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The 84,000 Doors of Bön at Your Fingertips

mala

“The mala represents the destined connection with the Enlightened Beings.  The mala string represents the 84,000 doors of Bön.  The head bead represents the principal teacher.  The counting beads represent the Six Subduing Shen, the six enlightened Shen who tame the six realms of cyclic existence.”  ~from The Advice of Lishu Taring

The mala is called treng wa in Tibetan.  It consists of one hundred eight counting beads and one larger main bead, often referred to as the ‘head bead’ or the ‘lama bead’.  Malas can have spacer beads which are not counted during recitation of a mantra but are used for decorative purposes or to lengthen the mala and enable it to fit onto an individual’s wrist.  Various kinds of counters are often added to the mala so that the practitioner can keep count of the mantra recitations. Malas can be made from various materials.  Traditionally, these materials were symbolic because of their energetic qualities.  For example, tantric practitioners would often use malas made of bone to represent impermanence.

Before a mala is used, the practitioner will have it consecrated by a lama.  This blesses it and also removes any contamination that the materials might carry with them that could be an obstacle to obtaining the benefit of the recitations.  Although there are one hundred eight beads, a single round of recitations is counted as one hundred.  In this way, if any beads have accidentally been skipped during the recitation, they are accounted for with the ‘extra’ eight beads.  Many practices require a commitment to recite a minimum of one hundred thousand repetitions of a mantra.  Therefore, these ‘extra’ beads ensure that the commitment has been fulfilled.  In general, during recitation, the practitioner is not allowed to eat, drink, talk, sneeze, spit or cough. These activities expel or diminish the specific power of the mantra that is being cultivated.  Once the session of mantra recitation is complete, the mala is rubbed gently between the hands and blown upon by the practitioner.  In this way, the mala becomes further empowered and blessed by the mantra.

The mala is a sacred object and should not be worn as jewelry. It should be kept clean and not be handled by others.  By wearing the mala on the wrist or carrying it in a pocket on the body, it acts as a form of protection.  The mala is also sometimes used for divination or healing purposes.  Lamas will sometimes give away their mala intact, or one bead at a time.  Because of the power of the lama’s practice and recitation, this gift is a great blessing.

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Sounds of Space

Tibetan ltrs assoc with space element     Each of the letters of the Tibetan alphabet are associated with one of the five elements according to their inherent sound.  The letters associated with the space element are AH, KA, KHA, GA NGA, and HA.

Blessing the Environment

Matri mantra in stone with color

The Great Mantra of Yungdrung Bon, OM MA TRI MU YE SA LE DU, blesses the surrounding environment

Essence Mantra of the Yungdrung Bon

DU TRI SU mantra carved into stone

Stones containing mantra are often placed in stone walls around a village.  This is one of the three heart mantras of the Yungdrung Bön tradition.

AH KAR A MÉ DU TRI SU NAK PO ZHI ZHI MAL MAL SOHA.

The Third Way: Obtaining Realization and Power from an Enlightened Source

The Third of the Nine Ways of Bön is called The Way of The Shen of Magical Power and includes practices for venerating a yidam, a meditational deity, or a spiritual master.   Then, the practitioner uses mantra together with mudras, symbolic hand gestures, in order to accomplish a goal such as requesting assistance from powerful worldly spirits to remove obstacles or subdue malevolent forces. In general, these practices involve the three stages of:1) praise and service, 2) practice and attainment, and the 3) application of appropriate ritual activities.  A yidam is an enlightened being who has manifested in a specific form that embodies specific enlightened qualities that a practitioner can perfect within themselves by meditating upon that yidam deity.  For example, the yidam Red Garuda is often practiced to gain influence and power over natural forces in order to avert natural disasters.  These practices require an advanced ability to focus and visualize, deep devotion and faith in the yidam as well as the need to undergo a prolonged, solitary retreat of single-pointed practice in order to acquire the power of the yidam.  For this kind of practice, the enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap has advised that the practitioner should go to a wrathful place such as a mountain that is known to have wrathful energy or to a cemetery.  Wrathful retreat places are described as being desolate, infertile areas with jagged rocks or mountains with rough energy.

white caves of mustang(Meditation caves in Mustang, Nepal)

It is also necessary for the practitioner to take and strictly keep all of the vows related to such a tantric practice.  Then, having properly prepared the necessary ritual items,  the practitioner sets both an external boundary and an internal boundary.  The external boundary keeps away any disturbance from the external world which might interrupt the retreat.  The internal boundary keeps the practitioner’s mind focused and protected from distracting thoughts.  For the Praise and Service part of the practice, the practitioner performs the practice while continuously imagining the enthroned deity in the space just in front and above their head.  Generating immense trust and devotion to the deity and a steadfast intention to benefit other beings is of utmost importance.  From the words of Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwo:

“One should exert one’s self in the three kinds of longing devotion to them.  One should seek them out like a child who is unable to bear even a moment of separation from the mother.  One should seek them out like a needed guide along a dangerous path which is filled with dangers and peril.  One should seek them out like the desire to be with an intimate friend who thinks only of you and no one else.”

For the Practice and Attainment part of the practice, it is important to know how to properly prepare the ritual offerings, the appropriate mandala, and the shrine. One also needs to know which sacred instruments will be needed, how to play them and the specific melody for the practice, as well as how to perform the appropriate mudras.  These mudras, or sacred hand gestures, are an important method of communication with the unseen.  Everything must be clean and of the best quality that is available according to the practitioner’s  circumstances.  All of the ritual activities must be properly performed.  Otherwise, it is possible to create obstacles because of  errors.  Therefore, by carrying out these ritual activities properly and with undistracted focus, the practitioner unites his body, speech and mind with that of the deity and becomes inseparable from the deity’s qualities and wisdom.  In this way, blessings and both ordinary and extraordinary spiritual abilities are received from the deity.

3 mudras

(There are many types of mudras, or symbolic hand gestures.)

For the Application of Ritual Activity part of the practice, having attained the blessings and power of the deity, the practitioner now has the ability to subdue forces which are harming others or interfering with the practice of virtue or other religious activity.  Therefore, acting from a foundation of compassion and with the intent to be of benefit, the practitioner overcomes these malevolent forces.  From the words of Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwo:

“If people who enter and practice this Third Way do not have compassion as the base, they are like a seed thrown on infertile ground.  If the seed is thrown in a dry place, how can it grow?  Thus, one must have faith which will benefit one’s self as well as having compassion which will benefit others.”

These teachings are contained within the external, internal and secret tantras.  Their primary goal is to have an immediate result and to bring happiness and help to beings during this very lifetime.

Essence Mantra Carved in Stone

Ma Tri Stone Round TN

This stone found at the base of a chorten at the Yungdrung Bön Monastery of Triten Norbutse in Kathmandu, Nepal.  This mantra is one of the three heart mantras of the Yungdrung Bön tradition.  Its benefit is vast.  OM MA TRI MU YÉ SA LÉ DU.

The 84,000 Doors of Bön at Your Fingertips

mala

“The mala represents the destined connection with the Enlightened Beings.  The mala string represents the 84,000 doors of Bön.  The head bead represents the principal teacher.  The counting beads represent the Six Subduing Shen, the six enlightened Shen who tame the six realms of cyclic existence.”  ~from The Advice of Lishu Taring

The mala is called treng wa in Tibetan.  It consists of one hundred eight counting beads and one larger main bead, often referred to as the ‘head bead’ or the ‘lama bead’.  Malas can have spacer beads which are not counted during recitation of a mantra but are used for decorative purposes or to lengthen the mala and enable it to fit onto an individual’s wrist.  Various kinds of counters are often added to the mala so that the practitioner can keep track of the mantra recitations. Malas can be made from various materials.  Traditionally, many of these materials were symbolic.  For example, tantric practitioners would often use malas made of bone to represent impermanence.

Before a mala is used, the practitioner will have it consecrated by a lama.  This blesses it and also removes any contamination that the materials might carry with them that could be an obstacle to obtaining the benefit of the recitations performed using the mala.  Although there are one hundred eight beads, one complete round of recitations is counted as one hundred.  In this way, if any beads have accidentally been skipped during the recitation, they are accounted for with the ‘additional’ eight beads.  Many practices require a commitment to recite a minimum of one hundred thousand repetitions of a mantra.  Therefore, these ‘extra’ beads ensure that the commitment has been fulfilled.  In general, during recitation, the practitioner is not allowed to eat, drink, talk, sneeze, spit or cough. These activities expel or diminish the power that is being generated.  Once the session of mantra recitation is complete, the mala is rubbed gently between the hands and blown upon by the practitioner.  In this way, the mala becomes further empowered and blessed by the mantras that have been recited.

The mala is a sacred object and should not be worn as though it is a kind of jewelry. It should be kept clean and not be handled by others.  By wearing the mala on the wrist or carrying it in a pocket on the body, it acts as a form of protection.  The mala is also sometimes used for divination or healing purposes.  Lamas will sometimes give away their mala intact, or one bead at a time.  Because of the power of the lama’s practice and recitation, this gift is a great blessing.

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