Blog Archives

Passing into Nirvana

The PongenThroneholder Tise Gyalwa Rinpoche in tukdam. Photo credit: Unknown

On the second day of the first lunar month, Western date February 6, 2019, the abbot of Pongen Yungdrung Dargye Ling Monastery in Kham, Tibet, Khyungkar Tisé Gyalwa Rinpoche entered into the state of tukdam. In general, tukdam refers to a state of meditative stability attained by meditation masters that continues after the external breath of their body has ceased but the internal breath, or winds, remain.  Therefore, the subtle channels through which these winds move remain stable. The area of the body containing the heart chakra remains warm to the touch.  The skin remains soft, and the face retains a glow of vitality. During this time, great care is taken to not disturb the body or interrupt the state of mediation.

Khyungkar Tise Gyalwa cremation day. Photo credit: Unknown

After an indeterminate number of days, the internal winds cease, the channels collapse, the physical body slumps, and the warmth dissipates from the heart center. At that time, chants related to the cleansing of the sacred body are recited while the physical remains are ritually bathed with water mixed with special herbs.  Sacred seed syllables are then written on the body and the body is wrapped in a pure white cloth.

Cremation stupa. Photo credit: Unknown.

On the 23rd day of the 1st lunar month, Western date February 27th, the physical remains of Tisé Gyalwa Rinpoche were ritually cremated during an elaborate fire ceremony. His skull and heart remained intact and have been kept as sacred relics.

Sacred relics of the Pongen Throneholder Khyungkar Tise Gyalwa Rinpoche. Photo credit: Unknown.

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Developing Knowledge & Wisdom

White emanation of Mawé Senge, Lion of Exposition.

After the Tibetan New Year celebrations, students at Menri Monastery in India enter into an intensive retreat to cultivate the qualities of the wisdom deity Mawé Senge, Lion of Exposition. This retreat begins on the 24th lunar day of the 1st month and concludes on the 30th lunar day. In 2019, these dates coincide with February 28th through March 6th on the Western calendar. The intention of this retreat is to develop and sharpen the student’s intellect related to their upcoming studies. The practice of Mawé Senge is performed many times each day and the mantra of the deity is recited as much as possible throughout the retreat, but at least a minimum of 100,000 recitations are completed.

“I go for refuge to the wisdom deity for the intellect.

I generate the supreme mind for the benefit of vigorous training in the highest wisdom.

Having compassionately purified all karmic obscurations without exception,

please bestow the attainments of an increased intellect, useful knowledge, and a divine voice.”  

—From The Short Practice of Mawé Senge. Tibetan translation: Raven Cypress Wood

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Feast Offering to the Deities of the Mother Tantra

Deities of the Mother Tantra. Painted by Lama Kalsang Nyima. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood.

On the 21st and 22nd lunar days of the 1st month, Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India will perform a feast offering to the deities of the Mother Tantra. These dates are February 25th and 26th, 2019 on the Western calendar. For those who have vows with a yidam deity, performing a feast offering is an opportunity to repair any broken vows and to request the blessings and power of the deity.

The source of the Mother Tantra within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition is the primordial Buddha Küntu Zangpo. It has three cycles: external, internal and secret. Each cycle has a root text and a commentary that was written by the sage Milu Samlek. The main yidam of the Mother tantra is Sangchok Thartuk and his consort Khandro Chema Ötso.

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Homage to Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché!

Homage to Tonpa Shenrap painted on rock

“I prostrate to Shenrap Nampar Gyalwa, the Precious Wish-fulfilling Jewel!”

The 15th day of the 1st lunar month has traditionally been the day for Bönpos to celebrate the human birth of Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché, founder of the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition. In 2019, this date coincides with February 19th on the Western calendar.

However, in recent times, the scholar and Yungdrung Bön master H. E. Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche has discovered through his research that the actual date is the 15th day of the 12th lunar month. See previous post:

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Sacred Dance for the New Year

Monks perform the sacred dances for the Tibetan New Year at Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India. Photo credit: Unknown

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.

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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.

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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

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The Twelve Animals of Tibetan Astrology: The Pig

Tibetan astrological chart and symbols

In 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 is 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 is associated with a specific element for its life-force as well as a specific direction which is determined by the life-force element.  Not only are these twelve animals associated with specific years, they are also associated with specific months, days and hours.

Feb 05, 2019 begins the Tibetan New Year, or Losar, and the year of the Earth Pig.  People born during a Pig year will have an emphasis of the specific qualities associated with the symbol of the Pig.  (These years correspond with the Tibetan lunar calendar and begin sometime between late January and early April.)   According to Tibetan astrology, the element which governs the life-force of the Pig is Water and its positive direction is North.  So, if a Pig person wanted to strengthen their life-force, they would focus upon strengthening the element of Water internally and externally.  Because the positive direction is North, facing this direction while meditating, engaging in healing practices or just relaxing and taking deep breaths is beneficial.

In general as an astrological symbol, the Pig person is honest and uncomplicated. A Pig person is straight-forward, but not in an aggressive way. They are often seen as “good, down-to-earth” people by others. This is because the Pig person does not harbor hidden agendas. They can be trusted and relied upon. In general, they have many friends to whom they are generous and jovial, and are always willing to be helpful. However, the Pig person can have difficulty setting boundaries and saying ‘no.’ And because they tend to be naive, it is possible for them to be taken advantage of by others. Although the Pig person is generous, they also enjoy having money for themselves and living in leisure and comfort. For this reason, the pursuit of pleasure and entertainment can become imbalanced and lead to excess.

The Pig’s soul day is Wednesday and its life-force day is Tuesday.  These are the best days for beginning new projects and activities that are meant to increase or develop something.  The obstacle day is Saturday.  This day is best for purification and letting things go.  It is not a favorable day for beginning new activities or risky activities.

Pig years include: 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, and 2019

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Anniversary of the Human Birth of Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche

Lord Tonpa Shenrap Miwoche. Photo credit: Khedup Gyatso.

The 15th day of the 12th lunar month, January 21, 2019 on the Western calendar is the 18,036th birth anniversary of the founder of the Yungdrung Bön tradition, the Enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwo Künlé Nampar Gyalwa.  Already an enlightened being, Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche chose to be born into this world in order to guide beings from suffering to liberation.  He was born into the royal Mu lineage in the kingdom of Tazig Olmo Lungring.

Traditionally, the anniversary of his birth has been celebrated on the 15th day of the 1st month of the lunar calendar.  However, based upon research by the renowned Yungdrung Bön scholar and supreme lama, His Eminence Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche, the actual date is believed to be the Full Moon day of the last month in the Tibetan lunar calendar.  This is a powerful and auspicious day for performing virtue or spiritual practice.  The benefits of these activities are greatly multiplied.

“King of Teachers, and the glorious guide through cyclic existence, you are the illuminating light that overcomes all darkness.

A primary medicine that removes the torment of the illness of ignorance, you are the king of the Mu clan, an extraordinary being who took human form.

With an army of immense fire that dries up the ocean and mire of the five poisons, you are a luminous holy man who possesses the special marks and characteristics.

Having undertaken a multitude of hardships, you completed a multitude of activities. Through both the four valid means of cognition and the six valid thoughts, and with great loving kindness, you liberate the migrating beings within cyclic existence.

I prostrate to the manifestation of wisdom, Tönpa Shenrap!”

This Praise and Homage for the Compassionate Teacher was composed by the great Lama Drenpa Namkha and is extracted from “The Definitive Meaning of the Lamp that Dispels the Darkness.”

Tibetan translation by Raven Cypress Wood

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Homage to the Lama

His Eminence Menri Ponlop Yangton Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche is welcomed back to Menri Monastery after traveling abroad. Photo credit: Unknown

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Our Otherworldly Neighbors, the Lu

A depiction of a lu belonging to the royal class

According to the ancient teachings of Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché, the phenomenal universe can be divided in to three worlds: the world of the gods above, the world of the lu [Sanskrit: naga] below, and the world of humans in-between. Interactions between the lu and human beings are especially common due to the fact that we share the same environment. Although the lu are most often associated with bodies of water such as lakes, springs, wells, and waterfalls; they also inhabit cliffs, rocks, trees, and abandoned places such as castles and fortresses.

The different kinds of lu can be categorized in many ways. They can be divided into their five main societal classes: the white royal class, the yellow merchant class, the red priest class, the green servant class, and the mixed-color outcast class. They can be categorized according to their overall demeanor of being either generally peaceful or generally aggressive. Or, among the four kinds of guests* they can be categorized as members of the second, third, or fourth guests. As members of the powerful second guests of exalted qualities, there are eight great lu who act as benevolent protectors. As members of the third guests, some lu are among the magically powerful eight classes of beings who can be helpful when happy, but who can also become aggressive and destructive when they feel that they have been slighted. Lastly, as members of the fourth guests who are in need of our charity, some lu take the form of animals such as snakes or various aquatic creatures. They are often depicted as having a lower body similar to a snake, and an upper body similar to a human.

A ritual lu effigy created with tsampa by Murig Geshe Nyima Kunchap Rinpoche.

Any human activity that creates unpleasant smells, pollution, or destruction of the environment can cause the lu to become upset, or to be afflicted with illness and misfortune. When this occurs, the lu sometimes take action to stop the destruction. Some lu even engage in acts of revenge such as causing illness, epidemics, loss of property, or natural disasters to humans. Specific illnesses are associated with the lu such as boils, abscesses, skin diseases, leprosy, and infertility to name a few. For this reason, the enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap taught ritual methods to communicate with the lu, purify what we have polluted, restore harmony and make amends, as well as methods to subdue the aggressive-natured lu who are not satisfied with peaceful methods. Even for peaceful lu, it is important to communicate with them and present peacemaking gifts in the correct way. For example, according to the Yungdrung Bön religious calendar, there are specific days during each lunar month in which the lu are either more receptive to our requests, or not receptive at all.

Geshe Nyima Kunchap and Geshe Tenzin Yangton performing the Lu Sang, or The Purifying Smoke Offering for the Lu. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

Essential to the ritual offerings for the lu is lu men, or lu medicine. Lu medicine contains: the three white things: milk, unsalted butter, and unsalted cheese; the three sweet things: rock sugar, honey, and brown sugar or molasses; the five grains: rice, wheat, barley, millet, and peas; the five precious things: gold, silver, turquoise, coral, and pearl or conch shell; peacock feathers, Choerospoldia axillaris, kidney-shaped Canavalia gladiate, liver-colored and liver-shaped Entada phaseoloides, sea foam, Bombax ceiba flower buds and flowers, crocodile claw-shaped herbal medicine, right-turning (Bön direction) conch shell, amber, hand-shaped Gymademnia, Terminalia Checula, Terminalia belerica Roxb, Emblica Officinalis, and Meconops. All of these substances are dried and ground into a fine powder and then mixed.

Lu medicine. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood

“Through the positive qualities of purifying all of you lu, for both myself and others, may human illness and contagious diseases be stopped!

Act to protect our longevity and our life-force! Act to guard our families and turn back misfortune!

Act to increase our influence and good fortune! Act to bring an abundance of personal power!

Act to connect me with my wealth and resources! Act as a protector and guardian to me!

Selected excerpt from The Purifying Smoke Offering for the Lu translated by Raven Cypress Wood ©2010

Murig Geshe Nyima Kunchap Rinpoche and Raven Cypress Wood prepare lu namkha for the lu ritual of Offering an Ocean of Milk to the Lu. Photo credit: Geshe Tenzin Yangton

On January 26, 2019 at Ligmincha International’s Serenity Ridge Retreat Center in the United States, Murig Geshe Nyima Künchap Rinpoche will be giving a half-day teaching related to the lu, their relationship to humans, how to determine if they have been disturbed, and proper methods to restore harmony. He will be teaching from the Lu Tor, The Ritual of Regularly Giving Torma to the Lu; and the Lu Sang, The Purification and Offering through Smoke for the Lu. Those in attendance will receive transmission for both of these practices. The following day on January 27th, the public is invited as he performs the Lu Ter, Lu Tor, and Lu Sang rituals. For more information or to register, follow the link below:

*The First Guests are the respected guests who are the enlightened beings. The Second Guests are the guests of exalted qualities who are the enlightened and unenlightened benevolent guardians and protectors. The Third Guests are the eight classes of beings. The Fourth Guests are the guests of charity who are beings within the six realms of cyclic existence minus the gods and the demi-gods.

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May Everyone have a Mandala of Good Fortune!

Yungdrung Bon chorten in Dolpo, Nepal established by Geshe Nyima Kunchap Rinpoche.


May there be an immeasurable mandala of good fortune,

incredibly beautiful and pleasing, wonderful, and stunning to look upon,

where the five elements are spontaneously perfected and free from destruction and disintegration!”

Excerpt from the book, Indestructible, The Longevity Practice of Lama Tséwang Rikdzin by Raven Cypress Wood

Link to the book:

Blessings from the Master

HE Menri Ponlop Yangton Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche in Tibet. Photo credit: Unknown

A Victory Banner of Butter Lamps

Yungdrung Bon monks offering candlelight. Photo credit: Unknown.


Throughout the ten directions of the immeasurable three thousand-fold universe,
are a variety of butter lamp goddesses.
Through the lighting of these bright offering lamps, the fire of the lamps clears away darkness and obscurations, and radiates throughout the vast, clear space of the sky.”

An extract from Raising a Victory Banner of Butter Lamps

Translation from the Tibetan by Raven Cypress Wood ©2017. A full translation of the prayer will be included in her forthcoming book detailing support for death and dying according to the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition.

The Next Generation of Knowledge Holders

Young Yungdrung Bon monks in Sikkim preparing to receive HH 34th Menri Trizin Rinpoche. Photo credit: Unknown.

The Queen of Existence: Sipé Gyalmo

HH 34th Menri Trizen Rinpoche with a statue of Sipe Gyalmo who rides a black mule. Photo credit: Unknown

Within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition, one of the primary guardians who removes external, internal, and secret obstacles for both practitioners and the religious tradition is the Queen of Existence, Sipé Gyalmo [Tibetan srid pa’i rgyal mo]. She is an enlightened being who is uniquely a protector and also a yidam, or meditational deity. She is one of the principal female deities, and her invocations and offerings are performed daily in Yungdrung Bön Monasteries. She protects from enemies, danger, illness, misfortune, and confusion.

Monk dancers dressed as the the Six Manifestations of Sipe Gyalmo. Photo credit: Unknown.

Sipé Gyalmo has countless manifestations and emanations. She manifests with different characteristics in order to meet the varied needs of sentient beings. She manifests riding a red mule, riding a black mule, and standing with a hundred heads and thousands of arms and legs. Her Body emanations are the Six Manifestation of Day and Night. Each of these six manifestations arise during a particular cycle of time during every twenty-four hour period. These six manifestations are White Sipé Gyalmo of Dawn, Golden Sipé Gyalmo of Sunrise, Red Sipé Gyalmo of Mid-day, Maroun Sipé Gyalmo of Sunset, Black Sipé Gyalmo of Evening, and Dark-blue Sipé Gyalmo of Midnight.

According to the Yungdrung Bön religious calendar, there are specific days set aside for the practice of Sipé Gyalmo riding a red mule. These dates are according to the lunar calendar and vary according to the month. During the 1st month of each season, which is the 12th, 3rd, 6th, and 9th lunar months, her practice day is the 8th lunar day. During the middle month of each season, which is the 1st, 4th, 7th, and 10th lunar months, her practice day is the 4th lunar day. During the final month of each season, which is the 2nd, 5th, 8th, and 11th lunar months, her practice day is the 5th lunar day.


Mother of Space, the primordially pure, unconditioned Body of Bön,

In order to establish the teachings of Bön in the Land of Snow,

Regardless of wherever I am, Supreme Mother Sipé Gyalmo,

Through my merely calling out to you, please come!”

From The Alphabetical Praise of Sipé Gyalmo. Translation by Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved

Lama Think of Me!

His Eminence Menri Ponlop Yangton Trinley Nyima Rinpoche. Photo credit: Unknown


With the devotion of my body, speech and mind, I pray to the essence of the three Enlightened Bodies, the kind root lama.

Please bestow upon me right now the realization of my own enlightened mind and the meaning of the view, realization and behavior.

May I recognize my natural mind, without modification and free of extremes.

May I recognize the brilliantly clear power of the wisdom of self-awareness.

May the many kinds of unceasing mental perceptions arise as self-appearances.

May I recognize my own enlightened mind, I pray.

Bless me that I may see my true face!

Bless me that self-awareness will arise for me!

Bless me to recognize my own true nature!

Bless me to see my own enlightened mind!

Lama, think of me!  Lama, think of me! Lama, think of me! 

Hold me, and all other sentient beings, in your compassion, I pray! 

Protect us with your compassion, I pray! 

Lead us with your compassion, I pray!

A Powa Prayer written by Lord Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen and included in his Kalong Gyatso, An Ocean of Instructions. Translation by Raven Cypress Wood ©2015 All Rights Reserved.

Protection for Travelers

When traveling, one can specifically include the Goddess of Travel, Chammo Lamlha, in the morning smoke offering, and also offer her torma in the evening, while asking for her protection. Although there are longer invocations of her and her retinue, this is a concise invocation that was written by His Holiness 23rd Menri Trizen Nyima Tenzin Rinpoche when he saw her in a vision at the age of thirteen.

SO!  Within a mandala of luminous and beautiful jewels,

Seated upon a golden hornet,

Is the majestic and youthful goddess,

Chammo Lam Lha, together with her retinue.

Come here now and keep your protection vow!

Please accept these offerings of smoke and torma.

Act as my companion.

Expel the causes for harm and obstacles.

Please act to accomplish this entrusted activity!

Translation Raven Cypress Wood ©2015 All Rights Reserved. No publication permitted.


Pacifying Suffering and Misery

The DU TRI SU essence mantra blessing the environment. Photo credit: Unknown

“This heart mantra pacifies suffering and misery. Having overturned the depths of the lower realms of cyclic existence, may all beings be liberated into the space of absolute reality!”

From Praise of the DU TRI SU Mantra

Translation: Raven Cypress Wood

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