Blog Archives

The Fifth Way: In the Service of Virtue

Central Figure of the Tibetan Thangkha Painting Related to The Fifth Way

Within the Nine Ways of Bön, the Fifth Way is called The Way of the Virtuous Lay Practitioners and specifies the proper conduct and commitments of a lay person taking vows. This Fifth Way is the first of the Nine Ways classified as ‘Ways of the Result’ or ‘Bön of the Fruit.’ In the Tibetan language, a lay practitioner is called ‘gen nyen’ [Tib. dge bsnyen] which literally translates as ‘one who serves virtue’ or ‘one who draws near to virtue.’ When asked the meaning of these concepts, the enlightened all-knowing teacher, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwo answered,

“Virtuous means without negative actions. This is one who is committed to serve virtue through their body, speech and mind. Service means serving without holding contradictory views and properly remaining steadfast in service to virtue.”

In general, the lay practitioner commits to practicing the ten virtuous actions and renounces the ten non-virtuous actions of body, speech and mind.  Buddha Tönpa Shenrap defines this kind of renunciation as 1) not performing the actions, 2) not requesting or encouraging others to perform them and 3) not feeling pleased that others have performed the negative actions. Similarly, one commits to 1) acting according to the ten virtuous actions, 2) encouraging others to participate in these activities and 3) feeling joy that others have performed virtuous actions. This is the inner practice.

The Three Virtuous Actions of the Body:

  1. Rather than killing, protecting the life of other beings.
  2. Rather than stealing, practicing generosity.
  3. Rather than engaging in sexual misconduct or causing others to break their vows, keeping one’s own vows and respecting the vows of others.

The Four Virtuous Actions of Speech:

  1. Rather than lying, speaking the truth.
  2. Rather than creating discord, speaking in a way that brings people together.
  3. Rather than using hurtful speech, speaking gently and kindly.
  4. Rather than gossiping or mindlessly talking, speaking in a useful way or reciting prayers.

The Three Virtuous Actions of the Mind:

  1. Rather than coveting the possessions and accomplishments of others, being generous and open.
  2. Rather than wishing harm to others or feeling resentful, cultivating the desire to help others.
  3. Rather than holding wrong views, practicing the teachings of Yungdrung Bön and establishing a true and authentic view.

When asked to teach the outward form of the lay practitioner, The All-knowing Teacher, Tönpa Shenrap first instructed the gathered assembly to construct the first Elegant Yungdrung Chorten [Sanskrit: stupa] according to his detailed instructions. Once completed, he consecrated the chorten and then began teaching the outer forms and behavior of a gen nyen or lay practitioner.

Elegant Yungdrung Bon Chorten edit

The Elegant Yungdrung Chorten which represents the stages of enlightenment

The practitioner must go before a pure lama who guides disciples and take the appropriate vows. According to a commentary written by the 23rd abbot of Menri Monastery, His Holiness Nyima Tenzin Rinpoché:

“As for the vows of a gen nyen: There are five kinds of lifetime vows.  To abandon killing, to abandon taking what is not given, to abandon impure, wrong kinds of sexual conduct, and to abandon false speech are four.  Abandoning one of the four kinds of food is the fifth.  Some people have taught abandoning alcohol as a branch vow.

This is the gen nyen of completely renouncing according to the five kinds of established laws.  Because of that, the gen nyen of pure behavior has renounced the basic kinds of impure activity.”

As for killing, one must abandon killing in anger especially another human being. One must abandon stealing, especially when it is driven by desire. One must avoid sexual contact that is damaging or abusive, one must avoid harmful speech especially if it creates a division within the spiritual community, and one must avoid lying especially about one’s spiritual experiences and attainments. As for the fifth which is a branch vow, one renounces either one of the four kinds of food. In this context, the four kinds of food are 1) meat, 2) garlic, 3) solid food after the mid-day meal, and 4) intoxicants such as drugs and alcohol. Regarding drugs and alcohol, the deeper meaning is the renunciation of intoxication which is an obstacle to mindfulness and incites negative behavior.

According to Buddha Tönpa Shenrap in The Nine Ways of Bön,

“As for the lifelong inner rules, one must abandon killing due to the influence of anger, abandon taking what is not given due to the influence of desire or attachment, abandon acting secretly to get what one wants without consideration of cause and effect due to the influence of ignorance, abandon performing unclean work due to the influence of pride, and abandon rough and abusive speech, meaningless talk, and telling lies. One must apply one’s self to their opposites.”

The Buddha goes on to describe the outer practices.

“As for the five intermediate principles, one should perform pure water-cleansing rites, perform prostrations and circumambulations with devotion and aspiration, create and place tsa tsa, and offer torma. Presenting offerings is a branch of gathering the [two] accumulations.”

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.

Don’t want to miss a post? Scroll to the bottom and click “Follow this blog.”

Yungdrung Bon Chorten

The Elegant Yungdrung Bon Chorten or Kolek Chorten. Photo credit: Unknown

For more information, see the previous post https://ravencypresswood.com/2014/10/08/the-elegant-chorten-of-the-yungdrung-bon/

The Fifth Way: Committing to the Path of Virtue of Lay Practitioners

Central Figure of the Tibetan Thangkha Painting for The Fifth Way

Within the Nine Ways of Bön, the Fifth Way is called The Way of the Virtuous Lay Practitioners and specifies the proper conduct and commitments of a lay person taking vows. This Fifth Way is the first of the Nine Ways classified as ‘Ways of the Result’ or ‘Bön of the Fruit.’ In the Tibetan language, a lay practitioner is called ‘ge nyen’ [Tib. dge bsnyen] which literally translates as ‘one who serves virtue’ or ‘one who draws near to virtue.’ When asked the meaning of these concepts, the enlightened all-knowing teacher, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwo answered,

“Virtuous means without negative actions. This is one who is committed to serve virtue through their body, speech and mind. Service means serving without holding contradictory views and properly remaining steadfast in service to virtue.”

In general, the lay practitioner commits to practicing the ten virtuous actions and renounces the ten non-virtuous actions of body, speech and mind.  Buddha Tönpa Shenrap defines this kind of renunciation as 1) not performing the actions, 2) not requesting or encouraging others to perform them and 3) not feeling pleased that others have performed the negative actions. Similarly, one commits to 1) acting according to the ten virtuous actions, 2) encouraging others to participate in these activities and 3) feeling joy that others have performed virtuous actions. This is the inner practice.

The Three Virtuous Actions of the Body:

  1. Rather than killing, protecting the life of other beings.
  2. Rather than stealing, practicing generosity.
  3. Rather than engaging in sexual misconduct or causing others to break their vows, keeping one’s own vows and respecting the vows of others.

The Four Virtuous Actions of Speech:

  1. Rather than lying, speaking the truth.
  2. Rather than creating discord, speaking in a way that brings people together.
  3. Rather than using hurtful speech, speaking gently and kindly.
  4. Rather than gossiping or mindlessly talking, speaking in a useful way or reciting prayers.

The Three Virtuous Actions of the Mind:

  1. Rather than coveting the possessions and accomplishments of others, being generous and open.
  2. Rather than wishing harm to others or feeling resentful, cultivating the desire to help others.
  3. Rather than holding wrong views, practicing the teachings of Yungdrung Bön and establishing a true and authentic view.

When asked to teach the outward form of the lay practitioner, The All-knowing Teacher, Tönpa Shenrap first instructed the gathered assembly to erect the first Elegant Chorten of the Yungdrung Bön according to his detailed instructions. Once completed, he consecrated the chorten [Sanskrit: stupa] and then began teaching the outer forms and behavior of a gen nyen or lay practitioner.

Elegant Yungdrung Bon Chorten edit

The Elegant Chorten of the Yungdrung Bön

The practitioner must go before a pure lama who guides disciples and take the appropriate vows. According to the written commentary of the 23rd abbot of Menri Monastery, HH Nyima Tenzin,

“As for the vows of a gen nyen: There are five kinds of lifetime vows.  To abandon killing, to abandon taking what is not given, to abandon impure, wrong kinds of sexual conduct, and to abandon false speech are four.  Abandoning one of the four kinds of food is the fifth.  Some people have taught abandoning alcohol as a branch vow.

This is the gen nyen of completely renouncing according to the five kinds of established laws.  Because of that, the gen nyen of pure behavior has renounced the basic kinds of impure activity.”

As for killing, one must abandon killing in anger especially another human being. One must abandon stealing, especially when it is driven by desire. One must avoid sexual contact that is damaging or abusive, and one must avoid harmful speech especially if it creates a division within the spiritual community and avoid lying especially about one’s spiritual experiences and attainments. As for the fifth which is a branch vow, one renounces either one of the four kinds of food. In this context, the four kinds of food are 1) meat, 2) garlic, 3) solid food after the mid-day meal, and 4) intoxicants such as drugs and alcohol. Regarding drugs and alcohol, the deeper meaning is the renunciation of intoxication which is an obstacle to mindfulness.

According to Buddha Tönpa Shenrap in The Fifth Way,

“As for the lifelong inner rules, one must abandon killing due to the influence of anger, abandon taking what is not given due to the influence of desire or attachment, abandon acting secretly to get what one wants without consideration of cause and effect due to the influence of ignorance, abandon performing dirty work due to the influence of pride, and abandon rough and abusive speech, meaningless talk, and telling lies. One must apply one’s self to their opposites.”

The Buddha goes on to describe the outer practices.

“As for the five intermediate principles, one should perform pure cleansing rites, perform prostrations and circumambulations with devotion and aspiration, create and place tsa tsa, and offer torma. Presenting offerings is a branch of gathering the [two] accumulations.”

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.

Don’t want to miss a post? Scroll to the bottom and click “Follow this blog.”

Pilgrimage to the Center of the World: Gang Tise

mt tise landscape view(Southern Face of Mount Tisé, also known as Mount Kailash)

It is the seat of Shiva according to Hindus.  Many Jains believe it to be the holy site where the founder of the Jain religion, Lord Rishabhdev, attained liberation.  It is the place where Milarepa lived and practiced according to Buddhists who call the mountain Gang Rinpoche, Precious Snow Mountain.  And according to the Bönpos, it is Mount Tisé, sacred dwelling place of deities, the place where Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché taught and meditated, and where many sages after him, such as the great lama Drenpa Namkha, Choza Bönmo and Lishu Taring, practiced the teachings of the Yungdrung Bön.  For all of them, to make a pilgrimage to this place and to circumambulate the mountain has great spiritual significance.  “Whoever visits Gang Tisé will achieve liberation after three lifetimes.” And, “If you cleanse with the purification waters of the four directions (of the mountain), you will be reborn in a pure realm.”

In Sanskrit and on most English language maps, it is called Mount Kailash.  It is located in far Western Tibet in the Ngari region which is a remote and arid landscape only spotted with vegetation.  With no source of wood, campfires are fueled with goat and horse dung.  Reaching the area through a pass of over 16,000 feet in altitude, the air is thin and the light intensely reflects upon every object in the landscape.  Until recent history, there were no roads in to this region.  The mountain has a 22,028 foot peak that is topped with snow year round.  Each of the four sides of the mountain are distinctively different. It has never been climbed.   For the devout, that would be an unthinkable desecration.  In 1980, Reinhold Messner was given permission to climb it by the Chinese.  However, he declined.  In 2001, a Spanish team led by Jesus Martinez Novas was given permission to climb the mountain.  However, due to international disapproval, the Chinese reversed their decision and banned all attempts to ever climb the mountain.

Mt Tise map

Mount Tisé was at the center of the ancient kingdom of Zhang Zhung.  Tisé is a Zhang Zhung word referencing the mountain as the source of many waters.  It was the soul mountain of both the Zhang Zhung king and the kingdom and was considered the center of the world.  The Zhang Zhung deity, Walchen Gekho and his 360 emanations,  reside at its summit.   It is described in many historical Yungdrung Bön texts in great detail.  “In the center of the phenomenal world is Mount Tisé, the Nine-storied Yungdrung Mountain.  From it, four rivers flow towards the four directions.”  These four great rivers which originate in the area surrounding the mountain are the Karnali, also known as the Ganges which flows Southward, the Sutlej also known as the Punjabi which flows Westward, the Brahmaputra which generally flows Eastward, and the Indus which generally flows to the Northwest from the area.  The texts say that Mount Tisé will survive the fires that will destroy the world at the end of the current eon.  The texts describe it further:  “It looks like a crystal chorten.  It’s four sides are like four equal squares in the four directions.”  And, “It has the four kinds of qualities: peaceful, expansive, powerful and wrathful.  It is an immeasurable shrine with great blessings”

Tise North side edited(Northern face of Mount Tisé)

Pilgrimage season is generally May-September.  The circumambulation, or korwa, begins at Tarchen, a small settlement on the South-side of the mountain.  Until the Chinese invasion, it was a major center for the region’s trade.  Now, although the summer continues to be the busy trade season, it is much diminished from the past.  By the time a pilgrim reaches this starting point, it is possible that they have spent years getting here, often prostrating the entire journey.  Once here, if a pilgrim is unable to undergo the hardship of the korwa, here at Tarchen someone can be found to be sponsored to go in their place.  In that case, the merit generated by the virtuous activity is shared between the sponsor and the one actually doing the korwa. For the Bönpo and the Jain, the korwa is counter-clockwise.  For Buddhists and Hindus, it is clockwise.  The path is marked by many sacred places of veneration where great sages meditated or where the power and blessings of deities reside.  There are also four places designated for prostrations along the way.  These are areas large enough for the pilgrims to stop and spend time prostrating and paying homage to the sacred mountain.  However, there are those practitioners who choose to perform full prostrations the entire length of the thirty-two mile circuit around the mountain.  Doing this, a single circuit takes about two weeks.  These pilgrims must carry their provisions with them and wear thick, leather aprons and mittens to protect their body from the stoney ground.  For those who walk around the mountain, most choose to finish within three days.  Others choose to begin hours before dawn so that they can complete the journey in a single 13-15 hour day.  The pilgrim’s path rises in the thin air to an altitude of 18,500 feet at the Dolma la Pass, the highest point of the route.


Pilgrims Prostrating Themselves(Pilgrims prostrating around the mountain.)

In general, pilgrims perform three circumabulations of the mountain.  If the pilgrim is completing the circuit in a single day, they will take a day of rest in between the three korwa of the mountain.  Some make a commitment to complete 1o8 circuits.  This takes two pilgrimage seasons.  From the starting point at Tarchen, there is also an inner korwa.   Several miles North of Tarchen past a couple of monasteries, there is a smaller mountain, called Nandi, whose korwa brings the pilgrim close to the very face of Mount Tisé.  This inner korwa is forbidden until one has completed at least thirteen circumambulations of the outer korwa.

Mt Tise outer and inner korwa edited

Just seeing the mountain is a blessing.  And undergoing the arduous task of its korwa is said to purify one’s negativity.  It is vitally important in the history of Yungdrung Bön.  According to the text, “Mount Tisé, the crystal chorten, soul mountain of Yungdrung Bön, is like nine stacked yungdrungs.  Externally, it is like a chorten made of crystal snow.  Internally, it is like the palace of the three tutelary deities.  Secretly, it is the vast and profound gathering place for the mother and sister khandro.”  “Having washed away karmic traces by purifying oneself with the healing waters, you will be reborn in a joyous realm of the gods.  Having reversed obstacles and adverse circumstances by performing the korwa through prostrating, you will be able to live out the full extent of your lifespan.”  Thus it is said.

Mt Tise East face by Rikdzin lama(Eastern Face of Mt. Tisè.  Photo by Rikzin Lama)

To read more about Mount Tisé see Sacred Landscape and Pilgrimage in Tibet by Geshe Gelek Jinpa and Charles Ramble.  The Light of Kailash by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche.  Or The Sacred Mountain of Tibet by Russell Johnson and Kerry Moran. And in Tibetan, Gangs Tise’i sKor by HE Menri Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche.

 

%d bloggers like this: