Category Archives: Yungdrung Bon Sacred Symbols

Sacred Offering of Flowers

Ritual flower offering of ornamented tsampaka being prepared. Photo credit: Jessica Gallego

Within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition, flowers are one of the five daily offerings and an important offering during most rituals. Often tsampaka seeds are used to create an auspicious flower offering that never withers or fades in beauty. These seed pods grow on commonly found trees in the Himalayas and measure an average of 25 to 28 inches in length.

Left: tsampaka seed pod Center: tsampaka seed pod with seeds iinside Right: tsampaka seeds. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

As a ritual flower offering, the winged seeds are glued one above another to a small piece of wood or bamboo. The center of the seeds are then painted or otherwise decorated with the five colors of the five elements.

Tsampaka flower offerings for a Nampar Gyalwa Fire Ritual. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood.

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Cycles of the Elements and Time: The Namchu Wangden

The symbol for The Ten-fold Powerful One, the Namchu Wangden.

The Namchu Wangden, or The Ten-fold Powerful One, is a symbol of great protection within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition. It contains the seed syllables for seven hundred and twenty deities.

According to an explanation written by the 23rd Menri Trizin Nyima Tenzin Rinpoche:

“From the tantra, The Cycle of the Elements and Time, found within the 100,000 glorious scriptures of the indestructible, great vehicle, is this ten columns and nine letters of the Namchu Wangden, which contains the seed syllables of Enlightened Mind. AH is the seed syllable for Yungdrung Yéwang Gyalpo, the earth deities, their body color is golden. YANG is the seed syllable for Kündrol Yingjuk, the wind deities, and they are green in color. RAM  is the seed syllable for Künrik Barwa, the fire deities, and they are red in color. MANG is the seed syllable for Künjom Gyalpo, the water deities, and they are blue in color. KHAM is the seed syllable for Kündü Chenpo, the iron deities, and they are white in color. DRUM is the seed syllable for the immeasurable tent of protection, and the four nyémjé ma, and they are golden in color. HUNG is the seed syllable for the queens of the four times at the inner door. At the middle door, are the four guardians. At the outer door, are four fierce ones who are dark-blue in color. OM on the right,*  is the seed syllable for the grandfather of primordial, phenomenal existence, Sangpo Bumtri and the Four Families, and they are white in color. DU on the left,* is the seed syllable for the four mothers of cause and the eight shen, and they are golden-red in color. In brief, this symbol includes the seed syllables for the seven hundred and twenty deities of the Five Families. It is said that the Namchu Wangden destroys all fear!”

*Right and left are according to the point of view of the object not the subject.

The Namchu Wangden of Yungdrung Bon being consecrated in Amdo, Tibet. Photo credit: Unknown.

Displaying this image protects from destruction by the five elements, as well as protects the life-force, health, personal power and lungta.  It gives protection from the eight classes of beings, as well as from astrologically negative events. Traditionally, this image is placed at the entrance to the home as a means of protection. In modern times, the Namchu Wangden protection amulet is commonly placed in cars as well.

Protective amulet, or sung khor, of the Namchu Wangden. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

Tibetan Translation Raven Cypress Wood©2018

Victory Over Ignorance

Gyaltsen or Sign of Victory

As one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols, the gyaltsen or sign of victory, symbolizes victory over all obstacles especially the demon of ignorance.

Mantra of Purification

DU TRI SU stone edit

“AH KAR AH MÉ DU TRI SU NAK PO ZHI ZHI MAL MAL”

~One of the three principal mantras of the Yungdrung Bön tradition.

The Eight Auspicious Symbols

The Eight Auspicious Symbols displayed on a shrine before an image of Lord Tonpa Shenrap at Triten Norbutse Monastery. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

In the Yungdrung Bön tradition, the Eight Auspicious Symbols are displayed in order to bring good luck and increase positive circumstances.  In the Tibetan language, they are called Tashi Dze Gye.  Each symbol has a specific meaning and energy.

endless knot 2 largerThe Glorious Endless Knot, Tibetan: Pal Be’u, symbolizes the interdependence of all things.  It also represents activities and knowledge.

Conch shellThe White Conch Shell, Tibetan: Düng Kar, symbolizes the far-reaching sound of the Buddha’s teachings as well as melodious sound in general.

wheelThe Wheel, Tibetan: Khorlo, sometimes referred to as The Wheel of Dharma, symbolizes the Buddha’s teachings.  Each aspect of the wheel such as the rim, the hub and the spokes all have meaning according to the context within which the wheel appears.

Golden fishThe Golden Fish, Tibetan: Ser Nya, symbolize freedom and liberation, as well as skill with handicrafts and power in the hands for healers.

LotusThe Lotus, Tibetan: Pema, symbolizes purification.

Victory BannerThe Victory Banner, Tibetan: Gyaltsen, symbolizes victory over all obstacles, as well as gaining happiness.

VaseThe Vase, Tibetan: Bumpa, symbolizes wealth and virtues.

paraso 2lThe Parasol, Tibetan: Duk, symbolizes being protected from suffering as well as prosperity and good luck for the head.

Consecration of the Great Wheel & Namchu Wangden of Yungdrung Bon in Amdo, Tibet

Gangru Dargye gompa in Tibet

The Great Prayer Wheel of Yungdrung Bon in Amdo, Tibet

In November 2014 in the Zinchu village of Amdo, Tibet, a large copper and gold prayer wheel was installed along with a unique image of the Namchu Wangden of Yungdrung Bön.  Both were consecrated during a ceremony that was attended by many Yungdrung Bön lamas who had traveled to the area for the occasion.

རྣམ་བཅུ་དབང་ལྡན་ཆེན་མོར་རབ་གནས་གནང་བཞིན་པ། 2

Yungdrung Bon lamas performing the consecration ritual for the Namchu Wangden

Lamas attending the ceremony included the great abbot Sherap Yungdrung Wangyal Rinpoche, the tulku of Nangzhik Sherap Özer Gyaltsen Rinpoche, the tulku Rikdzin Nyima, the abbot Khenpo Tsering Norbu, the esteemed teacher Rakshi Künsal Nyingpo, Lama Drebu Bönzin, Geshe Tenzin Drukdak and others.

Namchu Wanden rabne

Yungdrung Bon lamas perform the consecration ritual for the Namchu Wangden image erected in Amdo, Tibet

The Namchu Wangden of Yungdrung Bön is a symbol of great protection and contains the seed syllables of the 720 deities.  Displaying this image protects from destruction by the five elements as well as protecting the life-force, health, personal power and lungta.  It gives protection from the Eight Classes of Beings as well as astrologically negative events.

The original article related to this consecration ceremony appeared on the Tibetan language website http://himalayabon.com/news/2014-11-16/486.html#jtss-fb.  You can find the complete article and more photos by following the link.

 

 

 

The Sacred Syllable OM

Bon OM

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Yungdrung Bon syllable ‘OM’ has five parts.  The meaning and symbolic color of each of these five parts depends upon the specific practice being done.  These five parts can variously represent the Five Wisdoms, the Five Enlightened Bodies and the manifested deities of the five directions.  Here, the color of each of these five parts is according to the practice of the great mantra, OM MA TRI MU YE SA LE DU.

Sacred Stones

MA TRI stones in Dolpo

Stones carved with the mantra OM MA TRI MU YE SA LE DU bless the landscape in Dolpo, Nepal.

Sacred Symbols

A young boy holds a wooden chakshing, symbol of Buddha Tonpa Shenrap Miwo

A young boy holds a wooden chakshing, symbol of Buddha Tonpa Shenrap Miwo

Flag of the Yungdrung Bon

Bon flag 2

The flag of the Yungdrung Bön with each of the colors of the five elements and the golden chakshing with 2 turquoise-colored yungdrungs as held by Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche

The Five Elements: Water

mang-w-watermarkThe element of Water is called chu in Tibetan.  It is symbolized by the shape of a circle and its color is blue.  The unique vibration of this element is the sound ‘MANG’.  It is associated with the direction South.  In general, Water provides joy and comfort.

Environmentally, our dependence upon the element of Water is evidenced by the value placed upon its ‘ownership’ by principalities and governments.  Civilizations have been founded upon the availability of water for agriculture, travel, trade and fishing.  Dependent upon this resource for the health of their citizens as well as their commerce, civilizations have also fallen when access to water became restricted for various reasons.  In the Yungdrung Bön tradition, it is believed that one of the spirits who live in water is called lu, also referred to as naga.  These lu also live in trees and rocks, but are primarily associated with water.  Frogs and many other water inhabitants are thought to be used by the lu as their domestic animals.  The lu realm and the human realm are thought to be in continuous relationship with one another.   In ancient times, accomplished lamas, as well as the Buddha himself, taught the sacred teachings to the lu.  Therefore, among this group of beings, there are followers of the Buddha who act to protect the teachings.  However,  just like any group of beings, there are those among the lu who have less compassion and patience with the actions of humanity that cause damage and destruction to their environment.  Because of this, there are rituals and prayers specifically for apologizing to the lu, purifying the damage that we have caused, and thereby pacifying their grievances against us.

Within our bodies, the element of Water rules our blood.  More specifically, it is associated with the kidneys.  When the element of Water is balanced within us, we feel comfort with ourselves, happy and contented with our life.  Our emotions are balanced and there is joy in our spiritual practice rather than it being a dry, intellectual exercise.  If Water is in excess, we can be lost in our comfort and lack the energy to be productive.  We can become too fixated on pleasure and enjoyment.   Or we can be lost in our emotions, making our decisions based solely upon the ebb and flow of our moods.  To the extreme, we spend the day either weeping or laughing.  If the Water element has become weakened, we are uncomfortable with ourselves and others.  We do not feel content or happy with whatever is happening around us.  We constantly feel unsatisfied.

In order to bring the element of Water back into balance, there are methods such as Tibetan medicine, ritual and meditation practices.  There are specific yogic exercises within the Yungdrung Bön tradition which use the focus of the mind together with the breath and movement of the physical body to balance and strengthen the elements within us.  To learn more about these yogic exercises see Healing with Form, Energy and Light by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche.  Additionally, if the Water element has become weakened, we can spend time near a river, stream or ocean and focus upon experiencing the feeling of the water in the body and energy.   Literally, drink more water.  But do so with the awareness that this is restoring strength to your Water element.  Practice being more generous with your time and with your possessions.  Take advantage of opportunities in which you can offer even a little kindness to those with whom you come into contact.  If the Water element is in excess, focus less on your own comfort and focus more upon improving the comfort of others who are less fortunate or who have less capacity to do this for themselves.  When the element of Water is balanced within us, we can maintain joyful effort in our daily activities and feel happiness, satisfaction and gratitude in our lives.

Preparing for a Great Lama

monks drawing 8 ausp

Bön Buddhist monks prepare for the arrival of the 33rd Menri Trizen, spiritual leader of the Bönpo, by drawing the eight auspicious symbols.

The Five Elements: Earth

kham-earth-w-watermark The element of Earth is called sa in Tibetan.  It is symbolized by the shape of a square and its color is yellow, or golden.  The unique vibration of this element is the sound ‘KHAM’.  It is associated with the direction East.  From the Yungdrung Bön point of view, East is one of the cardinal directions but it is also associated with ‘the front’.  For instance, when looking at the image of a deity, East is always considered the front of the deity.  Earth provides solidity and stability.

Environmentally, our dependence upon the element of Earth is obvious since this is the name of the very planet that we live upon.  Additionally, it is the soil in which we grow our food and the foundation upon which we build our homes.  In the Yungdrung Bön tradition, one’s relationship with the environmental element of Earth is not only with the form.  It includes the spirits of the element itself as well as seeing the land as a living being.  Before beginning construction of a building, it is important to examine the characteristics of the land.  Traditionally, it is seen as 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.  It is best to build in the ‘stomach’ of the turtle because here, there is more empty space and no ‘major organs’ will be disturbed.  Once the proper location has been determined, it is important to communicate with the spirits of the land that are already in residence at that location and to assure them that you mean no harm and that you apologize for any disturbance that the building causes them.  To simply begin digging holes, cutting down trees and erecting buildings would be similar to someone barging into your house and rearranging furniture and knocking down walls without even acknowledging your existence.  Therefore, these things are considered important for maintaining harmony.

Within our bodies, the element of Earth rules our flesh.  More specifically, it is associated with the spleen.  The element Earth, along with the other elements, also exist within us in a more subtle form as a kind of wind that ideally moves upwards in our bodies and brings nourishment to our five senses and to our brain.  The balance or imbalance of this subtle Earth wind affects our internal experience.  When the element of Earth is balanced within us, we feel stable, secure, confident and able to handle whatever comes our way.  We are steady and consistent in our relations, our commitments, and our routines.  We feel that we have enough support for our life.  And we have sustained concentration and diligence in our meditation practice.  If Earth is in excess, then we feel lazy, weighed down, and heavy.  Our bodies and minds literally plod along.  Our thinking is dull and lacks creativity or inspiration.  To the extreme, we become depressed and only want to sleep.  If Earth has become weakened, we are literally ungrounded.  It is difficult to maintain focus on anything long enough to finish it or follow through.  We are filled with doubt and find it difficult to make decisions.  We feel insecure and dissatisfied.

In order to bring the element of Earth back into balance, there are methods such as Tibetan medicine, ritual and meditation practices.  There are specific yogic exercises within the Yungdrung Bön tradition which use the focus of the mind together with the breath and movement of the physical body to balance and strengthen the subtle elements within us.  To learn more about these yogic exercises see Healing with Form, Energy and Light by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche.  Additionally, there are other methods available to us.  For example, if the Earth element is weakened, spend time feeling the pull of gravity upon your physical body.  Sit and meditate upon the image of a mountain.  Eat heavier foods and avoid caffeine and being overly busy.  Sit still.  If the element of Earth is in excess, then get up and move the body.  Go for a walk or do other kinds of exercise.  Eat lighter more easily digested foods.  Avoid the temptation to sleep too much.  Spend time with people who are active and creative.  Pay more attention to the wind and the movement of things around you.  When the element of Earth is balanced within us, we can remain grounded and focused in any situation without getting stuck or losing the ability to change and be flexible.

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