were recovered after his attainment of the rainbow body

Hair and nails of Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen that were recovered after his attainment of the rainbow body

Throughout his life, Shardza Tashi Gyalstsen was known for stringent adherence to the many hundreds of vows that he had taken throughout his life.  Additionally, he taught a multitude of disciples, organized the reconstruction of temples, went on pilgrimages, and spent a great deal of time in isolated meditational retreats.  A prolific writer, he wrote volumes on the subjects of Bön history, instructions and guidance for the practice of Tibetan yoga, and detailed instructions for the advanced practice of inner heat, known as Tummo, among many other subjects.

 In 1934 at the age of 76 during an offering ceremony, he began to spontaneously sing songs of realization.  A few days later, he sewed himself inside of a tent and forbid any of his disciples to open the tent.  The next day, rainbow lights began appearing above and around the tent.  After 3 days, the ground shook.  By the 4th day, rainbow-colored mist was seen coming through the seams of the tent.  On that 4th day, Shardza’s disciple Tsultrim Wangchuk, afraid that his lama’s body would completely disappear and leave nothing for veneration, opened the tent.  He found Shardza’s body enveloped in rainbow light, levitating in midair, and shrunken to the proportional size of a 1 year old.  The area around the heart was still warm but most of the nails of the hands and feet had fallen onto Shardza’s seat below.  For the next 49 days, disciples paid their respect.  After that, the precious remains were placed into a reliquary chorten.  From time to time, many people have reported seeing clear or rainbow-colored light emanating from this chorten

Raising Prayers to the Sky

raising lungta at Nangzhik monastery

Tibetan New Year celebration at the Yungdrung Bon monastery of Nangzhik in Eastern Tibet. Photo credit: Unknown

Monastery Shrine for the New Year

Losar Altar at Menri 2013

Shrine for the Tibetan New Year, or Losar, and other celebrations at the Yungdrung Bon Monastery of Menri in Dolanji, India

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.

A Time for Increasing Luck

raising lungta with flags and paper

The Full Moon is a time when energies are naturally rising.  This is an auspicious time to perform virtue such as spiritual practice, making sacred offerings, visiting sacred places, giving to charity, or protecting the lives of other beings.  It is also an ideal time to engage in activities that will strengthen and increase one’s positive qualities and good luck such as raising prayer flags, bringing sacred or precious things into the home, or performing smoke offerings.  Here, a group in Tibet uses wind-horse papers which are printed with mantra and prayers for good luck and good health.  By tossing them into the sky, it is believed that the energy of the mantras and prayers are activated and will lift one’s energy of luck, vitality, personal power and prosperity.

Sacred Dance of the Deities

mask dance at Triten Norbutse 2013 sm

Monks perform sacred dance at the Triten Norbutse Monastery in Kathmandu as part of the New Year celebrations

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