Category Archives: Yungdrung Bon Monasteries

Developing Knowledge & Wisdom with the Lion of Speech

Mawé Sengé, Lion of Speech, with a sword of knowledge and a scripture.

After the Tibetan New Year celebrations, students at Menri Monastery enter into an intensive retreat to cultivate the qualities of the wisdom deity Mawé Sengé, Lion of Speech. This retreat begins on the 24th lunar day of the 1st month and concludes on the 30th lunar day. In 2022, these dates coincide with March 26th – April 1st on the Western calendar. The purpose of this retreat is to receive the blessings and empowerment of the wisdom deity Mawé Sengé in order to develop and sharpen the students’ intellect to support their upcoming studies in the new school year. The practice of Mawé Sengé is performed many times each day and the mantra of the deity is recited as much as possible throughout the retreat with a minimum accumulation of 100,000 mantra recitations.

Mawé Sengé is the manifestation of the Dzok ku, the Enlightened Body, or state, of Perfected Qualities. If practiced regularly as a yidam deity, he clears the darkness of confusion, develops the intellect, and gives a quick and steadfast memory without forgetfulness. If his practice is properly applied and accomplished, there are seven specific signs that arise. These are called The Seven Signs of Attaining Wisdom that Blazes Like Fire. These seven signs are:

  1. The sign of having removed the darkness of lack of knowledge from the intellect. Specifically, this refers to removing a weak or unclear intellectual understanding. 
  2. The sign of having the eye of wisdom. This is the attainment of clairvoyance, expansive knowledge and wisdom.
  3. The sign of being like a lion of glorious poetry. This refers to the ability to write expert discourses, specifically scholastic poems and compositions.
  4. The sign of the sun of superior knowledge arising. This refers to the capability of having clear knowledge, without any confusion, regarding the qualities of any knowable object. 
  5. The sign of attaining the recollection of intelligence that is never forgotten. This refers to a steadfast capability of remembering what has been learned without forgetfulness.
  6. The sign of being like a thunderbolt when debating. This refers to the capability to brilliantly overcome all others, without defeat or fear, when debating any subject whatsoever.
  7. The sign of the intellectual memory being fast like lightening. This refers to an extraordinary ability of having a clear and quick memory.

“I go for refuge to the wisdom deity for the intellect.

I generate the supreme mind of enlightenment for the benefit of vigorous training in the highest wisdom.

Having compassionately purified all karmic obscurations without any exception,

please bestow the attainments of an increased intellect, useful knowledge, and a divine voice!”  

— From The Short Practice of Mawé Sengé. Tibetan translation: Raven Cypress Wood

Mawé Sengé holding a sword and a butter lamp

In the Yungdrung Bön tradition, there are two principal forms of the wisdom deity Mawé Sengé. Both of these forms share most characteristics. However, one form holds a sword and a scripture as the hand objects. The other form holds a sword and a butter lamp. This second principal form of Mawé Sengé is according to the prayer, An Offering of Praise for the Supreme Wisdom Deity Sherab Mawé Sengé, A Garland of Utpala Flowers composed by the highly revered Nyammé Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche.

“With a sword of wisdom held in your right hand, you cut the root of deluded thoughts and self-grasping.

With a butter lamp of clarity held in your left hand, you dispel the dark intellect and ignorance of migrating beings.

In the space to your right and left, the sun and moon blaze with the splendor of the inseparability of method and knowledge.”

— Extract from An Offering of Praise for the Supreme Wisdom Deity Sherab Mawé Sengé, A Garland of Utpala Flowers

In order to support his Dolpo Bön School for Girls and Boys in Dunai, Nepal, Khenpo Nyima Künchap Rinpoche has commissioned a limited number of thangkas depicting this particular principal form of Mawé Sengé. As the North American coordinator for the Dolpo Bön Society which supports the Dolpo Bön School, Raven Cypress Wood is selling some of these thangkas on behalf of Khenpo Rinpoche. The images are high quality prints framed in beautiful brocade and include the traditional silk covering. The deity image measures 23″ x 16″ and the full thangka measures 50″ x 39.” Anyone within the continental U.S. who is interested in purchasing one of these thangkas for $190.00 can email Raven directly at RCW108@Gmail.com.

About The Dolpo Bön Society and the Dolpo Bön School for Girls and Boys

The Dolpo Bön Society was formed in 2001 in response to the great degeneration of the Bön culture and religion in the Dolpo region due to poverty, illiteracy, and a desire to send the children to the places like Kathmandu and India for their studies. When that happens, the children rarely return to their villages. As a result, the culture and traditions of the villages were being destroyed. Recognizing this, all the great lamas and representatives of monasteries within the region held several conferences and came to the conclusion that a welfare society needed to be formed. Therefore, the non-profit Dolpo Bön Society was formed in 2001.

Although there has been a government school available, many parents cannot afford the cost and the school does not teach the Tibetan language. Therefore, as part of the Society’s mission to maintain and develop the Tibetan, and specifically Bön, culture and traditions throughout the Dolpo region, the Dolpo Bön School for Girls and Boys was established by Khenpo Nyima Künchap Rinpoche. In addition to a well-rounded modern education within the framework of the Tibetan Bön culture, the school also provides food and lodging, supplies for daily living, clothing, and even medical care when needed. All this, plus staff salaries and building and maintenance costs are primarily provided for from Rinpoche’s personal funds acquired through his worldwide teaching and rituals. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, he has not been able to travel outside of Nepal and India for the past two years. However, he has enjoyed being able to spend much more time with his students and teachers.

Khenpo Künchap Rinpoche distributes clothing to the Dolpo Bön School children

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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Feast Offering to the Deities of the Mother Tantra

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Mother Tantra deities as painted by Lama Kalsang Nyima. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

On the 21st and 22nd lunar days of the 1st month, Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India will perform a feast offering to the deities of the Mother Tantra according to the Shen tradition. These dates are March 23rd and 24th, 2022 on the Western calendar. This kind of feast offering, known as tsok [Tibetan: tshogs] literally means “collection, accumulation, assembly.”

The source of the Mother Tantra within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition is the primordial Buddha Küntu Zangpo. It has three cycles: external, internal and secret. Each cycle has a root text and a commentary that was written by the sage Milu Samlek. The main yidam of the Mother tantra is Sangchok Tartuk and his consort Khandro Chema Ötso. Of the two types of either peaceful or wrathful, the tsok of the Mother Tantra is categorized as wrathful.

menri ma gyud tsok 2021

Tsok offerings for the principal deities and retinue of the Mother Tantra. Photo credit: Unknown

For those who have vows with a yidam deity, performing a tsok is an opportunity to repair broken vows or commitments related to the yidam practice and increase merit and wisdom. Having offered to the enlightened beings, we gain more power and energy. Additionally, past negative actions and the obstacles and imbalances of daily life are purified. Qualities such as health, longevity, prosperity, confidence, stability are enhanced. When undergoing a deity retreat, a tsok is performed during the final session of practice each day.

When performing a tsok, the ritual can be done in its condensed, medium-length, or extensive forms. This is determined by the purpose of the tsok, the sponsor, the circumstance, and the umdzé or ritual director of the feast offering. However, every tsok has a similar structure consisting of preparation, preliminaries, prayers related to the specific deity together with their retinue, and the concluding prayers.  In general, once the length of the tsok is determined the necessary sacred substances, offering torma, and food offerings are prepared. Everything must be clean, prepared according to the text, and placed in its proper position in the shrine area. The preliminary practices consist of the usual foundation of setting an boundary in order to keep out obstacles and to keep in the blessings, going for refuge, generating the mind of enlightenment for self and others and admission of wrongdoing and purification.

The tsok offerings are then ritually cleansed with water and incense. The tsok is then empowered through visualization and mantra and becomes delicious, containing the eight qualities of nutrition, as well as limitless auspiciousness and positive qualities. The principal deity are retinue are formally invited to tsok and asked to reside in the objects of support such as the yidam torma or image that has been centrally placed on uppermost level of the shrine. Now that the enlightened deity is present, prostrations are offered. One can also take this opportunity to confess any broken vows or commitments to the deity and receive purification and renewal of those vows.

wrathful tsok

A wrathful tsok offering. Photo credit: Unknown

The eight offering goddesses are imagined to present the eight external offerings to the assembly of deities. Then, rakta mixed with tea is offered and is symbolic of a blood offering. This represents offering the liberation of our desire and attachment. Next, the ritually prepared medicinal alcohol is empowered and presented to the yidam deities which represents offering our wisdom. The tsok is then liberated by being cut. The top-most portion is offered to the deities, and the next portion is offered to the lineage lamas of the practice being performed. The linga torma represents outer enemies and obstacles as well as the inner five poisons, wrong views etc. This torma is now presented to the yidam, liberated by cutting, and then offered while requesting the ordinary and supreme attainments of the practice. The Yungdrung Bön protectors are presented with offerings, the prayer of delighting the deities and the lineage with the tsok is performed, and the prayer of attainment is performed.

“Within this mandala where marvelous things arise,

there is a collection of enjoyable things such as sights, sounds, smells, tastes, things to touch, ornaments, Bön treasures, etc.

Through this unsurpassed cloud of offerings, both actually set out and imagined,

may our sacred commitments be fulfilled!

Through the blessings of having fulfilled our sacred commitments to you,

may the enlightened teachings of the Yungdrung Bön spread!

Dispel into space all external, internal, and secret obstacles!”

And,

“Emaho!

This sacred food is the essence of spiritual attainment.

I will partake of it and receive both the ordinary and the supreme spiritual attainments!”

Then, by eating the tsok, we renew our vows with the yidam deities and receive their blessing and empowerment. We then share the leftovers of the tsok offerings as a charitable gift to those lower beings who are powerless to take part in the tsok and depend upon our generosity to receive its blessings.

The concluding practices include prayers of aspiration and auspicious followed by dedicating all of the virtuous activity performed during the tsok for the benefit of every sentient being within cyclic existence.

For more information about the cycle of Mother Tantra texts, see previous article: https://ravencypresswood.com/2021/12/18/a-brief-introduction-to-the-mother-tantras-of-yungdrung-bon/

Tibetan translations by Raven Cypress Wood

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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666th Birth Celebration of the Second Buddha: H.H. the 1st Menri Trizin Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché

Shrine display at Menri Monastery honoring HH 1st Menri Trizin Rinpoche. Photo credit: Unknown

The 5th day of the 1st lunar month is the birth celebration of His Holiness the 1st Menri Trizin Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché who is known as the second buddha in the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition. In 2022, this date coincides with  March 7th on the Western calendar. His Holiness Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché was a reincarnation of Yikyi Khye’u Chung, one of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche’s sons. He united the three transmission lineages of sutra, tantra and dzogchen that had become widely dispersed, and he founded one of the largest Yungdrung Bön monasteries in Tibet, Tashi Menri Ling.

Born in 1356 in the region of Gyalrong into the esteemed 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.   While he was traveling in Eastern Tibet, Yeru Wensaka was destroyed by flooding and mudslides. Upon returning, he searched the ruins of the monastery for any salvageable artifacts. With these precious objects, he established Tashi Menri Monastery on higher ground within the same valley. It was 1405 and he was 50 years old.

nyamme sol dep framed

His Holiness 1st Menri Trizin 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 left the shell of his physical body. His body levitated high into the air, but due to the fervent prayers of his disciples, the body returned to the earth. During the cremation, rainbows appeared and a large bird circled three times around the cremation area before disappearing into the West.

Today,  Bönpos will spend the day with their eyes looking skyward. If they are lucky enough to be visited by a vulture on this day, it is said to be an auspicious sign of having directly received the blessings of the lama known as the Second Buddha, the Unequaled One, H.H. Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché.

Among his numerous writings, is the commonly recited Eight-branched Aspiration Prayer, Mönlam Yenlak Gyepa. When offering aspiration prayers, we imagine that every sentient being is offering the prayers in unison with us. This limitless group of beings includes humans, nonhumans, unseen spirits, and those we consider “enemies.” All sound is perceived as the sound of the prayer being recited and the vastness of space is imagined as filled with buddhas and bodhisattvas that are delighted by the virtuous activity that spontaneously activates their immeasurable compassion. By offering the prayers in this way, and then dedicating the merit of the practice for the welfare of all sentient beings, the power of the practice is inconceivable and the benefit is sealed and can never be destroyed. 

The English language translation of the Eight-branched Aspiration Prayer, Mönlam Yenlak Gyepa is publicly available for personal use and can be downloaded from the Publications page of this website. Click on the Publications tab above and then scroll down the page to the download link.

Tibetan translations by Raven Cypress Wood

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Happy Tibetan New Year

raising lungta at Nangzhik monastery

Tibetan New Year fumigation offering at Nangzhik Yungdrung Bön Monastery Eastern Tibet. Photo credit: Unknown

The first day of the first lunar month is the royal Tibetan New Year’s Day. In 2022, this date coincides with March 3rd. This is an auspicious day to arise early, put on new clothes, place new offerings on the shrine, visit temples and holy places, and to make offerings and pay respect to one’s spiritual master. It is a day for making aspirations and strengthening positive qualities. This year, due to the passing of Shensé Norbu Wangyal Rinpoche, the Yungdrung Bön community will observe but not celebrate the New Year. Rather, more time will be spent with spiritual practice and recitations.

New Year’s day begins with the ritual of fumigation and offering through smoke known as the sang, sang sol, or lha sang. This practice removes defilements and obstacles, delights the enlightened ones, and satisfies the worldly spirits. In this way, a foundation for harmony, positive conditions, and prosperity is created. For more information about this important ancient ritual within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition, see previous post: https://wordpress.com/post/ravencypresswood.com/7924

“Having engaged in this sacred activity and prayer,

for us practitioners as well as our friends and companions,

please pacify obstacles related to our present circumstances and act to bring about supportive and harmonious conditions!

Support the success of our goals and intentions!

Eliminate harm and obstacles from bitter enemies!

Support the spread of the buddhas’ teachings!

Act on behalf of the happiness and perfect satisfaction of every sentient being!”

— From Sacred Smoke: The Ritual Practice of Fumigation and Offering in the Yungdrung Bön Religious Tradition by Raven Cypress Wood

Traditionally on the 2nd and 3rd days of the New Year, it is traditional to not work and instead to spend the days visiting friends, sharing food, and being joyful together. The 4th and 5th days are the celebration of the birth of His Holiness Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoche who is know as the second buddha. At this time in the monasteries, the main prayer flag for the year is raised and there is a return to strict monastic discipline after the relaxed celebratory atmosphere of the previous few days.

Yungdrung Bön in Mongolia

His Eminence Menri Ponlop Yangtön Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche officiates the opening of Thegchen Zhidé Dargyé LIng. Photo credit: Unknown

On December 19, 2019 a new Yungdrung Bön temple was officially inaugurated by His Eminence Menri Ponlop Yangtön Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche upon the request of its founder, Khenpo Menri Geshe Zöpa Gyatso Rinpoche. The temple is named Thekchen Zhidé Dargyé Ling, Land of the Great Vehicle where Peace and Happiness Flourish. On December 15th, His Eminence performed the rituals for consecrating and opening the eye for the new deity statues for the temple. On December 16th, His Eminence met with special guests and those who helped to establish the new temple.

The public looks on as HE Menri Ponlop Rinpoche officially opens the new temple in Mongolia. Photo credit: Unknown

Beginning on December 17th, HE Menri Ponlop Rinpoche gave the oral transmission for the practice of Sherab Jamma and Laughter of the Khandro to a gathering of monks and laypeople. On December 19th, His Eminence officially opened the new Yungdrung Bön temple, Thekchen Zhidé Dargyé Ling. In attendance were representatives of the Jonang Religious tradition, the Nepal Zhang Zhung organization, the Nepal Bönpo organization, and the Dolpo Tapihritsa School. After His Eminence cut the ribbon, the guests entered the new temple. Representations of enlightened body, speech and mind were presented which was followed by the ritual of the great lama Drenpa Namkha. After the ritual had concluded, each of the representatives had an opportunity to give a short speech.

Afterwards, HE Menri Ponlop Rinpoche spoke about the spread of Yungdrung Bön into Mongolia in the distant past. In 888 A.D., the Mongolian slave Sokpo Trel Lakchen received full ordination as a Yungdrung Bön monk from Muzi Salzang. At that time, he received the ordination name Tribar Tsultrim. Afterwards, Bön declined in Mongolia. Therefore, this is not the first spread of Bön into the country. However, through Khenpo Menri Geshe Zöpa Gyatso Rinpoche the Bön teachings are being restored in Mongolia.

He also relayed a message from His Holiness 34th Menri Trizin Rinpoche that he offered his full support and blessings and gifted the temple a golden statue of Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen. From Yongdzin Mawé Wangpo Rinpoche, the temple was gifted both scriptures and a large thangkha. HE Menri Ponlop Rinpoche gifted the temple a golden statue of the great lama Drenpa Namkha.

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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