Category Archives: Tonpa Shenrap

Protecting and Blessing the Mind with The Great Mantra

The MA TRI mantra at Gonggyal Monastery in Nya Rong, Tibet. Photo credit: Unknown


Within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition the eight-syllable mantra OM MA TRI MU YÉ SA LÉ DU is known as the great mantra and is commonly referred to as the MA TRI mantra. It is the Essence Mantra of the Dzok ku, the enlightened state that embodies all perfected positive qualities and wisdoms. The sound and power of this essence mantra gives rise to the enlightened qualities and blessings of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché and Buddha Sherap Jamma as well as the six buddhas who offer guidance to liberation for the the six kinds of sentient beings within cyclic existence: hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, demi-gods, and gods.  Each year around the time of the Tibetan New year in Dolpo, Nepal, this mantra is recited continuously without any interruption for 15 days. It is one of the three essence mantras of the Yungdrung Bön tradition that is recited a minimum of 100,000 times as a preliminary practice in order to prepare the student’s mind for further spiritual practice. The benefits of reciting this mantra are vast and beyond the imagination.


Alas! Fortunate Ones Listen!

The long flowing river of birth is the first.

The thunderous waterway of aging is the second.

The raging whirlpool of illness is the third.

Death that has no escape is the fourth.

These four are the demon rivers from which there is no escape.

Noble ones who wish to cross over those rivers, proclaim the melody of the MA TRI MU YÉ!



Alas! Fortunate Ones Listen!

The excellent means of accomplishment is the first.

Discovering the stairway to higher states is the second.

The blissful stairway of gods and humans is the third.

Traveling upon the stairway of joyful effort is the fourth.

These four are the four stairways to travel for the path of liberation.

Noble Ones who wish to ascend those stairways, proclaim the melody of the MA TRI MU YÉ!”

— Excerpt from Inspirational Verses Regarding the MA TRI written by the 13th century Tulku Loden Nyingpo.

The MA TRI mantra above a doorway. Photo credit: unknown

“This mantra is the heart elixir of the princpal teachings. It is a sacred connection for sentient beings during a dark time.  It is a key to the collection of sacred teachings  It is a lamp that clears away the darkness of ignorance.  So that sentient beings during the 500 years-long time of darkness will not have to exert themselves in meditation and accomplishment, this mantra recitation is the practice advice.

This recitation practice of the MA TRI is a precious lamp. Whoever goes before an esteemed lama or sacred support such as a shrine, chorten, or sacred statue, if they recite the mantra while performing prostrations and circumambulation and making prayers of aspiration, whatever they wish for will be quickly accomplished.”

— Extract from 32 Benefits of the Recitation Practice of the Precious Lamp

Tibetan translation 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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Birth Anniversary of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap’s First Born: Tobu Bumsang

Depiction of the birth of Prince Tobu Bumsang.

Although Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche was already a fully enlightened being and therefore has no worldly lineage, in order to continue the royal Shen lineage into which he was born and in order to benefit sentient beings, he had ten children.  The first born was his son, Prince Tobu Bumsang, who was born on the fifteenth lunar day of the second month. In 2020, this coincides with April 8th on the Western calendar.

Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché entrusted the teachings of the Tantra of the MA TRI mantra to Tobu Bumsang after he made a formal request for the teachings.

“To the Lord who is the compassionate protector of sentient beings, Sovereign of the teachings who is the principal deity of gods and humans, to the One who is ornamented with the clear, unobscured light of knowledge and is all-knowing, I bow and offer prostrations. 

What is the teaching? Who is included in the lineage?  How many benefits are there of this recitation practice?  Please bestow the oral transmission as well as the quintessential instructions.” 

Tobu Bumsang made this request for the benefit of sentient beings in cyclic existence.  Shenrap and Tobu Bumsang spoke in accordance with the hearing lineage. Then, from the completely pure mouth of Shenrap these words were spoken.

“O listen! 

Fortunate Son of a noble lineage, this Precious Lamp is the heart mantra of all of those who have gone beyond bliss. 

As for the lineage, those who have purified lower rebirths and shaken cyclic existence from the very depths are included within the lineage. 

As for this practice, it is mainly to rely upon trusting in the enlightened ones who have trained in the three kinds of emptiness. 

As for the benefit, so that sentient beings at the end of the eon, when their lifespan has become shorter and there is less morality, will not need to accomplish visualization and meditation, I will speak about the benefits of this recitation practice.

This recitation practice is the extracted heart essence of all of Those who have gone beyond bliss and is the fundamental essence of the entire collection of sacred teachings. 

It is the quintessential essence of all Bön.  It is the ultimate of all recitations. It is the heart elixir of the princpal teachings. It is a sacred connection for sentient beings during a dark time.”    

— Extracted from Benefits of the Recitation Practice of the Precious Lamp, the MA TRI Mantra

Tibetan translation 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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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: ), 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.

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The Lotus Hat of the Yungdrung Bön

Religious festival at Menri Monastery 2015. Photo credit: Unknown

Within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition, the lotus hat is worn by those who have received the full ordination of a renunciant. The shape of the hat resembles a full, blue lotus. In general, it represents the purity of perfecting the rules of completely pure discipline. It is surrounded by either four, six or eight lotus petals that represent purification throughout the four directions. The thread which holds the lotus petals to the hat represents the activity of subduing throughout the intermediate directions. The twenty-five pleats represent the enlightened state of the five buddha families. At the crown of the head, there is an opening to attach the crown ornament which extends from the hat towards the sky.

Tönpa Tritsuk Gyalwa.

The founder of the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche showed the path of renunciation by becoming a monk at the age of 31. This was his ninth deed. (For more information about the Buddha’s ninth deed, see previous article: ) At his ordination, the six kinds of garments for a Yungdrung Bön renunciant fell from the sky. One of these garments was the lotus hat.

HE Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche wearing a lotus hat with the strips of cloth hidden underneath. Photo credit: Unknown

The long, thin strips of cloth that hang from the base of the hat near the ears are not mentioned within the texts. Therefore, the esteemed Yungdrung Bön spiritual master and scholar His Eminence Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche has stated that although it has become traditional to add them to the hat, they are not needed. Because of this, he sometimes takes these strips of cloth and places them inside the hat before putting it on.

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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The Fifth Way: In the Service of Virtue

Central Figure of the Tibetan Thangkha Painting Related to The Fifth Way

Within the Nine Ways of Bön, the Fifth Way is called The Way of the Virtuous Lay Practitioners and specifies the proper conduct and commitments of a lay person taking vows. This Fifth Way is the first of the Nine Ways classified as ‘Ways of the Result’ or ‘Bön of the Fruit.’ In the Tibetan language, a lay practitioner is called ‘gen nyen’ [Tib. dge bsnyen] which literally translates as ‘one who serves virtue’ or ‘one who draws near to virtue.’ When asked the meaning of these concepts, the enlightened all-knowing teacher, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwo answered,

“Virtuous means without negative actions. This is one who is committed to serve virtue through their body, speech and mind. Service means serving without holding contradictory views and properly remaining steadfast in service to virtue.”

In general, the lay practitioner commits to practicing the ten virtuous actions and renounces the ten non-virtuous actions of body, speech and mind.  Buddha Tönpa Shenrap defines this kind of renunciation as 1) not performing the actions, 2) not requesting or encouraging others to perform them and 3) not feeling pleased that others have performed the negative actions. Similarly, one commits to 1) acting according to the ten virtuous actions, 2) encouraging others to participate in these activities and 3) feeling joy that others have performed virtuous actions. This is the inner practice.

The Three Virtuous Actions of the Body:

  1. Rather than killing, protecting the life of other beings.
  2. Rather than stealing, practicing generosity.
  3. Rather than engaging in sexual misconduct or causing others to break their vows, keeping one’s own vows and respecting the vows of others.

The Four Virtuous Actions of Speech:

  1. Rather than lying, speaking the truth.
  2. Rather than creating discord, speaking in a way that brings people together.
  3. Rather than using hurtful speech, speaking gently and kindly.
  4. Rather than gossiping or mindlessly talking, speaking in a useful way or reciting prayers.

The Three Virtuous Actions of the Mind:

  1. Rather than coveting the possessions and accomplishments of others, being generous and open.
  2. Rather than wishing harm to others or feeling resentful, cultivating the desire to help others.
  3. Rather than holding wrong views, practicing the teachings of Yungdrung Bön and establishing a true and authentic view.

When asked to teach the outward form of the lay practitioner, The All-knowing Teacher, Tönpa Shenrap first instructed the gathered assembly to construct the first Elegant Yungdrung Chorten [Sanskrit: stupa] according to his detailed instructions. Once completed, he consecrated the chorten and then began teaching the outer forms and behavior of a gen nyen or lay practitioner.

Elegant Yungdrung Bon Chorten edit

The Elegant Yungdrung Chorten which represents the stages of enlightenment

The practitioner must go before a pure lama who guides disciples and take the appropriate vows. According to a commentary written by the 23rd abbot of Menri Monastery, His Holiness Nyima Tenzin Rinpoché:

“As for the vows of a gen nyen: There are five kinds of lifetime vows.  To abandon killing, to abandon taking what is not given, to abandon impure, wrong kinds of sexual conduct, and to abandon false speech are four.  Abandoning one of the four kinds of food is the fifth.  Some people have taught abandoning alcohol as a branch vow.

This is the gen nyen of completely renouncing according to the five kinds of established laws.  Because of that, the gen nyen of pure behavior has renounced the basic kinds of impure activity.”

As for killing, one must abandon killing in anger especially another human being. One must abandon stealing, especially when it is driven by desire. One must avoid sexual contact that is damaging or abusive, one must avoid harmful speech especially if it creates a division within the spiritual community, and one must avoid lying especially about one’s spiritual experiences and attainments. As for the fifth which is a branch vow, one renounces either one of the four kinds of food. In this context, the four kinds of food are 1) meat, 2) garlic, 3) solid food after the mid-day meal, and 4) intoxicants such as drugs and alcohol. Regarding drugs and alcohol, the deeper meaning is the renunciation of intoxication which is an obstacle to mindfulness and incites negative behavior.

According to Buddha Tönpa Shenrap in The Nine Ways of Bön,

“As for the lifelong inner rules, one must abandon killing due to the influence of anger, abandon taking what is not given due to the influence of desire or attachment, abandon acting secretly to get what one wants without consideration of cause and effect due to the influence of ignorance, abandon performing unclean work due to the influence of pride, and abandon rough and abusive speech, meaningless talk, and telling lies. One must apply one’s self to their opposites.”

The Buddha goes on to describe the outer practices.

“As for the five intermediate principles, one should perform pure water-cleansing rites, perform prostrations and circumambulations with devotion and aspiration, create and place tsa tsa, and offer torma. Presenting offerings is a branch of gathering the [two] accumulations.”

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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