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The Twelve Animals of Tibetan Astrology: The Pig

Tibetan astrological chart and symbols

In Tibetan astrology, there is a twelve-year cycle.  Each of these years is characterized by a different animal and associated with one of the five elements.  Therefore, a full cycle of the twelve animals being associated with each of the five elements is sixty years.  The twelve animals according to the Yungdrung Bön texts are the Rat, Elephant, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Horse, Snake, Sheep, Garuda, Monkey, Dog and Pig.  Each animal is associated with a specific element for its life-force as well as a specific direction which is determined by the life-force element.  Not only are these twelve animals associated with specific years, they are also associated with specific months, days and hours.

Feb 05, 2019 begins the Tibetan New Year, or Losar, and the year of the Earth Pig.  People born during a Pig year will have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with the symbol of the Pig.  (These years correspond with the Tibetan lunar calendar and begin sometime between late January and early April.)   According to Tibetan astrology, the element which governs the life-force of the Pig is Water and its positive direction is North.  So, if a Pig person wanted to strengthen their life-force, they would focus upon strengthening the element of Water internally and externally.  Because the positive direction is North, facing this direction while meditating, engaging in healing practices or just relaxing and taking deep breaths is beneficial.

In general as an astrological symbol, the Pig person is honest and uncomplicated. A Pig person is straight-forward, but not in an aggressive way. They are often seen as “good, down-to-earth” people by others. This is because the Pig person does not harbor hidden agendas. They can be trusted and relied upon. In general, they have many friends to whom they are generous and jovial, and are always willing to be helpful. However, the Pig person can have difficulty setting boundaries and saying ‘no.’ And because they tend to be naive, it is possible for them to be taken advantage of by others. Although the Pig person is generous, they also enjoy having money for themselves and living in leisure and comfort. For this reason, the pursuit of pleasure and entertainment can become imbalanced and lead to excess.

The Pig’s soul day is Wednesday and its life-force day is Tuesday.  These are the best days for beginning new projects and activities that are meant to increase or develop something.  The obstacle day is Saturday.  This day is best for purification and letting things go.  It is not a favorable day for beginning new activities or risky activities.

Pig years include: 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, and 2019

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The Twelve Animals of Tibetan Astrology: The Dog

Tibetan astrological chart and symbols

In Tibetan astrology, there is a twelve-year cycle.  Each of these years is characterized by a different animal and associated with one of the five elements.  Therefore, a full cycle of the twelve animals being associated with each of the five elements is sixty years.  The twelve animals according to the Yungdrung Bön texts are the Rat, Elephant, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Horse, Snake, Sheep, Garuda, Monkey, Dog and Pig.  Each animal is associated with a specific element for its life-force as well as a specific direction which is determined by the life-force element.  Not only are these twelve animals associated with a particular year, they are also associated with particular months, days and hours.

Feb 16, 2018 begins the Tibetan New Year, or Losar, and the year of the Earth Dog.  People born during a Dog year will have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with the symbol of the Dog.  (These years correspond with the Tibetan lunar calendar and begin sometime between late January and early April.)   In astrology, the element which governs the life-force of the Dog is Earth and its positive direction is Northwest.  So, if a Dog person wanted to strengthen their life-force, they would focus upon strengthening the element of Earth internally and externally.  Because the positive direction is Northwest, facing this direction while meditating, engaging in healing practices or just relaxing and taking deep breaths is beneficial.

In general as an astrological symbol, the Dog person is loyal, straightforward, and honest. Because of their desire to offer their help and support, they are diligent and responsible with tasks. The Dog person takes great care in all that they do and is methodical and precise. Because of this, they do not like to be rushed in completing tasks or making decisions. Others can become frustrated at the Dog person’s seeming inertia when actually they are diligently analyzing the situation in order to be certain in making the correct decision. This tendency towards analysis and judgement can be in excess and lead the Dog person to overly analyze situations and consequently fall into despair or pessimism. For this reason, the Dog person can be seen as quite serious. However, they do not take their loved ones for granted and their relationships are long-lasting.

The Dog’s soul day is Monday and its life-force day is Wednesday.  These are the best days for beginning new projects and activities that are meant to increase or develop something.  The obstacle day is Thursday.  This day is best for purification and letting things go.  It is not a favorable day for beginning new activities.

Dog years include: 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, and 2018

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The Twelve Animals of Tibetan Astrology: The Garuda

Tibetan astrological chart and symbols

In Tibetan astrology, there is a twelve year cycle.  Each of these years is characterized by a different animal and associated with one of the five elements.  Therefore, a full cycle of the twelve animals being associated with each of the five elements is sixty years.  The twelve animals according to the Yungdrung Bön texts are the Rat, Elephant, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Horse, Snake, Sheep, Garuda, Monkey, Dog and Pig.  Each animal is associated with a specific element for its life-force as well as a specific direction which is determined by the life-force element.  Not only are these twelve animals associated with a particular year, they are also associated with particular months, days and hours.

A bronze image of a Garuda

Feb 27, 2017 begins the Tibetan New Year and the year of the Fire Garuda.  (For the Yungdrung Bön, it is the year of the Garuda.  Others use the symbol of the rooster.)  The Garuda is a bird both historical and mythical in scope similar to the Thunderbird.  It is intricately associated with Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché and the ancient kingdom of Zhang Zhung and Mount Tisé a.k.a. Mount Kailash. People born during a Garuda year will have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with Garuda.  (These years correspond with the Tibetan lunar calendar and begin sometime between late January and early April.)   In astrology, the element which governs the life-force of the Garuda is Metal (space) and its direction is West.  So, if a Garuda person wanted to strengthen their life-force, they would focus upon strengthening the element of Metal internally and externally.  Because the positive direction is West, facing this direction while meditating, engaging in healing practices or just relaxing and taking deep breaths is beneficial.

In general as an astrological symbol, the Garuda person has a zest for life and is uncomfortable with the limitations of tradition and convention.  The Garuda has confidence in itself and is ambitious with goals that can often seem unrealistic to others.  However, it is a perfectionist and a master of organization that is able to find a way to accomplish difficult tasks.  The Garuda‘s joy and charisma attracts many friends who benefit from its spontaneous generosity.  Its flair for life and confidence in itself also attracts the attention of powerful people who help the completion of its goals.  In some, this unshakable confidence might lend itself to conceit and self-centeredness.  The Garuda finds the most joy when it remains balanced rather than caught in a cycle of highs and lows.

The Garuda‘s soul day is Friday and its life-force day is Thursday.  These are the best days for beginning new projects and activities that are meant to increase or develop something.  The obstacle day is Tuesday.  This day is best for purification and letting things go.  It is not a favorable day for beginning new activities.

Garuda years include: 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, and 2017

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The Twelve Animals of Tibetan Astrology: The Snake

Tibetan astrological chart and symbols

In Tibetan astrology, there is a twelve year cycle.  Each of these years is characterized by a different animal and associated with one of the five elements.  Therefore, a full cycle of the twelve animals being associated with each of the five elements takes sixty years.  The twelve animals according to the Yungdrung Bön texts are the Rat, Elephant, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Horse, Snake, Sheep, Garuda, Monkey, Dog and Pig.  Each animal is associated with a specific element for its life-force as well as a specific direction which is determined by the life-force element.  Not only are these twelve animals associated with a particular year, they are also associated with particular months, days and hours.

snake image

People born during the year of the Snake  will have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with Snake.  (These years correspond with the Tibetan lunar calendar and begin sometime between late January and early April.)  The element which governs the life-force of the Snake is Fire and its direction is South.  So, if a Snake person wanted to strengthen their life-force, they would focus upon strengthening the element of Fire internally and externally.  The positive direction is South.  Therefore, facing this direction while meditating, doing healing rituals or just relaxing and taking deep breaths is beneficial.

In general, the Snake is can see the depth of things and spends a lot of time thinking and processing.  The Snake can recognize the underlying motivation of others even if they do not recognize it within themselves.  The Snake can use this to their advantage and can be underhanded at times.  The Snake enjoys the good things of life and loves to be in elegant and beautiful surroundings.  The Snake can have an intolerance for hardship or discomfort.  The Snake can be magnetic and charming but can also be vengeful when angered.  The Snake has a good sense of humor, is socially graceful and often surrounded by admirers.  The Snake could benefit from the practice of tolerance and openness.

The Snake‘s soul day is Tuesday and its life-force day is Friday.  These are the best days for beginning new projects and activities that are meant to increase or develop something.  The obstacle day is Wednesday.  This day is best for purification and letting things go.  It is not a favorable day for beginning new activities.

Snake years include: 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, & 2013

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The Twelve Animals of Tibetan Astrology: The Monkey

Tibetan astrological chart and symbols

In Tibetan astrology, there is a twelve year cycle.  Each of these years is characterized by a different animal and associated with one of the five elements.  Therefore, a full cycle of the twelve animals being associated with each of the five elements takes sixty years.  The twelve animals according to the Yungdrung Bön texts are the Rat, Elephant, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Horse, Snake, Sheep, Garuda, Monkey, Dog and Pig.  Each animal is associated with a specific element for its life-force as well as a specific direction which is determined by the life-force element.  Not only are these twelve animals associated with a particular year, they are also associated with particular months, days and hours.

monkey astrology

2016 will be the year of the Monkey. Therefore, people born during this year will be a Monkey and will have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with Monkey.  (This year corresponds with the Tibetan lunar calendar and begins February 08, 2016.)  The element which governs the life-force of the Monkey is Metal (space) and its direction is West.  So, if a Monkey person wanted to strengthen their life-force, they would focus upon strengthening the element of Metal internally and externally.  The positive direction West.  Therefore, facing this direction while meditating, doing healing rituals or just relaxing and taking deep breaths is beneficial.

In general, the Monkey is friendly, adaptable, playful and thinks outside of the box.  The Monkey does not like to be trapped in any way and can use its ingenuity and keen sense of strategy to keep itself free.  Although the Monkey has a good sense of humor and a sharp mind, too often it is tempted to use these qualities to elevate itself while lowering others.  The Monkey is skilled at finding ways to benefit from an opportunity.  Even when faced with difficulty, the Monkey most often lands on its feet.  The Monkey has an insatiable desire for knowledge and study, but can grow bored once it has reached a level of mastery.

The Monkey‘s soul day is Friday and its life-force day is Thursday.  These are the best days for beginning new projects and activities that are meant to increase or develop something.  The obstacle day is Tuesday.  This day is best for cleansing and letting things go.  It is not a favorable day for beginning new things.

Monkey years include: 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016

The Twelve Animals of Tibetan Astrology: The Dragon

Tibetan astrological chart and symbols

In Tibetan astrology, there is a twelve year cycle.  Each of these years is characterized by a different animal and associated with one of the five elements.  Therefore, a full cycle of the twelve animals being associated with each of the five elements takes sixty years.  The twelve animals according to the Yungdrung Bön texts are the Rat, Elephant, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Horse, Snake, Sheep, Garuda, Monkey, Dog and Pig.  Each animal is associated with a specific element for its life-force as well as a specific direction which is determined by the life-force element.  Not only are these twelve animals associated with a particular year, they are also associated with particular months, days and hours.

dragon

2012 was the year of the DragonTherefore, people born during this year would be a Dragon and would have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with Dragon.  (This year corresponds with the Tibetan lunar calendar and began February 22, 2012.)  The element which governs the life-force of the Dragon is Earth and its direction is Southeast.  So, if a Dragon person wanted to strengthen their life-force, they would focus upon strengthening the element of Earth internally and externally.  The positive direction Southeast.  Therefore, facing this direction while meditating, doing healing rituals or just relaxing and taking deep breaths is beneficial.

In general, the Dragon is flamboyant and impulsive.  It has a fiery disposition whose energy and drive seem unending.  Convinced of its superiority of destiny and vision, it wants to live life to its fullest and is often frustrated and impatient with the perceived limitations of others and circumstances.  The Dragon always wants more.  The Dragon has much charisma, wit, and enthusiasm which is admired by others and they are often placed in leadership positions.  The Dragon can also be unrealistic in its demands and become angry to the point of deeply wounding others due to its lack of tact.  However, the Dragon easily forgives, and is sincere and generous in its relationships.  Whatever it is feeling is difficult to conceal.

The Dragon’s soul day is Sunday and its life-force day is Wednesday.  These are the best days for beginning new projects and activities that are meant to increase or develop something.  The obstacle day is Thursday.  This day is best for cleansing and letting things go.  It is not a favorable day for beginning new things.

Dragon years include: 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, & 2024

The Twelve Animals of Tibetan Astrology: The Sheep

 astrology sheep green

 

 

In Tibetan astrology, there is a twelve year cycle.  Each of these years is characterized by a different animal and associated with one of the five elements.  Therefore, a full cycle of the twelve animals being associated with each of the five elements takes sixty years.  The twelve animals according to the Yungdrung Bön texts are the Rat, Elephant, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Horse, Snake, Sheep, Garuda, Monkey, Dog and Pig.  Each animal is associated with a specific element for its life-force as well as a specific direction which is determined by the life-force element.  Not only are these twelve animals associated with a particular year, they are also associated with particular months, days and hours.

2015 is the year of the SheepTherefore, people born during this year would be a Sheep and would have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with Sheep.  (This year corresponds with the Tibetan lunar calendar and began February 19, 2015.)  2015 is also governed by the element of Wood and is a female year.  So, people born during this year would be a Female Wood Sheep.  The element which governs the life-force of the Sheep is Earth and its direction is Southwest.  So, if a Sheep person wanted to strengthen their life-force, they would focus upon strengthening the element of Earth internally and externally.  The positive direction Southwest.  So, facing this direction while meditating, doing healing rituals or just relaxing and taking deep breaths is beneficial.

In general, the Sheep is considered to be a friendly and kind-hearted person who is gentle and easy-going.  Although they have a strong sense of fairness and right behavior, they are quick to forgive.  They prefer an uncomplicated life that is harmonious.  However, in the face of danger, they can be ferocious in their attempt to protect themselves or others.  They are independent thinkers but often work best as part of a team.  Sheep are often religious and can be interested in the supernatural.  Although they tend to be very creative, the creativity must have a practical purpose.  They thrive within a stable and loving relationship.

The Sheep’s soul day is Friday and the life-force day is Monday.  These are the best days for beginning new projects and activities that are meant to increase or develop something.  The obstacle day is Thursday.  This day is best for cleansing and letting things go.  It is not a favorable day for beginning new things.

Sheep years include: 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, & 2003

The Twelve Animals of Tibetan Astrology: The Rabbit

rabbit

 

 

 

In Tibetan astrology, there is a twelve year cycle.  Each of these years is characterized by a different animal and associated with one of the five elements.  Therefore, a full cycle of the twelve animals being associated with each of the five elements takes sixty years.  The twelve animals according to the Yungdrung Bön texts are the Rat, Elephant, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Horse, Snake, Sheep, Garuda, Monkey, Dog and Pig.  Each animal is associated with a specific element for its life-force as well as a specific direction which is determined by the life-force element.  Not only are these twelve animals associated with a particular year, they are also associated with particular months, days and hours.

2011 was the year of the RabbitTherefore, people born during this year would be a Rabbit and would have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with Rabbit.  (It is important to remember that this year corresponds with the Tibetan lunar calendar which begins somewhere between February and mid-March each year.)  2011 was also governed by the element of Metal and was a female year.  So, people born during this year would be a Female Metal Rabbit.  The element which governs the life-force of the Rabbit is Wood and its direction is East.  So, if a Rabbit person wanted to strengthen their life-force, they would focus upon strengthening the element of Wood internally and externally.  Although called ‘Wood’ in the astrological context, the element of Wood corresponds to the element Wind.  The positive direction is East.  So, facing this direction while meditating, doing healing rituals or just relaxing and taking deep breaths is beneficial.

In general, the Rabbit is considered to be peaceful and calm, virtuous and sensible.  The Rabbit has a natural skill for diplomacy and is kind and polite in its interactions.  The Rabbit enjoys elegance and comfort and will protect its peaceful environment from disruption.   Preferring harmony, it will make an effort to avoid conflict and confusion perhaps giving the impression of indifference and aloofness. However, if the Rabbit feels directly threatened, its anger is expressed through subtlety and cleverness rather than outbursts.

The Rabbit’s soul day is Thursday and the life-force day is Saturday.  These are the best days for beginning new projects and activities that are meant to increase or develop something.  The obstacle day is Friday.  This day is best for cleansing and letting things go.  It is not a favorable day for beginning new things.

Rabbit years include: 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, and 2011

The Twelve Animals of Tibetan Astrology: The Elephant

elephantThe twelve animals of Tibetan astrology according to the Yungdrung Bön texts are the Rat, Elephant, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Horse, Snake, Sheep, Garuda, Monkey, Dog and Pig.  Each animal has an associated element for its life-force and a direction which is determined by the life-force element.  Not only are these twelve animals associated with a particular year, they are also associated with particular months, days and hours.

For example, 2009 was the year of the Elephant.  Therefore, people born during this year would be a Elephant and would have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with the Elephant.  (It is important to remember that this year corresponds with the Tibetan lunar calendar which begins somewhere between February and mid-March each year.)  2009 was also governed by the element of Earth and was a female year.  So, people born during this year would be Female Earth Elephants.  The element which governs the life-force of the Elephant is Earth and its direction is Northeast.  So, if an Elephant person wanted to strengthen their life-force, they would focus upon strengthening the element of Earth internally and externally.  Their positive direction is Northeast.  So, facing this direction while meditating, doing healing rituals or just relaxing and taking deep breaths is beneficial.

In general, the Elephant is stable, steadfast, and practical.  It can express itself well and is rather independent.  It prefers to approach things logically and without the cloud of emotion.  It is competent and trustworthy, preferring to lead rather than to follow.  It values tradition but can be resistant to change, rigid and authoritarian.  Although it can have a temper, the elephant is generally patient and loyal.

The Elephant’s soul day is Saturday and the life-force day is Wednesday.  These are the best days for beginning new projects and activities that are meant to grow and increase.  The obstacle day is Thursday.  This day is best for cleansing and letting things go.  It is not a favorable day for beginning new things.

Elephant years include: 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, and 2021

The Twelve Animals of Tibetan Astrology: The Horse

horse image

The twelve animals of Tibetan astrology according to the Yungdrung Bön texts are the Rat, Elephant, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Horse, Snake, Sheep, Garuda, Monkey, Dog and Pig.  Each animal has an associated element for its life-force and a direction which is determined by the life-force element.  Not only are these twelve animals associated with a particular year, they are also associated with particular months, days and hours.

The year 2014 is the year of the Wood Horse.  Therefore, all people born on or after March 2, 2014 until the next lunar Tibetan New Year are Wood Horse people.  These individuals will have a vitality that is governed by the element Fire, a physical body that is governed by the element Metal (which corresponds with the element of Space), personal power that is governed by the element of Wood (which corresponds to the element of Air), Lungta or luck that is governed by the element of Metal and soul energy that is governed by the element of Wood.

In general, the Horse is very energetic with an active mind.  It is inspired, motivated and charming.  It wants adventure and exploration rather than to stay at home.  It is always on the move and in excess this can become a kind of instability or an inability to stick with things long enough to complete them.  This life of excitement can sometimes give way to impatience.  The Horse can be quite charming, likes to talk, and therefore finds it difficult to keep secrets.  Although it appears independent, because of the fear of failure the Horse relies upon the validation and support of friends and family. 

The Horse’s direction is South.

The Horse’s soul day is Tuesday and the life-force day is Friday.  These are the best days for beginning new projects and activities that are meant to grow and increase.  The obstacle day is Wednesday.  This day is best for cleansing and letting things go.  It is not a favorable day for beginning new things.

Horse years include: 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, and 2002

The Twelve Animals of Tibetan Astrology: The Rat

RatIn Tibetan astrology, there is a twelve year cycle.  Each of these years is characterized by a different animal and associated with one of the five elements.  Therefore, a full cycle of the twelve animals being associated with each of the five elements takes sixty years.  The twelve animals according to the Yungdrung Bön texts are the Rat, Elephant, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Horse, Snake, Sheep, Garuda, Monkey, Dog and Pig.  Each animal has an associated element for its life-force and a direction which is determined by the life-force element.  Not only are these twelve animals associated with a particular year, they are also associated with particular months, days and hours.

2008 was the year of the Rat.  Therefore, people born during this year would be a Rat and would have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with Rat.  (It is important to remember that this year corresponds with the Tibetan lunar calendar which begins somewhere between February and mid-March each year.)  2008 was also governed by the element of Earth and was a male year.  So, people born during this year would be Male Earth Rats.  The element which governs the life-force of the Rat is water and its direction is North.  So, if a Rat person wanted to strengthen their life-force, they would focus upon strengthening the element of water internally and externally.  Their positive direction is North.  So, facing this direction while meditating, doing healing rituals or just relaxing and taking deep breaths is beneficial.

In general, the Rat is considered to be charming, extroverted, friendly and generous.  The Rat is attracted to money, luxury, and success and often uses its extensive social contacts as a way to further these interests.  Because it is independent, clever, discreet and potentially selfish, it finds ways to turn situations to its advantage.  Therefore, the Rat often finds success in its endeavors as long as it does not over extend and become scattered.  Although a Rat who feels betrayed in some way can become manipulative, vengeful, and aggressive, they are generally sentimental and generous to their loved ones.

The Rat’s soul day is Wednesday and the life-force day is Tuesday.  These are the best days for beginning new projects and activities that are meant to increase or develop something.  The obstacle day is Saturday.  This day is best for cleansing and letting things go.  It is not a favorable day for beginning new things.

Rat years include: 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, and 2020

The First Way: Divination, Astrology, Ritual and Medicine

Detail from the tree of health and illness which shows the root, branches and leaves of both health and illness. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

The First of the Nine Ways of Bön is The Way of the Shen of Prediction and contains methods of divination, astrology, healing rituals and medical diagnosis which deal directly with the concerns of this present, worldly life. As in all of the Nine Ways, the basis for all practice is compassion.  Although the ultimate goal is enlightenment and complete release from the suffering and misery of cyclic existence, the perspective of The Way of the Shen of Prediction is upon the individual’s immediate circumstances during this very lifetime.  Within the Yungdrung Bön tradition, the knowledge related to the divination, astrology, healing, and medical diagnosis is vast.  In the words of the Buddha Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwo:

“In general, there are 360 different kinds of divination.  There are 360 kinds of astrological calculation.  There are 360 kinds of ritual and 21,000 methods of diagnosis in order to avert the danger of death.” 

Divination or mo, This is a method through which one can obtain guidance for worldly questions such as, “Will my new project be successful?” or “Will my travel be safe?” If the answer is negative, the text will either recommend a different course of action or suggest an antidote such as prayers or ritual that could change the projected course of events for the positive. It is common to ask a lama for a divination for any number of reasons such as success of new projects, buying or selling a home, traveling, health, or marriage.

Copy of an old text detailing a method of divination taught directly by Lord Tönpa Shenrap. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

There are four categories of divination within Yungdrung Bön tradition: 1) using a mala or die, 2) using the drala, or powerful protective spirits who are considered messengers of the gods, 3) dreams, and 4) reading signs and symbols. For each of these methods, it is necessary to receive instructions, transmission and empowerment. Then, a prescribed individual retreat is undertaken in order to receive the blessings and power of the respective deity associated with the divination.

astrology thangkha

Astrological deities and symbols of the Yungdrung Bön. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

Astrology or tsi, is a method to determine the harmony or disharmony with the external forces of the universe as well as a calculation of the flow of time.  For example, the Tibetan New Year begins somewhere between the beginning of February and the end of March. The exact date is determined astrologically. Each year is characterized by one of the five elements and by one of twelve animals which are alternatively male or female.  The qualities of this element and animal combination are identified with every individual born within that year. Subsequently, it is possible to use astrology in order to calculate the probable effect of any given year upon an individual in relation to health, success, wealth etc. For example, someone born in the year of the Male Wood Rat (1984) would have their force of good luck ruled by the wood element.  The year 2013 of the Western calendar was a Female Water Snake year and the year’s  force of good luck is ruled by the water element.  Because the wood element and the water element have a naturally positive relationship, the Male Wood Rat person is likely to have a very positive year related to their force of good luck.  It takes sixty years in order to complete the cycle of twelve animals and five elements.

Astrological calculations are important in order to ascertain the most favorable date and time for important events such as religious festivals, marriages, travel, significant business dealings, healing rituals, funerals, etc.  In this way, the events that take place can be in harmony with the natural energies of the universe and therefore amplify the positive outcome.

A Yungdrung Bön monk prepares for a longevity and life ransom ritual. Photo credit: Geshe Chapur Lhundrup Rinpoche.

Ritual or to, ritual methods used to prevent or stop harm coming from unseen, external forces.  According to the texts, what we perceive as empty space is actually crowded with beings that are invisible to us.  Because humanity damages and pollutes the external environment without consideration for these other beings, we cause harm and offense to these unseen spirits who then seek repayment or revenge.  This can lead to sudden unexplained loss or illness that is resistant to medical cure.

Once divination or astrology has established that the source of the disturbance is one or more of these external unseen forces, a specific ritual is advised in order to restore health and harmony.  Traditionally, a lama is asked to come to the home in order to perform the necessary ritual.  The family hosts the lama and the assistants for the duration of the ritual.  Some rituals are concluded in a single day.  Others may can take many days to complete.

Medical Diagnosis  or men, is a method of diagnosing the cause of a physical illness and prescribing a medicine to bring about a cure. The root of health is awareness and virtuous behavior, and the root of illness is ignorance and non-virtuous behavior.  This idea is expounded at great length in the Yungdrung Bön medical texts.   Health is the balance of the qualities of wind, bile and phlegm within the body.  Illness is the weakness, damage or excess of any or all of these qualities.  The hot or cold nature of the imbalance is also taken into consideration.

Old-style Tibetan medicine bags. Photo credit: Dr. Nyima Gurung.

When diagnosing the root cause of an illness, the doctor will use the three techniques for diagnosis: 1) seeing, 2) touching, and 3) questioning. These include observing the general demeanor of the patient, listening to the sound of their voice, studying the appearance and shape of their tongue, examining the qualities of their urine, and feeling the multiple pulses of both wrists.  The doctor will also question the patient about their behavior, diet and the onset of symptoms.

When prescribing medicine, the Tibetan doctor gives herbal medicines that are to be taken at specific times of day.  Medicine is most effective when taken at the time that the disease is most active or at the designated time of the affected organ.  Additionally, the doctor will give advice for diet and behavior, sometimes prescribing that a patient be more generous and less greedy, or to spend more time with spiritual practice and less time with mindless distraction.  Prevention of disease includes the discrimination of beneficial and harmful activities as well as an appropriate diet with a proper balance of rest and activity.

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