By: John Reynolds / Vajranatha.
4 Classes of Bönpo Tantras
Within the Bönpo tradition, there are 4 classes of Tantras.
The 2 lower or Outer Tantras (phyi rgyud), namely,
Kriya Tantra (bya-ba’i rgyud)
Charya Tantra (spyod-pa’i rgyud), are more ritualistic in their emphasis, with mandalas, invocations, elaborate puja offerings, and so on.
The higher or Inner Tantra (nang rgyud) also consist of 2 classes of Tantras.
The first, Yeshen Tantra (ye-gshen rgyud) emphasizes the meditation practice of sadhana, the process of transformation, usually entailing the practice visualizing oneself as a wrathful deity.
The second, Yeshen Chenpo Tantra (ye-gshen chen-po’i rgyud), mainly focuses on Guru Sadhanas for Siddhas such as Dränpa Namkha, Lishu Tag-ring, and Tsewang Rigdzin, as well as the Dakini Kalpa Zangmo.
In terms of Yeshen Tantra, the Bönpos possess collections of:
- Father Tantras (pha rgyud)
- Mother Tantras (ma rgyud).
Among the wrathful deities belonging to this Father Tantra class, there are found 5 principal meditation deities known as the Saykhar Chog-nga (gsas-mkhar mchog lnga), “the 5 supreme ones of the divine citadel.” A divine citadel (gsas-mkhar), or castle, is actually a celestial palace, corresponding to the idea of the mandala (dkyil-'khor).
A mandala is in fact a 3-dimensional architectonic structure, whereas the mandala depicted on a scroll painting, or thangka, is two-dimensional, and more or less represents the floor plan of the mandala palace. The term gsas (pronounced “say”) is an old word having the same meaning as lha or “god.”
These 5 principal deities are as follows:
1. Walse Ngampa (dbal-gsas rngam-pa),
2. Lhagöd Thogpa (lha-rgod thog-pa),
3. Trowo Tsochok Khagying ( khro-bo gtso-mchog mkha'-' gying),
4. Walchen Gekhöd (dbal-chen ge-khod), and
5. Walphur Nagpo ( dbal-phur nag-po), or simply Phurpa.
They respectively represent the enlightened functions of the Body, Speech, Mind, Quality, and Activity. Zhang-zhung Meri is regarded as a special form of Walchen Gekhöd, who embodies the Quality Aspect of the enlightened awareness of the Buddha..
However, nowadays, Gekhöd-Meri is not a popular meditation deity practice among contemporary Bönpos.
The Bönpos mostly practice Walse (dbal-gsas), with whom many magical practices are associated, and also the Zhitro (zhi-khro), “the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities practice,” of whom Trowo Tsochok (khro-bo gtso-mchog) is the principal deity according to the Bönpo Book of the Dead cycle.
The rites of Phurpa is also quite popular as a Yidam practice.
Discussion of the fifth religious tradition of Tibet.
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