Category Archives: Tibetan Lunar & Religious Calendar

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

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