Bodish bLa-ma & Gurun Shaman in Nepal, 9-11 [northern Gurun at Gyasumdo]


9. Death-Cult of the Ghyabre~ Shaman

p. 182 paths for the soul of the dead; corpse-disposal

p. 182

"The long banner "shows the path" to the soul and is white since that is the path that leads to land of the ancestors and the gods.

The other three path choices,

red, black, and yellow, represent

the directions of btsan, bdud, and klu respectively".

p. 182, fn. 3

"Corpse disposal among Gyasumdo Gurungs usually consists of cutting up the body and throwing it into the Marsyandi river".

pp. 183-185 bird as guide for soul of the dead




"First the Ghyabre~ travels ... to the underworld to deliver the food to the wandering soul, an exchange that enables the deceased to relinquish any claims on the wealth of surviving kin. The Ghyabre~ goes to Khro~-nasa, delivers the food, and returns with a bird (a pigeon) which the soul of the deceased has entered."


"The entered Khro~-nasa by opening

a golden door on the right side and

a silver door on the left. ...

The parents then enter the "four colored lakes" of the underworld ... . ...

The son ... now gathers the food from the relatives and enters the underworld : ... The son returned to the human world with the wealth-bearing [metallic] bird."


"The Ghyabre~ ... brings a pigeon ... and ties a long string to its neck; the other end is tied to the pla effigy so that the soul of the deceased can pass into the bird. ... The Ghyabre~ chants : "You have died so please do not take the fortune of the family with you. {the Na-xi (Na-khi) Bon are likewise concerned lest the recently dead carry off the reproductive powers of the family, into the world of the dead} If you are willing to leave the fortune of the family here, please shake your body." The bird shakes its body." [fn. 5 : "If the bird does not shake, it can be encouraged to do so by pouring water over it, a common practice in Nepal used to gain acceptance from an animal about to be sacrificed." {This implied immolation and eucharist of the human-soul-containing pigeon is paralleled by the Nas.urai designation of the eucharist-wafer as /pihta/ ‘dove’s flesh’.}]

p. 183 directional colors of the divine birds

bird of the __

is __

in the path going __







klu & sa-bdag






p. 183 metals composing-parts of the white bird of the lha

its __

is __











pp. 186, 188-190 sheep-guide, hound-guide; colored paths for souls of the dead




According to the Bon of Touen-Houang (Manuscript Pelliot Tibe’tain #1042), the soul of the dead is provisioned " "for the journey," which is guided by a "sheep.""


The Ghyabre~ is addressing the soul of the dead : " "Don’t stay here! ... Your place is different now. Only alive ones can stay here. You are dead how, go!"


This chant is repeated by a chorus of local spirits at each stage of the journey, the first chorus beginning with the spirits of the doorstep, the next with those of the porch, and so on. {Guidance for souls the dead is begun similarly in Borneo.} When the Ghyabre~ ... guides the soul as far as the trail crossing below Donague village, again there is a chorus of local spirits of stream, soil, and rocks that warn the soul not to remain there, that its home is farther up the trail. The chant continues, naming the local villages ... . They arrive at rDo Kyag-sa, a place of huge boulders which young men often try to lift in competitions of strength. {cf. Hellenic funeral games} Passing the cave of Bare, they come to the midway point, called Chu Nag-po, the Tibetan term for "Black Water." [fn. 6 : " "Black Water" (Chu Nag-po) is a phrase found often in the Tibetan Bon text". {The correlation of "black" with "water" is basically Taoist.}] It must be regarded as one of the doors to the underworld. Here the Ghyabre~ must convince the soul to "lie down on its stomach" and drink the Black Water. {"The leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul." (Thilli^m 23:2-3)} It refuses. The Ghyabre~ urges again. Finally, it drinks and suddenly realizes fully that it has died and there is no turning back. {cf. the Pythagorean soul-of-the-dead’s drinking from the Pool of Memory.} ...


After passing through Drag Thang, a meadow surrounded by huge cliffs and then crossing the Marsyandi River on a bridge, they arrive at the base of the massive Oble~ dome, and proceed to the top. They find the first village of the dead, guarded by the same dog that the Paju encounters in the soul-recalling rite. The dog is tied to the rock post, and they proceed. The top of Oble~ is regarded as the entry to Sa yi Gompa ... . ... The ancestors greet the deceased, who distributes the food brought from relatives."

pp. 190-191 final advice from the Ghyabre~ to the soul of the dead; departure by Ghyabre~ from the world of the dead




" "Your place is now in Sa yi Gompa, ... you can stay here and remain with your ancestors. ... Don’t put your mind on your property or your relatives. They will die later and come here to meet you. Don’t return home to see a show in your village. You are dead and must remain here. I am alive so I must return to the land of the living." ...

Now the Ghyabre~ adroitly avoids being followed back down the trail. ... Pointing to a show going on in Sa yi Gompa, he says, "Look there at how those cats


and snakes are playing together!" While the deceased turns to watch, the Ghyabre~ magically transforms himself into a vulture and flies down Oble~ dome, returning to the Gurung village in Gyasumdo."

pp. 191-192 similarities between Gurun and congener (Sikkimese & Bon) otherworlds

p. 191

"The Gurung underworld Khro~-nasa ... has the character ... in which occupants become tiny ... beings, and ... crops grow to gigantic size and animals are enormous. The image is not unlike the land of Mayal in Sikkim (Gorer 1967)."

p. 192

"The Ghyabre~ ... legend of the sky or mu ... is similar to Bon legends of descent down the Tibetan dmu rope or ladder (Stein 1972:48-9)."

Gorer 1967 = Geoffrey Gorer : Himalayan Village : the Lepchas of Sikkim. NY : Basic Books, 1967.

Stein 1972 = R. A. Stein : Tibetan Civilization. London, 1972.


10. Bodish (Sa-skya sect) Death-Rite

p. 204 exorcism of the death-daimon; corpse-disposal

p. 204

"The demon is ... a man riding a tiger and pulled by a rope by a man in front while being whipped by another from behind.

p. 204, fn. 9

"In Gyasumdo, ... vultures are not present in the valley. Water burial, in which the body is cut up and thrown into the water, is prevalent".

pp. 204-205 removal of a curse which had been imparted by love-magic




"love magic, called mohani, ... is used in Nepal to seduce lovers, or cause their death if rejected." If a woman thus died as a result of her being subjected to love-magic, after death "She would wander in a craze, never to find the path."


"The Paju performed the love magic antidote, dropping flowers into a bowl of water one by one, asking his ancestral Paju to remove the curse from the victim’s food, ornaments, teeth, etc."

pp. 206-207 gCod (severance rite), as performed on a human corpse (as funebrial rite)




"the goddess ... is transformed into her fierce form rDo-rje Phag-mo (Skt. Vajravarahi). She cuts off the top of the skull. Then she peels the skin down off the body and spreads the skin on the ground. With her sword she cuts the mody into small bits, placing the pieces on the skin in a mandala pattern of Mount Meru and the four continents ... . The chopped pieces are gathered up and put into the severed skull cap. The skull is ... to be a huge cauldron heated over a fire that cooks the pieces of meat. ... As the corpse is distributed it takes on a variety of forms to ... pay back every debt ... accumulated from the past. ... All ... the beings of each realm are named to that they may receive their share : ...

the "black land" of the bdud demons,

"blue land" of the klu serpent deities,

the "green land" of sa-bdag territorial owners. ...


"Those guests who have time, cook the meat and eat it. Those without time, eat it raw! ..." ... Then come the "uninvited guests" (>bod ma-rung k’i mgron). ... These are all demons : ... the distribution is deserved by those who receive it. It is repayment of a debt owed to them ... . ... Every relation of obligation created during the whole of the past thus returns".

pp. 210-213 admonitions to the dead




At the funeral, "he chanted : ...

Realize that you have died! Do you see your shadow in the sun? Do you see your footprint in the sand?"


The consciousness (rnam-s`es, vijn~ana) of a dead woman "must first realize that she has actually died : "When you were alive there was a sun and moon, but now you can see by the light emanating from your body. Look into the water and see there is no reflection. So [notice] that there is no shadow of your body. Place your feet in the sand and see there is no footprint." ... When you think of going to the top of a mountain you arrive there; or to the bottom of the sea you arrive there. ...


You have only a body of mental inclinations [bag-chags yid kyi lus]. ... It is the deeds of your past which hurl you about. ... You must experience these past deeds, not knowing where they will take you. ... Realize you have died, or you will harm your family and destroy their wealth. ...


Your mental body shakes as you go to gShin-rje Chos-rgyal. ... But you are shown everything in the mirror [me-long] of your deeds. ... The Lord of Death says that he grants you leave [dgong-pa gnang] of forty-nine days before he will judge you. ... After that time, return to the Lord of Death. ...


You will go to your home now and see your family weeping. ... You sit on their laps and hug and kiss them, but they do not see you."

p. 214 >dren (pulling-up rite)

"The lama ... brings the deceased to a higher destiny through a "pulling up technique" (>dren thabs). He will do it only if a relation (>brel-pa) has been established with the lama before one has died. ... . ... used is the "iron hook" (chak-gyu) that catches hold of a "ring" held by the deceased, the ring snapping shut only if a relation of trust has already been established between the two parties."

"The verb "to pull up" (>dren) has the sound of the verb "to recollect" (dren). The lama who can remember who a person is can more easily pull her up during the Bardo. When an incarnate lama ... gives empowerment initiations (dbang), lay persons will say, "When I die he will recollect [dren] that I received his empowerment and he will pull me up [>dren]." ... The Rinpoche, wherever he might be during [a dead woman’s] Bardo, was to "recall" her image. This would telepathically aid the pulling up process".

pp. 216-217 deities welcome the soul of the dead

p. 216

"the five Heruka Buddhas ... [each] have three heads, four legs, and six arms; their bodies are covered with serpents; they wear necklaces of human skulls; and each embraces his wrathful consort." ["Each of the five Herukas is a destroyer of one of the five poisons." (p. 219)]

p. 217

"As you walk toward that village you see people coming toward you ... . ... They are coming to welcome you! ... These terrifying deities are coming to welcome you ... . ... It is only those who do not look at them during their life that are afraid and flee."

p. 220 realms of suffering on account of evil inclinations





z`e-sdan (anger)

Severe heat & cold

Hungry ghosts

ser-sna (avarice)

Hunger & thirst


gti-mug (mental torpor)



>dod-chags (passion)



phrag-dog (jealousy)

Never-ending strife


na-rgyal (pride)


p. 221 ritual elimination of evil deeds

The bla-ma "dissolved (sbyang) [the dead woman]’s past deeds by pouring water over his mirror (me-long).

He then burned away her karmic past by inhaling her evil deeds into his nostrils, blowing them out onto a small dish on which seeds were drawn in the shape of a scorpion (sdig-pa ra-dza). He burned the seeds."


11. Dialogue of Good and Evil Eras

pp. 230-231 the hidden land and the door into it : the seed people


hidden land


"hidden land, called "Beyul" (sbas-yul)" : "behind the great wall of rock on the west side ... of Mount Manasalu, there is a hidden land. ... . ... Gurung ... speak of "evidence" of the Beyul, tis door being hidden in a high cliff overlooking a lake. Some report seeing old boors thrown dwon into the lake by the Beyul people."


"Beyul does exist, but the door must be found by a lama who knows its secret. ... the door would open and close as rapidly as clashing boulders, so that only one with perfect faith could slip through without being crushed. ... the inhabitants begin each day as an infant, grow old in one day, and die in their sleep at night, waking up again as a reborn infant "just as the sun grows old and expires at night, then is reborn each morning." ... . ... in Beyul there is no poverty, since crops grow without need of human labor. All share the wealth {communism}, all are equally provided for, and all are even "equally beautiful.""


Out from "the hidden land ... the first people emerge to begin the world again after all others have been destroyed by a holocaust at the end of the age. They are called the "seed people" because they repopulate the earth. {"to establish a new universe peopled only with the chosen or "seed people" (zhongmin) of the Dao." (GD, p. 119)} {"The "seed people" are the elected ones who ... will escape the impending catastrophe at the end of the kalpa. ... the notion of "seed people" can already be found in the Taiping jing where the context is similar." (PRM, p. 59)} As the last days of this degenerate age approach, lamas that have foreknowledge (ngo she khyen) locate the doors of various hidden lands, joined by a select group of faithful Tibetans. In Beyul they will preserve the dharma to begin the next era."

GD = Livia Kohn: God of the Dao. Center for Chinese Studies, U. of MI, Ann Arbor, 1998.

PRM = Hubert Michael Seiwert : Popular Religious Movements and Heterodox Sects in Chinese History. Brill, Leiden, 2003.

pp. 233-234 abundance without work

p. 233

"The Wish-granting Tree goes with the southern continent, Dzambuling (>dzam-bu gling)" :

p. 234

"the Wish-granting Tree, which produces from its branches jewels, beautiful clothes, ornaments, and healing medicines.

Likewise, the "cow of plenty" has jeweled horns and produces whatever one wishes while being milked.

The "harvest without ploughing" provides ... food without work : "No one has to plough, and if I harvest today, the crops will grow again tomorrow.""

pp. 233-234 pretious articles owned by the cakra-vartin




"the "seven precious items" (rin-chen bdun) that go with the Wheel-turning King : the wheel,

the jewel,

the queen,

the elephant,

the horse,

the chief minister,

the general."


"When the king turns his golden wheel (gser k’yi khor-lo), golden light from it strikes the citizens so that they become immortal.


The king’s precious jewel (nor-bu rin-po-che) guarantees abundance and health, since it can be transformed into food, drink, and magical medicines.


The precious queen (tsu-mu rin-po-che) "is so beautiful that one cannot take one’s eyes off of her," and everyone becomes beautiful ... . ...


The king’s precious horse (rta-chog rin-po-che) carries the monarch around the entire kingdom in a day ..., while intuitively understanding the king’s mind so that it needs no guidance.


The precious elephant (glang-po rin-po-che) ... "... keeps the dharma, for it does not step on a single insect under its feet." {this solicitude and protection of insects is more typically Jaina}


The king’s chief minister (lon-po rin-po-che) intuitively knows the thoughts ... and carries out ... plans "without despising the people or oppressing them."


The king’s general (dmak-pon rin-po-che) subdues ... singlehandedly without any ... army".


Stan Royal Mumford : Himalayan Dialogue : Tibetan Lamas and Gurung Shamans in Nepal. U of WI Pr, Madison, 1989. [on p. 264 the Bodish denomination involved is stated to be Sa-skya]

see also :- Stan Royal Mumford : "Spirit Possession and Soul Guidance in a Gurung Death Rite"