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In the Language of Zhang Zhung…

Offering 100,000 Torma to Remove Obstacles

Wrathful offering torma for a Yungdrung Bon ritual. Photo credit: Unknown


Praying for Support

The Great Lama and yidam, Drenpa Namkha

“EMAHO! May the collective, compassionate blessings of the Victors of the ten directions, the yidams, and the khandro come for the welfare of sentient beings in this world!

I pray for the uninterrupted blessings from the subduer of demons, Drenpa Namkha!

Now, during this negative time, there is lots of fighting and violence, and many sentient beings die because of weapons.  You are surrounded by the fierce, enlightened male and female deities.

I pray to the Great Lama and his two sons, to the subduer of demons, Drenpa Namkha, stop the fighting and violence!

Now, during this negative time, virtuous activities aren’t accomplished and there are many obstacles to the practice of virtue and morality.  You are surrounded by the root lama and his retinue.

I pray to the Great Lama and his two sons, to the subduer of demons, Drenpa Namkha, bring the practice of virtue to its fulfillment!

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!”

~Translated from the Tibetan by Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved


Birthday of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

HH with Chenrizig statue

July 6th is the birthday of the one born as Lhamo Döndrup, recognized at the age of two, and formally installed at the age of fifteen, as the head of the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism and therefore also the spiritual leader of Tibet and its people.  Upon his enthronement, he was renamed Jetsun Jampel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso, Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate Defender of the Faith who is an Ocean of Wisdom.   He is referred to as Yizhin Norbu Rinpoche, the Precious Wish-fulfilling Jewel.  He is known around the world as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

Especially on this day, it is beneficial to make offerings and to offer many prayers for the long life of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, the Precious Wish-fulfilling Jewel.

Prayer for the Long Life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Gang ri ra wé kor wé zhing kham su
In a heavenly realm, surrounded by a chain of snow mountains,

Pen dang dé wa ma lü jung wé né
The source of all happiness and help for beings

Chenrezik wang Tenzin Gyatso yi
Is Tenzin Gyatso, Chenrezik in person.

Shyap pé kal gyé bar du ten gyur chik
May his life be secure for hundreds of kalpas!

Celebrating the Sacred

HE Menri Lopon Trinley Nyima Rinpoche lights candles on a cake celebrating the birth of Lord Tonpa Shenrap Miwoche. Photo credit: Unknown

Faces of the Future

Young students at Menri Monastery prepare for a ritual. Photo credit: Unknown

Buddha Tönpa Shenrap’s Ninth Deed: The Deed of Complete Awareness

Lord Tonpa Shenrap Miwoche after becoming a monk and assuming the renunciate name of TritsukGyalwa

Because Lord Tönpa Shenrap possessed complete awareness of the suffering of cyclic existence, and out of compassion for sentient beings, he demonstrated a skillful method for sentient beings to release themselves from suffering and misery and to attain liberation.  This method was the path of renunciation.  Being an enlightened being, he did not need to do this for himself but chose to demonstrate this path as an example for his followers of Yungdrung Bön.  Therefore, at the age of 31 (according to shen years which equal 3,100 human years), he announced to his family and disciples that he would leave worldly activities behind and devote himself completely to the path of renunciation.

He removed his jewelry and silk robes, and then cut off his hair with a sword.  Leaving behind all of his possessions, he went to a higher realm in order to receive ordination from a disciple of the Enlightened One of the previous eon.  Returning to earth, he devoted himself to the practice of fasting, disciplined behavior, and teaching the Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind to various groups of demons.  After this, he retired to the nine-storied yungdrung mountain in order to practice in solitude.  Upon entering into the path of renunciation, many of his disciples abandoned him and his teachings and returned to their worldly activities.  However, a few disciples of greater capacity remained with him on the mountain, and to them he taught the highest view, the Great Perfection.




An Offering of Pure Sound

A Yungdrung Bon monk plays the cymbals during a religious ceremony. Photo credit: Unknown


Harmony and Disharmony of the Five Elements

“From totally void emptiness, a totally clear light appeared. That light…came into being as a luminous wheel, whirling spontaneously. From the self-produced energy of the wheel, weightless wind came into being. The moving energy of the wind grew stronger and stronger and…from the energy of the wind, heat came into existence. From the clash between the heat of fire and the cold of the wind, moisture and water came into being. Subtle and coarse particles gathered in the water, and when their energy developed, they came into being as the Golden Earth that Supports Everything.”
~from the Yungdrung Bön text: The Precious Citadel where Everything is Brought Together as translated by Donatella Rossi in The Light of Kailash By Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche

The Five Elements of Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth are the basis for all the exists.  These elements are in constant relationship with one another, and it is this harmony, disharmony, balance or imbalance that determines the health or disease of organisms as well as the development or disintegration of dynamic systems.  Many cultures around the world acknowledge the importance of the Five Elements in both mundane and spiritual activities.  Within the Yungdrung Bön tradition, each element has its own distinctive qualities which are represented by a specific color, shape, sound, and direction.  Within our physical bodies, the Earth element is related to our flesh, the Water element is related to our blood, the Fire element is related to our internal  heat, the Wind (or Wood according to astrology) element is related to our breath and movement within the body, and the Space (or Metal according to astrology) element is related to our consciousness.

Among the Five Elements themselves, one way of describing their interactions is through the  five kinds of relationship: Mother, Friend, Self,  Child, and Enemy.  The relationship of ‘Mother’ is the one of greatest harmony.  The relationship of ‘Friend’ is very harmonious.  The relationship of ‘Son’ is considered to be neutral.  The relationship of ‘Enemy,’ as the name indicates, is considered to be the one of greatest conflict.  The relationship of ‘Self’ occurs when the same elements encounter one another.  This can either be good or bad depending upon the specific element involved.  Therefore, the possible relationship combinations for the Five Elements are defined as the following:

Mother: these relationships are considered the most harmonious

  • Earth is the mother of Metal
  • Metal is the mother of Water
  • Water is the mother of Wood
  • Wood is the mother of Fire, and
  • Fire is the mother of Earth

Friend: these relationships are considered to be very harmonious

  • Earth is a friend to Wood
  • Wood is a friend to Metal
  • Metal is a friend to Fire
  • Fire is a friend to Water, and
  • Water is a friend to Earth

Son: these relationships are considered to be neutral, and are in fact the ‘Mother’ relationships in reverse

  • Earth is the son of Fire
  • Fire is the son of Wood
  • Wood is the son of Water
  • Water is the son of Metal, and
  • Metal is the son of Earth

Enemy: these relationships are considered the least desirable and most destructive, and are in fact the ‘Friend’ relationship in reverse

  • Earth is an enemy to Water
  • Water is an enemy to Fire
  • Fire is an enemy to Metal
  • Metal is an enemy to Wood, and
  • Wood is an enemy to Earth

Self: When two of the same elements meet, the quality depends upon the elements involved

  • Earth to Earth and Water to Water are both considered to be a good combination, but not as positive as the Friend relationship
  • Fire to Fire and Metal to Metal are both considered to be a bad combination, but not as negative as the Enemy relationship

There are many ways to apply this knowledge in daily life.  For example, by understanding the relationship between the element of the lunar year and an individual’s astrological elements, it can be determined what kind of elemental forces will be active for that individual for any given year.  The year 2017 is ruled by the element of Fire, which is actually the energy of wangtang, or personal charisma for people born in that year.  For those born in Earth years, the Fire Element (lunar year) to Earth Element (individual birth year) is in a Mother relationship as regards the wangtang.  Therefore, these people might feel very strong personal power and charisma during this lunar year.  However, for those born in a Fire year, it is a Self relationship considered to be bad.  This indicates that it is possible for these people to experience a decrease of power and influence, and perhaps even encounter bad luck.  Knowing this, before any negativity develops, this individual could benefit from activities and/or practices that would increase their wangtang such as wealth practices, making offerings, or other virtuous spiritual activity.  This is but one example of how the Five Elements directly influence our daily lives.  With this knowledge, we can support our health and prosperity as well as support our spiritual practice and growth.

Offering Everything that is Marvelous

HE Menri Lopon Rinpoche offers a mandala to 33rd Menri Trizen Rinpoche at Menri Monastery in India. Photo credit: Unknown

May the Yungdrung Bön Flourish!

Nangzhik Yungdrung Bon Monastery in Tibet


The Great Yangtön: Yangtön Sherap Gyaltsen

Yangton Chenpo Sherap Gyaltsen

Yangton Sherap Gyaltsen on a thankgha comissioned by Geshe Tenzin Yangton. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

Ancient Family: 

The history of the Yangtön lineage is closely interwoven with the history of the Yungdrung Bön tradition itself. It is said that two of Lord Tönpa Shenrap’s disciples were Yangtön lamas. And during the reign of the first Tibetan king, Nyatri Tsenpo in the second century B.C., the official priest for the king and the kingdom was a Yangtön lama.

The name “Yangtön” is an abbreviation of the ancient Zhang Zhung family name “Ya Ngal” and “Tönpa” together meaning “Teacher of the Ya Ngal clan.”  The original seat of the Ya Ngal clan was at Taktse Jari in Upper Tsang, Tibet.  This is where Yangtön Sherap Gyaltsen was born during the Fire Snake year of 1077 AD.  Because it was prophesied that he would be an emanation of the ancient lama Pangla Namshen, he was also called by this name.  In his youth, he studied under many lamas including the first abbot of the famous Yeru Wensaka Yungdrung Bön Monastery, Druchen Yungdrung Lama.  He devoted himself to study and there were no Buddhists who could defeat him in a debate.  He eventually became known as “Yangtön Chenpo”, the Great Yangtön.

At the age of 27, he took two wives although he had no children with either of them.  He intently practiced the Yungdrung Bön tantric teachings and attained great magical power.  He preferred a life of practice and isolation to a worldly life and would often go alone to a mountain and enter into retreat.  In addition to his magical power, he also had many visions and meditative experiences.  Once while he was meditating, a woman appeared and asked,

“How much knowledge do you have?” He replied, “I am completely knowledgeable.” At that, the woman became unhappy, and crying, she left.  He thought, “When I told her that I was knowledgeable, she became unhappy,  If she appears tomorrow, I should tell her that I don’t know anything.”  The next day, the woman appeared and asked the same question as before.  This time, he replied, “I don’t know anything.  Are there any good qualities that you could teach me?”  Happy with the response, she answered, “If you want to learn some good qualities, in a cliff of lu and demons, never seeing the sun or moon, lives Ronggom Tokmé Zhikpo.  Go there and you will have some great things to learn.”  Having said this, she left.   Just hearing this, Yangtön Chenpo’s heart was overcome with joy and he neglected to ask where to find the lama.  He waited for the woman to appear the next day but she did not return.  After a week had passed, he decided that he could wait no longer and that he must go and find this lama.

Tibet to Mustang: Searching for the Lama    

Yangtön Sherap Gyaltsen was the first of his family to leave Taktse Jari.  He first traveled throughout Amdo and Kham for three years looking for Ronggom Tokmé Zhikpo, but did not find him.  After that, he went to Central Tibet and searched for the lama there for three years, but did not find him.  Then, he went to Ngari and searched for three more years, but did not find Ronggom Tokmé Zhikpo.  Utterly despondent, he decided to return.  When he reached Mustang, he ran into two men who were playing a game of dice.  One of the gambling mantras went like this, “Never seeing the sun and moon, the yogi Ronggom Tokmé Zhikpo knows!”  Upon merely hearing this, Yangtön Chenpo’s body began to shake.  Thinking that it would now be possible to meet with the lama, he became delighted and began to laugh.  But then he thought that maybe it wasn’t possible because even though he had spent nine years looking, he hadn’t found the lama.  He then began to weep.  He asked the two men where the lama lived and they replied, “Below, near Lowo Montang in a cliff of lu and demons, in the upper part of the valley.  At this, he went to find the lama.  Prior to their meeting, Ronggom Tokmé Zhikpo had a dream in which he was told that an emanation of Pangla Namshen would arrive and that he should give him teachings.  The next day, Yangtön Chenpo finally met with his lama, Ronggom Tokmé Zhikpo, and began receiving profound instructions from him.

Teachings and Legacy                                                                                                                                                              

Tokmé Zhikpo gave Yangtön Chenpo the Upper Transmission of the Aural Lineage of Zhang Zhung.  Previously, he had received both the Upper and Lower traditions of the Aural Transmission from Lama Orgom Kundrol, teachings and transmissions from the AH Tri Dzogchen from Me’uton Lhari Nyenpo, as well as many pointing out instructions.  He had the good fortune to meet with and receive teachings from many lamas.  At the Zangri Shar Monastery, he went before the great teacher of the Me’u lineage, Khepa Palchen, for a ritual cutting of his hair and receiving vows.  He was known as a teacher who had received the signs of accomplishment for the full development of training in sutra, tantra and dzogchen.  In modern times, that would be similar to the title of ‘Geshe’, ‘Lopon’ or ‘Khenpo’.

He settled in Gyal Zhug Dong Kar in Mustang, Nepal  where he established a hermitage called Kyaru Gon. To some of his disciples he taught the Extensive Aural transmission of Zhang Zhung, to others he taught the medium-length text, and to still others he taught the condensed version of the Aural Transmission.  These became three distinct transmissions known as the ‘Upper Transmission”, the “Lower Transmission”, and the “Intermediate Transmission”.   He practiced wherever he went and exhibited numerous signs of his realization.  With his third wife, he had a daughter and two sons. His sons were named Bumje Ö and Tashi Gyaltsen.  They became lineage holders of the Southern Lineage of Transmissions which also included the esteemed Druchen Gyalwa Yungdrung who composed the widely used practice text for the Aural Transmission of Zhang Zhung commonly referred to as the Chaktri.  

For many generations, both the transmission of the Experiential teachings of the Aural Transmission of Zhang Zhung, and the practice of Zhang Zhung Meri, had become separated from the transmission of the precepts of the Aural Transmission of Zhang Zhung into two distinct Upper and Lower lineage transmissions. Yangtön Sherab Gyaltsen reunited these two transmission lineages and out of kindness towards future students, he wrote down some of the Aural Transmission of Zhang Zhung teachings along with their commentaries. According to prophecy, his life span was to be 75 years long. However, it is said that writing down these secret teachings created an obstacle that caused him to die at the age of 63.

“Within a palace of great bliss where he resides,

is the all-knowing tulku with braids of hair,

prophesied as a mighty, victorious Lord, a realized Shen,

At the feet of Yangton Chenpo, I pray!”

From A Mala of Pearls, Invocation of the Yangtön Lineage, translated from the Tibetan by Raven Cypress Wood.

Raven Cypress Wood©2017

Special thanks to Menri Lopon Yangtön Trinley Nyima Rinpoche, head teacher at Menri Monastery, for sharing the ‘Yangtön Chenpo’ entry from his forthcoming Tibetan language Encyclopedia of Yungdrung Bön.  For more on this invaluable work, please see previous post:

Sacred Gathering

Monks during a festival at Triten Norbutse Monastery near Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo credit Andrzej Nieckula

In the Language of Zhang Zhung…

Special Announcement from Menri Monastery in India

Bum-Tsok: 100,000 Torma Offerings to Sidpe Gyalmo This Week

May 5, 2017

Dearest Friends

Greetings!  It is my pleasure to write to you today to share some news with you. Today, May 5th is the first day of the Sidpe Gyalmo Bum Tsok at Menri Monastery. This is the first Bum Tsok offering of the year 2017, and it will last one week.  All monks, nuns and lay practitioners (ngakpas) will make a total of 100,000 offerings to Sidpe Gyalmo and all the protector deities of the Yungdrung Bon. We will accumulate 100,000 of each of the offerings of the five senses, namely flowers, butter lamps, water bowls, incense and torma cakes. We will also offer the Nam Gye, which includes zug, dra, dri, ro, reg cha, bon and ter.

The reason for making 100,000 offerings is that the retinue of Sidpe Gyalmo is composed of 100,000 beings, so we should make one offering for each one. The purpose of the Bum Tsok offering is to bring peace, health, prosperity, and happiness to all sentient beings.

There aren’t any specific sponsors for the Bum Tsok. Anyone who wishes to contribute can do so for their own benefit or for the benefit of all sentient beings. The Bum Tsok also cleanses one’s obstacles, both inner and outer.  Outer obstacles are related to the five elements, disasters, and problems caused by harmful spirits.  Inner obstacles are problems such as depression, anxiety, and fear, especially when there are no external causes. The real causes are our karmic traces and tendencies carried over from our previous lives. Offering Bum Tsok to Sidpe Gyalmo is very helpful to clear away such obstacles.

A common saying in Tibetan is “Gyamtso chu tik drel wa.” A literal translation could be “A drop of water connects with the ocean.”  The meaning is that regardless of the size of our donation, our offering connects with and merges with the great ocean of offerings of the collective, and helps to increase its great virtue.

To those of you who would like to make an offering for yourself, for your family, or for all beings, the best way is to do so through Khyungdzong Wodsel Ling.

All offerings received by May 09 will be forwarded to Menri Monastery for this event.  All money received after that date will be held until the next Bum-Tsok.  These special offerings are only done once or twice a year so please send your offerings ASAP.

Offerings can be made at the website here:

With my blessings,

Menri Lopon Trinley Nyima



May the Five Elements Remain Strong & Harmonious!

Prayer Flags at Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India. Photo credit: Unknown

Lord of the Teachings: Shenchen Luga

Shenchen Luga from a mural at the Yungdrung Kundrak Ling Bon Monastery in Sikkim. Kindly photographed for Nine Ways by Sherab Ongdak.


Prayers for Peace and Harmony

Prayer Flags at Tashi Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India. Photo credit: Unknown

The Skillful Means of Offering Torma

Monks at Menri Monastery making torma for a large ritual. Photo credit: Unknown

The one and only time that the enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché visited the land of Tibet, he taught the use of torma.  Before being introduced to the practice of Yungdrung Bön, Tibetans were sacrificing living creatures as a way to please the powerful spirits of the planets, stars, earth, water and sky.  Lord Shenrap taught them that the basis of all his teachings was compassion and that harming and killing other beings was against his teachings.  He then offered the Tibetans an alternative method for propitiating the spirits through the offering of torma.

The Tibetan word ‘torma’ (Wylie: gtor ma) has as its root the word ‘tor’ which literally means ‘to throw’ or ‘to toss’.  Therefore, in its most literal meaning, a torma is something that is ‘thrown or tossed out’.  There are many kinds of torma.  However, this article will focus upon torma that are made of tsampa, or roasted barley flour, and offered outside.

Various offering torma made of tsampa. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

In general, there are four kinds of recipients for offering torma.  These four are known as the Four Guests: 1) the Guests of Reverence who are the enlightened beings,  2) the Guests of Exalted Qualities who are both the enlightened and the unenlightened but powerful, oath-bound protectors, 3) the Guests of Karmic Debts who are the Eight Classes of Gods and Demons, and 4) the Guests of Compassion or Charity who are the beings of the six realms (excluding the gods).  Depending upon the specific ritual being performed, sometimes the same kind of torma is offered to all of the four guests but sometimes different torma are specified for the different guests.

When making torma, all items including the hands must be clean.  Ideally, the mouth is covered so as to prevent any contamination.  The needed amount of tsampa is placed into an undamaged bowl and a small amount of the powdered six excellent ingredients and five precious things is added.  Then, the warrior seed syllables of AH OM HUNG RAM and DZA are drawn in the tsampa either all at once in each of their associated direction, or one after another.  Clean water is added to the tsampa until the proper consistency is reached.  Then, the mixture is formed into the appropriate shape for the torma being made.  Although there are slight variations of size and ornamentation between the torma of the monastic and the tantric traditions as well as between geographic regions, the essential shape and color of the torma is prescribed in the texts and must be made accordingly.  In general, peaceful torma have a round base and are yellow or white in color, and wrathful torma have a triangular base or ‘base of three corners’ and are painted red.  Most torma offerings terminate in a point at the top which should be ‘as sharp as wisdom’.  Traditionally, butter was used to paint peaceful torma and muk tsi root(Tib. smug rtsi),  was used to create a purplish-red dye that was used to paint the wrathful torma.  Now, yellow and red food coloring are often used for this purpose.  Once painted, the torma are ornamented with butter that has been molded  to resemble the shape of flowers and flaming jewels.

During the process of making torma, the practitioner does not eat or drink, or engage in any kind of non-virtuous talk or thoughts.  Reciting mantras and maintaining either thoughts of virtue or higher meditative states is best.   Once complete, the torma are placed upon the altar and ritually cleansed with the sprinkling of pure water and the smoke of pure incense.  During the ritual liturgy, the torma are placed upon a small plate and offered outside according to their particular specification.

By offering to the Guests of Reverence, we generate merit and develop our quality of generosity.  By offering to the Protectors, we activate their oath bound activity and they intercede on our behalf.  By offering to the Eight Classes of Beings, we repay our karmic debts that have accumulated through countless lifetimes of actions motivated by the five poisons.  By offering to the Guests of Compassion within the six realms, we develop our quality of compassion and offer them needed support.

Raven Cypress Wood© All Rights Reserved


Kind Guidance of the Lama

His Eminence Menri Lopon Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche helps a student during the annual exams at Menri Monastery in India. Photo credit: Unknown

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