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The Practice of the Bonpo Deity Walchen Gekhod, also known as Zhang-Zhung Meri - Gekhöd and Meri
Article Index
The Practice of the Bonpo Deity Walchen Gekhod, also known as Zhang-Zhung Meri
Four Classes of Bönpo Tantras
Gekhöd and Meri
Iconography of Zhang-zhung Meri
Iconography of Zhang-zhung Meri 2
The Mantra Recitation for Meri
The Texts for Zhang-zhung Meri
Outline of the Sadhana Text
The Practice of Sadhana
All Pages

Gekhöd and Meri

Although Gekhöd is traditionally grouped among these Five Divine Citadels, the cycle of Gekhöd deities has a distinctly different origin. It is said that this cycle was first taught by the sage Atimuwer, who, presumably integrated the earlier pagan cult of the mountain god Gekhöd with the higher spiritual teachings of Yungdrung Bön. This, however, is the view of some modern scholars. According to Yongdzin Lopon Tenzin Namdak, Atimuwer, called in the text “the Tutelary Wisdom Deity” (ye-shes yi-dam lha), was not a human sage in the past, but is the peaceful form (zhi-ba) of Gekhöd and represents his higher Dharmakaya aspect. Therefore, this deity is not just some worldly mountain god  to be classed with other worldly mountain gods (yul-lha). Nevertheless, according  to Bönpo tradition, Gekhöd was in general the patron deity of  the ancient kingdom of  Zhang-zhung,  but in particular, then and now, he is still the god associated with Mount  Kailash, or Gang-chen Ti-se. Similarly,Thang-lha and Pomrache  (spom-ra-che) are the names of  mountains and of their respective patron deities who dwell in or upon them. The cult of local mountain gods, or Yul-lh, is still popular and widespread in terms of Tibetan folk religion. [6]  Thus, Gekhöd also bears the title Ku-lha  (sku-lha), literally “divine  body,” or more anciently Ku-bla (sku-bla), “body soul,” an  epithet often given to mountain gods in the old Tibetan tradition. However,  Yongdzin Lopon Tenzin Namdak asserts that in this context  the epithet merely indicates that Gekhöd is a Nirmanakaya manifestation. The other deities of  the Gekhöd  cycle, a total of  three hunded and sixty who form his retinue, are also said  to reside on this holy mountain.  Kailash is thus the  bla-ri  or  “soul  mountain” for the entire land of Zhang¬-zhung.  Elsewhere, it is said that the consort of  Gekhöd  is Logbar Tsamed (glog ‘bar tsa-med), “the Lady of Flashing Lightning.” She is also known as Drabla Gyalmo (sgra-bla rgyal-mo), “the Queen of  the Warrior Gods,” which is another mountain opposite Kailash.

Moreover, at  the  Nirmanakaya  level, that is, in terms of  appearance of the secred in time and history on  the earth plane, there exist three forms for the manifestation of Gekhöd:

1. Yeshe kyi Gekhöd (ye-shes  kyi  ge-khod), “the Wisdom Gekhöd.”  This is the principal Yidam, or meditation deity.

2. Dzutrul gyi Gekhöd (rdzu-'phrul  gyi  ge-khod),  “the  magical apparitions  of  Gekhöd.”  These  are  the  deities in his mandala and retinue that are his direct  emanations.

3. Lay kyi Gekhöd (las  kyi  ge-khod), “the magical  actions of  Gekhöd.”  ¬These are the  three hundred and sixty  families of  gods of  Zhang-zhung  who dwell with him on Mount Kailas.  They are said  to have descended on to different  mountains in the region and therefore they have become like mountain gods in popular imagination.

According  to the myth (smrang) found  in the Ge-khod sgrub skor, the Wisdom Gekhöd  in prehistoric times emanated as a  flaming, giant wild yak (khong-mo-'brong), and  descended  from heaven to the country of  Zhang-zhung on the earth’s surface. He was  absorbed  into the massive  body of  Mount  Kailas where he now  resides,  thus blessing this mountain and consecrating it with holiness (byin brlabs). Where he first landed on the earth, there remains a footprint in the rock beside the slopes of Kailas. It now resembles a cave. In later times the site was taken over by the Drikhung  Kagyüdpas, who claimed that it was Milarepa's cave, and they have erected a small Kagyüdpa  monastery there. But this  site represents a sacred place of pilgrimage for all  Bönpo  practitioners. Gekhöd’s descending  as a flaming yak to this spot constitutes the outer support of his activity and his creating gold and  precious jewels in the earth constitutes the inner support of  his activity.

Another myth of origin tells of  the time when the demons conquered the earth and caused untold suffering in a distant  pre¬historic age. Gekhöd became enraged at this course of  events and hurled a gigantic  boulder of  flaming gold into the sea and  thus the ocean began to boil-- so much so that  this  terrified the demons and they submitted  to  Gekhöd as their lord and master. Thus, Gekhöd was able to protect nascent humanity, and even the gods on heigh, from the onslaught of the demons and the forces of chaos. This myth is narrated in relation  to  the Rites of  Wal-chu (dbal-chu), “flaming  water,” which is used in healing practices in Tibet and in other Bönpo rites.

In  the  tradition of Yungdrung  Bön,  this tempestuous  mountain deity is found in the  role of  a Yidam, or tutelary meditation deity, in the extensive Bönpo pantheon. He received  the  name  Walchen  Gekhöd  Duddul Sangwa  Dragchen  (dbal-chen ge-khod  bdud-'dul  gsang-ba drag-chen) “the great flaming Gehköd, the subduer of demons, the great secret ferocious one.” The native Zhang-zhung name Gekhöd translates into Tibetan as ge for bdud, “demon,” and khod for ‘dul, “subduing,” thus he is the subduer of demons. As said, his immediate retinue consists of three hundred and sixty subordinate deities called the families of the gods of Zhang-zhung. Some scholars would see astrological  significance in  this-- three hundred and sixty degrees in a circle, approximately three hundred and sixty  days in a lunar year, and  so on-- but  more  certainly Gekhöd is connected with the divination  gods  of Zhang-zhung ‘ju-thig (thread divination). These  deities represent the three hundred and sixty  knots in thirty-six  strings, and therefore they are known as the three hundred and sixty  knot deities (mdud  lha). The god Phuwer Karpo (phu-wer dkar-po) is the patron god of this divination system and there is also a deity  called Phuwer listed in the retinue of Gekhöd.  [8]

Zhang-zhung  Meri is a special form of  Gekhöd, exceedingly wrathful  in aspect having nine heads,  eighteen arms, and six legs. Unlike  the usual iconic image of  Gekhöd,  he is depicted as adorned in golden armor and as wearing  helmets made of  various metals on his several heads. The name me-ri literally means “fire  mountain,” or volcano. In this form of Zhang-zhung Meri, he is the special tutelary deity or Yidam associated with the Dzogchen  teachings  from  Zhang-zhung, known  as  the Zhang-zhung Nyän-gyud, “the oral transmission (snyan-rgyud)  from  the  country  of  Zhang-zhung.”  Moreover, Meri  was the Yidam, or personal  meditation  deity, of Gyerpung Nangzher Lödpo, who flourished in the  8th century of our era  and was a contemporary and antagonist of the great Buddhist king of Tibet, Trisong Detsän. It is said that Meri was also the tutelary deity of the Twenty-Four August Personages, or Masters, who transmitted these Dzogchen teachings from the time of Sangwa Düpa down to Tapihritsa.

Among the many practices connected with Meri, there is the preparation of Tso (btswo), or magical missiles made with gold dust. According to tradition, Gyerpung Nangzher Lödpo once found it necessary to employ Tso against Trisong Detsän, the kingof Tibet, because of his responsibility for the assassination of  Ligmincha, the last native king of Zhang-zhung, and his persecution of the practi¬tioners of the Bönpo teachings. As the result of Gyerpung's inter-vention, the king exempted the Zhang-zhung Nyän-gyüd  from destruction by his agents and thus these texts are extent today in a continuous uninterrupted lineage from earlier times. Gyerpung Nangzher Lödpo was an expert practitioner and an adept at this method for dispatching magical missiles. This art was lost with Lhundrub Muthur in the 11th century because the latter had kept the small practice text secured in a hollow tube tied up on his head in his long hair. He did not attain the Rainbow Body because he emphasized Tantric practices and neglected the practice of  Dzogchen. When his corpse was cremated by his disciples, the text was consummed in the flames. Nevertheless, the transmission of the empowerment and the sadhana practice for Zhang-zhung Meri was not lost and has continued down to the present day.