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Dispelling the Darkness

 

Butter lamp offering at Menri Monastery. Photo credit: Unknown

“How wonderful!

Within these small, circular containers is placed a wick of twisted gauze.

They are filled with clarified melted butter which is a divine, concentrated essence.

By lighting these bright offering lamps, the fire of the lamps clears away darkness and obscurations, and radiates throughout the vast, clear space of the sky.

Performing these activities mainly for our kind mothers and fathers who are the sentient beings within the three realms of cyclic existence,

and with compassion for those who have passed away into the realm between this life and the next,

may all of them be liberated from cyclic existence!”

— Extract from Raising a Victory Banner of Butter Lamps

Tibetan translation 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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A Wheel of Sound

Dra Khor at the entrance to the temple of Triten Norbutsé Monastery near Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

Within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition there is a style of poetry that is considered an advanced art and is often used to praise spiritual masters or states of realization. The poetic verse is written in a kind of graph in which each syllable is written within its own geometric space often in contrasting colors that form patterns or images. These syllables then intersect with other lines of poetry or verse. The arrangement of syllables must be made in such a way that they must make sense with each intersecting syllable.

There are easier and more difficult versions of this poetic style. The easier style can be read left to right and top to bottom. The more difficult styles can be read left to right, top to bottom, diagonally, and from bottom to top. This style of poetry is called Künzang Khorlo་or the short form Kün Khor, Wheel of All Goodness. However, it is also often referred to simply as dra khor, a wheel of sound.

Examples of dra khor styles created by graduates of the Gyalrong Dialectic School. Originally published at: https://www.himalayabon.com/news/2018-04-16/1250.html

The top image of a dra khor in this article hangs in the entrance way of Triten Norbutsé Monastery located near Kathmandu, Nepal. This dra khor praises the founder of Menri Monastery and the realized master who is considered the second buddha, His Holiness Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché. The well-known “De Chen Gyalpo” prayer in his honor is featured within the yellow, diagonal squares.

“De chen gyal po kün zang gyal wa du,

mi jé zung den sherap ma wé seng,

dzam ling bön gyi tsuk gyen nyam mé pa,

shé rap gyal tsen zhap la sol wa deb.

 

King of great bliss, embodiment of Küntu Zangpo and Gyalwa Düpa,

You are like the wisdom deity Mawé Sengé,

Never forgetting what you have perceived,

You are the unequaled crown ornament of the Bönpo world.

At the feet of Sherap Gyaltsen, I pray!”

The first line begins with the syllable “de” inside the yellow square located in the top left corner and reads diagonally downward to the center. Moving the Bön way, counter-clockwise, the second line begins with the syllable “mi” inside the yellow square in the bottom left corner and reads diagonally upward to the center. The third line begins with the syllable “dzam” inside the yellow square in the bottom right corner and reads diagonally upward to the center. The fourth and final line begins with the syllable “shé” inside the yellow square in the top right corner and reads diagonally downward to the center.

When the top line is read straight across, the first syllable “de” in the top left corner now becomes part of the word “dewar” “blissfully” and the line praises the realization of Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché.

“You are the very essence of the three bodies of those who have blissfully gone; with unobscured, exalted knowledge, you embody the entirety of Bön.”

Examples of dra khor styles created by graduates of the Gyalrong Dialectic School. Originally published at: https://www.himalayabon.com/news/2018-04-16/1250.html

To begin a dra khor, the number of boxes needed is determined by the number of syllables in the poem. Once a design is determined and the boxes are drawn, a single syllable is drawn inside each box. Each dra khor can contain either a single poem or multiple poems or verse relating to a single subject or theme. These dra khor are often placed in the entrances of temples as they are considered to be objects of auspiciousness and blessing.

Examples of dra khor from the collected works of Mawang Kunga Rangdrol Rinpoche.

Beginning with the first establishment of a Yungdrung Bön dialectic school in exile in 1978 at Tashi Menri Ling, His Eminence Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoché reformed the curriculum to include subjects originally taught in the renowned dialectic school of Yeru Wensaka and to also include subjects that were previously taught individually rather than as an organized part of the studies. In this way, he aimed to preserve traditional knowledge that was in danger of being lost. One of the subjects added to the mandatory curriculum was poetry. The current dialectic school teaches poetry according to three aspects: 1) style and meaning, 2) rhyming and meter and 3) symbolic meaning.

The complete Dra Khor inside the temple of Triten Norbutsé Monastery near Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

Fierce Protection: The White Umbrella Goddess of Yungdrung Bön

White Umbrella Goddess of the Five Families.

Throughout Tibet, it is common to see sacred images of a white-colored female protector, standing, with many arms and legs, wearing a skirt, and holding an umbrella. This is Duk Kar or Duk Karmo, White Umbrella Goddess. She is also called Tsuktor Barma, Blazing Crown Protuberance Goddess. She is revered in both Buddhism and Bön. The images of both religions are depicted quite similarly although they do have differences. However, the essence is the same: absolute and fierce protection from a base of compassion.

“Fear of an age of epidemics,

fear of violent epidemics,

fear of epidemics that last a day, a week, a month, or a year;

eliminate all of these as well as any other poison of unhappiness!

Destroy them with your phurba!”

— Extract from The Secret Sutra of White Tsuktor

And

“With the intense devotion and aspiration of my three doors to the Victorious Mother, Goddess of great love, Duk Kar, I Ioffer this request.

Reverse the discordant conditions for the 404 kinds of diseases, especially the 18 kinds of plagues!

Reverse all the waves of infectious diseases and epidemics!

Turn back all infectiouse diseases, violent illnesses and harm doers that damage the lifespan and the vitality!”

— Extract from The Complete Accomplishment of Aspirations Through Tsuktor Duk Kar’s Protection and Reversal of Interferences

In the Yungdrung Bön tradition, she manifests is three primary forms: White Umbrella Goddess of the Five Families, White Umbrella Goddess of Longevity, and White Umbrella Goddess of Prosperity. Among these, the principal deity is White Umbrella Goddess of the Five Families. In this form, she is called Tsuktor Rikngag Duk Karmo, White Umbrella Goddess who has the Five Families as a Crown Ornament. She stands in the midst of kalpa-destroying blazing flames, upon a throne of a sun, moon, and above intertwined arrogant demons. Her body is white and she has a thousand heads each with crown protusions and the face of Satrik Érsang. She has a thousand arms each holding a weapon with which to protect sentient beings. The right hand in front of her body holds a precious umbrella and the left hand holds a sharp blade (some images depict the left hand holding a vase.) Her 500 left legs are extended and suppress dü, srin, and gyalpo. Her 500 right legs are bent and overpower the groups of dön. She has eyes on the palm of each hand and the soles of each foot. She is adorned with crystal necklaces and wears a precious silk skirt.

“Emaho! How wonderful!

The essence of space, the Bönku is Sherap Jamma.

Complete resources and qualities, the Dzok ku is Lha Shen Sipa.

The emanation, the Tülku is Tsuktor Duk Kar Lhamo.

I supplicate to the three states of these perfect buddhas!”

— Extract from Spontaneous Accomplishment of the Purpose of Supplicating the Lineage of Duk Kar

In the East, North, West, South are her manifestations associated with the Yungdrung, Jewel, Lotus, and Wheel Buddha Families. Each have the body-color associated with their respective direction, stand upon a cushion of a sun, moon and lotus in the midst of blazing flames, have five faces, six arms with the middle two arms holding a sword and a phurba, four legs standing atop various demons and evil-minded beings, and wear an ornamented skirt.

Duk Karmo text with depictions of the deity and the terton Kündrol Drakpa. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

“Extend the lifespan that has been depleted and produce good fortune where it has deteriorated!

Bring healing where the radiant complexion has faded away and increase longevity, prosperity, merit, and friends and family!

Please bestow favorable conditions for an abundance of auspiciousness, and pacify unfavorable conditions and obstacles!

Manifesting as a protector within our world, act so that bad years and epidemics do not arise!

Bring peace where there is warfare!

Bring timely rainfall, continual harvests, and auspiciousness!

Goddess, through your compassion, act on behalf of the peace, happiness, and prosperity of all sentient beings of the world!”

— Extract from The Practice of the White Umbrella Goddess, Source of the Crown Protuberance of All Those Who Have Gone Beyond Bliss

Tibetan translation 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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Protecting and Blessing the Mind with The Great Mantra

The MA TRI mantra at Gonggyal Monastery in Nya Rong, Tibet. Photo credit: Unknown

OM MA TRI MU YÉ SA LÉ DU

Within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition the eight-syllable mantra OM MA TRI MU YÉ SA LÉ DU is known as the great mantra and is commonly referred to as the MA TRI mantra. It is the Essence Mantra of the Dzok ku, the enlightened state that embodies all perfected positive qualities and wisdoms. The sound and power of this essence mantra gives rise to the enlightened qualities and blessings of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché and Buddha Sherap Jamma as well as the six buddhas who offer guidance to liberation for the the six kinds of sentient beings within cyclic existence: hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, demi-gods, and gods.  Each year around the time of the Tibetan New year in Dolpo, Nepal, this mantra is recited continuously without any interruption for 15 days. It is one of the three essence mantras of the Yungdrung Bön tradition that is recited a minimum of 100,000 times as a preliminary practice in order to prepare the student’s mind for further spiritual practice. The benefits of reciting this mantra are vast and beyond the imagination.

OM MA TRI MU YÉ SA LÉ DU

Alas! Fortunate Ones Listen!

The long flowing river of birth is the first.

The thunderous waterway of aging is the second.

The raging whirlpool of illness is the third.

Death that has no escape is the fourth.

These four are the demon rivers from which there is no escape.

Noble ones who wish to cross over those rivers, proclaim the melody of the MA TRI MU YÉ!

 

OM MA TRI MU YÉ SA LÉ DU

Alas! Fortunate Ones Listen!

The excellent means of accomplishment is the first.

Discovering the stairway to higher states is the second.

The blissful stairway of gods and humans is the third.

Traveling upon the stairway of joyful effort is the fourth.

These four are the four stairways to travel for the path of liberation.

Noble Ones who wish to ascend those stairways, proclaim the melody of the MA TRI MU YÉ!”

— Excerpt from Inspirational Verses Regarding the MA TRI written by the 13th century Tulku Loden Nyingpo.

The MA TRI mantra above a doorway. Photo credit: unknown

“This mantra is the heart elixir of the princpal teachings. It is a sacred connection for sentient beings during a dark time.  It is a key to the collection of sacred teachings  It is a lamp that clears away the darkness of ignorance.  So that sentient beings during the 500 years-long time of darkness will not have to exert themselves in meditation and accomplishment, this mantra recitation is the practice advice.

This recitation practice of the MA TRI is a precious lamp. Whoever goes before an esteemed lama or sacred support such as a shrine, chorten, or sacred statue, if they recite the mantra while performing prostrations and circumambulation and making prayers of aspiration, whatever they wish for will be quickly accomplished.”

— Extract from 32 Benefits of the Recitation Practice of the Precious Lamp

Tibetan translation 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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The Blessing of Realizing Impermanence

Statue of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

Within the Yungdrung Bön tradition, realizing the truth of impermanence is one of the foundational practices that is performed again and again in order to prepare the student’s mind for the path of spiritual growth and development. Having realized the truth of impermanence, one is naturally less distracted by worldly things and seeks meaningful activities such as cultivating wisdom and loving kindness.

“O Listen!

Even though worldly phenomena are without essence, I believe them to be true. 

How sad! 

Bless me that the realization of impermanence will arise in my mindstream!

Even though worldly activities are without happiness, still, I continue in the deception and lack knowledge.

 How sad! 

Bless me that the realization of impermanence will arise in my mindstream!

Even though all phenomena change,་I alone expect to be permanent. 

How sad! 

Bless me that the realization of impermanence་will arise in my mindstream!

When thinking of death, I am instantly without distraction. But then I become lazy and procrastinate. 

How sad! 

Bless me that the realization of impermanence will arise in my mindstream!

Bless me to be mindful of death! 

Bless me to overcome deep attachment!

Bless me so that renunciation will arise in my mindstream!”

— Extract from Chanted Verse of Impermanence from The Preliminary Practices of The Aural Transmission of Zhang Zhung

 

May the impermanence of the external world and its inner contents be the cause for urgency to arise within my mindstream!

Wherever one is born within cyclic existence, there remains suffering and misery. From that realization, may I gain renunciation!

May eagerness and motivation arise towards the path of freedom and omniscience!”

— Extract from An Ocean of Instructions Regarding the Teachings of AH by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoché

Tibetan translation 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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How to Restore the Lifespan by Saving the Life of Other Beings

Azyl, a horse that was designated for slaughter, wearing the symbol of his protection in his mane after Geshe Gyatso performed the Tsé Thar ritual dedicated for the long life of H.E. Menri Pönlop Thrinley Nyima Rinpoché. Photo credit: Drenpa Namkha Foundation

In both the Yungdrung Bön and the Buddhist religious traditions, the ritual known as “Life Release” is widely practiced. In Tibetan, the short name is “Tsé Thar” which means “to save or free life.” The full name of the ritual is “Tsé Thar Tang Tap, The Skillful Method of Saving the Life of Beings and Setting Them Free.” Animals that are destined to be slaughtered for food or slaughtered for other purposes are rescued and then set free to live out the full length of their natural lifespan. A sponsor purchases the animals, has the appropriate rituals performed, and then releases the animals back into their natural environment. In the Himalayas, this practice is commonly performed for domestic herding animals or for fish. Herding animals are marked with a special tag or sign that indicates their protected status.

H.H. 34th Menri Trizin, Latri Kenpo Nyima Dakpa Rinpoché, and Khenpo Nyima Künchap Rinpoché performing the Tsé Thar ritual for a fish release. Photo credit: Angel R. Torres

The human lifespan can be weakened or cut unnaturally short due to the seeds of our negative karma meeting with secondary conditions and resulting in accidents, ill health and disease. In the same way, the seeds of our positive karma meeting with secondary conditions such as participating in the life release ritual brings results such as restoring our natural lifespan and removing obstacles that could cause accidents, illness or disease.

The Tsé Thar ritual is specifically used to restore and protect the lifespan. Traditionally, it is performed during the obstacle years during the ages of 1, 9, 13, 25, 37, 49, 61, 73 and 81, when someone is seriously ill in order to reverse any negative circumstances contributing to the illness, and it is performed in order to protect and extend the longevity of loved ones, spiritual teachers, etc.

In this way, the life release ritual not only benefits the animals that are rescued, it also benefits the sponsors, those performing the ritual, and those for whom the ritual is dedicated. Additionally, the ritual is a practice of the two accumulations of merit and wisdom, it develops our compassion and loving kindness, and it develops generosity and purifies greed through the act of giving safety and protection.

Azyl at his sanctuary. Photo credit: Drenpa Namkha Foundation

In 2018, a group of H.E. Menri Pönlop Thrinley Nyima Rinpoché’s students raised funds in order to rescue Azyl, a beautiful older horse that was destined to be slaughtered. He was moved to an animal sanctuary, the Tsé Thar ritual was performed and Azyl was given a symbolic badge of protection. Later, the Tsé Thar ritual was performed for all of the other animals living at the sanctuary. Azyl continues to live out his life at the sanctuary while being fed and cared for with funds donated by the worldwide Yungdrung Bön community. Some of these students have formed the Drenpa Namkha Foundation which funds Azyl’s care. Anyone can either be a one-time sponsor or ongoing sponsor of Azyl’s life release and dedicate that sponsorship for the longevity of one’s self, a loved one, or a spiritual teacher. Donations can easily be made through this link: http://drenpa-namkha.org/en/423/  You can contact the Drenpa Namkha Foundation here: e-mail kontakt@drenpa-namkha.org

“Through the blessings of saving the lives of these beings and setting them free, may the lifespan be undiminished!
May the lifespan be long!
May joy and happiness be accumulated!
May power and riches spread and flourish!
You, animals whose lives have been saved, having attained a precious human body in the future,
May you have the good fortune to practice the Yungdrung Bön!”

— Extract from The Skillful Method of Saving the Life of Beings and Setting Them Free

The ritual itself begins with the preliminary practices of cleansing with water and smoke, setting a boundary, going for refuge, generating compassion and the intention of enlightenment, as well as the admission of wrongdoing and purification. The main part of the Tsé Thar ritual begins with specific mantras to generate the power of longevity and then a blessing and consecration. After that, the animals receive the empowerment of the sacred syllable ‘A.’ In conclusion, prayers of aspiration, good fortune, and dedication are recited. To indicate that the animals are forever protected, a sacred badge containing the mantric syllables of the wisdom deity is affixed to the animals. In this way, animals destined for slaughter are forever protected and allowed to live out their natural lifespan while also having received sacred blessings and a connection to the teachings so that their future rebirth with be positive and they will have the opportunity to engage in spiritual practice.

Azyl after his life release ritual. Photo credit: Drenpa Namkha Foundation

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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Birth Anniversary of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap’s First Born: Tobu Bumsang

Depiction of the birth of Prince Tobu Bumsang.

Although Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche was already a fully enlightened being and therefore has no worldly lineage, in order to continue the royal Shen lineage into which he was born and in order to benefit sentient beings, he had ten children.  The first born was his son, Prince Tobu Bumsang, who was born on the fifteenth lunar day of the second month. In 2020, this coincides with April 8th on the Western calendar.

Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché entrusted the teachings of the Tantra of the MA TRI mantra to Tobu Bumsang after he made a formal request for the teachings.

“To the Lord who is the compassionate protector of sentient beings, Sovereign of the teachings who is the principal deity of gods and humans, to the One who is ornamented with the clear, unobscured light of knowledge and is all-knowing, I bow and offer prostrations. 

What is the teaching? Who is included in the lineage?  How many benefits are there of this recitation practice?  Please bestow the oral transmission as well as the quintessential instructions.” 

Tobu Bumsang made this request for the benefit of sentient beings in cyclic existence.  Shenrap and Tobu Bumsang spoke in accordance with the hearing lineage. Then, from the completely pure mouth of Shenrap these words were spoken.

“O listen! 

Fortunate Son of a noble lineage, this Precious Lamp is the heart mantra of all of those who have gone beyond bliss. 

As for the lineage, those who have purified lower rebirths and shaken cyclic existence from the very depths are included within the lineage. 

As for this practice, it is mainly to rely upon trusting in the enlightened ones who have trained in the three kinds of emptiness. 

As for the benefit, so that sentient beings at the end of the eon, when their lifespan has become shorter and there is less morality, will not need to accomplish visualization and meditation, I will speak about the benefits of this recitation practice.

This recitation practice is the extracted heart essence of all of Those who have gone beyond bliss and is the fundamental essence of the entire collection of sacred teachings. 

It is the quintessential essence of all Bön.  It is the ultimate of all recitations. It is the heart elixir of the princpal teachings. It is a sacred connection for sentient beings during a dark time.”    

— Extracted from Benefits of the Recitation Practice of the Precious Lamp, the MA TRI Mantra

Tibetan translation 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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Lunar Calendar: The Practice of Tséwang Rikdzin

Mural of Lama Tsewang Rikdzin from Yanggon Monastery in Dolpo, Nepal. Photo credit: Unknown.

According to the lunar calendar of the Yungdrung Bön, the 10th lunar day of each month is the day for the practice of the three sages: the great lama Drenpa Namkha and his two twin sons, Tséwang Rikdzin, and Péma Tongdrul. This coincides with April 3, 2020. This day is set aside specifically to pay homage and make offerings to these lamas, as well as to recite the mantras associated with their respective practices.

“You are like the embrace of a thousand cloudless suns upon the very white, snow mountain, Mount Meru.

A hundred praises to the deathless Tséwang Rikdzin, who overcomes the darkness of the suffering of sentient beings during this degenerate time!”

— From The Sword that Cuts the Noose of Death found within the Tséwang Jarima, The Teachings of Tséwang given at Jarima

Indestructible: The Longevity Practice of Lama Tséwang Rikdzin.  http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/SacredSky

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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Book: Calm Breath, Calm Mind

Calm Breath, Calm Mind, written by Lama Geshe Yongdong Losar, is a book that acts as a clear and straight-forward manual for using the breath to strengthen and heal the body and energy, to cultivate peace and happiness, and to support spiritual development. The book includes  descriptions of both the gross and subtle breath, their functions, and how to mindfully use them. From that basis of understanding, Geshe Yongdong guides the reader through breathing and movement exercises that are often accompanied by line drawings. Each chapter beautifully begins with a few lines of verse.

“Butter is always within the milk. Without churning, it won’t appear.

Wisdom and healing can happen when awareness and vital energy are generated.”

— Extract from Calm Breath, Calm Mind

With thirteen chapters within 108 pages, the sections are clear and direct in their instructions and highlighted with brief anecdotes. The material is presented in such a way as to be accessible and inviting to everyone. Here are a few examples of sections included within the book:

  • Body-Mind Connection
  • Mindful Breathing Changes the Brain
  • Energy Loss Through the Nine Doors
  • Two Types of Meditation
  • Calm Abiding Breathing Exercises
  • The Healing Power of Middle and Lower Breath
  • The Five Root Tsa Lung Exercises

“From my tradition and my experience, meditation using the breath is one of the simplest and most effective practices for health and healing for anyone, regardless of cultural or religious background. We all breathe the same air.”

“I have written this book to provide clear instructions for simple, relaxing, efficient exercises using the breath to heal the mind and emotions, and bring balance into the energy channels of the body. These exercises have been passed down to me by masters of the ancient Tibetan Bön tradition. They can be used by anyone, anywhere, anytime.”

— Lama Geshe Yongdong Losar Author of Calm Breath, Calm Mind

The book Calm Breath, Calm Mind can be ordered from this link: https://sherabchammaling.com/product/calm-breath-calm-mind-a-guide-to-the-healing-power-of-breath/

Lama Geshe Yongdong Losar was born in Amdo, Tibet in 1969. At the young age of seven years old, his mother passed away. In the days immediately following her death, he encountered a young monk near his own age among a group that was chanting prayers and performing rituals on behalf of his deceased mother. He was so moved by this, that he was immediately inspired to devote himself to a spiritual life. However, his family had planned for him to join the family business and objected to his desire to become a monk. Six years later when his grandmother passed away, the family finally relented and agreed that he could take vows. In 1982 at the age of 13 years old, he entered Nangzhig Yungdrung Bön Monastery. At 15, he began studying and at 16 he received monk’s vows. At 24, he was awarded a geshe degree, the equivalent of a doctorate in science and religion.

In 1992, along with a small group of Tibetans, he walked for 10 days in order to escape Tibet. Arriving in Dharamsala, he met with H.H. 14th Dalai Lama and eventually began studying at the Geluk Monastery of Sera and later, at Tashi Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India. In 1999, he moved to B.C. Canada and eventually founded Sherap Chamma Ling Yungdrung Bön Practice center in 2003. In 2007, he received his Canadian citizenship. Currently, he teaches worldwide and is the author of many books and has recorded a cd of chants and prayers of the Yungdrung Bön tradition.

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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