On this auspicious day, it is appropriate to make offerings the root lama in the form of Nyammé Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche, recite prayers of aspiration, and/or to perform any kind of spiritual practice and acts of virtue. It is an especially auspicious time to recite the Tséwang Mönlam, Tsewang’s Precious Mala of Beneficial Aspiration Prayers. The English language translation of this prayer is freely available for personal use on the Publication page of this website. Simply click the Publications tab at the top of the page and scroll down to the download link.
Within Yungdrung Bön cosmological literature, descriptions of the phenomenal universe are detailed and precise. Essentially, a collective of one billion individual world systems comprise one three thousandfold universe. For every three thousandfold universe there are four periods of time. First, there is the eon of coming into existence that begins with the movement of the primordial wind. The movement of wind creates friction and heat that creates moisture. The moisture thickens and eventually becomes form. Second, there is the eon of enduring in a steady state that begins when the first sentient being is born. Our universe is currently in the latter part of this eon. Third, there is the eon of dissolution when, due to negativity and extreme wrongdoing, the human lifespan has diminished to be only ten years long, food has lost most of its nourishment and taste. During this eon very little morality exists, violence is commonplace, and those in power are deprived and without concern for others. Eventually, the three thousandfold universe, with the exception of the highest realms, is destroyed by either a great fire, great water, or a great wind. After this is the fourth eon, the eon of emptiness. After this eon, the cycle begins again with the eon of coming into existence.
Scholars continue to comment upon whether the Bön and Buddhist cosmological details are literally real, metaphorically real, or unreal. Regardless, from the perspective and concern of a Yundgrung Bön practitioner, the scope of these details gives an opportunity to expand understanding and awareness. The practitioner is instructed to develop the four immeasurable qualities of equanimity, loving kindness, compassion, and joy towards all sentient beings throughout the three thousandfold universe. When practicing with a yidam deity, the text often advises a visualization that fills the entire three thousandfold universe, and/or to send out lights that purify all beings and all environments within the three thousandfold universe, etc. Therefore, having a general understanding of this concept can give more depth to spiritual practice. Reference to the three thousandfold universe occurs throughout Yungdrung Bön liturgies and visualization practices. One of the principal enlightened protectors, Sipé Gyalmo, is depicted as having three faces which represents her clairvoyance of past, present, and future events throughout the three thousandfold universe. This characteristic is reflected in the title of the divination text that relies upon her for information. It is entitled, Sidpé Gyalmo of the Six Times’ Clairvoyance of the Three Thousand fold Universe which is like a Clear Mirror. There are many other examples.
“You have a majestic posture upon a dragon throne, and your victorious sound is known throughout the entire three thousandfold universe.
“Extract from An Offering of Praise for the Supreme Wisdom Deity Sherab Mawé Sengé
“When my mind becomes free from the body and dissolves into the brain,
visions will appear to fill the three thousandfold universe.”
Extract from The Most Excellent Wisdom Windhorse Powa
Within a palace of beautiful treasure that pervades the three thousandfold universe,
displaying the perfected Body of Bön, is the manifested body of the Teacher, the principal of enlightened refuge.
I supplicate to the Lord who has loving kindness for migrating beings and who has established the blissful path of liberation for sentient beings throughout the three thousandfold universe!
“Extract from Supplication Prayer of the Lineage Lamas of the Sublime Precious Lamp, Tantra of the MA TRI
A Single World System
The layout of one world system within the three thousandfold universe is depicted two dimensionally as a vertical arrangement of phenomenal existence. However, the limitations of this kind of representation should be kept in mind. For example, the uppermost four levels of a world system are the four formless realms. These realms and their inhabitants do not have actual, physical form or precise location. So, to represent the formless with a form can be misleading unless it is understood simply as a reminder of the of their actual characteristics. And although each categorized element of the universe has detailed subcategories within subcategories, a general description is sufficient to relay the scope and overall idea.
In the very center of the world system is Mt. Meru. Above are the form and formless realms, at its base are the continents, subcontinents, mountains and oceans, and below are the realms of the hungry ghosts and the hell beings. In general, a collective of 1,000 of these world systems is considered as a minor world system. A collective of 1,000 minor world systems is considered a middling world system. A collective of 1,000 middling world systems is then a three thousandfold universe that contains one billion world systems. Each buddha has as his sphere of influence, a three thousandfold universe.
Vertically from top to bottom, each world system consists of:
The Four Formless Realms-These realms are without actual location and the inhabitants have only subtle mental ‘bodies.’ For example, the uppermost realm is the realm of infinite space.
The Seventeen Form Realms-These realms and inhabitants have a kind of physical form and location although they remain invisible to our perception. These seventeen realms are furthered grouped into the five pure places, and then four groups each containing three levels.
The Desire Realm-The inhabitants of the desire realm, to a greater or lesser degree, are governed by their sensory perceptions of pleasure and pain. The desire realm is further divided into:
The Six Desire Realms of the Gods- Four of these realms are above Mt. Meru.
Mt. Meru-At the center of the world system is Mt. Meru. Some compare Mt. Meru to Gang Tisé a.k.a Mt. Kailash. They share similarities, for example, Mt. Kailash has four sides and is the source of four great rivers. However, Mt. Meru is not a physical place as such and cannot be visited or perceived by ordinary beings whose pure perception is obscured by the five poisons. At the very center of Mt. Meru is the palace of Nampar Gyalwa. The mountain is equally above and below the surface of the ocean.
Heaven of the Thirty-three Gods-This heaven is located at the very peak of Mt. Meru. It is said that one hundred human years equals one day in this realm.
Heaven of the Four Great Kings and their retinues in each of the four directions. It is said the sun, moon, and stars are located in this heavenly expanse.
Seven Encircling Ranges of Golden Mountains, Seven Gentle lakes, and Seven Flowing Rivers- These all surround Mt. Meru at its base.
The Four Continents and Eight Subcontinents-Beyond the encircling golden mountains is a massive ocean containing the four continents and eight subcontinents that are the abode of human beings. Each continent contains an animal-shaped rock from which water flows. These are the four sources of water.
East-Lus Pakpo, the continent of those with a sublime tall body. Upon this continent is an elephant shaped rock from which water flows.
North-Dra Mi Nyen, the continent of unpleasant sound. Upon this continent is a lion shaped rock from which water flows.
West-Ba Lang Chö, continent of those who use cows. Upon this continent is a horse shaped rock from which water flows.
South-Dzambuling, continent of the dzambu tree. This is the place where buddhas appear and is considered the most supreme place to be born as a human being. Upon this continent is a peacock shaped rock from which water flows. This is the continent where we have been reborn.
From The Sutra, “For those on the outer continents, there is no virtue to support going to a higher realm. There is no wrongdoing to cause rebirth in a lower realm. The teachings of Tönpa are not developed in those places. The purpose of their lifetime is to exhaust the power of their karma. Therefore, make the aspirational request for the southern continent of Dzambu.”
Extract from Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen’s advice and instructions for the preliminary practices
The outer perimeter of the great ocean containing the continents and subcontinents is ringed with an iron fence which is surrounded by a great, blazing fire. Beneath the underground part of Mt. Meru is a column of water, and below that is a great wind. Below that are:
The Hungry Ghost Realm-The beings of this realm experience extreme agony related to insatiable hunger and thirst. Although depicted as below, in general hungry ghosts occupy the same areas as human beings although they mostly inhabit deserts and wastelands. Also, their perception of the environment is very different from human beings. Where a human being would see a river of fresh water, a hungry ghost would see a repulsive river of pus and filth.
The Eight Hot Hells-Each level of hot hell has greater suffering that the previous along with a lifespan eight times longer than the previous hell.
The Eight Cold Hells-Each level of cold hell has greater suffering that the previous along with a lifespan twenty times longer than the previous hell.
This constitutes one world system. As stated above, a collective of one billion of these constitutes one three thousandfold universe.
Understanding of the three thousandfold universe is the foundation for practice of the mandala offering to the places of refuge. This is a widespread practice among both lay and ordained practitioners.
One of the common preliminary practices for purification and generation of positive merit in order to support spiritual development is the mandala offering of the three thousandfold universe. Either using mandala rings or a hand mudra, the entire universe of continents, subcontinents, mountains, oceans, etc. is imagined as an offering to the places of refuge. The traditional Yungdrung Bön mandala is topped with the square palace of Nampar Gyalwa.
Based upon the five elements is Mt. Meru, the seven mountain ranges, the four continents, and the subcontinents together with their external and internal desirable objects.
These billion universes ornamented with suns and moons, I offer from the core of my heart.
Please accept it!
Mandala offering prayer from The Aural Transmission of Zhang Zhung
“With devotion and non-attachment, and for their complete satisfaction,
I offer to the four supreme places a golden mandala of the three thousandfold universe containing mountains, continents, and clouds of offerings filled with the riches of gods and humans.
May the abundant wealth and success of all migrating beings be established!”
Mandala offering prayer within The Heartdrop of Jamma
“Having imagined that these inconceivable offerings that satisfy desire completely fill the entire three thousandfold universe, I present them as an offering.”
Mandala offering from The Accomplishment of the Ultimate Secret Mind of the Concentrated Elixir of the External, Internal, and Secret Sipé Gyalmo
“I offer to the assembly of enlightened Medicine Deities this mandala of the precious and ornamented three thousandfold universe. Having perfected the accumulations and actually manifested enlightenment, may I and others attain the fruit of being born into an enlightened realm!”
Extract from The Summarized Sutra of the Medicine Deity, A Mala of Glorious Jewels
Each year during the 23rd-29th lunar days of the 5th month, members of the Menri Monastery ordained community undergo a retreat for Jamma Chenmo, the Great Loving Mother. This year, those lunar dates coincide with July 21st-27th, 2022 on the Western calendar.
Sherap Jamma, the Wise Loving Mother, is a Buddha who manifests as a loving mother to care for each and every sentient being as though they were her only child. In her manifestation as one of the four primary Buddhas of the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition, she is called by the Zhang Zhung name Satrik Érsang.
The Heartdrop of Jamma, Jamma Nying Tik, is an aural transmission given by Khandro Sherap Lopelma, an emanation of Sherap Jamma, to His Holiness 22nd Menri Trizin Sonam Lodro Rinpoché. Lama Tsultrim Nyima, the abbot of the 1st Yungdrung Bön temple in exile in Dhorpatan, Nepal, advised the Bönpo refugees to recite The Heartdrop of Jammatogether as a family every evening after dinner. This evening recitation continues to this very day among many Bönpo families.
In this practice, every part of the physical body, consciousness, and mind become the manifestation of Buddha Sherap Jamma and her retinue through the potent power of her mantra. In this way, our attachment to our solid, imperfect body that reinforces our worldly identity is decreased and our wisdom, realization, and positive qualities increase.
I pray to the Venerable Five Manifestations of Jamma. Single Mother for everyone who is without refuge or a protector remove external, internal, and secret obstacles, which are enemies along the path! Grant your blessings that my wishes will be spontaneously accomplished!
— Extract from prayer of supplication within The Heartdrop of Jamma
Text of The Heartdrop of Jamma handwritten by Barlé Rinpoche
“From the É MA at the twenty fingers and toes manifests the outer retinue.
I prostrate to the thirty-two Mothers!
From the sixteen letters HO at the soles of the feet, the palms of the hands, the two forearms, the two shins, the two thighs, the upper arms, and inside the four organs manifests the four outer, four inner, four secret, and the four innermost secret doorkeepers.
I prostrate to the manifestations who open the doors to realization, methods of practice, abiding, and to the path!”
This book includes annotated, color or black and white images of Jamma along with her five wisdom manifestations and her eight manifestations that protect from fear. Additionally, there is a brief biography of H.H. 22nd Menri Trizin Sonam Lodro. Additionally, the book concludes with the translation of Removing Obstacles from the Path, Bar Ché Lam Sel, another aural transmission of Khandro Sherap Lo Pélma that is often practiced as a daily recitation in the Bönpo community and is considered a powerful means of protection and support.
Khandro Sherap Lo Pelma, wisdom khandro that increases the intellect
The lunar 13th day of the 4th month is the anniversary of the parinirvana and the attainment of the rainbow body of Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche. In 2022, this date coincides with June 12th. Shardza Rinpoche was a Yungdrung Bön monk, teacher, scholar, and realized practitioner of the modern age. Born in 1859 in Kham, Tibet, at the age of nine an esteemed lama told his parents that he should become a monk. Being their only son, the parents refused. Shardza soon became quite ill. Seeing that their son was not recovering, the parents agreed to allow him to take ordination. At this, Shardza quickly recovered. He was the attendant for his root lama, Tenzin Wangyal, for many years. At the age of eighteen, he took the full vows of a Yungdrung Bön monk from the abbot of Yungdrung Ling Monastery.
Throughout his life, Shardza Rinpoche was known for a disciplined adherence to every vow that he had taken throughout his life. Although his view and practice were vast and high, he maintained diligence in performing virtue and avoiding the smallest non-virtue. He continually performed the preliminary practices and recited many millions of mantra, especially the SA LÉ Ö mantra. He composed many concise practices for purifying negativity and accumulating merit and wisdom, such as his Aspiration Prayer of Giving and Receiving. (For the publicly available English translation and explanation of the prayer, see previous article: https://ravencypresswood.com/2020/01/31/an-aspiration-prayer-of-giving-and-receiving-gift-translation/ )
“For those with a great deal of negative actions in this lifetime, having requested a remedy because they will certainly ripen during future lifetimes, the remedy of performing virtue is very powerful. Having ripened negative actions, the mere exhaustion of that karma (through pain and/or illness), enlightenment is certain. Therefore, this pain and illness of yours is very amazing when it is voluntarily accepted!
Even now, whenever more pain or illness arises, continuing to persevere with your religious practices, venerations, and acts of pure virtue would be incredibly amazing!
When you imagine that there will be no unhappiness in the future (due to this negative karma being exhausted), supremely praise the emptiness of that particular pain or illness.
Be inspired by the power of this antidote, even when what you don’t want arises.
Take the suffering and misery of others onto yourself by adopting others’ happiness and suffering through the practice of giving and receiving.”
Shardza Rinpoche’s advice to the female practitioner Khandro Wangi Dronma.
He taught a multitude of disciples, organized the reconstruction of temples, went on pilgrimages, and spent a great deal of time in isolated retreat. A prolific writer, he wrote at length on subjects such as Bön history, instructions for the practice of Tibetan yoga, preliminary practices for Dzogchen, condensed summaries of each of the None Ways of Bön, and detailed instructions for the advanced practice of inner heat, known as Tummo. When Shardza Rinpoche was 75 years old, his disciples noticed that his behavior changed. He seemed more casual and became delighted when playing with children. He was seen doing miraculous things such as walking without his feet touching the ground or setting his bowl down in space.
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 a tent and forbid any of his disciples to open it. The next day, rainbow lights began appearing above and around the tent. After three 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 as an object of veneration and inspiration, opened the tent. He found Shardza’s body enveloped in rainbow light, levitating in midair, and shrunken to the proportional size of a one year old child. The area around his heart was still warm but most of the nails of the hands and feet had fallen onto the seat below. For the next forty-nine days, a multitude of disciples came to pay their respect and receive blessings. 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 reliquary chorten.
In 1842, His Holiness the 23rd Menri Trizen Nyima Tenzin Rinpoche [1813-1875 C.E.] composed The Chronology of the Buddha, A Necklace of Amazing Jewels. The chronology begins at the start of the current eon when the lifespan of human beings was 100,000 years and Buddha Nangwa Rangjung Tükjé had appeared in order to guide sentient beings. Moving forward in time, he details the appearance of each buddha until reaching Buddha Tönpa Shenrap who was born in the land of Tazik when the human lifespan had deteriorated to be only 100 years long. The chronology then lists his major life events and teachings. Such as,
“For three hundred years after taking monastic vows until the Wood Dragon year of his 34th shen year, he performed the three kinds of hardships in order to set an example for his disciples. Through meditative stabilization which is like the sky, he demonstrated the way to actualize buddhahood.”
Excerpt from The Chronology of the Buddha, A Necklace of Amazing Jewels
According to Nyima Tenzin Rinpoche’s calculation, 6,731 years after the parinirvana of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap in the Wood Rat Year of1136 B.C.E, the otherworldly being of Nyatri Tsenpo is chosen to be Tibet’s first king in order to unify the minor kingdoms into a single principality. During this time, the teachings of Yungdrung Bön flourish. Elsewhere in 1136 B.C.E. and during the 12th century B.C.E., the ten-year-long Trojan war occurs, Babylonia is a newly established sovereign state, and the Olmec civilization of Mesoamerica begins to flourish. (For more information about the kings of Tibet, see previous article: https://ravencypresswood.com/2016/12/11/tibetan-kings-of-the-yarlung-dynasty-the-yungdrung-bon/)
In the Wood Dragon Year of 1076 B.C.E., the great yogi, scholar, and translator Tongyung Tüchen is born in the ancient land of Zhang Zhung. He is known as one of the four scholars. The son of the 8th Tibetan king who suppressed Bön ascends the throne as the 10th Tibetan king and requests the help of Tongyung Tüchen to perform the necessary rites in order to restore harmony in Tibet and reestablish the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition. Tongyung Tüchen translates over 10,000 texts from the language of Zhang Zhung into Tibetan, and spreads many of these teachings throughout Tibet. Some sources state his lifespan was 537 years. Other sources state that it was much longer. Elsewhere in 1076 B.C.E. and during the 11th century B.C.E, the Zhou Dynasty rules China, and the Phoenician alphabet is developed.
In the Fire Garuda Year of 683 B.C.E., the 8th king of Tibet, Drigum Tsenpo, begins the first suppression of the Yungdrung Bön religion. Elsewhere in 683 B.C.E. and the 7th century B.C.E, Athens holds the 24th Olympic Games, the empire of Japan is established, and Babylon becomes the largest city in the world.
In the Earth Monkey Year of 552 B.C.E, the great yogi and scholar Lishu Taring brings over 10,000 Yungdrung Bön texts from Tazik to Tibet.He accomplishes this by using his magical powers to enlist the help of birds such as vultures and cranes to carry the texts. At that time, he is 1,200 years old. He passes away at the age of 2,500 years. Elsewhere in 551 B.C.E. and the 6th century B.C.E., the Chinese philosopher Confucius is born, Cyrus the Great establishes the Persian Empire and goes on to conquer Babylon, and Shakyamuni attains enlightenment and establishes Buddhism in India.
In the Earth Ox Year of 749 C.E., King Trisong Detsun begins persecution of Yungdrung Bön. Scriptures and images are destroyed. Yungdrung Bön practitioners are given the choice of execution, suicide, exile, or conversion to Buddhism. In order to protect the teachings, scriptures and sacred objects are either hidden or sent to outlying regions. Elsewhere in 749 C.E. and the 8th century C.E., vikings from Scandinavia are raiding the European coasts, and the Maya Civilization begins to decline. Japan is in the midst of the Nara period characterized by the common people following the Shinto religion while the upper classes aspire to emulate Chinese culture and are therefore adhering to Chinese Buddhism.
In the Iron Garuda Year of 913 C.E., three Nepali acharyas who have traveled to Tibet in search of gold find a heavy box in the temple of Samyé and carry it away. Discovering it is not gold and instead filled with Yungdrung Bön texts, they trade the box for food. Eventually, the box finds its way to Bönpo lamas. The box is said to contain 340 different Bön texts. Because these texts were found and distributed in the Northern regions, they became known as the Northern Treasures. This discovery and distribution of texts begins a widespread revival of Bön and rediscovery of texts during a time when Buddhism’s influence was declining. Elsewhere in 913 C.E. and during the 10th century, Byzantine forces capture Crete, vikings settle in northern France, and lions become extinct in Europe.
In the Fire Monkey year of 996 C.E., the renowned tertön Shenchen Luga is born into the Mu Shen lineage of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap. He was prophesied as being an emanation of Tongyung Tüchen. He becomes the main revealer of hidden texts in the Yungdrung Bön tradition. He passes away in 1035 C.E. Elsewhere in 996 and during the early 11th century, the Norse colonize Greenland and Newfoundland, France invades Burgundy, and the Normans conquer England.
In the Fire Monkey year of 1776 C.E., the esteemed scholar Sherap Wangyal Rinpoche becomes the 19th abbot of Menri Monastery. Elsewhere in 1776 C.E. and during the 18th century, the United States declares independence from the British Empire, the Russian and Swedish empires are at war, and the mercury thermometer is invented.
In the Iron Horse year of 1810 C.E., the esteemed scholar Sonam Lodro Rinpoche becomes the 22nd abbot of Menri Monastery. He is renowned for his knowledge, realization, and many compositions. He is the root lama of the author of this chronology, His Holiness the 23rd abbot of Menri, Nyima Tenzin Rinpoche. Elsewhere is 1810 C.E. and during the beginning of the 19th century, the Napoleonic wars begin, Mexico gains independence, and Andrew Jackson begins a military campaign against the Creek Nation in the Southeastern United States which leads to the Indian Removal Act and their forced relocation to Oklahoma.