Blog Archives

Happy Zhang Zhung New Year!

Ceremonial dance during Himalayan Losar. Photo credit: Unknown

The 1st day of the 12th lunar month is celebrated as New Year’s Day according to the custom of the ancient land of Zhang Zhung that included a vast geographical area including Tibet and parts of Nepal and the area previously known as Persia. In 2021, this date coincides with January 14th on the Western calendar. More precisely, in 2021 the lunar calendar for the 12th month has no 1st day and begins with the 2nd lunar day. Subtracting a date or doubling a date is not uncommon in the Tibetan lunar calendar and is according to astrological calculations.

This New Year’s Day, Losar in the Tibetan language, is also known as Sonam Losar, Himalayan Losar, or Peasants Losar. It continues to be widely celebrated in Dolpo, Nepal as well as in select other regions of Tibet. Originally, it was celebrated as the beginning of the New Year throughout all of Tibet. However, the modern date that is celebrated by all Tibetans as the beginning of the new year is the 1st day of the 1st lunar month. This is the Royal New Year and in 2021 that date coincides with February 12th.

For those celebrating today as New Year’s Day it is the beginning of the Iron Elephant year.

The 1st king of the ancient land of Zhang Zhung, King Triwer Lajé.

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 the Mind with Mantra

The benefits of reciting mantra [Tibetan: nyén pa] are vast and without measure. Although there are thousands of mantra within the Yungdrung Bön tradition, there is one mantra known as The Great Mantra. It is commonly referred to as the MA TRI mantra. This mantra has eight syllables: OM MA TRI MU YÉ SA LÉ DU. In general, the power of a mantra is in the sound and vibration of each syllable. They are like a vibrational seed of energy that gives birth to a specific energy and power. For this mantra, the first two syllables are the seed syllables of a male and female buddha. The remaining six syllables are the sound of the six buddhas that guide sentient beings out of suffering and misery caused by the five poisons of anger, attachment, jealousy, pride, and ignorance.

From Thirty-three Benefits of the MA TRI Mantra:

“This is the heart mantra of all the buddhas. It is of benefit for sentient beings at the end of the eon when their lifespan has become shorter and there is less morality.”

And,

“The recitation of this mantra is enough. It is the fundamental essence of the entire collection of sacred teachings. It is the ultimate of all recitations. It is the innermost essence of all meditations. It is a sacred connection for sentient beings during a dark time.”

— Words from the mouth of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché

The great mantra has many profound benefits and meanings. However, it is not necessary to be familiar with the thousands of pages of teachings and commentary devoted to the MA TRI mantra. In order to receive benefit from the mantra, it is enough to recite it with openness and trust. A mantra can be recited anytime, anywhere, out loud or silently if necessary. Especially when the mind is disturbed by inner or outer circumstances, focusing on the recitation of mantra has the immediate effect of protecting the mind from negativity and increasing a positive and beneficial state of mind.

“OM MA TRI MU YÉ SA LÉ DU

Alas! Fortunate Ones Listen!

Right here and now, because of our ignorance and delusion we have not attained mastery of the experience of awareness, and we wander throughout cyclic existence. We take on the magical illusion of solid flesh and undergo many kinds of suffering and misery.

There is no final escape. How sad!

Noble Ones who wish to travel the path of liberation in order to escape from that suffering and misery and arrive at a place of bliss, proclaim the melody of the MA TRI MU YÉ!”

And,

“OM MA TRI MU YÉ SA LÉ DU

Alas! Fortunate Ones Listen!

The many troops of mental dullness are the first.

The mighty coat of armor of pride is the second.

The trained army of envy is the third.

The sharp weapons of anger and hatred are the fourth.

These are the four frightening enemies that come from behind.

Noble Ones who wish to be delivered from those enemies, proclaim the melody of the MA TRI MU YÉ!”

— From Inspirational Verses Regarding the MA TRI written by the tertön Tülku Loden Nyingpo

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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Rites of the Fierce Black Wisdom Dagger: Wal Phur Nakpo

HIs Eminence Menri Ponlop Yangtön Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche performs the rites of Wal Phur Nakpo at Menri Monastery. Photo credit: Unknown

Each year during the 23rd – 29th lunar days of the 11th lunar month, the monks at Tashi Menri Monastery undergo a seven-day intensive retreat for the enlightened fierce deity, the tantric yidam Wal Phur Nakpo. On the Western calendar in 2021, these dates coincide with January 6th – 12th. From the Father tantra, there is a group of five yidams that are collectively known as the Sé Khar Chok Nga, the Five Supreme Citadels or the Five Supreme Embodiments. Each of these Dzok ku forms are the manifestation of either enlightened body, speech, mind, quality or activity. The manifestation of enlightened activity is embodied by Walsé Chempa, also known as Phurba. Because he is the yidam of enlightened activity, he is the yidam deity of every Menri Trizin. (For more information about the Sé Khar Chok Nga, see previous article: https://ravencypresswood.com/2016/06/05/the-five-supreme-embodiments/)

The term “phurba” has most often been translated as “dagger” or “sacred dagger.” However, it is more precisely a sacred stake, or peg used to suppress or overpower negative forces and obstacles. From a commentary regarding the meaning of the Wal Phur Nakpo practice:

“Regarding the meaning of being called “phur”: because all impure karma and afflictive emotions are staked within the pure enlightened body and complete non-conceptual wisdom, he is called “phur,” “the stake.”

The yidam Wal Phur Nakpo has three faces and six arms, and each hand holds a phurba.  He and his consort’s body are joined below the waist and form a single phurba adorned with snakes. The top of the phurba has a four-cornered wisdom-knot. Below the knot is a crocodile with a protruding, vicious face for the destruction of all impure karma and afflictive emotions. Below that, the enlightened body, speech and mind of the yidam are inseparably united with the symbolic three edged, pointed blade. The three blades terminating into a sharp point represent the apex of completely fulfilling the four kinds of enlightened activity: peaceful enlightened activity, expansive enlightened activity, powerful enlightened activity, and wrathful enlightened activity.

A Yungdrung Bön monk performs the rites of Wal Phur Nakpo. Photo credit: Unknown

The term “wal” Tibetan: dbal, has multiple meanings. The most relevant here are its meanings of “(1) sharp, bladed, pointed. (2) aggressive, rough. (3) fierce, wrathful, forceful. From the same commentary as mentioned above,

“Regarding the meaning of being called “wal”: externally, he is called “wal” because he is the point from which arises the external, common accomplishment of piercing and incinerating every enemy and obstructer that would interfere with manifesting external activity. Internally, he is called “wal” because of being the point of great wisdom, and performing the uncommon and meaningful activity of incinerating and overcoming all erroneous conceptuality. Therefore, he is called “wal,” “pointed.”

Both the yidam and his consort have wings. The retinue includes many assistants and messengers that are winged or actually manifest as hawks.

Tro Wo Druksé Chempa statue. Ligmincha International private collection. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

“With a magical display of activity and movement that arises from an immovable state,

you subdue misleading enemies and obstructers.

Fierce Wal Phur, you directly manifest the enlightened activity of the Wal deities.

Praise for the Wal deity whose divine appearance self-arises from the vast expanse of space in order to quickly accomplish fierce enlightened activity!”

— From The Concentrated Essence of Wal Phur translated from the Tibetan by Raven Cypress Wood

When performing the rites of Wal Phur Nakpo, the scriptures give specific instructions regarding the many items and substances that are needed, how to use them, measurements for making a phurba, how to establish the mandala of the yidam, the types of offerings that are needed and how to place them, and so forth. The image of the mandala, which is a representation of the sacred architecture of the spontaneously arising palace for the deity, is either laboriously made with colored sand or printed and placed on a table near the shrine. Once all the materials are prepared and properly arranged, everything is ritually purified.

On the first day of the retreat, the yidam Wal Phur Nakpo along with his consort and vast retinue are formally invited to take a seat upon the throne in the center of the mandala. From this moment until the conclusion of the retreat, no one is allowed to interact with the mandala or the offerings placed upon it outside the formal ritual actions during the retreat. The immeasurable blessings and enlightened qualities of the deity are present and the practitioners intensely perform the rites in order to make themselves a proper vessel for the blessings and enlightened qualities. In this way, the Phurba practitioner transforms their ordinary body, speech and mind into the enlightened body, speech and mind of the deity.

Representation of the Mandala palace of Wal Phur Nakpo.

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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Thank You Nine Ways Supporters & Donors: A Message from Raven Cypress Wood

Translator, author, and the creator of the Nine Ways website Raven Cypress Wood. Photo credit: Lee Hartline

As 2020 passes and we begin 2021, I would like to step outside the usual format of the website and personally express the depth of my gratitude to the supporters and donors of Nine Ways throughout the past nine years, especially those people who offered support during the pandemic time of 2020. In spite of the instability and uncertainty, many people sent donations in order to support the continuation of Nine Ways and the related research, translations and publications. From the depth of my heart, thank you. 

Through the years, many of you have also sent personal messages sharing how the website’s articles and publicly available translations have deepened and supported your spiritual practice. It brings me great joy and satisfaction to know that the time and effort devoted to the website is having a meaningful impact in the world. 

In the nine years of Nine Ways:

  • The website has been translated into Spanish and Portuguese
  • Various articles have been translated and published in Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Italian, Russian, and Polish
  • More than 500 posts have been published on the website with an average of 45 posts per year
  • The website continues to offer free, publicly available translations of prayers in multiple languages
  • The website has been visited over 500,000 times

I am committed to keeping Nine Ways freely available with no paywall in order to provide information on the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition and practices to as many sincere practitioners as possible.

May 2021 bring all of us an abundance of positive circumstances, complete fulfillment of our wishes and goals, and a steadfast enthusiasm for meaningful and compassionate activity!

With deep gratitude,

Raven Cypress Wood

Full Moon day of the 11th lunar month

12/29/2020

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Two Accumulations to Purify Two Obscurations

A Yungdrung Bön monk at Menri Monastery in India makes offerings of golden liquor. Photo credit: Geshe Sherap Gelek

In general, there are two types of obscurations that block or obscure our realization and wisdom. These two are what prevents us from realizing complete liberation from the suffering and misery of cyclic existence.

  1. The Obscuration of Emotional Defilements
  2. The Obscuration of Knowledge

According to the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition, the obscuration of emotional defilements is easy to understand and experience directly. Using the emotional defilement of anger as an example, when anger and hatred arise in the mind, it obscures wisdom and positive qualities such as loving kindness. Emotional defilements range from gross to subtle. The feeling of agitation is a more subtle manifestation of anger. These obscurations arise because of grasping the ego, or identity and believing it truly exists. They obscure realization and are a cause for suffering. Additionally, they diminish the ability to completely receive blessings or the ripening of positive karma such as attaining a positive rebirth.

The obscuration of knowledge is the result of having pride or attachment to spiritual knowledge and power. This obscuration is more difficult to recognize and can become a strong block to realizing the true nature of the mind and ultimately for the attainment of enlightenment.

Without purifying these two obscurations even though we can receive blessings and have meditative experiences of wisdom and the true nature, these experiences are generally weak and do not become stable. By purifying the two obscurations, our mind gains a greater capacity for realization, wisdom and blessings. Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche has given the advice to engage in the two accumulations as a skillful method to purify and thereby remove the two obscurations.

HIs Eminence Menri Pönlop Yangtön Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche offers a traditional mandala offering to His Holiness the 34th Menri Trizin Lungtok Dawa Dargyal Rinpoche. Photo credit: Unknown

There are two types of accumulations:

  • The Accumulation of Merit
  • The Accumulation of Wisdom

Ultimately, the purpose of accumulating merit and wisdom is to gain the capacity to fully realize the true nature of the mind and to attain complete enlightenment. Prior to this ultimate realization, engaging in the two accumulations removes obstacles and increases our wisdom and ability to completely receive and retain blessings. The accumulation of merit involves engaging in virtuous actions of body, speech, and mind such as reciting prayers and mantra, making prostrations, circumambulating sacred objects, and engaging in any kind of spiritual practice such as the ten perfections. These virtuous actions are further divided into two types: contaminated or impure virtuous actions and uncontaminated or pure virtuous actions. Contaminated virtuous action are such because they arise from a mind of duality that still grasps the identity of the self as inherently existing. These virtuous actions purify our emotional defilements and increase our positive qualities but do not have the same power as uncontaminated virtuous actions. Uncontaminated virtuous actions are actions performed from the true nature of the mind which is free from self-grasping and integrated with the realization of emptiness.

“Through virtuous actions both with characteristics and without characteristics, may I complete the two accumulations of merit and wisdom!”

— From An Ocean of Instructions Regarding the A Tri Teachings composed by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche

The accumulation of wisdom is essentially the realization of emptiness and the true nature of the mind. We accumulate wisdom by becoming more and more familiar and stable with these experiences. This purifies the obscuration of knowledge and allows for the full realization of enlightenment.

Students meditating at a Yungdrung Bön Day School. Photo credit: Unknown

A common activity that is used for the accumulation of merit and wisdom is the making of offerings to the four objects of refuge. By making offerings without attachment, pride or any other emotional defilement, we accumulate merit. By making offerings with the realization of the empty nature of the offering, the one making the offerings and the one receiving the offerings, we accumulate wisdom. The offering of light, water, flowers, incense and food is the practice of the five daily offerings. For more information about this practice in the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition, see previous article: https://ravencypresswood.com/2017/01/14/the-five-daily-offerings/

A primary focus for a spiritual practitioner which naturally accumulate both merit and wisdom is the continual engagement with the ten perfections. It is said that sincerely and continually practicing these ten perfections is the best way to prepare for the process of dying and death, and to create the circumstances for a positive rebirth. For more information about the ten perfections, see previous article: https://ravencypresswood.com/2015/10/23/the-ten-perfections-of-the-yungdrung-bon/

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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