Friday, February 14, 2014

Nine Creator Gods of Ancient Tibet & The Epic of the Lha


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Notes from……'The Mythology of Tibetan Mountain Gods: An Overview'… Xie Jisheng……

"According to traditional, pre-Buddhist Tibetan Bon belief, there are four great mountain gods in the Tibetan region; each one is identified with a specific sacred mountain1: yar-lha-sham-po in central Tibet; gnyan-chen- thang-lha, in Byang-thang in the north; sku-lha-ri-rgya in the south; vod-de- gung-rgyal in the south. These four gods, together with five other famous mountain gods—rma-chen-spon-ra (or Anyesrmachen), shyogs-chen-ldong- ra, sgan-po-lha-rje, zhogs-lha-rgyug-po, and shevu-kha-rag—form the core of the Tibetan mountain-god system; together they were called “the nine creator-gods” (srid-pa-chags-po-lha-dgu)…..and the sacred mountain of gangs-dkar-ti-se (kailas)in western Tibet."….Page 343

1…Yarlha Shampo ….yar-lha-sham-po in central Tibet…..Yarlha Shampo (6636m) with the scorpion shaped Yamdrok Yumtso Lake (4439m) …….."….yar-lha-sham-po was venerated as the greatest god… often called the royal god, and represents the power of the royal family…..Located in the vphyongs-rgyal county, yar-lha-sham-po “the great god sham-po,” ranks second among the nine creator-gods mentioned above, behind only the mountain god vod-de-gung-rgyal. Yar-lha-sham-po is an old mountain god, often mentioned in the classic Tibetan scriptures of Dunhuang from the sixth to the ninth centuries CE. The scriptures state that “yar-lha-sham-po is the highest god” (Yar-lha-sham-po-ni-gtsug-lha-vo),2 but, in fact, yar-lha-sham-po is not the highest mountain peak in Tibet; it is, rather, largely due to its location in central Tibet that it became one of the greatest Tibetan gods……The portrayal of yar-lha-sham-po—as a white yak who can change shape at will—reveals something of early Tibetan beliefs about mountain gods. As the myths about the mountain developed, images of yar-lha-sham- po also changed; a white yak was replaced by a man-god clothed in white with a body as white as a conch, holding a short spear with colorful silk flags and a crystal sword in his hands. This human image of yar-lha-sham- po is typically accompanied by a wife and children. His wife is gnam-sman- thog-gi-bu-yug, the primary goddess. She is clothed in light red attire, holds lightning in her right hand and hailstones in her left, and flies on bolts of lightning."….The garuda and the dragon have their origin in Indian and Chinese mythology, respectively. However, a yak is substituted for the snow lion, which had not yet emerged as the national symbol of Tibet….Karmay, Samten G. The Arrow and the Spindle: .)

2…Nyenchen Tanglha (Wyl. gnyan chen thang lha) is the name given both to a 700-mile-long mountain range of Northern Tibet, and to the protector deity associated with it,...…..gnyan-chen- thang-lha, in Byang-thang in the north; …………."The Myth of gnyan-chen-thang-lha…….If yar-lha-sham-po is the supreme god, indeed the royal god, then the most famous mountain god is gnyan-chen-thang-lha; he is also known as thang-lha-val-shur or thang-lha-yab-shur. Gnyan-chen-thang-lha was first worshipped as a god of hail, one of eighteen deities in charge of hail. When people passed by the mountain thang-lha, they would burn incense and offer all kinds of sacrifices to him. In Tibetan mythology gnyan-chen-thang-lha is a guardian of treasure….
O mountain god, what clothes do you wear?
You wear white, a silk dress and a white cotton coat.
If you want to ride, what are you going to ride, mountain god?
You ride on a magic horse with four white hooves,
Galloping across the three worlds.
Your white dress sends out brightness.
You hold a cane in the right hand
And hold a crystal rosary in the left.
In popular mythology gnyan- chen-thang-lha is imagined as a white man. The prayers quoted above describe him as the heavenly musician zui phud lnga pa, a detail that clearly alludes to the influence of Buddhism. In Tibetan drawings, zui phud lnga pa is often drawn as a handsome man attired in white, his hair tied up in five turquoise-colored buns. According to these images, the mountain god gnyan-chen-thang-lha is a white man astride either a magic horse with four snow-white hoofs or a flying white horse. In his right hand the god holds a cane or a crystal sword."

3……….sku-lha-ri-rgya in the south;

4…………vod-de- gung-rgyal in the south…………"Vod-de-gung-rgyal…it is even held that mountain gods and heavenly gods can transform from one into the other. The mountain gods sometimes rise to the status of heavenly gods, and the heavenly gods sometimes descend to become mountain gods. Vod-de-gung-rgyal, for example, is a patriarchal god ranked among the so-called “nine creator-gods.” However, judging from the word vod-de-gung-rgyal, this mountain god is also a heavenly god, for in Tibetan, gung means “heaven,” and gung-rgyal signifies “heavenly king.”

5………..rma-chen-spon-ra (or Anyesrmachen), ………."The Mythology of the Mountain God Anyesrmachen….In Tibetan mythology, anyesrmachen is a great god who lives in the east; his worship is particularly widespread in the pastoral region of mdo-khams, an area also known for the prevalence of the Gesar epic. In fact, the mountain god anyesrmachen plays a key genealogical role in the epic. In the passage telling how King Gesar’s mother klu-mo-vgog-mo dreams of a yellow man (mi-ser-po) who has sex with her, with the result that she later gives birth to Gesar, the yellow man is in fact the mountain god anyesrmachen…..the mountain god is described as wearing armor and a white fighting gown studded with decorative gems. He is often pictured waving a spear with a fixed flag in his left hand, while holding a magic bowl full of gems his right hand. Around one of his upper arms is wrapped a bag made of eagle-skin (nevu-levi-rkyal- pa). He rides a magic horse that gallops as fast as a cloud…..His wife is the goddess rma-chen, also known by the names gung- sman-ma and rma-ri-rab-vgyams rdo-rje-dgra-mo-rgyal, and she has her own extensive mythology…Together she and anyesrmachen have nine sons, who are often depicted riding tigers, and nine daughters, who ride cuckoos. "

6…………shyogs-chen-ldong- ra,




and Mt Kailas……..gangs-dkar-ti-se in western Tibet…..Mount Kailash (also Mount Kailas; (Tibetan: གངས་རིན་པོ་ཆེ,Sanskrit: कैलास Kangrinboqê or Gang Rinpoche; simplified Chinese: 冈仁波齐峰, Gāngrénbōqí fēng) is a peak in the Kailas Range (Gangdisê Mountains), which are part of the Transhimalaya in Tibet. It lies near the source of some of the longest rivers in Asia: the Indus River, the Sutlej River (a major tributary of the Indus River), the Brahmaputra River, and the Karnali River (a tributary of the River Ganga). It is considered a sacred place in four religions: Bön, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.

"Dorje Nayonma or rma-chen, Queen of the twelve Tibetan Tenma Goddesses. …..She is an ancient pre-Buddhist goddess and the wife of the mountain god Anyesrmachen. Also known as "gungsman-ma and rma-ri-rab-vgyams rdo-rje-dgra-morgyal, and she has her own extensive mythology. She originally lived on the Anyesrmachen Mountain and was considered the greatest of the twelve goddesses (bstanma-bcu-gnhyis)….Tibetan ritual texts describe her in this way: "She rides a stag as white as a conch, and her body is as white as the snowy mountains. She is extremely beautiful, and her hair is plaited with colorful ribbons. In her right hand she holds a magical mirror, in her left a lasso and an iron hook. Dressed in a silk coat, she is adorned with a golden crown decorated with diverse gems atop her head. She also wears a pearl necklace, bracelets and anklets; a shining bell is fixed to the belt around her waist."

The Mountain Gods and the Heavenly Rope….."Owing to the lofty heights of the mountains and the sometimes illusory influences of weather conditions, ancient Tibetans connected the mountain gods to the more abstract conceptual class of heavenly gods, believing the peaks to be sites for passage from this world to the heavens above, sites where a rope (or step) was connected directly to heaven. ….this heavenly rope (dmu-thag in Tibetan)….. the word dmu-thag, I believe it to be closely connected to the Tibetan word for “rainbow” (vjav). A rainbow could well be understood by early societies as a rope connecting heaven to earth, a rope sent down by the heavenly gods. Literally, dmu-thag means “the heavenly gods’ rope.” According to Tibetan literature, when the Tibetan king btsan- po died he looked like a rope under the “rainbow,” and he went up to the heavens along the dmu-thag. It seems, then, that there is an intimate relationship between dmu-thag and vjav……In Pelliot’s Tibetan text no. 126.2 (“The Formation of Dmu-thag”), we read that “from the lights in the sky and fog over the sea came the white curdle of the Bon religion. It is stretched by the wind, woven into threads, and wound round a tree. It is known as Dmu- thag or g.yang thag (“fortune rope”).”This text clearly identifies dmu- thag with the rainbow."…….Page 356

"The Buddha rejected the existence of a creator deity, denied endorsing many views on creation and stated that questions on the origin of the world are not ultimately useful for ending suffering."………In Buddhist literature, the belief in a creator god (issara-nimmana-vada) is frequently mentioned and rejected, along with other causes wrongly adduced to explain the origin of the world; as, for instance, world-soul, time, nature, etc. God-belief, however, is placed in the same category as those morally destructive wrong views which deny the kammic results of action, assume a fortuitous origin of man and nature, or teach absolute determinism. These views are said to be altogether pernicious, having definite bad results due to their effect on ethical conduct."…Thera, Nyanaponika. "Buddhism and the God-idea". The Vision of the Dhamma. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society.

"In Buddhism, causality is the responsible for creation. Dharma and enlightenment being interrelated with empty causal phenomena (sunyata). In Mahayana the potential enlightenment inherent in empty causal phenomena is represented in the form of the omnipresent eternal Buddha. However, this is not equated with a literal belief in a creator deity."….

"Hinduism includes a range of viewpoints about the origin of life, creationism and evolution….. In Shaivism, Shiva may be treated as the creator. In Shaktism, the Great Goddess creates the Trimurti….Most Hindu schools do not regard the scriptural creation myth as a literal truth, and often the creation stories themselves do not go into specific detail, thus leaving open the possibility of incorporating at least some theories in support of evolution. Some Hindus find support for, or foreshadowing of evolutionary ideas in scriptures, namely the Vedas."….

"Jainism does not support belief in a creator deity. According to Jain doctrine, the universe and its constituents - soul, matter, space, time, and principles of motion have always existed (a static universe similar to that of Epicureanism and steady state cosmological model). All the constituents and actions are governed by universal natural laws. It is not possible to create matter out of nothing and hence the sum total of matter in the universe remains the same (similar to law of conservation of mass). Similarly, the soul of each living being is unique and uncreated and has existed since beginningless time."...

"Chinese traditional cosmology…..Pangu can be interpreted as another creator deity. In the beginning there was nothing in the universe except a formless chaos. However this chaos began to coalesce into a cosmic egg for eighteen thousand years…. (In ancient China, 18,000 does not exactly mean eighteen thousand, it is meant to be "many", or "a number that could not be counted").)….Within it, the perfectly opposed principles of yin and yang became balanced and Pangu emerged (or woke up) from the egg….Pangu is aided in this task by the four most prominent beasts, namely the Turtle, the Qilin (Chinese unicorn), the Phoenix, and the Dragon."

"Judaism has gone through three stages between its origins in ancient Israel c.1000 BCE and the present day. In the first stage, represented by the oldest parts of the Hebrew Bible, it was polytheistic and creation involved a battle between the leader of the gods (probably El) and the forces of Chaos represented by chaos-monsters such as Leviathan. In the second stage El was absorbed into the god Yahweh, God of the Mountain of Sinai and the national god of the kingdom of Judah, who took over El's role as creator-god."

In the Bon tradition….Shenlha Okar literally means "wisdom deity of white light;" …. is said to have created the world with the help of nine brother gods or nine cosmic gods (shrid pa 'i lha) who appear as war gods or drala (dgra bla). He is also considered a god of compassion with many parallels to Avalokiteshvara and also with Amitabha……Shenlha Okar dwells on Mt Kailas with the 360 wetma deities….

The Mythology of Tibetan Mountain Gods: An Overview…..Xie Jisheng……

Creation Myths of the World: Parts I-II…..By David Adams Leeming


Chögyam Trungpa wrote a verse epic of several hundred pages of the History of Shambhala ….'The Golden Dot: The Epic of the Lha'….written and left behind in a cave en route to India as Trungpa fled the Communist invasion of Tibet in 1959, the first two chapters were subsequently reconstructed in the west and first translated at Karme Choling Vermont in 1972…'The Golden Drop'…..Michael Kohn was involved with the translation. It was written in Tibetan in 'a beautiful Indian notebook'…..Again translated in 1979 by the Nalanda Translation Committee (…..The first chapter describes the creation of the world by nine cosmic gods (8 male, 1 female) (shrid pa 'i lha) …..In Trungpa Rinpoche's epic these were directed by a ninth lha called Shiwa Okar, the source of the Shambhala Tradition.

"There was nothing to do except to wait where we were. I had my books with me so I started a study group. Having finished the 1000 page book on meditation, I began to work on an allegory about the kingdom of Shambhala and its ruler who will liberate mankind at the end of the dark age."…Born in Tibet: pg 179....May 1959 Earth Hog Year (Trungpa Rinpoche was 20)

Kornman, Robin. "The Influence of the Epic of King Gesar on Chogyam Trungpa," in Recalling Chogyam Trungpa, edit. Fabrice Midal. pgs 364

Trungpa, Chogyam. Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior…. Shambhala Publications. pg 6……

Recalling Chogyam Trungpa…….Fabrice Midal. pgs 364….Shambhala Publications (2005 )… 504 Pages…..ISBN: 9781590302071

"Shiwa Okar is the ninth cosmic deity described in Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche's epic The Golden Dot: The Epic of the Lha, the Annals of the Kingdom of Shambhala……. and is a prominent figure in his Shambhala terma."…

"According to Robin Kornman, “Trungpa Rinpoche began to reconstruct the original text after escaping Tibet, and it is this later work to which we refer. The first chapter describes the creation of the world by nine cosmic gods (shrid pa 'i lha) who appear in the form of native Tibetan dieties known as drala (Wylie: dgra bla), or war gods. These gods represent primal or originary aspects of the phenomenal world. For example, one of these lha stood for all kinds of light. Glancing in many directions, this diety created all of the lights existing in the world, including the sun, the moon, the light of the planets and stars, and the inward luminosity of consciousness itself. Another represented space and the sense of direction ... In Trungpa Rinpoche's epic these were directed by a ninth lha called Shiwa Okar ... a sort of absolute principle behind creation and the nature of reality. After these nine cosmic deities have created the world, [Shiwa Okar] goes to the things they have created and invests each one with an animistic spirit, a drala."….


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