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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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Celebration of the Second Buddha: Nyamme Sherap Gyaltsen

The 5th day of the 1st month of the Tibetan lunar calendar is the celebration of the birth and cremation of Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen.  In 2019, this date in the Western calendar is February 9th. Within the Yungdrung Bön tradition, Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen is often referred to as the Second Buddha.  He was a reincarnation of Yikyi Khye’u Chung, one of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche’s sons. Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen was responsible for uniting the three transmissions of sutra, tantra and dzogchen as well as founding one of the largest Yungdrung Bön monasteries in Tibet, Tashi Menri Ling.

Born in 1356 in the region of Gyalrong into the 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.   During a journey to Eastern Tibet, Yeru Wensaka was destroyed by flooding and mudslides.  After returning, he searched the ruins of the monastery for artifacts.  He took these and established Tashi Menri Monastery further up the same valley.  It was now 1405 and he was 50 years old.

Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen 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 passed away.  His body levitated high into the air, but due to the many heartfelt prayers of his disciples, the body came back down.   During the cremation, rainbows appeared and an eagle circled three times around the cremation area before disappearing into the West.

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

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 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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Direct Descendants of the Enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché

Over 18, 000 years ago, in the ancient realm of Olmo Lungrik, the founder of the Yungdrung Bön spiritual tradition was born.  The enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche was born into the human realm as a prince.  He later adopted the life as a monastic in order to display the path of renunciation to his followers.  However, prior to this, he was married and had sons and daughters.  The direct descendants of this Shen lineage have continued until this very day.  Currently, there are two sons who are direct descendants of Lord Tönpa Shenrap.

Heir to the Shen Lineage, Tsukpu Namdrol Rinpoche, during a visit to the Yungdrung Bon monastery of Gangru Dargye located in Khyungpo, Tibet

Lamas of the Shen lineage

The two sons of the Shen lineage who are direct descendants of the Lord Tonpa Shenrap.

In November of 2014, His Holiness, the supreme 33rd Menri Trizen Lungtok Tenpé Nyima offered prayers to both descendants.

Shen Tsukpu Namdrol Rinpoche

Shen Tsukpu Namdrol Gyaltsen Rinpoche

prayer to Shen Tsukpu namdrol Gyaltsen written by 33 Menri trizen 2

Prayer of Stability for the Shen Heir, the Supreme Tsukpu Namdrol Gyaltsen

EMAHO!

Highest praise for the best of crown ornaments,

   Storehouse of the ocean of sutra, tantra and unsurpassed division of teachings,

From the proper understanding of the profound meaning of the innermost essence,

May the victory banner of liberation and realization be established!

Murik Shen Yungdrung Nyima

Murik Shen Yungdrung Rangdrol Nyima Rinpoche

Shen prayer to Yungdrung Nyima

Prayer for the Shen Heir, the Supreme Murik Shen Yungdrung Rangdrol Nyima

EMAHO!

Essence of the king of doctrines, the supreme Yungdrung Bön,

Distilled essence of the teachings of renunciation, transformation and liberation,

Having raised a stronghold through the dynamic energy of self-liberated awareness,

May the sun disc of realization and liberation eternally appear!

Composed by 33rd Menri Trizen Luntok Tenpé Namdak Rinpoche on the Western date of 11/26/2014

Translated by Raven Cypress Wood

The original article first appeared on the Tibetan language website Himalayan Bön and can be viewed here: http://www.himalayabon.com/article/poem/2015-01-02/518.html

Sacred Scripture

This old, illustrated scripture begins with the phrase, “In the language of the sacred Yungdrung…”

Women of Tibet

Tibetan Women Milking Goats

 

Birthday of the Head of the Yungdrung Bon

(Photo credit: Unknown)

July 12th is the celebrated birthday of His Holiness the 33rd Throne holder of Menri Monastery and Leader of all Yungdrung Bon, Lungtok Tenpe Nyima Rinpoche.  He was born in Amdo, Tibet in 1929.  At the age of 25, he received his Geshe degree.  The next year, he underwent the arduous task of traveling and collecting Yungdrung Bon scriptures in order to print copies and therefore preserve the ancient knowledge.  After that, he studied at the renowned Tibetan monasteries of Menri and Yungdrung Ling.  In 1959, he fled Tibet for Nepal.  Arriving at the ancient Bon monastery of Samling, he collected many of their rare texts and woodblocks in order to again print texts for the preservation of knowledge.  Eventually traveling to New Delhi, he worked with E. Gene Smith for the copying, printing and preserving of numerous Bon texts.  In 1962, he traveled to the University of London after having received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. During his time in London, a permanent camp for Bon refugees was established in Dolanji, India on land chosen by Yongdzin Tendzin Namdak Rinpoche.

In the mid 1960’s, he was living in Norway and working with the Tibetan scholar Per Kvaerne and teaching Tibetan history and religion at the University of Oslo.  It was while he was in Norway, that he learned that he had been chosen to become the 33rd Menri Trizen, or throne holder, of all Yungdrung Bon.  In 1969, he assumed his duties as Menri Trizen and began his tireless effort to rebuild the destroyed Menri Monastery of Tibet at the location in Dolanji. 

Currently, Menri Monastery has many temples, a library, a medical center, dormitories, and a nunnery.  In addition to the monks and nuns in residence, there are over 350 children living at the Bon Children’s Center who gives them an education as well as providing for all of their needs.  In all of these activities, His Holiness Lungtok Tenpe Nyima Rinpoche has worked with great effort and kindness in order to protect and strengthen the culture, knowledge and spiritual activities of the ancient tradition of the Yungdrung Bon.

Culture: Dolpo, Nepal

Men of Dolpo, Nepal in traditional dress during a festival

Men of Dolpo, Nepal in traditional dress during a festival

Tibetan Industry

Tibetan Industry

(Photo credit: Unknown)

A Tibetan refugee spins wool at a Tibetan carpet factory in Nepal, 1968

The Twelve Animals of Tibetan Astrology: The Tiger

Tiger sketchIn 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 has an associated element for its life-force and a 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.

2010 was the year of the Tiger.  Therefore, people born during this year would be a Tiger and would have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with Tiger.  (It is important to remember that this year corresponds with the Tibetan lunar calendar which begins somewhere between February and mid-March each year.)  2010 was also governed by the element of Metal and was a male year.  So, people born during this year would be Male Metal Tigers.  The element which governs the life-force of the Tiger is Wood and its 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 simply because they are ‘supposed to’.  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

 

Touching History

An old text from Dolpo, Nepal written in gold.  Photo credit: Unknown.

Culture: Winter Insect Summer Grass

summer insect winter grass boy

A Tibetan boy gathers yartsa gunbu

In the high altitudes of the Himalayas, grows a fungus that is a parasite to a moth caterpillar.  It is known as Yartsa Gunbu, Winter Insect Summer Grass.  For centuries, there have been Tibetan families who have made their living by gathering and selling this fungus.  Because of the difficulty involved in harvesting it along with the high demand due to its medical benefits, it is one of the most highly priced and highly valued ingredients in Chinese Medicine.  It is categorized as a tonic and prescribed to boost the immune system, as well as to increase strength and virility.  It is most commonly used by consumers for its aphrodisiac qualities and has come to be called ‘Himalayan Viagra’.  The market among Chinese men has escalated demand for Yartsa Gunbu to the point that it is increasingly difficult to find the fungus where once it grew in abundance.  This has created a market of cultivating the fungus by growing it on peas, rice or other mediums.

cordyceps-in-ground-exposed

Photo by Daniel Winkler

Yartsa Gunbu is the fungus Cordyceps sinensis.  The pupa of the moth burrows underground in the high altitude grasslands for up to five years.  During this time, as it becomes infected with the fungus, the caterpillar moves closer to the soil’s surface.  Eventually killing  and mummifying the caterpillar, the fungus fills its entire body cavity.  In the Spring once the snow melts, the fungus grows from the forehead of the caterpillar up to six inches above the ground.  It then releases its spores which will wait for their future hosts.

winter insect summer grass for blog

Harvest is by hand and begins in May and lasts for 5-6 weeks.  In 2013, over 53 tons of yartsa gunbu was harvested.  Since 1997, prices have increased by over 500%.  A single average-sized piece can cost over $16.  A month’s supply of 30 pieces can cost a consumer over $465.00.  This is the world’s most expensive fungus.  Because of this, yartsa gunbu is not only used for its medicinal value, but also as a status symbol to show one’s wealth.  In recent years, areas of Tibet have begun to enforce rules that no outsiders are allowed to harvest or export the fungus.

For more information about the Cordyceps fungus, see Daniel Winkler’s blog: http://mushroaming.com/blogs/cordyceps

 

The Twelve Animals of Tibetan Astrology: The Elephant

elephantThe 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 an associated element for its life-force and a 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.

For example, 2009 was the year of the Elephant.  Therefore, people born during this year would be a Elephant and would have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with the Elephant.  (It is important to remember that this year corresponds with the Tibetan lunar calendar which begins somewhere between February and mid-March each year.)  2009 was also governed by the element of Earth and was a female year.  So, people born during this year would be Female Earth Elephants.  The element which governs the life-force of the Elephant is Earth and its direction is Northeast.  So, if an Elephant person wanted to strengthen their life-force, they would focus upon strengthening the element of Earth internally and externally.  Their positive direction is Northeast.  So, facing this direction while meditating, doing healing rituals or just relaxing and taking deep breaths is beneficial.

In general, the Elephant is stable, steadfast, and practical.  It can express itself well and is rather independent.  It prefers to approach things logically and without the cloud of emotion.  It is competent and trustworthy, preferring to lead rather than to follow.  It values tradition but can be resistant to change, rigid and authoritarian.  Although it can have a temper, the elephant is generally patient and loyal.

The Elephant’s soul day is Saturday and the life-force day is Wednesday.  These are the best days for beginning new projects and activities that are meant to grow and increase.  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.

Elephant years include: 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, and 2021

Women of Dolpo

Women of Dolpo, Nepal

Young women of Dolpo, Nepal

The Fourth Way: Rituals for the Dead

candles at ceremony smaller with credit

It is traditional to make many offerings of light for those who have died

The Fourth Way within the Nine Ways of Bön is called The Way of the Shen of Existence  and is primarily focused upon rituals for the dead.  From the perspective of Yungdrung Bön, the moment that the consciousness leaves the container of the physical body is a time of great potential.  If someone has received the proper instructions and practiced, it is possible for them to achieve liberation from cyclic existence at that time.  If not, there are methods to lead the deceased’s consciousness to liberation or at the very least, to guide them to the circumstances of a positive rebirth.

In general, once an ordinary person dies, they experience a kind of unconsciousness like falling into a deep sleep.  “Awakening” from this state, it is possible for them to not realize that they have in fact died and therefore to continue to be attached to their family and life situation.  Generally lasting three days, but possibly longer, this is the time when the lama tells the individual that they have died and instructs them to not be afraid and to release their attachment to family and friends.  The fourth day after death begins a 49 day period of transition referred to as the “bardo” and literally translates as “in-between”.  During these seven weeks, the individual both becomes less attached to the previous life and is drawn by the force of karma to the next life.  While this is happening, each week the deceased is having experiences of each of the six possible destinies of rebirth.  These six destinies of rebirth from lowest to highest are: the hell realm, the hungry ghost realm, the animal realm, the human realm, the demi-god realm, and the god realm.  For example, during the first week, the person would have experiences related to the hell ream.  During the second week, they would have experiences related to the hungry ghost realm, and so on.  Therefore,  prayers and rituals are done each week that emphasize antidotes and guidance for the particular obstacles and experiences that the deceased might be having.  Additionally, offerings of light, prayers of aspiration and recitation of mantra for the benefit of the deceased are performed each day.  On the 49th day, special rituals and prayers are performed in order to strongly influence the path of rebirth.

Buddha Drajin Donpung, Buddha of the human realm

Drajin Donpung, Buddha of the human realm

This is a general description.  Whether someone spends a greater or lesser time in the bardo, or doesn’t experience it at all, is dependent upon many factors including their virtue or non-virtue and the strength of their awareness and spiritual development.

The lama performing the rituals must have both proper knowledge of the rituals as well as have developed great compassion for other beings.  According to the words of the Enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwo,

“The best of shen who is expert in meditation and who has aroused feelings of immeasurable compassion towards feeble living beings, and who possesses the four immeasurable qualities and who puts the good of others before himself..”

Preceding the preparations for the rituals, the lama will ascertain the details of the death such as the time and circumstances involved.  Then, a divination and astrological calculations are performed in order to determine the proper day and place to perform the ritual and burial as well as any additional rituals that could be of benefit for the family.  In this way, the natural process of death and rebirth is supported by the spiritual guidance and the ritual expertise of the lama.  From the Bardo Thodal, “Liberation Upon Hearing”:

“Lama, from your compassion, bless me.  Bless me to stop the deluded visions of the bardo.  Bless me that I may prevent the possibility of rebirth in the lower destinies of rebirth.  Bless me that I may achieve the five wisdoms.”

Spiritual Discipline

monk in 1936 Gyantse and food opening for strict retreats

1936 Gyantse, Tibet

In order to accomplish the benefits of a spiritual practice, it can be necessary to be removed from the ordinary world.  Here, a monk poses in front of a closed retreat hut.  Inside, the retreatant is in complete isolation except for this small opening through which food is passed each day.  These types of retreats continue for 49 days, 100 days and sometimes for years.

Illuminating the Sacred

Nangzhig-Monastery-at-night

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

The Twelve Animals of Tibetan Astrology: The Horse

horse image

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 an associated element for its life-force and a 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.

The year 2014 is the year of the Wood Horse.  Therefore, all people born on or after March 2, 2014 until the next lunar Tibetan New Year are Wood Horse people.  These individuals will have a vitality that is governed by the element Fire, a physical body that is governed by the element Metal (which corresponds with the element of Space), personal power that is governed by the element of Wood (which corresponds to the element of Air), Lungta or luck that is governed by the element of Metal and soul energy that is governed by the element of Wood.

In general, the Horse is very energetic with an active mind.  It is inspired, motivated and charming.  It wants adventure and exploration rather than to stay at home.  It is always on the move and in excess this can become a kind of instability or an inability to stick with things long enough to complete them.  This life of excitement can sometimes give way to impatience.  The Horse can be quite charming, likes to talk, and therefore finds it difficult to keep secrets.  Although it appears independent, because of the fear of failure the Horse relies upon the validation and support of friends and family. 

The Horse’s direction is South.

The Horse’s soul day is Tuesday and the life-force day is Friday.  These are the best days for beginning new projects and activities that are meant to grow and increase.  The obstacle day is Wednesday.  This day is best for cleansing and letting things go.  It is not a favorable day for beginning new things.

Horse years include: 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, and 2002

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