News and Inspiration from Ligmincha Institute
Volume 6, Number 3
March 2, 2006
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“The ancient Bon practice of Sang Chod” – an interview with Geshe
Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
“Early-bird” registration date is March 16 for spring retreat on “Sang
New Series of Practice Retreats at Serenity Ridge
14th Annual Summer Retreat: “Tummo – Inner Fire of Realization,” July
2-22, 2006, with Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche at Serenity Ridge
A Bon Stupa in the West
“The Bon Pantheon - a column devoted to deepening our connection to the
Bon lineage – celebrating the life of Nyame Sherab Gyaltsen
Ligmincha Council News
An interview with Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
Rinpoche, could you give us some background on the practice of Sang
Chod that you’ll be teaching in April?
TENZIN WANGYAL RINPOCHE: The Sang Chod text I will be teaching from
draws from various sources in the ancient Bon Buddhist tradition,
particularly a text entitled “Sang,” by the 14th century master Nyame
Sherab Gyaltsen, the first abbot of Menri Monastery. Sang Chod is
originally from the Cha Shen Thegpa (The Vehicle of Prosperity), the
first causal vehicle of the Bon tradition. Nearly all Tibetans know
about the ancient practices of the Cha Shen Thegpa and use them often
in their daily lives.
Sang Chod and many of the other practices of the causal vehicle are
very much about developing and strengthening the healthy energies we
all need in order to be at our best in life. In the Sang Chod we focus
mainly on our vitality or life force, our soul, our fortune, and our
personal and inner power. When these forces are balanced within us we
have a more stable foundation for whatever we want to do in life,
including our spiritual development. A yogi who is practicing toward
enlightenment needs to reinforce that kind of energy. A family can need
that energy. One’s business can need that energy. Even entire
communities and countries need that kind of force and energy.
The practice of Sang Chod is a form of communication with nature and
the nature spirits. In Bon as in many indigenous traditions, it is
considered very important to live in harmony with the spirits of
nature, to harmonize the elemental forces in the environment, to
harmonize our own relationship with these forces, and to harmonize
these forces within ourselves. It is believed that frequent physical
illness, interpersonal difficulties, loss of energy, financial
difficulties, etc., can indicate an imbalance between ourselves and the
spirits of the environment. As a remedy we communicate and work
directly with those spirits using offering rituals that include prayer,
mantra and smoke purification. Through these rituals we can uplift our
own fortune, personal power, life force and spiritual vitality, as well
as those of the environment and its spirits.
Why did you choose to teach this practice at this time?
TWR: In the world today it seems like there are many more disturbances
in nature, extreme disturbances. Our earth is clearly showing its
unhappiness. We believe that it’s not the gross elements of nature in
themselves that are unbalanced and causing all this upheaval, but the
spirits behind those elements.
I think it is wonderful to learn to use this knowledge to shift the
flow of one’s everyday life. But I also hope to inspire my students,
through these ancient prayers and rituals, to try to collectively
change something in their environment as well. These rituals can be
used in group practice toward a greater, more global good. That is the
purpose of spiritual practice, after all: We first improve ourselves so
we are better able to help others.
How could one incorporate this practice into everyday life?
TWR: If you look at the cycle of one day, we generally have more
energy in the morning, we get a little tired by the afternoon, and by
late at night we have no energy at all. Each month or year has a
similar cycle. People often think of starting new projects at the
beginning of the month or year. In the West you have the idea of New
Year’s resolutions, for example. Every beginning has certain uplifting
positive qualities, but these are not necessarily maintained.
The flow of life has its ups and downs. When the flow is upward it’s
not a problem but when it’s downward we need some kind of solution, and
these practices are that solution. It is important to know and to trust
that one can reinforce what has declined; and that a lot of support is
available to help us in this purpose. There are very clear, very
ancient, and very effective ways to shift and change that downside -
whether it is related to the environment, our health, or personal or
business issues.
If we align ourselves more with the natural rhythm of the world then we
will strengthen the upward momentum right from the beginning. If we
create the right circumstances and the right energetic flow at the
right time, we are more likely to be successful.
It is traditional to do Sang Chod at the beginning of the day; as well
as at the beginning of each month (the first day of the Tibetan lunar
calendar), on the third day of the lunar month, and at Losar, the
beginning of the Tibetan year. These are considered the most auspicious
times to do Sang Chod.
When the energy of the sun, the moon or the environment is already
rising, it helps you in uplifting your own inner energy through the
practice. You kind of hold on to that energy and it takes you up with
it. (Rinpoche laughs.)
April 19-23 with Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche at Serenity Ridge
Retreat cost: (includes all meals; on-site housing is available)
$400 if received by March 16
$450 if received by April 6
$500 if received after April 6
For further information see the Ligmincha website:
To register please contact Ligmincha Institute at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or
(434) 977-6161.
The practice of meditation is essential to integrate the teachings that
have been heard and reflected upon. The opportunity for intensive
practice in the community of other practitioners in retreat is precious
and powerful. Responding to recent requests, Ligmincha Institute offers
these practice retreats to support the deepening of meditative
experience in the sacred space of our retreat center.
The first practice retreat will be a NGONDRO PRACTICE RETREAT, led by
Marcy Vaughn, from March 24–26, 2006.
The second will be a SIX LOKAS PRACTICE RETREAT, led by John Jackson,
from June 16–18, 2006.
NOTE: Previous transmission for the Ngondro and Six Lokas practices is
required for attendees.
March 24–26, 2006
With Marcy Vaughn
Foundational Practices of the
Bon Tradition
The ngondro is the doorway through which one enters the vast and
profound Bon Buddhist path. A set of nine foundational or preliminary
practices, the ngondro provides a solid foundation of understanding and
experience upon which a strong spiritual life develops. It is often
described as a friend that accompanies you throughout your spiritual
The more you devote yourself to these practices that tame, purify and
perfect, and the more you become familiar with the experiences that
these practices bring, the more you will find spiritual practice
grounded within you. Join your fellow practitioners in this three-day
practice intensive to connect with the power and beauty of the ngondro.
MARCY VAUGHN is a senior student of Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche. Marcy
teaches mindfulness-based stress reduction for the University of
Pennsylvania's Program in Stress Management and is a therapist in
private practice.
Note: This retreat is open only to those who have received the ngondro
Retreat cost (includes meals): $150
June 16–18, 2006
Dissolving the Obstacles to Enlightenment
At one time or another each of us suffers strong emotions that throw us
off balance, cause us to act in ways we later regret, and make us lose
touch with our true nature. Centuries ago the masters of the Bon
lineage developed the meditations of the Six Lokas specifically to
purify the disturbing emotions and help us live our lives in a more
balanced and relaxed way.
These meditations focus on the root causes of our suffering: anger,
greed, ignorance, jealousy, pride and laziness. Through each meditation
we examine our habitual patterns so that we may recognize them and then
purify and transform them. The practices have a deep healing and
transformative power, and are traditionally practiced in retreat as a
preliminary to dzogchen contemplation.
This practice retreat is an opportunity to develop clear visualization,
energize mantra practice, enjoy the support of sangha, dissolve
emotional limitations, and simply and clearly be.
JOHN JACKSON has studied in Tibetan monasteries in India and Nepal and
practiced meditation for 25 years. For more than 10 of those years he
has studied with great masters of the Tibetan Bon Buddhist tradition.
Note: This retreat is open only to those who have received the
transmission of the Six Lokas practice.
Retreat cost (includes meals): $150
For 15 years Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche has presented the dzogchen
teachings of the Bon Buddhist tradition in the West. His teachings and
commentaries convey a fundamental understanding of spiritual practice
in the context of modern Western life. His ability to make these oncehidden
teachings accessible, while maintaining the purity of their
transmission, has allowed his students to move beyond conceptual
understanding and bring authentic dzogchen experience into their
conventional lives.
In his soon-to-be-published book, Tenzin Rinpoche presents very simple,
clear and direct instructions for integrating spiritual practice
through the three doors of body, speech and mind. This summer, at
Ligmincha Institute's Serenity Ridge Retreat Center, Tenzin Rinpoche
will combine material from his book with practice instructions from the
text Ku Sum Rang Shar (Spontaneous Arising of the Three Kayas). This
text is by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche, a Bon master who achieved
the body of light, or rainbow body, in 1934.
At this year's annual summer retreat Rinpoche will guide and instruct
us in the practice of tummo (generating the inner heat) to burn away
subtle obscurations and cultivate bliss. He will also teach meditation
practices for retrieving healing essences from nature and the elements,
which will include light fasting combined with herbal drinks to purify
and rejuvenate the body and enhance meditative experience. We will
engage the mind and speech with prayer, healing sounds, mantra and
visualization; and we will incorporate the potent body movements of Tsa
Lung, Trul Khor and prostrations. Rinpoche is happy to announce that
both Geshe Nyima Kunchap and Geshe Tenzin Yeshe will join him at the
retreat to help lead these practices.
It is Tenzin Rinpoche's sincere wish that through the intensive study
and practice opportunity offered during this year's summer retreat,
each student will find his or her own door to a life that is more
physically healthy, energetically vital and spiritually fulfilling.
As always, you may come for one, two or all three weeks of the summer
retreat. If you are new to Serenity Ridge, or able to come for only one
week, Rinpoche recommends that you come to the first week, when an indepth
explanation of the practices will be offered. Of course all are
welcome no matter which week they attend. Each week is designed to be a
complete series of teachings, and a direct and powerful healing
experience with aspects of all of the practices presented each week.
Week One: July 2-8 / Week Two: July 9-15 / Week Three: July 16-22
Retreat cost PER WEEK (includes meals):
$450 received by May 21; $500 received by June 15; $550 received after
June 15
Note: Those who participate in the summer work retreat will receive a
50% discount on one week of the summer retreat.
Serenity Ridge Summer Work Retreat: June 27–July 1, 2006
This is a wonderful time to share with sangha and to be of joyful
Our work retreat includes vigorous work periods, daily meditation
practice, and ample time for a swim in the pool or a walk along the
Rockfish River. The work retreat is free of charge, and participants
are provided with free tenting and meals.
For those who participate in the entire work retreat there will be a
50% discount on one week of the summer retreat.
The first Bon stupa in the West was consecrated on Feb. 19, 2006, in
Torreon, Mexico. There are pictures on the Ligmincha Website home
page. You can go to and follow the
link to a page with thumbnails of many more images. The April VOCL will
carry a firsthand account by Lourdes Hinojosa and other sangha members
who attended. In the meantime, here is some information about the stupa
and how you can contribute to this important, sacred project.
The Great Bon Stupa for World Peace
What a Stupa Signifies
A stupa (Sanskrit), or chorten (Tibetan), is a sacred structure that
symbolizes enlightened mind. It is an architectural representation of
the entire path to liberation. Every aspect of its outer form and inner
content is alive with symbolic meaning. The power of the stupa is to
project the mind of the teacher for the benefit of future generations;
therefore, its very foundation is compassion.
A Stupa Is Intended to Awaken You
For the practitioner, the function of the stupa is to support faith by
encouraging the aspiration to acquire the qualities of the enlightened
mind. For all people, it supports a connection to the Buddha mind and
the expression of devotion. Anyone who sees or otherwise comes in
contact with a stupa has a seed planted in their stream of
consciousness. Eventually, their suffering will be relieved, their
obscurations cleared away, and the continuity of the mind of the Buddha
will develop in them.
Bon in Mexico
In May 1995, Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche brought the Bon Buddhist
teachings to Mexico. The response to his teaching was so enthusiastic
that two years later Rinpoche founded GARUDA, Tibetan Cultural
Association, with the support of H.H. Lungtok Tenpa'i Nyima, Yongdzin
Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche, and a group of dedicated students. During his
visit to Mexico City in 1998, Rinpoche expressed his vision of a
retreat center in Mexico where students could study and practice and
where the first Bon stupa in the West could be built. In less than six
months 10 hectares in the mountains of Valle de Bravo, State of Mexico
(about two hours from Mexico City), were donated for this specific
purpose by Nizzo Bejar.
Lopon Sangye Tenzin Rinpoche
The Stupa for World Peace is dedicated to the Venerable Lopon
Sangye Tenzin Rinpoche, dzogchen master and teacher of Yongdzin Tenzin
Namdak Rinpoche and Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche. His reincarnation is
Tulku Jorge René, born in Chihuahua, Mexico. Tulku Jorge Rene was
recognized by H.H. Lungtok Tenpa'i Nyima Rinpoche and Geshe Tenzin
Wangyal Rinpoche. His Holiness has given him the name Ponse Jingme
Although each individual sangha may have its own projects,
participating in the realization of the Stupa for World Peace is a
special opportunity for all students to receive enormous blessings.
How to make a donation for the stupa:
Ligmincha Institute is a 501(3)(c) non-profit organization.
Contributions are tax deductible. We accept donations by check, money
order or credit card (MasterCard/Visa)
To make a donation please contact:
Ligmincha Institute
313 Second St., S.E., Suite 207
Charlottesville, VA 22902
Tel: 434.977.6161
E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
BON PANTHEON - a column devoted to deepening our connection to the Bon
lineage – celebrating the life of Nyame Sherab Gyaltsen
On March 4, we celebrate and honor the birth of Nyame Sherab Gyaltsen
(1356-1415), the founder and first abbot of Menri Monastery, the major
Bon monastery in Tibet. Nyame Sherab Gyaltsen established Menri in
1405 near the site of Yeru Wensakha, a great Bon monastery founded in
1072 but later destroyed by floods in 1386. It was after the
destruction of Yeru Wensakha that Nyame Sherab Gyaltsen chose to
undertake his lifelong mission to restore, preserve and reform the Bon
traditions. In the recent book “Opening the Door to Bon,” Nyima Dakpa
Rinpoche writes that Nyame Sherab Gyaltsen was guided by oral
transmissions from Sidpa Gyalmo (the chief protector of Bon) to
establish a new monastery. Because of this divine intervention, the
building of Tashi Menri Ling, in the Tobgyal village of Tsang Province,
was considered a miracle.
Nyame Sherab Gyaltsen attracted many students from all over Tibet, and
Menri Monastery became known as the “mother monastery” of all Bonpos.
He inspired many new Bon monasteries to flourish throughout Tibet. At
the same time, Buddhism was also being revitalized under the leadership
of his contemporary, Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug school of
Buddhism. In fact, the founding of Menri in 1405 was followed just
four years later by the founding of the first Gelug monastery, Gamden.
Nyame Sherab Gyaltsen (Nyame means “the peerless”) was born in 1356 in
the district of Gyarong and he lived to be 59. He was the first master
to hold all the transmissions and empowerments of all the Bon lineages
and was greatly revered for his achievements and realization. He
established the monastic code still used today.
Christoph Baumer writes in his book “Tibet’s Ancient Religion – Bon”
that each year, at the time of Nyame Sherab Gyaltsen’s birthday
celebration, the monastic code is read aloud to the assembly of all the
monks at Menri Monastery. The code begins: “The laws of the king are
like a golden yoke. These laws of Bon are like a silken ribbon.” The
principles of behavior are divided into three parts, the “four basic
rules, then the group of the first 25 monastic rules, and finally the
250 perfect principles.” The four basic rules provide the basis for
all further vows. They are promises to abstain from killing, from
stealing, from lying, and from violating chastity. It is written,
“These four vows are like the four legs of a horse, and thus they must
be unconditionally and precisely kept.”
Nyame Sherab Gyaltsen also helped to make public debate an important
institution of the monastery as a means for monks to test their
theoretical knowledge. This is still an important daily practice at
both Bon monasteries in exile; Menri in Dolanji, India, and Triten
Norbutse in Kathmandu, Nepal.
The original Menri Monastery was destroyed during the Chinese invasion
in 1959, and was then rebuilt in Northern India where today’s lineage
holder, His Holiness Lungtok Tenpa’i Nyima, through an unbroken
succession since Nyame Sherab Gyaltsen, resides as the 33rd Menri
Trizen. In 1977, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan
government in exile officially recognized the abbot of Menri, His
Holiness Lungtok Tenpa’i Nyima, to be the head of the Bon religion.
In an excerpt from a letter posted on the Bon Foundation’s website, His
Holiness Lungtok Tenpa’i Nyima writes:
“Since the time of Nyame Sherab Gyaltsen, Menri Monastery has been the
‘Mother Monastery’ for all Bonpos, whether inside or outside of Tibet.
Bonpos everywhere are very happy if the Menri Monastery is developing
well. It means that the Bon religion and culture are going well. That
is why, as Menri Trizin, I have a very heavy responsibility. I am glad
that I have you all to help me in this challenging task.” (See the Bon
Foundation's Website:
Bonpos continue to recognize and celebrate Nyame Sherab Gyaltsen’s
birth and wonderful legacy. Below is the traditional prayer to Nyame
Sherab Gyaltsen. On a CD entitled “Musique Tradionnelle Bon” the
prayer to Nyame Sherab Gyaltsen is included as “Chant for the 1st Abbot
of Menri,” a prayer that is technically called a ‘request for planting
the seed’:
Editors’ Notes:
Several wonderful resources on Bon history and the Bon lineage are
available at Ligmincha’s online bookstore and Tibet Shop
Baumer, Christoph. “Tibet’s Ancient Religion – Bon.” Translated from
German by Michael Kohn. Trumbull, Ct.: WeatherHill, 2002. ($60)
Nyima Dakpa. “Opening the Door to Bon.” Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion
Publications, 2005. ($15.95)
Per Kvaerne. “The Bon Religion of Tibet.” Boston: Shambhala
Publications, 1996. ($65)
There are several Websites full of current and historic details on the
Bon lineage, as well as beautiful visuals:
The Bon Foundation:
Yungdrung Bon Association in France:
* Another auspicious date in March is the birthday of Tonpa Shenrab,
the founder of Bon, on March 17. This is also the day of a full moon
and a lunar eclipse – quite an auspicious day for practice!
* There is a wonderful sacred image of Nyame Sherab Gyaltsen available
from Ligmincha’s Tibet Shop with the prayer to him printed on the
reverse (price $4) (see
- Aline and Jeff Fisher
From Candace Byers, Fundraising
The sangha is manifesting the first paramita, generosity. As of Feb.
28th we have raised $185,000 including the original grant and the funds
raised to match it! Thank you everyone for your very generous
contributions, your prayers, and aspirations. Rinpoche has given us
the go ahead to begin the second wing of the Garuda House. We still
need about $115,000 to be able to reach our goal of $300,000. Many
people in the international sangha have just received their letter from
Rinpoche. We will surely make our goal, but we still need help and
prayers. Several people have been able to get matching grants from the
corporations they work for, a great way to increase your gift. If you
want to know which corporations make matching grants, just call me at
the number below.
Generosity also takes the form of giving your time. We are blessed with
so many practitioners with such deep and varied talents. This year the
Council's fundraising efforts will include seeking grants from
foundations. Donna Russo and Scott Clearwater have agreed to help me
with this. If you have experience in this area or connections to a
foundation, please call or email me anytime.
During this year's summer retreat Gabriel Rocco will generously
continue to be our Master of Ceremonies at the auction and the banquet.
Pam Rodeheaver will continue as the master of the treasury. Juanita
Rockwell will direct our thespians, and Kim Cary will orchestrate our
musicians. If you are itching to be in the limelight, please contact
Juanita at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or Kim at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Donna
Russo has agreed to help continue the new tradition of the silent
auction. Emily Lewis will help coordinate the live auction with the
help of many others. Of course we are helpless without Sue Davis and
Norman Dill.
We need some help with information systems and software that would
simplify the administration of fundraising. If anyone has a background
in distributed information systems please call me at any time.
Thank you everyone!
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