Category Archives: Translation

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: https://ravencypresswood.com/2017/06/24/buddha-tonpa-shenraps-ninth-deed/ ) 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 Meaning & Benefit of Offering Torma

100,000 torma offering to the enlightened protector Sipé Gyalmo. Photo credit: Unknown

The offering of torma is a common practice within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition. The Tibetan term “torma” [gtor ma] literally means “something that is thrown, tossed, or strewn.” This refers to the action of many kinds of torma being tossed into the sky as an act of offering. However, not every torma is offered in this way. External torma can be offerings of the three white things: butter, milk, and salt-free cheese, and the three sweet things: honey, crystallized sugar, and dark sugar such molasses or maple syrup. External torma are also commonly made from roasted barley flour called tsampa which is mixed with sacred substances and shaped according to the particular kind of offering being made. In general, peaceful offering torma of this kind have a round base and wrathful torma have a triangular base. One of the many kinds of daily offering torma within the Yungdrung Bön tradition is the water torma which is one of the four daily offerings of generosity.

Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché was born into the human realm in the ancient land of Tazik. He only traveled into the country of Tibet one time. During this brief visit, his teachings to the Tibetan people were centered around compassion and the use of torma as offerings as a substitute for killing animals to use as offerings.

Geshe Nyima Kunchap Rinpoche and Geshe Tenzin Yeshe Rinpoche prepare to perform the daily water torma offering. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

Every kind of torma offering has three parts: the preparation, the main practice and the conclusion. The specifics of these are according to the particular practice being performed and the kind of torma being offered. In general, When preparing the torma, the hands and utensils are washed and any container or plate used to present the torma must be clean and without any defect or damage. After being properly made and arranged, it must be ritually cleansed with incense and water. Having generated an intention of compassion and generosity, the torma is offered to a clean place. When possible, the torma are tossed onto roofs as being a place free of the defilement of having been walked upon and also being a higher place to offer to higher beings. For offering to lower beings, the torma are placed upon the ground in a clean place.

“Come here now and keep your protection vow! Accept these offerings of smoke and torma! Act as a companion to me! Expel the causes for harm and obstacles! Act to accomplish this entrusted activity!” 

— Extract from The Invocation of Chammo Lamlha, Goddess of Travel

Various peaceful and wrathful torma offerings. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

The recipients of the torma offerings are both the enlightened beings as well as the six kinds of beings within cyclic existence. The recipients can be classified in many ways. They can be classified into four categories known as “The Four Guests.” These are 1) the guests of reverence which are the enlightened beings, 2) the guests of exalted qualities which are the powerful, worldly protectors, 3) the guests who are among the eight classes of spirits and demons, and 4) the guests of compassion or charity. We offer to the enlightened beings to purify our sacred commitments with them, elicit their blessings and protection, and to develop our positive qualities of devotion and generosity. We offer to the worldly protectors in order to elicit their powerful and magical protection. We offer to the eight classes of spirits and demons in order to repay any karmic debts that we might owe to them so as to pacify any feelings of revenge or harm that they might harbor against us. And we offer to the guests of charity to alleviate their suffering and misery.

Torma offerings for the lu. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

“I offer this inexhaustible, decorated torma to the twenty-five classes of lu* who are surrounded by millions of friends and associates. Because we dig the earth, break the rocks, chop down trees, drain the ponds and streams, create contaminated smoke, and commit immoral acts near the homes and places of the lu; they faint, go mad, become angry, or grow weak.

Regardless of whatever violence, disagreements, or ill will have occurred in the past, because of offering this torma of nectar, may the diseases of the lu be pacified! May their hopes and wishes be fulfilled!”

— Extract from The Ritual of Regularly Giving Torma to the Lu

*Lu [Sanskrit: naga]

In general, the offering of torma increases wealth and resources. Secret torma is the offering of the body such as in the practice of chod. This conquers the view of the self as inherently existing. Ultimately secret torma is maintaining the view without self-grasping. This increases realization and is the greatest of all torma offerings.

Additionally, by offering torma we naturally practice six of the ten perfections.

  1. By giving food and water, we engage in the practice of perfecting generosity.
  2. By ensuring that everything is clean, we engage in the practice of perfecting discipline.
  3. By offering charity without greed or resentment, we engage in the practice of perfecting patience.
  4. By putting forth the effort to continually offer torma, we engage in the practice of perfecting joyful effort.
  5. By abiding in meditation, we engage in the practice of perfecting concentration.
  6. By understanding the emptiness of the giver, the recipient and what is given, we engage in the practice of perfecting wisdom.

The ritual specialist Geshe Nyima Kunchap Rinpoche offering a water torma to the lu. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

By offering torma we engage in the vow of individual liberation through our act of generosity and therefore eliminating the mind of harming other beings, and we engage in the bodhisattva vow through offering to the guests of charity. Additionally, our longevity, merit, good fortune and personal power increase. And we purify the causes to be reborn into the lower realms.

Yidam torma of the lama, yidam and khandro of the Mother Tantra. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

It is important to note the difference between “offering torma” and “yidam torma.” Although both are referred to as “torma” they serve very different purposes. A yidam torma is also prepared from tsampa mixed with sacred substances and has a specific form and attributes according to the associated meditational deity or yidam. However, the purpose of the yidam torma is to act as a sacred support for the presence of the deity during empowerments and meditation upon the yidam. This kind of torma is not offered. Once it has been consecrated, it is placed in the highest position upon the shrine and treated as the sacred abode of the deity.

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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Now is the Time

“Just like interested bees circle around lotuses that contain nectar, the faithful who have clear understanding circle around a genuine person who has good qualities.

Just like the nature of foul smells cannot remain near a sweet-smelling medicinal tree, conditions of harm and injury cannot remain near a person of good character.

Wise and excellent persons, now is the time to engage with virtue. If you do not plant in time, you will feel regret when the harvest is scarce.

If you practice according to the instructions now, then it will be impossible to have a disappointing result. Just like planting barley seeds, it is impossible for them to arise as any other grain.”

— Extracted verses from Good Sayings for the Stages of the Path written by His Holiness 8th Menri Trizin Sonam Yungdrung Rinpoche. He became leader of the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition in 1575.

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 Power of Aspiration

Yungdrung Bön nun circumambulates. Photo credit: Mary Ellen McCourt

“Never being separate from the divine places of refuge and having brought together the causes and conditions of faith and compassion, may I generate the mind of enlightenment for the benefit of all migrating beings!

With the establishment of mindfulness as well as a vast and pure renunciation, and through the four kinds of miraculous abilities along the path of accumulation, and because of these roots of virtue which are in accord with the path of liberation, may my mind-stream become ripened!

Instantly having perceived the clearly manifest meaning of the essential nature which is non-dual clarity and emptiness, may I be free from the activities of this world and obtain the ground beyond only having a mere taste of experience!

Unwavering from the state of pure space and having accomplished benefit for others through the unsurpassed ten perfections, may I proceed along the path of meditation and fulfill the two accumulations!”

— Extract from The Eight-branched Aspiration Prayer

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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To Act with Compassion

An older horse that has been protected and blessed through the Tshe Thar ritual in honor of HE Menri Ponlop Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche. Photo credit: Unknown

Within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition, there is a ritual for protecting the life of animals that are destined to be killed. This ritual is known as Tshe Thar, life release or freeing life. In Tibet, it is common to purchase live fish just after they have been caught and release them back into the lakes or to purchase yaks and allow them to live out the full length of their life span.

HH 34th Menri Trizin, Latri Nyima Dakpa Rinpoche, and Geshe Nyima Künchap Rinpoche performing the Tshe Thar ritual for a fish release. Photo credit: Angel R. Torres

An individual or group requests a lama to perform the tshe thar ritual either as a general practice of compassion, on a particular auspicious day, as a method to protect the longevity of a lama, or to prolong the life-span of an ill person, etc.

“Marvelous source of the teachings who holds the treasury of all exalted qualities, the lama has the control of discipline through many activities.

He is the unequaled lord of the teachings and the ornament of the crown of the head.”

— Extract from The Skillful Method of Saving the Life of Beings and Setting Them Free

The ritual begins with the usual preliminary practices of taking refuge in the places of wisdom and enlightenment, generating a fervent intent towards enlightenment for one’s self and others, admitting and purifying non-virtue that one has committed, and setting a boundary to prevent disturbances to the ritual. Then, the lama generates their body, speech and mind as the enlightened body, speech and mind of the wisdom deity and bestows blessings and empowerment upon the animals. To mark this and to indicate that the animals are forever protected, a sacred badge containing the mantric syllables of the wisdom deity is affixed to the animals. In conclusion, prayers of good fortune and aspiration are performed and the virtue of the activity is dedicated for the benefit of all sentient beings.

“Although it is difficult to produce the four kinds of thoughts of enlightenment,

compassion is easy if one’s self is used as an example.”

— Words of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché from The Fifth Way: The Way of Those Who Follow Virtue

A yak in Dolpo, Nepal that has been protected and blessed through the Tshe Thar ritual. Photo credit: Geshe Tenzin Yangtön

“Through the blessings of saving the life of these beings and setting them free for the benefit of pacifying the obstacles of the sponsors, may obstacles be pacified!

May the lifespan be undiminished! May the lifespan not be lost! May the lifespan be long!  

You, animals whose lives have been saved, having attained a precious human body in the future, may you have the good fortune of practicing the Yungdrung Bön!

— Extract from The Skillful Method of Saving the Life of Beings and Setting Them Free

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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Praise to the Unsurpassed Teacher!

The enlightened Lord Tonpa Shenrap Miwoche. Photo credit: Khedup Gyatso.

“EMAHO!

Even though he had gathered the two accumulations of merit and wisdom over three incalculable eons and had become omniscient and an unsurpassed teacher,

and although he had perfectly fulfilled renunciation and realization and had manifested as an enlightened being,

he mercifully perceived migrating beings and set the intention to be born as a son to King Mugyal Thökar in order to guide sentient beings.

I pay homage to the deed of accepting rebirth!”

— Excerpt from Praise of the Twelve Deeds of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché

For more information about Buddha’s deed of being born, see the previous article: https://ravencypresswood.com/2013/09/19/buddha-tonpa-shenraps-1st-deed-birth/

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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Clearing Away the Darkness

Butter lamp offering. Photo credit: Unknown

“EMAHO!

Throughout the ten directions of the immeasurable three thousand-fold universe are many kinds of goddesses including the butter lamp offering goddesses.

Within these small, circular containers is placed a wick of twisted gauze.

They are filled with clarified, melted butter which is a divine, concentrated essence.

By lighting these bright offering lamps, the fire of the lamps clears away darkness and obscurations and radiates throughout the vast, clear space of the sky.

I offer this fire which has manifested from the vast space of wisdom to the dimension of the divine assembly of peaceful deities.

And may this offering fulfill my sacred vows with the divine assembly of wrathful deities.

Please accept this enjoyable offering!”

— Extract from Raising a Victory Banner of Butter Lamps

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Offering Everything that is Good

Women of Lubrak, Mustang symbolically offering the entire internal and external universe to the places of refuge. Photo credit: Unknown.

“EMAHO!

To the great, unmatched lama possessing characteristics,

I present unequaled external, internal, and secret offerings.

Externally, I offer the environment and the beings within it.

Furthermore, I offer my own body and its vitality as an ornament.

I present these offerings with non-attachment.

Internally, I offer the arising of my mental and physical aggregates.

I offer my accumulated realization that whatever arises as subject and object is illusory.

Furthermore, I present these offerings within the vast space of self-liberation.

Secretly, I offer the natural radiance of my unborn mind, which is

unceasing and understands whatever arises as enlightened manifestation and wisdom.

Furthermore, I present these offerings within a completely vast and all-pervasive space.”

— Extract from Offerings for the Lama

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Homage to the Spiritual Master

Monks at Menri Monastery welcome HH 34th Menri Trizin Rinpoche upon his return to the monastery. Photo credit: Unknown.

“Above the crown of my head upon a throne of a lotus, sun and moon is the essence of all victorious ones, my kind lama.

I pray to those who have the ability to lead beings out of cyclic existence. Grant your blessings so that I may effortlessly accomplish benefit to self and others!”

— Extract from Tsa Lung Sol Dep, Supplication Prayer for the Practice of the Channels and Winds written by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche

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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