The 15th day of the 12th lunar month in 2023 is the 18,040th birth anniversary of the founder of the Yungdrung Bön tradition, the Enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwo Künlé Nampar Gyalwa. This date corresponds with February 5th on the Western calendar. Already an enlightened being, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche chose to be born into this world in order to guide beings from suffering to liberation. He was born into the royal Mu lineage in the kingdom of Tazik Olmo Lungring.
Traditionally, the anniversary of his birth has been celebrated on the 15th day of the 1st month of the lunar calendar. However, based upon research by the renowned Yungdrung Bön scholar and supreme lama, His Eminence Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche, the actual date is believed to be the Full Moon day of the last month in the Tibetan lunar calendar.
This is a powerful and auspicious day for performing virtue and spiritual practice. The benefits of these activities are greatly multiplied. It is an especially auspicious day to recite The Tséwang Mönlam, Tséwang’s Precious Mala of Beneficial Aspiration Prayers. This prayer has been translated into English and made publicly available for personal use. To find the download link for the translation, go to the Publications page of this website or click https://ravencypresswood.com/publications/ and scroll down.
“Namo! You are the supreme teacher, one who has gone beyond bliss, an authentic and completely enlightened being, a manifested buddha and teacher, Tönpa Shenrap Miwo.
You have the wisdom of omniscience and possess both great compassion and skillful means. You are without emotional afflictions and have ceased all defilements. You have power and clear self awareness. A marvelous emanation, you have cleared all obstructions and destroyed the door to birth into cyclic existence.
Your face is like the sun and moon, and you see throughout the ten directions. Hundreds of thousands rays of light emanate from your divine body. You are adorned with ornaments which are like rainbows and your divine body is so beautiful that one does not know how to look away.
In your right hand, you hold a golden chakshing painted with a turquoise yungdrung which shows that you are lord of the 3,000-fold universe and conqueror of this world system. Your left hand holds the mudra of equipoise which shows that you have destroyed the door to birth into the cyclic existence of lower rebirth.
May the cycle of manifested teachings completely turn, I pray! Please hold us within your compassion myself and all other sentient beings without exception!
I feel remorse for everything immoral and improper that has been experienced because of the power of the afflictive emotions. I feel regret!
Through this open admission of wrongdoing, please agree to cleanse and purify me, I pray!
Free me from the ocean of suffering and misery of cyclic existence, I pray!
AH OM HUNG SÉ LA GYER RO HRUN PUNG YÉ SOHA”
— Extracted from Homage to the Enlightened State of the Omniscient Tûlku
The twelve animals of Tibetan astrology according to Yungdrung Bön are the Rat, Elephant, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Horse, Snake, Sheep, Garuda, Monkey, Dog, and Pig. Each animal has a specific element associated with its lifeforce and a positive direction determined by that element. Each year, one of these twelve animals is associated with one of the five elements of either metal, wood, fire, water, or earth. In other contexts, metal is referred to as space, and wood is referred to as wind or air. It takes sixty years for all twelve animals to be associated with each of the five elements. When this happens, it is considered one complete cycle that repeats again and again.
February 21, 2023 begins the Tibetan Royal New Year and the Year of the Water Rabbit. The year of the Water Rabbit continues until February 9, 2024. Therefore, people born on or after February 21st will have the natal astrology of a Water Rabbit with its associated characteristics. In general, Rabbit years are considered to be times of calm and ease that bring beauty and harmony. They are periods with less suffering and conflict. Thus, people have more time for entertainment, pleasure, and enjoyment. Because of this, there is the temptation to become lazy and distracted especially if the previous year was especially difficult. Also, Rabbit years are often times of population growth.
In general, the Rabbit is kind and polite, and enjoys elegance and comfort. It protects its peaceful environment and will make an effort to avoid conflict and confusion which can give others the impression of being indifferent or aloof. If the Rabbit feels directly threatened, it will express its anger through subtlety and cleverness rather than outbursts.
The element which governs the lifeforce of the Rabbit is Wood and its positive direction is East. So, if a Rabbit person wanted to strengthen their lifeforce, they would focus upon strengthening the element of Wood internally and externally. This could be as simple as wearing the color green which is associated with the element Wood. The Rabbit’s positive direction is East. So, facing this direction while meditating, reciting prayers, or just relaxing and taking deep breaths is beneficial. The negative direction is West. This is the direction from which danger or obstacles are most likely to arise and it is the direction towards which to release and let go of negativity or for ritual offerings to pacify negative forces.
The Rabbit’s soul day is Thursday and the life-force day is Saturday. These are the best days for beginning new projects, activities to increase or develop something, or meeting new people. The obstacle day is Friday. This day is best for cleansing and letting things go. It is an unfavorable day for beginning new projects or taking risks.
Rabbit years include: 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, and 2011
According to Tibetan astrology, there are five factors associated with each year that have a corresponding element. These five factors are lifeforce, health, personal power, lungta or the force of good luck, and soul. The elements associated with these five factors change each year. For the Water Rabbit year of 2023, these five factors and their associated elements are:
Personal Power: Water
Although the associated elements to the five factors change each year, the element associated with the lifeforce is determined by the animal sign. Therefore, it is possible to calculate the influence of the year of the Water Rabbit upon the lifeforce of each of the other natal animal signs without having knowledge of the respective birth year. This influence is calculated by the relationship of the five elements to one another. For example, the element of Wood is considered the Mother of the element of Fire. Thus, a Wood to Fire relationship is considered Excellent. However, a Fire to Wood relationship is considered Neutral. There are six possible types of combinations that result in a relationship that is either Excellent, Very Good, Good, Neutral, Bad, or Very Bad. The influence of the Water Rabbit year on the lifeforce of each of the astrological signs is as follows:
This calculation concerns only one factor among five and is only a partial view of the totality of the possible influence of the year. Tibetan astrology includes calculations based upon the influence of both the five elements as well as calculations based upon the influence of the constellations. In order to have a complete prediction of possible influences or events, it is necessary to look at a complete astrological calculation based upon an individual’s date and time of birth.
However, especially if a person was born during a previous year of the Rabbit, this year is considered a specific time of vulnerability to obstacles and illness. Therefore, it is recommended that those individuals take preventive measures to reverse or at least diminish the potential for any problems or obstacles to arise. It is important for them to avoid any risky behavior and take extra care with their health and safety. Making an effort to engage more with virtuous activities of body, speech, and mind and engaging less with non-virtuous activities as well as encouraging this behavior in others is a method to eliminate obstacles. Additionally, spiritual activities that support merit, good fortune, and health such as hanging prayer flags, donating to spiritual practitioners or any kind of charitable work, repairing damaged or broken spiritual commitments with one’s lama, spiritual community, or enlightened beings, connecting with the protectors and meditational deities, having a soul and life-force retrieval ritual performed, and regularly performing prayers and/or rituals to remove obstacles are skillful methods to reverse potential negativity. According to the words of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché, the practice of developing sincere, unbiased and unlimited compassion is the greatest of all protections.
A common prayer within the Yungdrung Bön tradition that is used to remove obstacles is the Bar Che Lam Sel, The Spontaneous Wish-fulfillment of Removing Obstacles from the Path. The English, Spanish, and Portuguese translations of this prayer are offered free for personal use on the Nine Ways Website. Click on the Publications tab above and scroll down to find the download link for the prayer.
“By reciting this Spontaneous Wish-fulfillment of Removing Obstacles from the Path a single time, obstacles of an entire year are pacified. By reciting it one hundred times, obstacles of one lifetime are pacified.
Furthermore, by merely reciting it, it has the ability to protect from fear or injury from gods, demons, and humans, fear of not having food, wild animals, the five elements, etc. It pacifies illness and negative spirits, and reverses all negative predictions or divinations.”
— Excerpt from Spontaneous Wish-fulfillment of Removing Obstacles from the Path
For those interested in a traditional Tibetan astrological horoscope to calculate the influence of 2023 on each of their natal factors of lifeforce, health, personal power, lungta, and soul, Geshe Yongdong Losar of Sherab Chamma Ling in British Columbia, Canada offers Tibetan astrological horoscopes through his website. Follow this link for more information about Geshe Yongdong and his astrological calculations: https://sherabchammaling.com/product/astrology-reading/
Ceremonial dance during Zhang Zhung Losar. Photo credit: Unknown
The 1st day of the 12th lunar month is celebrated as New Year’s Day according to the custom of the ancient land of Zhang Zhung that included a vast geographical area including Tibet, parts of Nepal, and the area previously known as Persia. In 2023, this date coincides with January 22nd on the Western calendar.
This New Year’s Day, or Losar in the Tibetan language, is also known as Sonam Losar, Himalayan Losar, or Peasants Losar. It continues to be widely celebrated in Dolpo, Nepal as well as in select other regions of Tibet. Originally, it was celebrated as the beginning of the New Year throughout all of Tibet. However, due to political and social changes through time, the commonly celebrated date for the New Year became the 1st day of the 1st lunar month. This is the Royal New Year and in 2023 this date coincides with February 21st.
For those celebrating today as New Year’s Day it is the beginning of the Year of the Water Rabbit.
Lord Buddha lying in the sleeping lion posture and obtaining parinirvana in the presence of gods, humans and lu.
On the new moon day of the first Winter month (10th lunar month), Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché demonstrated the truth of impermanence by leaving behind the container of his physical body. The anniversary of this date coincides with December 23, 2022 on the Western calendar. Any virtuous activity that is performed through the body, speech or mind is greatly multiplied. This is an especially auspicious day to recite the Tséwang Monlam, Tséwang’s Precious Mala of Beneficial Aspiration Prayers as many times as possible. The English language translation of this prayer, and many other prayers including The Chanted Verse of Impermanence, are freely offered for personal use and can be viewed and/or downloaded by going to the Publications page of this website.
“Although the body of a Victorious One is without birth and death, in order to show an example of the impermanent character of phenomena, you demonstrated the way of passing beyond suffering into the space of the essence of Bön, and manifested within the vast expanse of the true nature which is like the sky.
I prostrate to you, Fully Accomplished One!”
At the age of eighty-two shen years (8,200 human years), the enlightened Lord Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché began to illustrate the truth of impermanence for sentient beings by allowing the constituents of his physical body to become weak and manifest an illness. Alarmed, his disciples performed rituals and administered medicine. In order to demonstrate the effectiveness of these methods according to relative truth, the Buddha temporarily recovered.
“Whatever time I have passes, and the arrival of death is certain. Still, I expect to live and not to die.
How sad! Bless me that the realization of impermanence will arise in my mind-stream!
Even though everyone knows of death through seeing and hearing of it, I myself expect to be permanent.
How sad! Bless me that the realization of impermanence will arise in my mind-stream!”
— Excerpt from The Chanted Verse of Impermanence within The Aural Transmission of Zhang Zhung
However, after a little time had passed, he caused his physical condition to again weaken. This provided an opportunity for the Buddha to give teachings to his disciples regarding the process of death. At dusk on the new moon day of the first Winter month at the nine-leveled yungdrung mountain, Lord Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché adopted the posture of the sleeping lion and demonstrated the accomplishment of passing beyond suffering. After cremation of his physical body, the relics from the ash were distributed among the gods, the humans and the lu [Sanskrit: naga] as objects of faith and devotion.
The parinirvana of Lord Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché is observed each year by monks, nuns. and lay practitioners worldwide. Photo credit: Unknown
One year later, an assembly of thirteen yungdrung sempa [Sanskrit:bodhisattva] compiled the teachings of Lord Buddha. Time passed, and the era of being able to rely upon the physical presence of the Buddha drew to a close. Thus began the era of relying upon the Buddha’s speech. Lord Tönpa Shenrap’s successor, Mucho Demdruk, descended from the sky into Olmo Lungring and began to turn the wheel of Yungdrung Bön for gods and humans. Among his disciples were “the six intellectual ornaments of the world.” These six scholars translated the teachings of Lord Buddha into their respective native languages of Tazik, India, China, and Trom and therefore were able to spread the teachings of enlightenment in every direction.
“You are the king of the teachings and the glorious guide through cyclic existence.
You are the illuminating light that overcomes all darkness.
You are 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 enlightened activities.
Through both the four valid means of cognition and the six valid thoughts, and with great loving kindness, you liberate the beings within cyclic existence.
I prostrate to the manifested enlightened Body of Tönpa Shenrap!”
—From Praise and Homage for the Compassionate Teacher
November 29th is the birth celebration of the 34th holder of the golden throne of Menri Monastery Lungtok Dawa Dargyal Rinpoché. He was born in Amdo, Tibet and given the birth name Norbu Sampel. He began school at the age of five and began to learn religious chanting at the age of eight. At seventeen, he took novice monk vows and received the name Tsultrim Nyima. The following year, he entered the Dialectic School of Gamel Monastery. In 1994 in Tibet, he met H.H. 33rd Menri Trizin Lungtok Tenpé Nyima Rinpoché and received his full monastic ordination from him, receiving the name Dawa Dargyal Wangpo. In 1996, he completed his Geshe degree and then traveled to Menri Monastery. He then entered the esteemed Dialectic school of Menri Monastery and received his Menri Geshe degree in 2012 in the presence of H.H. 33rd Menri Trizin.
In September 2017, H.H. 34th Menri Trizin displayed the truth of impermanence and passed beyond his physical vessel. At that time, the Geshe from Amdo, Dawa Dargyal, was the general secretary of Menri Monastery and undertook the responsibility of helping to organize the memorial service and cremation ceremony. On January 1st, through the multi-day ritual and prayer ceremony, he was chosen by the Yungdrung Bön protectors to ascend the throne as abbot of Menri Monastery. On February 20, 2018, he was enthroned as the 34th Menri Trizin, holder of the golden throne of the second buddha Nyamme Sherap Gyaltsen.