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Sunday, September 29, 2019

Ap Phola Mansang Chungdud

Today, I am very happy to come in face to face with Phola Mansang Chungdud Statue. I have heard many stories about this great deity who helped Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel to win war with Tibetans. He also invited Drupthop Trangtong Gyalpo to visit Bhutan.
Phola Mansang Chungdud is the father deity of Haa valley. History of Haa valley would not be complete without reference of Phola Mansang Chungdud, the guardian deity of Haa. Although his name suggests that he is the deity of man and strength, all the natives of Haa and also some people from Paro nevertheless worship him for all other purposes also. 

He is popularly known as Phola Mansang Chungdud or in short as Ap Chungdud. He is venerated for his strength, skills and bravery during the wars against Tibetans. He is also revered for his contribution in safeguarding the religion from negative forces. He is admired for his innocence and straightforwardness and dreaded for his temper.

He is compared to a very good father who keeps the priorities of his children above everything else. People believe that it is not a good idea to come in conflict with the people of Haa not only because of the temper which they believe is being inherited from Phola Mansang Chungdud but also because Phola Mansang Chungdud backs them up if such an event ever occurs. Like many deities, he is known as “Welfare Deity” in common man’s language but sometimes devoid of logic and reasons.

When Guru Rinpoche came to this part of the world sometimes in 8th century, he performed many rituals to tame the malignant spirits. Out of these rituals, one was the 5th series of Avalokitesvara’s Abhisekha ritual at the cave of Gyonyulpel. 

During this time, Phola Mansang Chungdud, along with many other deities who didn’t want Guru Rinpoche to come to Bhutan resisted by creating cyclones, forest fires, burning lakes, earthquakes, landslides, etc. Guru Rinpoche threw the golden Dorji (vajra) into the space and with its power knocked every deity unconscious on the ground. When they regained consciousness, they had learnt their lessons. So, they submitted themselves to Guru Rinpoche and vowed that they would never do such things in the future. 
Among them was Phola Mansang Chungdud, who woke up to his consciousness in the form of small timid boy wearing a dress called vajratira and looked green with fear. He bowed down and requested Guru Rinpoche to forgive him for his malice. He also requested Guru Rinpoche to accept him as his disciple and pledged to dedicate himself in protecting the doctrine of Buddhism. 
Guru Rinpoche was pleased with him and gladly accepted him as his subject and also blessed him. Guru gave him many Buddhist teachings and then appointed him as the guardian deity of Haa valley. 

Phola Mansang Chungdud now had bigger and more challenging responsibility. However, many other smaller malignant spirits didn’t like the idea of Phola Mansang Chungdud becoming powerful. It is being said that one Dud who always appeared in the form of frog as big as yak always tormented people of Haa valley. 
The people invoked Phola Mansang Chungdud and requested him to save them from this Dud. Phola Mansang Chungdud took on the task of helping the people. As the Dud appeared from the lake, Phola Mansang Chungdud’s horse leapt on the back of the Dud and subdued him and turned him into a rock. 
This rock with a face of the frog and the hoof imprint of Phola Mansang Chungdud’s horse still exist today at Haa just near the Ugyen Dorji Higher Secondary School. Ever since then, people started offering their gratitude every year by conducting rituals. 
Another offering ceremony happens on 15th of the 11th month every year. Numerous pawo, nejom and patrons gather together, in a spectacular scene, to observe rites under a particular pine tree (lhaydong) at the palace of Chundud in Haa Jangkhakha. 
There were attempts to stop the yak sacrifice by substituting it by other offerings since yak sacrifice defeated the Buddist idealogy of not to kill any sentient beings. 
However, the idea didn’t take off because of the belief that Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel had given him as a gift after the Tibetans armies were crushed at battle in Jangkhangkha. Taking Phola Mansang Chungdud’s ancient root as dud, Zhabdrung had made exceptions to the rule of killings and had allowed yak sacrifice once a year since he was impressed by the valor of Phola Mansang Chungdud as warrior. 
He is known to have made his intentions very clear through his oracle medium, which is known as Phola Mansang Chungdud’s Powo when the yak sacrifice was nearly stopped. Locals also believed that since the Zhabdrung has granted him a gift, it should not be stopped. Stopping the sacrifice might invite his wrath.
Sometimes in 15th century, a Terton called Sherab Mebar happened to reach Haa from Kham in Tibet. He drank all the waters of the lake Nubtshonapatra and took out dung (trumpet), Nga (drum) and a pair of ramung (cymbals) from the lake bed. He also found a huge golden pillar and requested a carpenter to curve it into a pillar to be used for Paro Rinpung .The carpenter was told to take the shavings from the pillar as remuneration for the work. However, the carpenter shaved too much from the pillar as his remunerations. As a result, the lake escaped from the mouth of the Terton and started chasing him. 
(Head relic of Terton Sherab Mebar)
Terton ran for his life. While running away, he threw first the drum and then the drumsticks. He also threw away the trumpet and a one portion of the cymbals until Phola Mansang Chungdud appeared to rescue the Terton at a place called Labdza of Tshellutsho. Phola Mansang Chungdud negotiated the truce between the Terton and the angry deity of the lake. It was agreed that the Terton, his followers and his people would never set their foot in Haa Shongana. Similarly, the deity of the lake agreed not to cross Labdza. 
This cut out all links between the people of Haa Shongana and Paro Pangmisa where Labdza is located although the two places are known to be nearby. The other portion of the cymbal still exists today and is one of the main treasures of the Paro Rinpung Dzong. Once a year it is taken out of the Dzong during annual Paro Tshechu for public to get blessing.

This agreement was however, defied later by a young man from Haa Shongana who happened to marry a girl from Paro Pangmisa. It is being said that , while they were travelling to Haa Shongana, the couple lost their infant child when they were crossing a footbridge. The knot tying the baby wrapper is known to have loosened itself when they reached the middle of the bridge and the river beneath carried the child away. So the people started taking him very seriously, not to invite his wrath. 
One of the popular stories that are being told and retold among the people of Haa is the story of war between the deity of Paro, Jowo Drake and Ap Chungdud concerning the water resources. The water resources were to be shared between Paro and Haa and as such, the deity ‘Od Dedpa is believed to have called Phola Mansang Chungdud and Jowo Drake. They were told upon arrival to come to the source of the water early in the morning since the water would be let out early the next morning before sunrise. Jowo Drake who was very clever and cunning and also knew Phola Mansang Chungdud’s weakness for local brews fed Phola Mansang Chungdud the local brew whole night so that Phola Mansang Chungdud could not wake up in the morning when the water was let out. When he woke up, he found that all the water had been diverted to Paro and nothing had been left for Haa. Phola Mansang Chungdud got so infuriated that he waged war against Jowo Drake. 

This war became so violent that people on both sides started to suffer. Therefore, the deity ‘Od Dedpa mediated a truce between the two deities. He asked Jowo Drake to compensate Phola Mansang Chungdud by making the offering every year with the fresh harvest. 
According to the terms of the arguments, the first grains of rice after each harvest was to reach Ap Chungdud as offering and this tradition is carried out till date. Every year, people of Paro come with offerings of fresh harvest for Phola Mansang Chungdud at Haa.
Stories are also being told of Phola Mansang Chungdud having affairs with many women. One such story relates with a woman of Paro. It is being said that Phola Mansang Chungdud used to travel to Paro and other bordering areas with a huge caravan of horses. He is also known to have traveled to Sikkim where he is considered the deity of Sikkim. During such travel, he had an affair with a girl from Paro who soon became pregnant. However, Phola Mansang Chungdud had asked the lady not to reveal him as the father of the child at all cost to other people for some reasons. 
Over the time, the parents of the girl started to question the father of the child. When she refused to disclose the identity, the girl’s father started beating her until she disclosed. 
When Phola Mansang Chungdud knew about his identity being disclosed, he became so angry and wrathful that the girl’s family died of fear.
The house is believed to exist till date but that no one is known to live there.
Phola Mansang Chungdud also fathered many other children. One of his children was called Penlop Haap who is known to have been gifted with many treasures, weapons and wealth. 
A story is being said of Penlop Haap wearing beautiful and expensive ghos in seven layers when other people could barely afford to wear one such gho in their lifetime. Each layer was more beautiful and expensive than the other. Within each layer were hidden knives- and each was more beautiful than the other and Penlop Haap is known to have showed each one of them to Zhabdrung during their casual meetings.
During a fight, which ensued with one person during one of the festivals, Penlop Haap had refused to use his knife as everybody had expected. Instead people heard a sound of gunfire and his enemy had fallen on the ground. Some people speculated on the kind of weapon he used while many wondered what would have been his weapon since none had seen a gun before. 
Most people today believe that Penlop Haap must be the first person to have used gun in Bhutan and that it was gifted by Phola Mansang Chungdud. 
Phola Mansang Chungdud is known to have been very generous with the people. He also served many important lamas including Thangthong Gyelpo. Phola Mansang Chungdud had gone all the way to Phari in Tibet and had requested Thangthong Gyelpo to come to Bhutan and teach Buddhism. He followed Thangthong Gyelpo and served him wherever he went. Thangthong Gyelpo who is also known as Chagzampa for having built many iron bridges is believed to have taught Phola Mansang Chungdud the art of making weapons out of the iron ores.
I Pray for his continuous protection.

Reference: 
Mr. Tshering C.Dorji, Bhutan Literature

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Mongar Yakgang Sanga Choling Lhakhang,

Yakgang Lhakhang is sited in a village on the outskirts of Mongar town. It was built in the 16th century by Lama Sangdag, the youngest son of Terton Pema Lingpa. It is around three km from Mongar town. Sherab Reldri Higher Secondary School, the first private school in eastern Bhutan is located nearby.
(Terton Pema Lingpa)
It is a private monastery, taken care by the family lineage of Terton Pema Lingpa (Yagang Choeji). Happy to meet the Aum the present lineage of Terton Pema Lingpa and her husband Lopen Tsampa. 
(She is the present lineage of Lama Sangdang)
This temple is renowned for its compendium of religious treasures, masks, musical instruments, armor, ancient weapons, and xylograph blocks used for printing prayer flags and texts. 
(Behind are the old masks)
The ground floor houses three Buddhas (past, present and future). Guru Rinpoche, Chenrizig, Terton Pema Lingpa, and Gyapo Lhashang. The caretaker Tsampa pronounces that if family required a specific child, boy or a girl they come to the monastery and pray to Gyalpo Lhasang who does answers their prayer. So friends please take note of it. 
Above the main statues there are series of old stupas. On one corner the walking stick of Terton Pema Lingpa was kept. I got blessing from it and received small cloth relic. On the interior wall beautiful painting of Guru Rinpoche’s are seen. 
On the first floor, we saw statue of Kuentuzangpo, Tandin and other statues.
The monastery is severely damaged by earthquake and required immediate restoration. I saw lots of cracks on the walls. 
There is traditional house next to the monastery where the caretaker/owner live. Surprisingly inside this house there is another   lhakhang. The main Termas, the holy sacred relics were kept inside this monastery in a safe locker. It is displayed only once in a year to the public during the birth anniversary of Guru Rinpoche (10th day of the fifth lunar month). Visitors are not allowed to enter this lhakhang on other days. 
I reached on odd period but nevertheless after persuasive request, my prayer was answered. I was given access to all Termas. What a blessing of a life!
(One of the relic housed inside this expensive case)
The following are the sacred holy relics:
1.    Buddha discovered by Terton Pema Lingpa in Mebartso, Bumthang (It is said that Tertoen Pema Lingpa came out from Me-Bar tso with a wax casket and holding a butter lamp in his other hand. One of the spectators, the Chokor Dep (Local King of Bumthang) insisted the Terton to open the casket and on his reluctance, the Chokor Dep struck the relic casket with his sword. On hitting with the sword, it is said that three statue of Buddha flew away from the casket. One of these statues is in Jakar Dzong, the other in Dongkola Goenpa and the last one is residing at Yakgang Sanga Choeling Goenpa. The other two statues are taken care and everyone knows its origin and importance, but many people do not yet know the one in Yakgang Lhakhang. This statue has the mark of sword on its shoulder proving it as an authentic Terma.
2.    Guru Rinpoche‘s spectrum
3.    Three long jaws of Tacho Balab, horse of Guru Rinpoche.
4.    Munjushri statue terma
5.    Jetsun Dolma statue terma
6.     Tshepami statue terma
7.    White couch Terma  (It is explained that by blowing this conch one can stop the hailstorm immediately)
8.    Ringsel of Ashi Nagsel
9.    Skull of King of Naga, Batshota
10.Phurba made by Terton Pema Lingpa
11.Baking pan made by Terton Pema Lingpa (It is believed that eating of baked cake from this pan can liberate one from the lower realm. The cake is baked only on 10th day of 5th lunar month and distributed to the public)
12.And many more statues, two identified by His Majesty the Fourth King.
The Lhakhang organizes an annual three-day tshechu on the 8th, 9th and 10th of the fifth lunar month every year. This festival is one of the oldest festivals held in eastern Bhutan.
The monastery is very sacred that carry important history. If you happen to visit Mongar, please visit Yagang monastery. While you may not have access to the Termas but certainly you will get blessing from the sacred monastery.


Drilbu (Vajra Bell) and significance of its parts

One of the most important and commonly used religious implements in Vajrayana Buddhism is Drilbu (bell) and Dorje (thunderbolt). You will always see these two items with any lama or Rinpoches. They are inseparable symbols, because together they represent indivisible emptiness and form or wisdom and compassion. In Mahayana Buddhism, both wisdom and compassion—together—are the path to Enlightenment.

You will be surprised to learn that Drilbu represent whole universe.  Literally, the entire relative universe—or in particular practices—the mandala of the Deity, is represented on the extraordinary Bell. 

Here are the representations of parts of Drilbu: 
(Click to enlarge to see the detail)
Disc of Space: the outer rim of the bell represents the outer disc of space.

Necklace of Light: as the bell tapers in mandala shape, the first ring of malas or rosaries (pearls or conch) represent the outer protection circle of the Necklace of Light—protecting the mandala from conflagration (the poison of aggression), earthquakes (the poison of ignorance), and floods (poison of desire).

Vajra Fence: the second protective circle of the mandala as 32 or 65 upright Dorjes (Vajras).

Lotus Womb: the upper level of pearls or malas (surmounting the Vajras) is the third protective circle.

Earth Disk: above the Lotus Womb is an open, unadorned area, representing the disk of earth.

Eight Great Bodhisattvas: wrapped in a wondrous arcs and loops of jewels and pearls are the emblems of the eight great Bodhisattvas:
               Wheel (east or front)
               Uptala lotus (south east)
               Wish Fulfilling Jewel or Ratna (south)
               Wheel (south west)
               Lotus (west)
               Vajra (north west)
               Wisdom sword (north)
               Lotus (northeast)
  
Eight Faces of Glory: above the Bodhisattvas are eight faces of glory, and hanging from their fierce mouths are strings of pearls and jewels. These kirtimukha faces represent the eight makara heads of the immense Vishva Vajra (double Dorjes crossed) that supports the central mandala palace. In Chod practice, the eight faces also represent the eight great charnel grounds or cemeteries.

Offering Goddess Platform: the two rows of pearls above the eight faces represent the decorations of the offering goddess platform and walls.

Vajra Platform: The horizontal Vajras above the Goddess Platform represent the eight or sixteen emptiness’s and also the indestructible Vajra Platform, the material of the mandala’s central dais.

Eight-Petal Lotus: On the upper area of the bell is the lotus of the mandala’s central dais . On each petal is a seed syllable. The four cardinal syllables around the Lotus represent the Four Mothers, the consorts of the four directional Buddhas:
               Mother Tara (Tam)
               Mother Locana (Lam)
               Mother Mamaki (Mam)
               Mother Pandara (Pam)

Eight Male Bodhisattvas: Each petal of the Lotus represents the eight great male Bodhisattvas
               Kshitigarbha (East petal — east, the front petal of the lotus)
               Maitreya (southeast)
               Akashagarba (south)
               Samantabhadra (southwest)
               Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig) (west)
               Manjugosha (northwest)
               Vajrapani (north)
               Sarva-nivarana-vishkambhim (northeast)

Eight Offering Goddesses: represented by the eight seed syllables (seed syllable English transliteration in brackets) between each petal of the Lotus:
               Lasya (Tam) offering beauty (east or front)
               Pushpa (Mam) offering flowers (southeast)
               Mala (Lam) offering garlands (south)
               Dhupa (Pam) offering incense (southwest)
               Gita (Mam) offering song (west)
               Aloka (Tam) offering light (northwest)
               Nritya (Pam) offering dance (north)
               Gandha (Bhrum) offering perfume (northeast)

Lotus throne of Mandela deity: Inside the lotus, surrounding the stem of the bell, is a smaller lotus of 24 or sometimes 32 spokes, representing the lotus-throne of the mandala’s central deity—you can visualize either Prajna Paramita, the face of the Perfection of Wisdom who adorns the bell, or the mandala of your Yidam deity.

Six rings of six perfections: At the base of the handle, and under the crowning vajra (which always tops the bell), are six more rings, representing the six perfections of the Prajna Paramita.

Longevity vase of nectar: Between the three top rings and the three bottom rings is a square or round base, representing the longevity vase of nectar.
Wisdom face of Pragnaparamita or Yidam Deity:
Above the vase, is the very face of wisdom, the ultimate wisdom Mother Pajna Paramita, wearing a five-wisdom jeweled crown and with her hair bound, representing the binding of all diverse views into a single non-dual reality.

Vajra Crown:
Above the Goddess is the lotus base of the vajra crown. The vajra crown is the very embodiment of the Five Wisdom Buddhas: Akshobya, Amitabha, Amoghisiddhi, Vairochana, and Ratnasambhava.

Note: Some bells have a finger-whole, for the ring finger, replacing the longevity vase and sometimes the face of Prajn Paramita. This represents emptiness.


Pay respect to this implement.


Reference: Buddhaweekly .com