Unbroken Lineage of Wisdom
12th March 2016
Studying in Lishu is a rare opportunity that I feel grateful for to have had once again. Even though one cannot say it is easy or glamorous, since studying and practicing in this kind of simple, quiet environment with a small group of people for sure has it´s challenges. However, these kind of conditions are rare to find and beneficial in many ways. For instance, we are living in India, which in itself gives an opportunity to change some of the habitual ways we are used to think and act in the western countries. Things do not work in the same way than in the West, in fact, quiet often they work the opposite way! At the same time, India is a land of great blessings, since so many spiritual traditions are very much alive and natural part of everyday life here, including the Bon-tradition that we can study, practice and experience in more detail and depth in Lishu.
The teaching as well as the texts and prayers that we study in Lishu are in Tibetan, with translation to English. Together with the formal Tibetan language studies this gives the chance to learn more of Tibetan language, which in turns opens up the teachings in a completely different way than studying them in English only. In a small group of people, with no other activities around to distract us, the teaching and practice is very personal and intensive.
Lishu-group on the way to Menri Monastery (in the background)
We ended this second trimester of studies by attending Sherab Mawe Senghe Initiation in Menri Monastery, which is the root place of study and practice for many Bon teachers and practitioners. To receive blessings in this way is something very precious and rare. Sherab Mawe Senghe (Manjushri in the Buddhist traditions) is the wisdom aspect of the mind, the sharp and clear mind of intellect that we need in order to understand the teachings. This wisdom deity initiation and transmission comes directly from Kuntu Zangpo and has been passed through all Menri enthronement holders until this day. During the initation we were also very much blessed to see a crystal statue of Drenpa Namkha that is very rarely displayed to the public.
Menri Ponlop Thinley Nyima Rinpoche giving Mawe Senghe-initiation
Due to the health condition of His Holiness Lungtok Tenpa Nyima, who is the head of the Bon tradition and usually giving this initiation, Menri Ponlop Thinley Nyima Rinpoche was giving the initiation to all the monks, nuns and lay people. During his teaching he asked us to fulfill only one commitment for this intitation this time, which usually has many commitments to fulfill. That is to pray and accumulate long life mantras for His Holinesse´s health. At the end of the initiation, the white scarfs were passed on from the Master to the monks and nuns and from there on we were all holding each other´s clothes. This symbolizes the lineage that reaches all the way to Kuntu Zangpo and is still very much alive today. Through this connection to the lineage one could also understand how important it is to receive and pass on the good qualities from all our ancestors and to allow them to grow stronger in ourselves.
Menri Gompa on the initiation day
On the early morning of the second day of our visit to Menri, we climbed up the steep hills of a mountain nearby Dolanji to raise prayer flags for increasing life force and prosperity of all beings everywhere, and this time especially for His Holiness.
Auspicious area for raising prayerflags nearby Menri Monastery
Writing names on prayerflags
The abbot of Menri Dialectic school Menri Shedrub Khenpo Geshe Nyima Dhondup Rinpoche and the head teacher of the school Menri Shedrub Lopon Geshe Gelek Gyatso Rinpoche, together with our teacher Menri Geshe Sherab Lodoe and a school student Kelsang Phuntsok performed Sang Chod ritual and the auspicious ritual by throwing tsampa (roasted barley flour) in the air. We raised prayer flags (lung ta) high up between the tall trees and also offered many many colorful paper lung ta with people´s names on them, to be carried by the wind.
Juniper and different herbs and plants are burned during Sang Chod – ritual
Life force increasing with the Lung Ta prayerflags
Menri Shedrup Khenpo throwing prayerflags in the air, with loudly saying KI KI SO SO LHA GYAL LO!
Tsampa is thrown in the air in the auspicious ritual
Our teacher Sangmo Yangri´s mother had prepared a delicious breakfast for us all which we enjoyed together afterwards. What a great way to end our study period!
Lishu study group and teachers
A group of students will continue their studies in Lishu for the third trimester after few weeks of holidays. Upcoming third trimester completes the first year of studies, and a longer summer break follows. In September Lishu program continues with the second year of studies. The topic of the studies will be Ma Gyud, Mother Tantra, which is one of the most important texts in this tradition. The applications for second year studies are already open. I asked few questions from our teacher Sangmo-La about the next year studies.
Q: Sangmo-La, what will the studies include next year and how is the program different from the first year´s studies?
A: Second year focuses more on practice than philosophical studies. The program includes Tummo, Chod, Phowa, Dream Yoga, Sleep Yoga and Bardo teachings. Also Tibetan language studies and medium hagiography of Buddha Tonpa Sherab Miwoche from mdo zermig, which was discovered in tenth century, will be taught.
Q: What do you think are the benefits and challenges of studying in Lishu from the student´s point of view?
A: Since the second year is focused on mother tantra teachings from the Ma Gyud, it is very good if students already have received and are practicing the preliminary (Ngondro) teachings. However, these teachings will be received from a Bon master in the beginning of the course in any case. Also, one needs to do Ma Gyud Tsok offering in a group in the beginning of the year or personally if attending the program later.
Also, one challenge is the weather conditions of India, especially in September which is hot and humid. The students need to have durability, practicing with these challenging conditions.
As for benefits, one of the benefits is receiving teachings in their original language from a qualified Master. Also, in Lishu students have more time and space for deepening their practice. Menri Monastery is situated nearby, so the blessings of Menri are very much present here. Many Bon Masters come to visit Lishu, so students have the possibility for a direct contact with the Masters, both in Lishu and in Menri Monastery.
Q: What are the qualities that are needed most from the students attending Lishu program?
A: Patience, determination, dedication and good English language skills are very much needed. Students need to have patience to fit the program and the conditions in Lishu and not have too many expectations for the program fitting into their personal needs. The program is mainly for intensive study and practice for determined students, so one should not come to Lishu just for experimenting or for an easy vacation time. If one is not clear if one can attend the whole year of program, it is good to come only for one trimester of studies.
An extended interview of Sangmo-La will be published in April Issue of the Voice of Clear Light. More information about Lishu Institute and second year´s program is available in www.lishu.org