Category Archives: Tibetan Lunar & Religious Calendar

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.

Don’t want to miss a post? Scroll to the bottom and click “Follow this blog.”

Traditional Anniversary of the Human Birth of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché

Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Mowoché. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

 

Although in recent times the historical date of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap’s human birth has been stated to be the 15th day of the 12th month by the scholar His Eminence Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoché (See previous post for more information: https://ravencypresswood.com/2020/02/08/anniversary-of-the-human-birth-of-lord-tonpa-shenrap-miwoche/ ), it remains a tradition to also celebrate the Buddha’s birth on the 15th lunar day of the 1st month which is the date that has been celebrated through countless generations. In 2020, this date coincides with March 9th.

Praise and Homage for the Compassionate Teacher

King of the Teachings and a glorious guide through cyclic existence,

You are the illuminating light that overcomes all darkness!

The primary medicine that dispels the torment of ignorance and disease,

You are a King of the Mu clan, an extraordinary being who took human form!

With an army of great fire that dries up the ocean and mire of the five poisons,

You are a luminous, holy man who possesses the marks and characteristics of an enlightened being!

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 manifested enlightened body of Tönpa Shenrap!”

— Written by the great lama Drenpa Namkha and translated from the Tibetan by Raven Cypress Wood

All translations and content by Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved.

No content in part or in whole is allowed to be used in any way without direct permission.

Don’t want to miss a post? Scroll to the bottom and click “Follow this blog.”

Celebration of the Second Buddha: H.H. Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché

The 5th day of the 1st month of the Tibetan lunar calendar is the celebration of Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché also known as the second buddha. In 2020, this date coincides with  February 28th on the Western calendar. Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rnpoche 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, Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché.

Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved. No content, in part or in whole, is allowed to be used without direct permission from the author.

Don’t want to miss a post? Scroll to the bottom and click “Follow this blog.”

 

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

Today begins the year of the Metal Rat.  For more information, see previous post: https://ravencypresswood.com/2020/02/01/the-twelve-animals-of-tibetan-astrology-the-rat/

Traditionally, today is spent either at home or visiting monasteries to make offerings or perform religious practice. Tomorrow begins a time of visiting friends and sharing with them all of the special food for the holiday. The 1st month of the new year is especially good for activities that strengthen and develop the positive forces that support health, success and harmony. Hanging prayer flags is one such activity.

Nine Ways is offering special Yungdrung Bön prayer flags. For more information about the benefit of prayer flags or to place an order, see previous post: https://ravencypresswood.com/2020/02/15/the-immeasurable-benefit-of-raising-prayer-flags/

Don’t want to miss a post? Scroll to the bottom and click “Follow this blog.”

The Tibetan New Year: Removing Obstacles & Making Aspirations

Monk dancers at Tokden Monastery performing sacred dance during the gutor ritual in preparation for the Tibetan New Year. Photo credit: Unknown.

The Tibetan New Year, known as Losar, falls upon the 1st lunar day of the 1st lunar month each year. In 2020, this day coincides with February 24, 2020 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.

Ransom offering effigy. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

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 in the evening of the 29th with the removal of the main prayer flag from the courtyard. In 2020, these days coincide with February 20th-22nd.

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 2020, this day coincides with February 22nd. 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 of a human is made and importantly 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.

If you don’t go but instead try to stay here, then I will manifest as the fierce Nampar Jompa and will rip apart your body, life-force and power with my mudra and weapon!

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 rise early the next morning to perform the offering of purifying smoke 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 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.

Don’t want to miss a post? Scroll to the bottom and click “Follow this blog.”

%d bloggers like this: