Lama Khyimsar Rinpoche teaching a class


Gyud, or Tantra, is one of the most profound teachings in the Yungdrung Bön tradition. Such teachings take place against a backdrop of belief in the notion of Samsara (Cyclic Existence), whereby sentient beings go through a succession of rebirths within the various modes of existence. The type of birth which one takes within Samsara is believed to be determined by the karma one has accumulated over previous lifetimes. The ultimate aim of all sentient beings is said to be to liberate themselves permanently from the suffering of Samsara. This is done by achieving Sang-gye (Enlightenment) / Buddha-hood. It is believed that liberation from Samsara may be achieved through three paths:

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Pang-lam — the Renunciation Path

Gyur-lam — the Transformation Path (known as Ngag in Tibetan or Tantra in Sanskrit)

Drol-lam — the Liberation Path.

Of the three paths, Gyur-lam and Drol-lam are the most subtle and difficult. Unlike Panglam, which is the safest path — generally taking many lifetimes for the attainment of Enlightenment — Gyur-lam and Drol-lam have the great advantage of allowing the practitioner to attain Enlightenment in this very life and body.

Ngag or Tantra, if practiced authentically through kyed-rim and Dzog-rim, will result in gradual physical and emotional transformation.Thus Enlightenment can be achieved by following practices which have been very carefully prescribed and passed down through the centuries. In selecting a tantric teacher, one should take care to ensure that one is being taught by a fully qualified Lama who stands in the unbroken succession of the Masters of the Teaching.

Tantric masters give their teachings in three main way ways:

* Wang (Empowerment) — through which the master empowers the student to meditate on a deity etc.

* Loong (Transmission) — in which the master bestows the blessing of the text containing the tantric teachings.

* Trid (Instruction) — whereby the master explains the method of practising the particular teaching.

During the teaching, Rinpoche covers vital meditative points, such as one”s “Nature of the Mind” from the Ma-gyud text entitled “Ma-gyud Thug-je Nyi-mei Drol-lam Rin-chen Phur-kyen.” He also introduces his students to the Kyil-khor (mandala), the Lha-tsog (pantheon) and the Yi-dams (personal deities) — in the case of Ma-gyud Gong-Chöd Nam-soom, the Yab (male figure) being Yi-dam Sang-chok Gyal-po and the Yum (female figure) being Kha-dro Kye-ma Wöd-tso — both of whom are central to the practice.

Finally he shall impart Ma-gyud’s consolidated practice, known as Ma-gyud Gong-Chöd Nam-soom (The Threefold Nature Practice of Mother Tantra), thus providing the student with tantric keys with which to open the door to Enlightenment / Buddha-hood. It is then up to the student whether he or she shall be able to turn the key in the lock in order to effect the transformation. The “oil” which eases the turning of the key, or the transformation process, is that of sustained practice.



As with many eastern traditions, Yungdrung Bön makes it clear that all illness is derived from past karma and that this manifests through both root and secondary causes. Regardless of the nature of the illness, Nam-jom Jhab-trud healing acts as a panacea for all ills and is like a master key that opens all doors towards the healing process. The administration of the Nam-jom Jab-trud healing is carried out by the Lama in public during weekends as well as can be requested privately.


Before proceeding to Phowa itself, it might be useful to set it in context.

Central to Bön Teachings is the notion of Samsara or Cyclic Existence whereby sentient beings go through a succession of rebirths within the various modes or realms of existence. It is believed that there are six realms of existence — three higher and three lower. The higher realms consist of humans, gods, and demi-gods and the lower realms consist of animals, hungry ghosts, and hell-beings.

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The type of birth which one takes in Samsara is said to be determined by the karma which one has accumulated in this (and previous) lifetimes. The ultimate aim of all sentient beings is viewed as being to liberate themselves permanently from the suffering of Samsara and to achieve Sang-gyey (Enlightenment), however, it is believed that departure from Samsara is only possible where one has been born into the human realm since, in all the other realms of existence, beings are unable to recognize ignorance and desire as being the driving forces of Samsara in order to be able to overcome these obstacles. They therefore remain trapped within the cycle of birth and death. What part then does Phowa play in this scenario?

According to Master Gong-Zod Ri-Trod Chenpo, “The profound and esoteric teaching of Phowa is needed by all sentient beings for the achievement of Enlightenment.”

Such teachings cover the dissolution of the body”s elements during the death process and the associated practice of consciously leading the transference of consciousness from the body at the time of death in order to direct it towards Enlightenment. It is however a common misconception that Phowa lends itself exclusively to the dying process since, when we start to truly realize our own impermanence and the inevitability of death, even the most ordinary activities in our daily lives can take on a new hue.

Yes, Phowa teachings do indeed cause us to face up to the fact that the only certainty in life is death; however, with this realization, we are presented with a myriad of golden opportunities — if we wish to avail ourselves of them.

This is the “kick-start” to motivate us to make the most of the chances presented to us through our human births to start to wipe the karmic slate clean by purifying obscurations and mental poisons and generating positive merits. By doing so, not only do we enrich our own lives, but we can also affect positively the lives of those around us — thus Phowa enhances our lives as well as preparing us to handle the death process.

During Phowa retreats, Rinpoche provides the practitioner with both the esoteric exercises of Phowa (Dzogchen Ngon-dro and Ngo-zhi) and with ample opportunity to rehearse and become well grounded in the practical application of Phowa (Je-kyi Ja-wa). These exercises include energy work on the central channel and this is believed to have a very beneficial effect on our own health and to help to prolong the lifespan of the practitioner. More importantly however, by practising regularly, Phowa practitioners ensure that, when death strikes, they are in the position to retain and hold the rudder, which enables them to increase their chances of steering their ship of consciousness safely through the transition stages of Bardo (the intermediate stage between death and life) toward the shore of Enlightenment.


CHÖD PRACTICE: Khadroi Ghe-gyang
(The Sky Walker's Laughing-Dance)

Chöd, or Lu-jin, is one of the most subtle and sophisticated concepts of Tibetan spiritual practice. Chöd literally means 'severing' and Lu-jin means 'giving away one's body'. Both terms relate to the concept of surrendering the severed body, without attachment, in a characteristic ritual manner of laughter and dancing. The core purpose behind Chöd is to sever one’s ego . This practice is generally carried out by means of visualization (although occasionally by request in Tibet and other Himalayan regions), it can be performed on an actual dead body as part of a funeral rite — this involving no sacrifice of life whatsoever.

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The original concept of this teaching is to be found in Tibet”s pre-Buddhist spiritual tradition, Yungdrung Bön. Other Buddhist schools also have a tradition of Chöd introduced to them by the female Master Ma-chik Lab-dron (1044-1143) who is believed to be a disciple of Pha dam-pa Sang-gye.

According to Yungdrung Bön, Chöd was originally taught by Yum-chen Sherab Jyam-ma (The Great Loving Wisdom Mother) and passed down through successive masters till the present day. Some of these masters are reputed to have received visionary or aural transmissions (nyen-gyud) direct from male and female deities. Trul-ku Tro-nyen Gyaltsen was one such master. He received the two volumes of Tro-nyen Nyen-gyud in such a manner in 1386.

In Yungdrung Bön, there are numerous chöd practices such as Kha-dro Sang-chöd, Nyen-sa Lam-kyer from Ma-gyud including Kha-droi Göng-chöd in Ma-gyud Göng-chöd Namsoom and Khadroi Ghe-gyang.

Khadroi ghe-gyang is one of the most popular practices and is embraced by Bönpos and Buddhists alike — particularly in eastern and western Tibet. This practice was composed by the great Bönpo scholar and 20th century Dzogchen Master, Shar-za Tashi Gyaltsen (1858-1935) who attained Jha-lu Wöd-ku Chen-po (The Great Rainbow Light Body) — dissolving into light and leaving only his hair and nails.

This is one of his many of teachings, which are to be found in Zöd-nga (The Five Treasures) — including Yang-szab Nam-kha Zod-chen (The Surpassingly Refined Great Treasure of Infinite Sky). He composed this at the request of many of his devoted disciples — including Ngag-tsun Tra-nya — who initiated the request by offering a precious silver mandala to his Master, with a traditional, spotless scarf. In the concluding part of the text, the composer dedicated it to help all sentient beings who call upon his secret name — Sharzai Ja-drel Rigpa Rang-shar — to attain enlightenment.

Sharza Rinpoche, as he is more commonly known, was one of Tibet”s pioneer Masters of re-med (non-sectarian teachers) in the 20th Century.

Yungdrung Bön, regards Chöd or Lu-jin as being one of the most subtle and sophisticated meditation practices. It can be practised at different levels, from novice to advanced, according to the Chöd-pa / Chöd-ma's (male or female Chöd practitioner's) ability.

Unfortunately, there has been a tendency by some Westerners to compare and confuse Chöd or Lu-jin with neolithic and shamanic rites involving blood sacrifice. It is to be stressed that this comparison is totally erroneous and is based on a complete misconception which fails to recognize that this practice is carried out entirely by means of symbolic visualization by the Chöd-pa / Chöd-ma, who visualizes him or herself as offering his or her own body, with complete non-attachment, as a selfless act of generosity to pay off karmic debts for the benefit of all sentient beings. It ought not therefore to be compared with the practices of some shamans — past and present — who practice the actual blood sacrifice of animals and humans in some of their ceremonial rites. It is thought that this misconception may have arisen by some Westerners misunderstanding an aspect of Chöd or Lu-jin where, in exceptional circumstances and by request, the rite can be used to dispose of a corpse — involving no slaughter of life whatsoever.


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