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Yungdrung Bön Auspicious Days for Spiritual Practice

The Supreme Shen Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché.

According to the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition, each month there are auspicious days which are determined by the teaching activities of the Supreme Shen Buddha Tönpa Shenrap. These are lunar dates according to the Tibetan lunar calendar.

30th Day of the Month, New Moon: On this day, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap taught the beings in the formless realm. This is a good day to purify wrong views. The power of any virtuous activity or meditation performed on this day is doubled. Also, because of its significance in the lunar cycle, it is one of the four monthly auspicious days to perform prayers and virtuous activities, and for those with genyen or monastic vows to avoid eating meat.

1st Day of the Month: On this day, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap taught the space gods in the highest and purest of places in the formless realm. This is a good day to purify greed and attachment and engage in acts of generosity.

8th Day of the Month: On this day, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap taught the clear-light gods. This is a good day to purify broken vows and to recite one of the three essence mantras of the Yungdrung Bön tradition. Also, because of its significance in the lunar cycle, it is one of the four monthly auspicious days to perform prayers and virtuous activities, and for those with genyen or monastic vows to avoid eating meat.

14th Day of the Month: On this day, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap taught the Gaden gods of the form realm. This is a good day to purify sexual misconduct and desire.

15th Day of the Month: On this day, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap taught the gods of the desire realm atop Mt. Meru. This is a good day to purify the killing of someone important such as a lama, a family member or another practitioner in either this or a previous life. Also, because of its significance in the lunar cycle, it is one of the four monthly auspicious days to perform prayers and virtuous activities, and for those with genyen or monastic vows to avoid eating meat.

16th Day of the Month: On this day, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap taught the four great gods of the desire realm and the four great kings. This is a good day to purify disagreements or misunderstandings with parents, a lama, or another practitioner from either this or a previous life.

19th Day of the Month: On this day, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap taught the Tsang Ri gods of the form realm. This is a good day to purify any accidental killing.

22nd Day of the Month: On this day, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap taught the demi-gods of the desire realm who reside on the sides of Mt. Meru. This is a good day to purify the killing of a human being or lying to the lama. Also, because of its significance in the lunar cycle, it is one of the four monthly auspicious days to perform prayers and virtuous activities, and for those with genyen or monastic vows to avoid eating meat.

29th Day of the Month: On this day, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap taught the lu [Sanskrit: naga] of the desire realm. This is a good day to purify stealing during this or a previous life.

The practice of the admission of wrongdoing and purification is a powerful and effective method to purify non-virtuous activities of body, speech and mind and repair our sacred vows and commitments. The efficacy of the practice relies upon the so-called “four powers.” These are 1) the power of witness, 2) the power of openly admitting without reservation the actions of wrongdoing and non-virtue, 3) the power of heartfelt remorse, and 4) the power of vowing to not repeat the negative activities.

“The infallible fruit of both good and bad actions is certain. May I be watchful to accept or reject situations! Having depended upon the practice of admitting wrongdoing by means of the four powers, may all karmic potentialities and defilements be purified!”

— From The Ocean of Instructions Regarding the A Tri Teachings by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche

For the power of witness, the practitioner goes before a sacred object of refuge such as a shrine, a real or visualized image of an enlightened being, or a chorten. Then, the practitioner connects with the actual presence of the enlightened beings in the sky before them. For the second power which is the admission of wrongdoing, the practitioner brings into their awareness all of the non-virtuous activities of body, speech and mind that have been committed in this life, as well as any unremembered activities from this or previous lives. This includes activities of direct or indirect involvement, as well as encouraging or celebrating the non-virtuous activities of others. For the third power, the practitioner generates an intense remorse for all of these actions. For the fourth power, the practitioner makes a firm commitment to not repeat these non-virtuous activities in the future and to instead engage in activities of virtue. In this way, the negative actions and their consequences are purified. At the conclusion of the practice, the practitioner imagines and feels the blessings of the enlightened beings completely purifying them in the form of pure, wisdom light.

“I openly admit to the gathering of buddhas all non-virtue that has arisen from the five poisons from beginning-less time until this very moment. I generate intense remorse for these actions of non-virtue and immorality that I have committed in the past.  I vow that from now on, I will not commit those acts again.  Instead, I will delight in accumulating virtue.” 

— From Homage to the Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwo

All translations from the Tibetan 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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Losar Tashi Delek Pün Sum Tsok! Happy Tibetan New Year!

Losar shrine table copy

Shrine offerings for the Tibetan New Year, or Losar (Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood)

Today begins the year of the Earth Pig.  See previous post. https://ravencypresswood.com/2019/01/26/the-twelve-animals-of-tibetan-astrology-the-pig/

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Tibetan New Year: Purification & Repaying Debts

A ransom offering with hand print dough offerings. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

The Tibetan New Year, called Losar, is February 5, 2019.   This is the 1st day of the 1st month of the Tibetan lunar calendar.  The final month of the lunar calendar is considered a time for purification and cleansing, especially the 26th -29th.  The 29th day of the 12th month is called nyishu gu. In 2019, that date on the Western calendar is February 3rd. On this day, the family gathers together for a special dinner and purification ritual. A special soup of nine ingredients called gutük is made. One of the most important ingredients in the soup is large balls of dough that contain symbolic objects or descriptive characteristics written on paper. Each member of the family must receive one of these balls of dough, and whatever is inside is considered a playful commentary on their character.

For example, whoever receives the ball of dough containing a piece of coal is said to have a “black heart.”  Some of the other possible items that someone might receive are: a piece of wool meaning “kind-hearted,” a sun meaning ‘”light of goodness,” a chili meaning “sharp-tongued,” or salt meaning “lazy.”  Everyone saves a small amount of the last of their soup to be used as a ransom offering to the negative spirits of the past year. This ritual payment settles any remaining debts with the negative spirits so that they become satisfied and go away happy. Along with the leftover soup, each person also offers a karmic debt torma. This is a small ball of dough that has been passed over the body in order to absorb any illness and negativity, then pressed with the fingers of the hand and placed on the offering plate with the other ransom offerings.  A small candle is placed on the plate and lit before it is carried out by one of the family members.  Once the ransom offering has been left in an appropriate place, this person must not look back while returning home.

On the 1st day of the new year, everyone stays at home or goes to the monastery in order to make offerings and prayers.  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 raise the positive energy for the coming year.

“Because of our confusion due to ignorance, we have been killing, and beating others, and stealing their possessions throughout our lives from beginning-less time.  These negative actions have joined together as an immeasurable karmic debt.  And the result of these negative actions has ripened into an experience similar to the cause.  Because of this, I repay my karmic debts owed from previous, present, and future lifetimes.  Through the blessings of the thousand buddhas together with the power of my meditative stability, whatever karmic debts are owed are instantly brought into this ransom offering.” 

Excerpt from “The Skillful Means of Dedicating the Ransom” written by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche and contained within his Yangzab Namkha’i Dzö. Tibetan translation by Raven Cypress Wood

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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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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Practice of The Great Lama, Drenpa Namkha

drenpa namkha flying(Mural in Bhutan depicting the Great Lama, Drenpa Namkha)

According to the lunar calendar of the Yungdrung Bön, the 10th day of each month is the day set aside for the practice of the three sages: Drenpa Namkha and his two twin sons, Tséwang Rikdzin and Pema Tongdrul.   On this day, it is appropriate to pay homage and make offerings to these lamas as well as to recite the mantras associated with their respective practices.

The practices of Drenpa Namkha and Tséwang Rikdzin, are widespread in the Yungdrung Bön tradition.   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 Tazik, Drenpa Namkha 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 Pema Tongdrul, who were born in the year 888 BC.  Some New Bön texts say that Pema Tongdrul is the same person as Padmasambhava.   This manifestation of Drenpa Namkha wrote many Dzogchen texts and is often referred to simply as La Chen, or The Great Lama.

Drenpa Namkha edited(As a meditational deity, Drenpa Namkha is most often depicted in a semi-wrathful form, blue in color and holding a yungdrung in his right hand.)

Drenpa Namkha of Tibet was born in the year 753 AD in Southern Tibet.  He was an accomplished practitioner and renowned scholar.  During this time, the kingdom of Tibet was ruled by King Trisong Detsen.  This king 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 with these words,

“A person who has attained realization would not make a distinction between his son and his enemy.  I have no partiality for anything.  Therefore, I shall be ordained.” (Translation by Samten Karmay from the Treasury of Good Sayings written by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen.)

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

“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 my intentions!”

~From the Prayer to Drenpa Namkha, translated by Raven Cypress Wood

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

Illuminating the Sacred

Nangzhig-Monastery-at-night

The Yungdrung Bön Monastery of Nangzhig during one of the New Year celebrations

Monastery Shrine for the New Year

Losar Altar at Menri 2013

Shrine for the Tibetan New Year, or Losar, and other celebrations at the Yungdrung Bon Monastery of Menri in Dolanji, India

A Time for Increasing Luck

raising lungta with flags and paper

The Full Moon is a time when energies are naturally rising.  This is an auspicious time to perform virtue such as spiritual practice, making sacred offerings, visiting sacred places, giving to charity, or protecting the lives of other beings.  It is also an ideal time to engage in activities that will strengthen and increase one’s positive qualities and good luck such as raising prayer flags, bringing sacred or precious things into the home, or performing smoke offerings.  Here, a group in Tibet uses wind-horse papers which are printed with mantra and prayers for good luck and good health.  By tossing them into the sky, it is believed that the energy of the mantras and prayers are activated and will lift one’s energy of luck, vitality, personal power and prosperity.

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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