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 2023, this date coincides with February 24th 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 reunited 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.
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 one known as the Second Buddha, the Unequaled One, His Holiness 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 to the download link.
The 15th day of the 12th lunar month in 2023 is the 18,040th birth anniversary of the founder of the Yungdrung Bön tradition, the Enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwo Künlé Nampar Gyalwa. This date corresponds with February 5th on the Western calendar. Already an enlightened being, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche chose to be born into this world in order to guide beings from suffering to liberation. He was born into the royal Mu lineage in the kingdom of Tazik Olmo Lungring.
Traditionally, the anniversary of his birth has been celebrated on the 15th day of the 1st month of the lunar calendar. However, based upon research by the renowned Yungdrung Bön scholar and supreme lama, His Eminence Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche, the actual date is believed to be the Full Moon day of the last month in the Tibetan lunar calendar.
This is a powerful and auspicious day for performing virtue and spiritual practice. The benefits of these activities are greatly multiplied. It is an especially auspicious day to recite The Tséwang Mönlam, Tséwang’s Precious Mala of Beneficial Aspiration Prayers. This prayer has been translated into English and made publicly available for personal use. To find the download link for the translation, go to the Publications page of this website or click https://ravencypresswood.com/publications/ and scroll down.
“Namo! You are the supreme teacher, one who has gone beyond bliss, an authentic and completely enlightened being, a manifested buddha and teacher, Tönpa Shenrap Miwo.
You have the wisdom of omniscience and possess both great compassion and skillful means. You are without emotional afflictions and have ceased all defilements. You have power and clear self awareness. A marvelous emanation, you have cleared all obstructions and destroyed the door to birth into cyclic existence.
Your face is like the sun and moon, and you see throughout the ten directions. Hundreds of thousands rays of light emanate from your divine body. You are adorned with ornaments which are like rainbows and your divine body is so beautiful that one does not know how to look away.
In your right hand, you hold a golden chakshing painted with a turquoise yungdrung which shows that you are lord of the 3,000-fold universe and conqueror of this world system. Your left hand holds the mudra of equipoise which shows that you have destroyed the door to birth into the cyclic existence of lower rebirth.
May the cycle of manifested teachings completely turn, I pray! Please hold us within your compassion myself and all other sentient beings without exception!
I feel remorse for everything immoral and improper that has been experienced because of the power of the afflictive emotions. I feel regret!
Through this open admission of wrongdoing, please agree to cleanse and purify me, I pray!
Free me from the ocean of suffering and misery of cyclic existence, I pray!
AH OM HUNG SÉ LA GYER RO HRUN PUNG YÉ SOHA”
— Extracted from Homage to the Enlightened State of the Omniscient Tûlku
The twelve animals of Tibetan astrology according to Yungdrung Bön are the Rat, Elephant, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Horse, Snake, Sheep, Garuda, Monkey, Dog, and Pig. Each animal has a specific element associated with its lifeforce and a positive direction determined by that element. Each year, one of these twelve animals is associated with one of the five elements of either 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.
February 21, 2023 begins the Tibetan Royal New Year and the Year of the Water Rabbit. The year of the Water Rabbit continues until February 9, 2024. Therefore, people born on or after February 21st will have the natal astrology of a Water Rabbit with its associated characteristics. In general, Rabbit years are considered to be times of calm and ease that bring beauty and harmony. They are periods with less suffering and conflict. Thus, people have more time for entertainment, pleasure, and enjoyment. Because of this, there is the temptation to become lazy and distracted especially if the previous year was especially difficult. Also, Rabbit years are often times of population growth.
In general, the Rabbit is kind and polite, and enjoys elegance and comfort. It protects its peaceful environment and will make an effort to avoid conflict and confusion which can give others the impression of being indifferent or aloof. If the Rabbit feels directly threatened, it will express its anger through subtlety and cleverness rather than outbursts.
The element which governs the lifeforce of the Rabbit is Wood and its positive direction is East. So, if a Rabbit person wanted to strengthen their lifeforce, they would focus upon strengthening the element of Wood internally and externally. This could be as simple as wearing the color green which is associated with the element Wood. The Rabbit’s positive direction is East. So, facing this direction while meditating, reciting prayers, or just relaxing and taking deep breaths is beneficial. The negative direction is West. This is the direction from which danger or obstacles are most likely to arise and it is the direction towards which to release and let go of negativity or for ritual offerings to pacify negative forces.
The Rabbit’s soul day is Thursday and the life-force day is Saturday. These are the best days for beginning new projects, activities to increase or develop something, or meeting new people. The obstacle day is Friday. This day is best for cleansing and letting things go. It is an unfavorable day for beginning new projects or taking risks.
Rabbit years include: 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, and 2011
According to Tibetan astrology, there are five factors associated with each year that have a corresponding element. These five factors are lifeforce, health, personal power, lungta or the force of good luck, and soul. The elements associated with these five factors change each year. For the Water Rabbit year of 2023, these five factors and their associated elements are:
Personal Power: Water
Although the associated elements to the five factors change each year, the element associated with the lifeforce is determined by the animal sign. Therefore, it is possible to calculate the influence of the year of the Water Rabbit upon the lifeforce of each of the other natal animal signs without having knowledge of the respective birth year. This influence is calculated by the relationship of the five elements to one another. For example, the element of Wood is considered the Mother of the element of Fire. Thus, a Wood to Fire relationship is considered Excellent. However, a Fire to Wood relationship is considered Neutral. There are six possible types of combinations that result in a relationship that is either Excellent, Very Good, Good, Neutral, Bad, or Very Bad. The influence of the Water Rabbit year on the lifeforce of each of the astrological signs is as follows:
This calculation concerns only one factor among five and is only a partial view of the totality of the possible influence of the year. Tibetan astrology includes calculations based upon the influence of both the five elements as well as calculations based upon the influence of the constellations. In order to have a complete prediction of possible influences or events, it is necessary to look at a complete astrological calculation based upon an individual’s date and time of birth.
However, especially if a person was born during a previous year of the Rabbit, this year is considered a specific time of vulnerability to obstacles and illness. Therefore, it is recommended that those individuals take preventive measures to reverse or at least diminish the potential for any problems or obstacles to arise. It is important for them to avoid any risky behavior and take extra care with their health and safety. Making an effort to engage more with virtuous activities of body, speech, and mind and engaging less with non-virtuous activities as well as encouraging this behavior in others is a method to eliminate obstacles. Additionally, spiritual activities that support merit, good fortune, and health such as hanging prayer flags, donating to spiritual practitioners or any kind of charitable work, repairing damaged or broken spiritual commitments with one’s lama, spiritual community, or enlightened beings, connecting with the protectors and meditational deities, having a soul and life-force retrieval ritual performed, and regularly performing prayers and/or rituals to remove obstacles are skillful methods to reverse potential negativity. 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 Website. Click on the Publications tab above and scroll down to find the download link for the prayer.
“By reciting this Spontaneous Wish-fulfillment of Removing Obstacles from the Path a single time, obstacles of an entire year are pacified. By reciting it one hundred times, obstacles of one lifetime are pacified.
Furthermore, by merely reciting it, it has the ability to protect from fear or injury from gods, demons, and humans, fear of not having food, wild animals, the five elements, etc. It pacifies illness and negative spirits, and reverses all negative predictions or divinations.”
— Excerpt from Spontaneous Wish-fulfillment of Removing Obstacles from the Path
For those interested in a traditional Tibetan astrological horoscope to calculate the influence of 2023 on each of their natal factors of lifeforce, 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/
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.
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.
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.
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:
Elephant: Very bad
Dragon: Very bad
Sheep: Very bad
Monkey: Very good
Garuda: Very good
Dog: Very bad
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.
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/