The Thirteen Yungdrung Bön Activities for a Meaningful Human LIfe

Khenpo Nyima Künchap Rinpoche reciting scripture. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

The Thirteen Yungdrung Bön Activities are practices that perfect the two accumulations of merit and wisdom. These activities develop our positive qualities and diminish negative tendencies, and provide a way to take advantage of our precious human life. Engaging in these activities also has the benefit of protecting the mind from fear, anxiety and obsessive thoughts by focusing upon sacred actions of body, speech and mind.

  1. Writing the sacred syllables
  2. Reading sacred books
  3. Reciting the scriptures
  4. Turning the wheel of Bön
  5. Presenting offerings and prostrations
  6. Stopping ordinary speech and maintaining silence
  7. Reflecting upon the meaning of the words
  8. Listening to the sacred teachings for one’s self
  9. Teaching the sacred teachings for others
  10. Meditating upon the actual meaning
  11. Practicing towards a goal
  12. Exerting one’s self in performing virtuous activity
  13. Exerting one’s self with the causes to obtain a precious human body

Instructions for writing the Tibetan syllable AH. The syllables are drawn from the top downwards and from left to right.

“To the embodiment of all the places of refuge, the root lama,

I pay homage, admit my wrongdoing, present offerings, and supplicate!

Please pacify all obstacles, and guide me along the path of liberation!

Bestow your blessings that my wishes will be spontaneously fulfilled!

Through the force and the power of this, wherever I am, may the labels “illness,” “hunger,” “weapons,” “conflict,” and “disharmony” not even exist!”

— Extracted from The Spontaneous Wish-fulfillment of Removing Obstacles from the Path, The Oral Transmission of Khandro Shérap Lopélma

For the full English, Spanish, or Portuguese translation of The Spontaneous Wish-fulfillment of Removing Obstacles from the Path, The Oral Transmission of Khandro Shérap Lopélmafollow this link to the Publications page of this website. https://ravencypresswood.com/publications/ This prayer is commonly recited each day within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition.

A young monk making an offering of light at Menri Monastery. Photo credit: Unknown.

Present and Future Refuge

The Great Lama and yidam deity, Drenpa Namkha

“Now, during this negative time, infectious diseases and epidemics occur,

heat and cold within the body are reversed, and medicine doesn’t help.

You are surrounded by the Medicine Buddha and his retinue.

I pray to the Great Lama and his two sons, to the subduer of demons, Drenpa Namkha: completely overcome infectious diseases and epidemics!

Look upon me with your unbiased compassion morning and night, during the past, present, and future! Turn back both seen and unseen enemies!

My present and future refuge and protector bless me to accomplish all of my intentions!”

— Extracted from The Prayer of Fourteen Stanzas to Drenpa Namkha translated by Raven Cypress Wood

In general, there have been three separate manifestations of Drenpa Namkha. Each was a reincarnation of the previous manifestation. There was the Drenpa Namkha of the ancient kingdom of Tazik, Drenpa Namkha of the ancient kingdom of Zhang Zhung, and Drenpa Namkha of Tibet. Drenpa Namkha of the ancient kingdom of Zhang Zhung was a prince who lived during 914 BC. He married an Indian Brahman girl and had twin sons, Tséwang Rikdzin and Péma Tongdrül, who were born in the year 888 BC.

Drenpa Namkha of Tibet was born in the year 753 AD in Southern Tibet.  During this time, the kingdom of Tibet was ruled by King Trisong Detsen who had many Bön priest in his court, including Drenpa Namkha. When the king decided to convert the kingdom to the new Indian religion of Buddhism, he began to drive out the Bön priests and to destroy their texts. The Bön lamas were given the choice of exile from the kingdom, suicide, or conversion to the new religion.  Many lamas chose to escape with texts and to try and preserve the teachings elsewhere. Drenpa Namkha chose to stay and protect the teachings and the texts from within Tibet. So, at the age of 31, he cut his own hair with a blade of gold and ordained himself a Buddhist.

After his conversion, he had many YUngdrung Bön texts hidden within chortens, statues and columns at the monastery of Samyé. He continued to compose texts and to teach. Among his many students was the king himself, Trisong Detsen. Years later, the king allowed him to openly return to his practice of the Yungdrung Bön teachings.

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Developing Knowledge & Wisdom with the Lion of Speech

White emanation of Mawé Senge, Lion of Exposition.

After the Tibetan New Year celebrations, students at Menri Monastery in India enter into an intensive retreat to cultivate the qualities of the wisdom deity Mawé Sengé, Lion of Exposition. This retreat begins on the 24th lunar day of the 1st month and concludes on the 30th lunar day. In 2020, these dates coincide with March 17th – March 24th on the Western calendar. The intention of this retreat is to develop and sharpen the student’s intellect to support their upcoming studies. 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 recitations.

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

I generate the supreme mind 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 Senge. Tibetan translation: Raven Cypress Wood

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Supplication Prayer to Jamma, the Loving Mother

Jamma, the Loving Mother

” Hri!

Within a completely pure self-manifested realm,

just by paying homage and offering this supplication to the state of Yümchen Tükjé Jamma,*

please bring victory over the eight fears!”

Translated from the Tibetan by Raven Cypress Wood

Audio for the Tibetan language chanting has been kindly recorded and posted to Facebook by Geshe Yongdong, president and spiritual director of Sherab Chamma Ling. Check his page for the recording.

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Traditional Anniversary of the Human Birth of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché

Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Mowoché. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

 

Although in recent times the historical date of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap’s human birth has been stated to be the 15th day of the 12th month by the scholar His Eminence Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoché (See previous post for more information: https://ravencypresswood.com/2020/02/08/anniversary-of-the-human-birth-of-lord-tonpa-shenrap-miwoche/ ), it remains a tradition to also celebrate the Buddha’s birth on the 15th lunar day of the 1st month which is the date that has been celebrated through countless generations. In 2020, this date coincides with March 9th.

Praise and Homage for the Compassionate Teacher

King of the Teachings and a glorious guide through cyclic existence,

You are the illuminating light that overcomes all darkness!

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 activities!

Through both the four valid means of cognition and the six valid thoughts,

and with great loving kindness,

You liberate the migrating beings within cyclic existence!

I prostrate to the manifested enlightened body of Tönpa Shenrap!”

— Written by the great lama Drenpa Namkha and translated from the Tibetan by Raven Cypress Wood

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Celebration of the Second Buddha: H.H. Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché

The 5th day of the 1st month of the Tibetan lunar calendar is the celebration of Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché also known as the second buddha. In 2020, this date coincides with  February 28th on the Western calendar. Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rnpoche was a reincarnation of Yikyi Khye’u Chung, one of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche’s sons. He was responsible for uniting the three transmission lineages of sutra, tantra and dzogchen as well as founding one of the largest Yungdrung Bön monasteries in Tibet, Tashi Menri Ling.

Born in 1356 in the region of Gyalrong into the 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.   During a journey to Eastern Tibet, Yeru Wensaka was destroyed by flooding and mudslides.  After returning, he searched the ruins of the monastery for artifacts.  He took these and established Tashi Menri Monastery further up the same valley.  It was now 1405 and he was 50 years old.

H.H. Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché 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 passed away.  His body levitated high into the air, but due to the many heartfelt prayers of his disciples, the body came back down.   During the cremation, rainbows appeared and an eagle circled three times around the cremation area before disappearing into the West.

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

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Losar Tashi Delek Pün Sum Tsok! Happy Tibetan New Year!

Today begins the year of the Metal Rat.  For more information, see previous post: https://ravencypresswood.com/2020/02/01/the-twelve-animals-of-tibetan-astrology-the-rat/

Traditionally, today is spent either at home or visiting monasteries to make offerings or perform religious practice. Tomorrow begins a time of visiting friends and sharing with them all of the special food for the holiday. The 1st month of the new year is especially good for activities that strengthen and develop the positive forces that support health, success and harmony. Hanging prayer flags is one such activity.

Nine Ways is offering special Yungdrung Bön prayer flags. For more information about the benefit of prayer flags or to place an order, see previous post: https://ravencypresswood.com/2020/02/15/the-immeasurable-benefit-of-raising-prayer-flags/

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The Parinirvana of Drupchen Namkha Gyaltsen

 

Drupchen Namkha Gyaltsen Rinpoché visiting with HE Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoché. Photo credit & copyright: Christophe Moulin 2007. Used with permission.

On the 21st day of the 12th lunar month, February 14th 2020 on the Western calendar, the greatly accomplished Yungdrung Bön yogi Drupchen Namkha Gyaltsen Rinpoché passed into nirvana at Pal Shenten Dargyé Tashi Ling Monastery in Nyarong. Drupchen Namkha Gyaltsen was a famous ascetic who lived many years in solitary retreat. On the day of his passing, auspicious signs manifested such as rainbows in the daytime sky. This news was kept secret until February 19th. And due to the current restrictions related to the prevention of spreading infectious disease, there was no traditional public gathering or presentation of offerings.

Drupchen Namkha Gyaltsen at Tsédruk Monastery. Photo credit: Unknown

Born in 1956, the accomplished dzogchen master Namkha Gyalstsen became a well-known yogi, or naljorpa, who was respected for his incredible strength and fortitude while enduring hardships. He continuously observed the vows to abstain from meat and from eating food later in the day. From the renowned Tsukpü Ösal he received the teachings and transmissions for the preliminary practices and the primary practices of meditation. He then stayed within his own hermitage at the Tsédruk monastery. His focus was mainly upon the external, internal and secret doors of Bön contained within Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen’s Five Treasuries including the practices of ngöndro, meditation, tsa lung, rushen, chulen, etc. Applying the key points of these practices, he had many experiences of accomplishment.

He continuously practiced difficult austerities. For example, he traveled to Mount Tisé (Mount Kailash) and Bönri and  performed 100 full-length prostrations during his circumambulations. Also, from 1986 until 2002, like a wounded deer, he stayed by himself in solitary retreat and completely focused his mind upon practice. He led meditation retreats for male and female yogis who showed signs of accomplishment including signs of heat. After 2002, he traveled to other remote retreat places including the hermitage of Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoché where he continued his meditation, study, and disciplined practices. The quality of his meditation and his ascetic practices become legendary.

Rainbow light appeared in the sky on the day of his passing. Photo credit: Unknown

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The Tibetan New Year: Removing Obstacles & Making Aspirations

Monk dancers at Tokden Monastery performing sacred dance during the gutor ritual in preparation for the Tibetan New Year. Photo credit: Unknown.

The Tibetan New Year, known as Losar, falls upon the 1st lunar day of the 1st lunar month each year. In 2020, this day coincides with February 24, 2020 on the Western calendar. In the weeks leading up to Losar both the monasteries and households are busy with preparations. It is customary to make many fried Tibetan cookies known as khapsé. These khapsé are offered to the shrine and also to guests during and after the Losar celebration. Wheat grass seeds are planted in small pots and the young green shoots are placed with the other offerings as a symbol of a good harvest in the coming year. Monasteries and nunneries prepare for the traditional sacred dances as well as the end-of-year prayers and rituals.

Ransom offering effigy. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

In the monasteries, the extensive ritual of the wrathful yidam Phurba known as the Tro Phur gutor chenmo begins the ceremonial conclusion of the previous year. This ritual lasts for three days and includes many sacred dances called cham as well as elaborate rituals for removing any obstacles or negativity from the previous year. This important gutor ritual begins on the 27th lunar day and concludes on the 29th lunar day of the 12th month. The monastic gutor ritual concludes in the evening of the 29th with the removal of the main prayer flag from the courtyard. In 2020, these days coincide with February 20th-22nd.

On the 29th lunar day, which is called nyi shu gu, all Tibetans clean their homes and clear their debts from the previous year. In 2020, this day coincides with February 22nd. That evening, a dokpa ritual of turning back negativity is performed in each household. The family shares a special stew of nine ingredients called gu thuk. Although there can be regional variations, according to HE Menri Pönlop Rinpoche, these nine ingredients are meat, wheat, barley, rice, cheese, corn, troma (a himalayan root vegetable), salt, and water. Cooked with the stew are balls of dough which contain items that are meant as a playful divination that reveals the character of the family members who receive them in their bowl of stew. Rather than the actual items, the name of the symbols can also be written on a small piece of paper and placed inside the balls of dough. There is some variation of the items used but for example, whoever receives cotton in their ball of dough will have good health all year. Whoever receives chili is said to be sharp-tongued, and whoever receives the white stone is said to be a good-hearted person, but the recipient of charcoal is a black-hearted person, etc.

Everyone saves a small amount of the last of their stew to be used as a ransom offering for the negative spirits of the previous year. This ritual payment settles any remaining karmic debts with negative spirits so that they become satisfied and go away happy. An effigy of a human is made and importantly must include representations of each of the five senses. Along with the leftover stew, each person also makes a karmic debt torma. This is a small ball of dough that has been rubbed over the body from head to toe in order to absorb any illness or negativity. Then, the ball of dough is squeezed inside the hand so that each of the fingers make an impression. This karmic debt torma is placed on the offering plate with the effigy along with a piece of hair and a string from the clothing of each family member. A small candle is placed on the plate in front of the effigy and it is lit before the ransom is carried out by one of the family members.  Once it has been left in an appropriate place, the person leaving it must not look back as they rush back home.

After the offerings have been collected and before the effigy is carried out, a prayer is recited to formally present the offerings to the spirits and request that in exchange for the ransom, they not create any trouble. The following prayer is from the dokpa ritual of the enlightened fierce deity Nampar Jompa.

The fierce enlightened deity Nampar Jompa.

“OM

Come here, all you spirits who have a commitment to the teachings of the Buddha!

Come all gods, humans and demi-gods, all spirits that cause harm or disease, all male and female demons. Without excluding anyone, all you spirits come!

Accept this ransom torma which repays my karmic debts. Do not cause harm to this family or community and don’t create any obstacles to our spiritual practice!

Now, each of you happily return to your homes and listen to the noble teachings of the Buddha.

If you don’t go but instead try to stay here, then I will manifest as the fierce Nampar Jompa and will rip apart your body, life-force and power with my mudra and weapon!

SO OM BA DZRA TRO TA SUM TRI GHA TSA YA GHA TSA YA 

NÖ JÉ JUNG PO A MU KHA RA YA HUNG PÉ

On the 30th, New Year’s Eve, the houses are decorated, the shrines are cleaned, and fresh offerings are placed on them. It is common for people to be up most of the night preparing for the next day. Even so, they rise early the next morning to perform the offering of purifying smoke and to make aspirations for the new year. The first spring water of the new year is considered very auspicious and it is common for people to go directly after midnight and try to be the first to collect water to offer on their shrine. Generally, on New Year’s Day everyone stays at home or only leaves home to go to the monastery in order to pray and make offerings.  However, on the 2nd and 3rd days of the new year, it is customary to spend the day visiting friends and extended family in order to strengthen the positive energy and harmonious bonds for the coming year.

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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