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88th Anniversary of the Parinirvana of Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche

Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche

The lunar 13th day of the 4th month is the anniversary of the parinirvana and the attainment of the rainbow body of Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche. In 2022, this date coincides with June 12th. Shardza Rinpoche was a Yungdrung Bön monk, teacher, scholar, and realized practitioner of the modern age. Born in 1859 in Kham, Tibet, at the age of nine an esteemed lama told his parents that he should become a monk. Being their only son, the parents refused. Shardza soon became quite ill. Seeing that their son was not recovering, the parents agreed to allow him to take ordination. At this, Shardza quickly recovered. He was the attendant for his root lama, Tenzin Wangyal, for many years. At the age of eighteen, he took the full vows of a Yungdrung Bön monk from the abbot of Yungdrung Ling Monastery.

Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche depicted as a yogi with long hair and a white robe

Throughout his life, Shardza Rinpoche was known for a disciplined adherence to every vow that he had taken throughout his life. Although his view and practice were vast and high, he maintained diligence in performing virtue and avoiding the smallest non-virtue. He continually performed the preliminary practices and recited many millions of mantra, especially the SA LÉ Ö mantra. He composed many concise practices for purifying negativity and accumulating merit and wisdom, such as his Aspiration Prayer of Giving and Receiving. (For the publicly available English translation and explanation of the prayer, see previous article: https://ravencypresswood.com/2020/01/31/an-aspiration-prayer-of-giving-and-receiving-gift-translation/ )

“For those with a great deal of negative actions in this lifetime, having requested a remedy because they will certainly ripen during future lifetimes, the remedy of performing virtue is very powerful. Having ripened negative actions, the mere exhaustion of that karma (through pain and/or illness), enlightenment is certain. Therefore, this pain and illness of yours is very amazing when it is voluntarily accepted!

Even now, whenever more pain or illness arises, continuing to persevere with your religious practices, venerations, and acts of pure virtue would be incredibly amazing!

When you imagine that there will be no unhappiness in the future (due to this negative karma being exhausted), supremely praise the emptiness of that particular pain or illness.

Be inspired by the power of this antidote, even when what you don’t want arises.

Take the suffering and misery of others onto yourself by adopting others’ happiness and suffering through the practice of giving and receiving.” 

Shardza Rinpoche’s advice to the female practitioner Khandro Wangi Dronma. 
Hair and nails of Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen that were recovered after his attainment of the rainbow body
Hair and nails of Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche that were recovered after his attainment of the rainbow body

He taught a multitude of disciples, organized the reconstruction of temples, went on pilgrimages, and spent a great deal of time in isolated retreat. A prolific writer, he wrote at length on subjects such as Bön history, instructions for the practice of Tibetan yoga, preliminary practices for Dzogchen, condensed summaries of each of the None Ways of Bön, and detailed instructions for the advanced practice of inner heat, known as Tummo. When Shardza Rinpoche was 75 years old, his disciples noticed that his behavior changed. He seemed more casual and became delighted when playing with children. He was seen doing miraculous things such as walking without his feet touching the ground or setting his bowl down in space.

In 1934 at the age of 76 during an offering ceremony, he began to spontaneously sing songs of realization.  A few days later, he sewed himself inside a tent and forbid any of his disciples to open it.  The next day, rainbow lights began appearing above and around the tent. After three days, the ground shook. By the 4th day, rainbow-colored mist was seen coming through the seams of the tent. On that 4th day, Shardza’s disciple Tsultrim Wangchuk, afraid that his lama’s body would completely disappear and leave nothing as an object of veneration and inspiration, opened the tent. He found Shardza’s body enveloped in rainbow light, levitating in midair, and shrunken to the proportional size of a one year old child. The area around his heart was still warm but most of the nails of the hands and feet had fallen onto the seat below. For the next forty-nine days, a multitude of disciples came to pay their respect and receive blessings. After that, the precious remains were placed into a reliquary chorten. From time to time, many people have reported seeing clear or rainbow-colored light emanating from this reliquary chorten.

Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen’s reliquary chorten at his retreat center in Amdo, Tibet

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666th Birth Celebration of the Second Buddha: H.H. the 1st Menri Trizin Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché

Shrine display at Menri Monastery honoring HH 1st Menri Trizin Rinpoche. Photo credit: Unknown

The 5th day of the 1st lunar month is the birth celebration of His Holiness the 1st Menri Trizin Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché who is known as the second buddha in the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition. In 2022, this date coincides with  March 7th on the Western calendar. His Holiness Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché was a reincarnation of Yikyi Khye’u Chung, one of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche’s sons. He united the three transmission lineages of sutra, tantra and dzogchen that had become widely dispersed, and he founded one of the largest Yungdrung Bön monasteries in Tibet, Tashi Menri Ling.

Born in 1356 in the region of Gyalrong into the esteemed Dru lineage, as a child, he could recite mantra and read scripture without having studied. At the age of ten, he decided to become a monk. In 1387 at the age of 31, he entered the prestigious Yeru Wensaka monastery and eventually became its abbot.   While he was traveling in Eastern Tibet, Yeru Wensaka was destroyed by flooding and mudslides. Upon returning, he searched the ruins of the monastery for any salvageable artifacts. With these precious objects, he established Tashi Menri Monastery on higher ground within the same valley. It was 1405 and he was 50 years old.

nyamme sol dep framed

His Holiness 1st Menri Trizin was known throughout Tibet as a great scholar and prolific writer on the many varied subjects within the Bön scriptures. He also exhibited many miracles and signs of his spiritual realization. Twice, he flew up into the sky.  During one of these flights, he burned his hat with the rays of the sun.

Nyamme Sherap Gyaltsen handprint
Nyamme Sherap Gyaltsen’s hand print in stone

In 1415 at the age of 60, he left the shell of his physical body. His body levitated high into the air, but due to the fervent prayers of his disciples, the body returned to the earth. During the cremation, rainbows appeared and a large bird circled three times around the cremation area before disappearing into the West.

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

Among his numerous writings, is the commonly recited Eight-branched Aspiration Prayer, Mönlam Yenlak Gyepa. When offering aspiration prayers, we imagine that every sentient being is offering the prayers in unison with us. This limitless group of beings includes humans, nonhumans, unseen spirits, and those we consider “enemies.” All sound is perceived as the sound of the prayer being recited and the vastness of space is imagined as filled with buddhas and bodhisattvas that are delighted by the virtuous activity that spontaneously activates their immeasurable compassion. By offering the prayers in this way, and then dedicating the merit of the practice for the welfare of all sentient beings, the power of the practice is inconceivable and the benefit is sealed and can never be destroyed. 

The English language translation of the Eight-branched Aspiration Prayer, Mönlam Yenlak Gyepa is publicly available for personal use and can be downloaded from the Publications page of this website. Click on the Publications tab above and then scroll down the page to the download link.

Tibetan translations by Raven Cypress Wood

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2022: Year of the Water Tiger

Thangkha depicting the Tibetan astrological symbols and their relationships. Private collection: Raven Cypress Wood

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 a specific element associated with its life-force and a position direction determined by that element. Each year one of these twelve animals is associated with one of the five elements of: metal, wood, fire, water, or earth. In other contexts, metal is referred to as space, and wood is referred to as wind or air. It takes sixty years for all twelve animals to be associated with each of the five elements. When this happens, it is considered one complete cycle that repeats again and again.

March 3, 2022 begins the Tibetan New Year and the Year of the Water Tiger. Therefore, people born on or after March 3rd will be a Water Tiger and will have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with the Tiger.

The element which governs the life-force of the Tiger is Wood and its positive direction is East.  So, if a Tiger person wanted to strengthen their life-force, they would focus upon strengthening the element of Wood internally and externally. Their 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 Tiger is considered to be courageous, independent, unpredictable, artistic and passionate.  The Tiger tends to go after life with passion and daring.  Making its own path, it tends to gravitate towards unconventional lifestyles and avoids following traditions or social conventions.  The Tiger is a fierce and determined leader that can be quick-tempered and protective of its ego.  The Tiger wants to live life to the fullest in its own way, and without being told what to do.

The Tiger’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.

Tiger years include: 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, and 2010

If you were born during a previous year of the Tiger, this year as well as other Tiger years are considered a time of vulnerability to obstacles. This same astrological principal applies for all of the other eleven animal signs during their associated year. Therefore, it is recommended to engage in practices that support vitality, good fortune and spiritual merit such as hanging prayer flags, having a soul and life-force retrieval ritual performed, restoring any deterioration or violation of one’s spiritual commitments or any damaged relationship with one’s spiritual brothers and sisters, and/or performing prayers and rituals to remove obstacles. In general, making an effort to engage more with virtuous activities of body, speech and mind and committing to engage less with non-virtuous activities is supportive. According to the words of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché, the practice of developing sincere unbiased and unlimited compassion is the greatest of all protections.

Although the associated elements to four of the five natal forces change according to the birth year, the element of the life-force is determined by the animal sign and remains the same regardless of the birth year. Therefore, it is possible to calculate the relationship of the year of the Water Tiger in regards to the life-force of each of the other natal animals without having knowledge of the specific birth year.

The influence of the Water Tiger year on the life-force of each of the Tibetan astrological signs:

  • Rat: Neutral
  • Elephant: Very bad
  • Tiger: Bad
  • Rabbit: Bad
  • Dragon: Very bad
  • Snake: Excellent
  • Horse: Excellent
  • Sheep: Very bad
  • Monkey: Very good
  • Garuda: Very good
  • Dog: Very bad
  • Pig: Neutral

For each of these animal signs, there remains the four other natal constituents to consider in order to have a better idea of the influence that 2022 will have upon the individual. For example, although the life-force calculation could be bad, the calculations for health, personal power, lungta, and soul could be excellent. Traditionally, these calculations are done yearly.

If the yearly horoscope calculations result in any challenging aspects, preventive measures can be taken in order to remove or at least decrease the potential for any problems to manifest. Common methods used to eliminate these obstacles are hanging prayer flags, rituals to reverse negativity, making or renewing spiritual commitments, pilgrimage, making charitable donations, and so on.

According to the words of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché, the practice of developing sincere, unbiased and unlimited compassion is the greatest of all protections, and avoiding non-virtue and engaging more with virtue supports all of the natal forces to be strong and balanced.

A common prayer within the Yungdrung Bön tradition that is used to remove obstacles is the Bar Che Lam Sel, The Spontaneous Wish-fulfillment of Removing Obstacles from the Path. The English, Spanish and Portuguese translations of this prayer are offered free for personal use on the Nine Ways Publications page. Click on the Publications tab above and scroll down to find the download link for the prayer.

Geshe Yongdong Losar. Photo: Courtesy of Sherab Chamma Ling

For those interested in a traditional Tibetan astrological horoscope to calculate the influence of 2022 on each of their natal constituents of life-force, health, personal power, lungta and soul, Geshe Yongdong Losar of Sherab Chamma Ling in British Columbia, Canada offers Tibetan astrological horoscopes through his website. Follow this link for more information about Geshe Yongdong and his astrological calculations: https://sherabchammaling.com/product/astrology-reading/

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The Twelve Animals of Tibetan Astrology: 2020 Year of the Metal Rat

According to Tibetan astrology, there is a repeating twelve-year cycle.  Each year 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 that attributed the characteristics of that particular animal.

Monday February 24, 2020 is the Tibetan New Year and begins the year of the Metal Rat.  Therefore, people born during this year would be a Metal Rat and would have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with the 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.) In both the Tibetan and Chinese languages, the words for ‘rat’ and ‘mouse’ are the same. Similarly, the words for ‘iron’ and ‘metal’ are the same. So, it could also be referred to as the year of the iron mouse. However, because of the inference of meaning in the English language for these terms compared with the specific characteristic qualities they are meant to convey, it will be referred to as the year of the metal rat in this article.

People born during a Rat year will have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with the symbol of the Rat.  According to Tibetan astrology, the element which governs the life-force of the Rat is Water and its positive 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.  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, the Rat symbolizes prosperity because of their propensity to accumulate wealth and enjoy success. They can be generous with their wealth but they can also become overly attached to their luxury which can manifest as selfishness. The Rat is adaptable and flexible and can use most circumstances to their advantage. Because of this, they are successful with many of their objectives.

The Rat is colorful, charismatic and enjoys being around others. They can be generous and engaging, although these interactions can be motivated by a need to reinforce the ego and pride. Once they trust someone, they are sentimental and generous within the relationship and can be a trusted intimate. They appear smart and relaxed. However, when a Rat feels frustrated or betrayed it is important for them to rely upon their calm due to the possible reflex of aggression and revenge.

The Rat‘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.

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

If you were born during a previous year of the Rat, this year as well as other Rat years are considered a time of vulnerability to obstacles. This same astrological principal applies for all of the other eleven animal signs during their associated year. Therefore, it is recommended to engage in practices that support vitality, good fortune and spiritual merit such as hanging prayer flags, having a soul and life-force retrieval ritual performed, restoring any deterioration or violation of one’s spiritual commitments or any damaged relationship with one’s spiritual brothers and sisters, and/or performing prayers and rituals to remove obstacles. In general, making an effort to engage more with virtuous activities of body, speech and mind and committing to engage less with non-virtuous activities is supportive. According to the words of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché, the practice of developing sincere unbiased and unlimited compassion is the greatest of all protections.

A common prayer within the Yungdrung Bön tradition that is used to remove obstacles is the Bar Che Lam Sel, The Spontaneous Wish-fulfillment of Removing Obstacles from the Path. The English, Spanish and Portuguese translations of this prayer are offered free for personal use on the Nine Ways Publications page. Click on the Publications tab above and scroll down to the download links for the prayer.

All translations and content by Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved.

No content, in part or in whole, is allowed to be used without direct permission from the author.

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Nangzhig: Largest Yungdrung Bön Monastery in Tibet

Nangzhig Monastery edit

Nangzhig Monastery’s formal name is Nangzhig Gyaltsen Puntsok Ling, Marvelous Land of the Buddha’s Teachings which Destroys Appearances.  It is also known as Nangzhig Tashi Yungdrung Ling, Land of the Auspicious Yungdrung which Destroys Appearances.  It is located in the Amdo Ngawa region and is the largest Yungdrung Bön monastery in Tibet.  The monastery was founded by Yönten Gyaltsen in 1108.  Similar to many other monasteries, Nangzhig Monastery was destroyed during the cultural revolution that began in 1959 and many of its religious articles were hidden away.  In 1980 when the People’s Republic of China began to allow more religious practice, reconstruction and reinstallment of religious artifacts was organized by Gya ‘Ob Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche.

Nangzhig monastery complex cropped

The monastery complex is quite extensive and includes multiple temples, multiple dormitories for monks and living quarters for senior lamas, and three large chortens among other structures.   During large festivals, the monastery has the capacity to house two thousand monks.

Nangzhig students

Nangzhig Monastery has both a dialectic college and a meditation college.  There are approximately a thousand monks living there and more than two hundred new students arrive each year.  Being a major center for learning and educational exchange in Tibet, the monastery has multiple copies of the Bön canon and over two thousand blocks for printing the texts.  Monks attending the dialectic college must attend classes and debate every day except Sunday and during retreats.  Once the students of the dialectic college have completed ten years of study and successfully passed their final examinations, they receive the degree of Geshe, which is similar to a doctorate of philosophy and religion.  Monks attending the meditation college must complete a three-year retreat based upon the A Tri teachings.

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