Khandro Kunzang is a Buddhist practitioner, teacher and holder of the Khandro T’hug-t’hig path, the Dudjom Tersar, and the Rigdzin Sogdrub yogic practices of the Northern Treasures lineages.


From today’s conversation:

00:02:00 Spirits of the Six Realms

00:07:00 Offerings to non-human, non-physical beings

00:13:00 Receiving protection from Nagas

00:14:00 How spirits influence illness

00:23:00 How to know spirits are affecting your well-being or life

00:25:00 On the four forces, lungta, wang tang, sog and lu.

00:30:00 Lha-Mo Gyed-Tsi, Astrological Mo of the 8 Dakinis

00:32:00 Old tradition of ransom offerings, or lud.

00:38:00 Astrology living systems and the forgotten magic of math

00:42:00 Vajra Armor Mantra

00:46:00 Practicing according to signs

00:51:00 Lama Dawa growing up in a dharma family and perpetual retreat

00:54:00 Dharma marriage and ngakpa traditiona versus householder tradition.

00:57:00 How to deal with tax collectors as practitioners

00:59:00 Vajrakilaya Peace Mandala Project


Vajra Armor Retreat in Mexico with Lama Dawa and Khandro Kunzang

Künzang Dorje Rinpoche & Jomo Sam’phel


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Olivia Clementine: I am Olivia Clementine, and this is Love and Liberation. Today our guest is Khandro Kunzang. Khandro Kunzang has been a devoted student of the Dharma for most of her life. She has studied and received teachings, including entire cycles from her root teacher, Nyingmapa Tsalung and Dzogchen master, Kunzang Dorje Rinpoche.

She is a holder of the Khandro T’hug-t’hig path, the Dudjom Tersar, and the Rigdzin Sogdrub yogic practices of the Northern Treasures lineages. She is the recognized emanation of the Dakini Mingyur Paldron. Until the passing of Lama Dawa Rinpoche in 2017, she was his consort and companion, and his main support for his teachings and activities in North America.

Khandro Kunzang now divides her time between teaching and traveling tours, serving as the executive director for Saraswati Bhawan, leading retreats and teachings at Phurba Thinley Ling. Overseeing the Translations and Publications of Practice Texts on Saraswati Publications. Heading the Phurba Peace Mandala Project International and offering teachings, guidance, and support to students worldwide.

This is our third episode with Khandro Kunzang. If you would like to listen to the previous two, you can see the show notes for the links.


I thought we could begin on the eight classes of spirits . And perhaps first their origin

Khandro Kunzang: as far as I can tell from what I know. Oh, and the research I’ve done and what my teachers have said, this Eight Classes of Spirits actually originates from the time of Shakyamuni and the kinds of non physical beings he was relating to.

And of course, a lot of them show up in the sutras, you know, it’ll say at the end of the sutra, all the sentient beings who were there receiving the teachings and human beings might only be a few, you know, and then there’s the Gandharvas and the gods and the Naga, you know, many, many classes of non human beings are listed there.

So apparently these eight classes, come from ancient India and then as Buddhism travel to Tibet, of course, Tibetans with their shamanic history have all their own kind of classes of spirits. And so there’s actually more than eight classes and you will find different listing groups. You know, so there’s eight classes that list this and another eight classes.

Oh, well, they have different ones in there. So, you know, like all things like that, it can be confusing, but you’ll see in the literature, the eight classes, the eight classes, and it’s how they grouped. different categories of they could be yakshas and nagas and things like this the kinds of non physical beings that show up in the literature but really there’s more and i don’t tend to group them that way i tend to group them according to where they are in the six realms Right.

So like who is in the God realm, who’s in the demigod realm, who’s in the animal realm like Nagas, according to Lama Dawa, they actually are considered to be in the animal realm. And then the hungry ghost realm has many, many, like I tend to classify, I conceptualize them in terms of like the realm that they can be found.

The Buddhist tradition has always acknowledged the existence of invisible spirits. We could call them spirits. They’re sentient beings. And some of them are Buddhist. Some of them were students of Shakyamuni and sat at, you know, receiving the Dharma teachings.

Some of them are highly realized, considered to be above the eighth Bhumi. Some of them were Subjugated, you know, the stories of Tibet and Padmasambhava and having to tame all the wild spirits of Tibet who were threatened by these new Buddhists coming in because they’re not making sacrificial offerings to us.

So the before that in these shamanic cultures, it was very common to make blood sacrifices to the spirits because they feed off the prana of the blood and Buddhism. When Buddhism came, it’s like, oh, no. And so they made these substitute. offerings, you know, and the spirits are, and so they would become obstacles for the propagation of Dharma in these respective countries, you find the same thing in China, you find the same thing in Japan, and you find the same thing in the US, you know, when great Lamas have come to the US, they have had encounters with the local on non physical level.

Elemental spirits associated with that mountain or river, and there’s some, you know, kind of challenge, and they become, you know, subjugated, as we say, by the teacher and promise to serve the activities of the Lama, so there’s many stories of this in the US and France, I’ve heard stories, Mexico, so this is part of the activity of Dharma coming in, so Dharma includes Not just human beings, but all these other beings that are either our allies.

And are are helping us and have made promises to do so to work for the preservation of lineages, they promise to uphold the lineages and preserve the teachings like this as it says in the text, and some of them are very specific to very particular lineages like the Dudjom lineages have some.

Protectors that are very particular to that lineage because of the connection of Dudjom Rinpoche, other lineages like this, you’ll find this huge array of different spirits that certain lineages pay particular attention to and give offerings and have separate prayers and offering ceremonies that they do.

If you look at traditional thangka paintings of the main lineage holders, and then on the bottom will be these Dharma protectors, right? So they’re part of our. refuge object.

So, and then among that, just like human beings, there’s some human beings who are Buddhist and some who aren’t. And there’s some human beings who are very beneficent and open minded and compassionate and some who aren’t, you know, just like that, that also exists among these eight classes. So these very classes of spirits can also become obstacles, you know, and can cause.

Illness and can cause hardship like this, right? So there’s this big range.

Olivia Clementine: This may be too general of a question, it might be something we want to bring into later when we speak about a specific practices. But this piece of interfacing with these spirits.

How is it that we interface, like what are the pathways that we’re interfacing with them through our practice ?

Khandro Kunzang: So, anybody who has participated Ganachakra feast, with a Dharma center, there’s going to be inserted in that the Dharmapala offerings, the offerings to the Dharmapalas of that lineage and then you’ll find offerings incense offerings, smoke offerings, what we call sang offerings.

Often there’s lists of different categories of non physical beings in there that were making these offerings. And we’re also asking them to be peaceful, don’t cause harm, like we’re making a request of them to not cause a problem. So you find them in different offering practices. And also if there are Lamas who are doing any kind of construction project, whether they’re building a school, Stupa or they’re going to dig in the ground in any way.

There’s all kinds of rituals that they do to make offerings to the landlord. So, you know, in the early days when Lama, Dawa and I, we were building our house in Nepal, there was a days of first consecrating the land, which involved all these rich Tomas and offerings to the landlord, right?

Which. is a kind of general term for whoever is occupying, who are the real landlords, because we are not, you know, we, we think I bought this land, you know, I, this is my land, I’m the landlord. It’s like no, you know, we, we have very short lives compared to them. We come and go, come and You know, as I came to understand it, they were here when the Earth first formed.

You know, they’re part of the geography of the land, and this is their habit, habitat. This is their dimension, and they’re associated with particular physical aspects, whether it’s mountains, rocks, trees, or water. That’s their abode, and so they are the land lord. You know, and so it, it, it showed that there’s a recognition of a consciousness, you know, something that’s intelligent and conscious, that we have to make a positive relationship with part of it is an apology to say, you know, I’m going to dig it up here, you know, and then there was all these like astrological calculations that go with it, because they move according to the movement of the planets.

And so you want to be very, you know, Intentional about the timing that you’re doing it at the right time to cause the least harm, and that you’re asking permission, and you’re making, you know, positive connections with the landlord so. You’re acknowledging that this is there and then you’re doing a little research about who is here, you know, what specific kind of landlord.

So in the case of our land in Nepal, there was a yaksha type of energy. And so then the offerings can become very specific to the type of energy that you have there.

Olivia Clementine: How did you identify the yaksha energy? Is that something Lama Dawa saw?

Khandro Kunzang: He did with divinations. Okay. You can do with divinations, you can do with astrology, right, like this.

Yeah, you find Lamas who have these kind of skills or you have direct, you have dreams. When we first bought the property here, Lama Dawa had dreams of the Nagini, who is a Mississippi, came to him in a dream and challenged him. What are you doing here, you know, and so there was this first initial connection.

And then from that, he wrote this prayer that we now do every evening as part of our Dharma Protector offerings. And so that’s when it became, Oh, this, she is the land Lord. Of this particular spot of the upper Mississippi River fish and wildlife refuge that we are have planted ourselves. She’s the main one.

She showed up to Lama Dawa specifically. So sometimes dreams can indicate, you know, who, if you reckon if you know how to recognize that’s Somebody showing up in your dream and like this, yeah.

Olivia Clementine: I feel like I might have cut you off when I asked you that question. Were you about to say something else?

Khandro Kunzang: Well, I was just going to go on to say that likewise, when we built a stupa here, it was a similar thing.

The right timing, looking at astrology and, and like this, and because we know this is the Naga. Nagas are the principal landlords here. We made many offerings to Naga. We, we targeted our offerings to the Nagas and that meant finding the right days and, you know, burying Naga vases like this, propitiating, you know, the type of landlord that occupies the space to, to, Okay.

Invite their support and participation and and protection, really protection too. When they’re on your side, they provide a real protective influence, which I absolutely believe. It’s very interesting since we’ve We’ve been on this land since we bought it in 2007, and we started building in 2010, 11, like this, the temples and our house and like this, and I have seen since we’ve been here, we haven’t been hit with any major storms.

Like, I watched the storms on the radar go, they go north of us, they go south. South of us. They don’t come here. You know, like it’s just been incredible how stable it’s been here. So I like to think that it has a lot to do with that. Yeah.

Olivia Clementine: Yeah. When I think of you, I think of all of the reparations you’re making over there with the endless offerings and, and, and practice.

So it makes sense. I would like to think that as well. . In terms of illness and Tibetan Buddhism in general, and the views on spirits causing illnesses, how, how is it from the Buddhist perspective that spirits cause illness?

Khandro Kunzang: Yeah, there’s a lot of ways. And again, this was something that I saw a lot with Lama Dawa’s mirrored divinations.

I learned a lot about this through so many people coming to him who had chronic illnesses that weren’t responding to whatever treatments they were doing. And it would be revealed in the divination that there’s what they call a don in Tibetan, which often gets translated as provocation. But Lama Dawa would call it a background.

And they would refer to all these classes of spirits that can be the background of an illness that we have, and we don’t realize that there’s this background. And until that gets dealt with, the treatments you’re doing and the remedies you’re taking, the medications you’re taking, won’t really cure you, you know.

And so that’s when I first became aware that, wow, you know, this is behind a, not all illnesses, but many illnesses. And the reason for that was everything from you directly did something to destroy their habitat, for example. And it could be something as benign as you pissed in a stream when you were a kid.

You know, you polluted the home of this Naga when you were little, you didn’t know, you weren’t, trying to harm, but just you pissed in their stream, or you cut down this tree, or you were involved in some kind of excavation or project or explosives. Explosives are very, very disruptive to these spirits, including fireworks.

Like, there’s countries like in Sikkim where you’re not allowed to do fireworks there because it disturbs all the spirits. You know, so, so it could be a direct Way, and you may be totally unaware of it, right? And then they get ill. The way it was explained to me is they become ill and because of our connection to them through the elements like with Nagas, for example, we are mostly water and they are the inhabitants of the subtle water realms.

elements have subtle aspects to them. There’s the hard physical material aspect and they have a subtle dimension and they are living in the subtle dimension of these elements but it’s still there’s the mother element and we are all sort of the child elements but we share the same elements so they become sick and because we’ve made this connection.

through this reciprocal relationship, we become sick. It’s not necessarily they’re making us sick or they’re attacking us. They can, but not always. It could simply be because of the codependent connection. You did something to disrupt their world. They became ill and now You are also getting ill, and so until you do something to help them get well, so we have special Naga medicine that Tibetan doctors make, and we do pujas and offerings to offer them Naga medicine like this to help them heal them, then our illness just sort of magically gets better.

The medicines we take are now working. Like this is, these are examples I’ve seen many, many times. So it could be we’ve done something, and sometimes it’s stuff from a past life that we’ve done that we have no memory of, but they live very long lives. We have many, many lifetimes in their life, and it could have been something in another part of the planet, in another lifetime, and it shows up in this life.

And this is where we see, you know, sometimes the childhood stuff that’s just, where is this coming from? Where is this coming from? So like, I’ve seen examples of that. In the mirror and it’s the same solution making certain offerings to purify that make apologies is also part of it to make your apologies like for the Nagas.

There’s this Naga amendments. Sutra that we’ve published, we have as a free download on our website, it’s 40 pages long to apologize to the Nagas for all the things we’ve done. So making apologies, making offerings, and then when you do that, these things can resolve. So it can be something from past lives that you’ve brought in.

That’s one thing. The other thing is maybe we went to a place. Where they happen to congregate. Like there’s some classes of hungry ghosts, for example, that congregate in certain areas. Like butcher shops, you know, slaughterhouses, let’s say slaughterhouses where there’s a lot of blood emergency rooms.

Battlegrounds, you know, we war places where there was war. Some of these spirits congregate there and maybe you went there. And your lungta maybe was low or it wasn’t a good day astrologically and you get affected by this. It’s almost like a, a kind of negative energy over comes on you, you get affected by them.

So it could be related to a place. And I also have seen some people’s homes, the home that they live in, there’s hungry ghosts living in their homes and maybe have been for a long time and they move in. And then slowly, slowly people in the house, they start getting sick one after another, or they start having financial problems, or there’s suddenly a couple that was really getting along are now fighting.

And it’s because the background is there’s a Hungry ghosts in your home, and they’re sucking your energy. So the text will say they steal our energy. They, you know, Lama Dawa would say they’re sucking your energy, you know. And you just slowly, slowly start having one thing after another, and it’s because there is a category of hungry ghosts.

It could be a terang, right? terang is a category of hungry ghosts. It could be -. You know, there’s many different categories of hungry ghosts. That happened to be there and maybe were there before you moved in like this you and or also you can attract them. I, I’ve seen this with certain families where people have a very strong miserly, stingy, paranoid mental, psychological makeup and behavior and they attract my you will attract these spirits.

by this giving off this kind of energy. And then they take up residence in your home, you know, terrangs, especially are tricky because things go missing, you know, you know, so like this, and

it can be astrological, where, because some of them move in rhythms according to time, the movements of the planets. And you just happen to be, and you run into them, you cross their path. You ran into them, you didn’t know, you can’t see them, but you cross their path, and then they become agitated and disturbed, and because of that, that comes on you, and suddenly you’re sick.

These are more the kind of sudden sicknesses, not the slow, chronic kind of illnesses, but the suddenly I’m sick, suddenly I have pain, suddenly, you know, I have a fever, like this, because maybe we collided with them. And that has to do with the movement of, they didn’t, they weren’t necessarily attacking you, you know, but, you know, it just, there was, it was a disturbance to them that you crossed their path without knowing it.

So those are some ways.

Olivia Clementine: If somebody is listening. and they’re wondering am I dealing with a don or background right now? I heard some of them like acute, acute sickness or issue coming on, loss of energy. Are there like a couple other signs that you can kind of have a sense that there might be some background at play?

Khandro Kunzang: Well, the most obvious sign is that it doesn’t respond to your usual remedies that you do. When, you know, when we feel like we’re getting sick, we have things that we do. I have things that I do. You know, I up my vitamin C, and I have my homeopathics, and I have my stuff. But then it’s like, okay, No, it’s not responding.

Right. Or if you’re dealing with chronic illness, and you’ve been to one doctor after another, then then it’s time to consider that. But I will tell you that Tibetan doctors are trained to look at this. It’s part of Tibetan medicine. They call it spirit illnesses. And it’s a branch of Tibetan medicine. And they will know by pulses, they you know, they have a to actually diagnose that you have a done.

Right, and then they will have certain things that they do for that. They might not be able to be exactly specific of what it is, like in Lama Dawa’s divinations. He could be very specific about what it was and when it was. They might not have that ability to find, but it’s not necessary because once you know it’s a dune, then, then, then you have a different course of action that you can do, right?

And then there are practices like the Vajra Armor Mantra. Is the supreme protection of all the doom, right? So there, there are practices that we can do that address that and other practices that we can do to purify to make offering.

Olivia Clementine: Going back to something else I heard you say, if we keep our lungta, wang tang, and lu high, we have greater invulnerability to the problematic effects of dons.

Will you share about these, what lungta is what wang tang is and what lu is and then a few ways to increase each of these.

Khandro Kunzang: Those were in teachings I gave called the Kyed Pa Zhi. They’re called the four forces. So it’s wang tang, which is our charisma and power energy and that also has a sub branch of our wealth energy. You know, the energy of manifesting, magnetizing like this. And then there’s Lung Ta, which is Our success energy, some people say luck energy, success energy, our ability to you know, have all the conducive circumstances come so that we can accomplish our activities with no obstacles, but also.

Lung Ta is interesting. I, I consider it a kind of spiritual immunity. It’s like if your immune system is very strong, you’re less susceptible to pathogens, right? That’s kind of, you know, Health 101, right? And so like that, Lung Ta, keeping your Lung Ta high gives you immunity against these kinds of Things that we can be exposed to, whether it’s don or whether it’s something called drib, which is a kind of psychic pollution, you know, it makes you less susceptible.

You might have a reaction, but it won’t be as bad. Like this. So Wang Tang, Lung Ta, Lu means your body energy, and Sok was the fourth one, which is your life force energy, and your longevity, how long you’re going to live in your life force energy, you know, and so and then there’s a sub branch called the La, you know, so there’s many.

These are different types of energies. We all have and they fluctuate and they sometimes fluctuate because of astrology. So another thing, you know, this is part of what I was teaching in the key, that depending on when we were born. What are animal and element sign, then as we go through the years, there’s going to be some years when those forces are high and someone they’re low.

So we’ll have years when everything is up and just like effortless and some years that are just like, I’m having one obstacle after another. I just can’t get this project going. I’m having legal problems, financial problems, like this. These forces are fluctuating. Because of astrology, but they also fluctuate according to our.

Virtue and non virtue, right? So when we’re doing activities to increase our merit, right? Offerings, offerings, offerings. It also raises these energies. And when we are, you know, not keeping our promises, when we’re involved in negative activities like gossiping about other people, these forces go down.

Right? So they’re, they’re always fluctuating. And it’s also true that some people are born, like some people are born with very high wang tang, right? And so these are people who just become, you know, world leaders or some insanely famous person or very, you know, very influential, a powerful person in the world that everybody, you know, you see them and you’re just can feel the energy coming off of them.

Some people are born with that. And in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, they always use the Karmapa as the quintessential example, the 16th Karmapa, because he has so much wang tang that people who didn’t even know him just bowed down when they, when he came in, and he just had this kind of presence that’s called wang tang.

So We have some of this innate, we come into this life with certain amounts of this and then they’re going to fluctuate according to astrology and according to our, our merits and you know, lack of merit, right? And so when they’re low, then yeah, you’re more susceptible to maybe be having, you know, some blowback from these done, you know, you can be more susceptible to that.

Just like, why some people get sick with viruses and some don’t. They could be people in the same environment and some get sick and some don’t. Immunity, right? So I, I consider as a kind of spiritual immunity, right? So those are the four forces and they do play a big part in this and there are things we can do, very specific things we can do for lungta, the classic things are raising prayer flags.

You know, hanging prayer flags doing sang offerings, riwo sang chod there’s some classic things that are said to increase your wang tang like this.

Olivia Clementine: So last week you taught on the Lha-Mo Gyed-Tsi, Astrological Mo of the 8 Dakinis a healing text from the kalachakra, which uses astrology to work with health and healing and includes these eight spirits, as you mentioned before, and one of my favorite parts was how it’s the go to particularly around ransom offerings or lud. When there’s an acute imbalance arising. Would you want to say a little bit about the text and also just this piece of ransom offering again? You’ve kind of already hinted on it earlier in this conversation.

Khandro Kunzang: Yeah. So this particular text, according to Lama Dawa is a very common text in the Himalayan communities of Tibet. of North India, Simla, of Ladakh, Bhutan, Nepal, like these countries, not practitioners, not monasteries, but the everyday village person has this text.

It’s a secular teaching. And they all, it’s like when somebody gets sick, It’s the first thing they do is they look in this to find out, okay, what’s the don? And then they immediately make these lud, which is a little ransom, a simple ransom offering to address the dun. And then they see, is there a change?

And if there’s not a change, then they’ll go to their lama and their monastery and request them to do pujas, which are also listed in the text. The text also lists, you know, more tantric ceremonial practices and pujas, some of them are very extensive, some of them you can do, you know, there’s some things in there, like the Lenchak Torma things.

Like that I’ve taught or, you know, there’s ransoming life, there’s some things that we can do, but the way they used it is they would commission their Lamas to do those things, you know, or they would go to a Tibetan doctor if they could get a hold of it. But we have to remember that many of these communities had no access.

to Lamas or doctors. These are remote villages that often didn’t have access to that. So they needed to have something that they could do as part of how they’re going to take care of their family members, you know, and so that’s how Lama Dawa said this was very common in those communities.

And I forgot what the other part of your question.

Olivia Clementine: A little bit behind ransom offerings themselves.

Khandro Kunzang: Yeah. That’s an old, old tradition in, in Tibet, you know and they come in all different shapes and sizes. Do is another word used for ransom offerings.

There’s do and there’s lud, but the do tends to be these very big elaborate. offering ceremonies that are done in the monasteries and can include a lot of wrathful rites and things like that. The lud are more specific about making effigies of the person involved, or having articles of whoever is ransoming.

So it’s specific to a person or even animals. They used to make these for their livestock too. You know, if their cows got sick or their sheep got sick, they would, you know, put them, put them as the effigy. And the idea is that you’re luring the dun away. You’re creating a substitute and sort of saying, Hey, wouldn’t you rather have this?

And so you’re, you’re putting things in there that would be very, very attractive to lure them away. And then they want this. And then you send it back. To the direction that the text indicates it came from, and that’s according to the astrological movements, right? So sometimes it’ll say you have to offer in this direction or that direction, and that’s according to astrology, and you have to bring it a certain distance away.

And you just leave it there and then you, you turn around and come back and you don’t look at it. So it’s not really like an offering that we, you know, we make out of respect. We make to have a beneficent relationship. This is not like that. This is you know, you’re kind of tricking them. It’s like a trick.

To get them to trap them. It’s like a little trap, you know, like sometimes I have mice and I have these little have a heart traps and I put peanut butter in there and I got it. Now I’m going to drive it 2 miles away from my house. You know, it’s a little bit like that.

Olivia Clementine: I know you’ve had stories of maybe firsthand as well as heard stories of the effectivity of these offerings, seeing that it’s really helped people’s lives.

Do you have any stories offhand that you could share with us?

Khandro Kunzang: Yeah, sure. I mean, we’ve done these kinds of things several times for people who are having health problems, but more often because they’re having, economic problems, or, obstacles in their lives, and the divination is indicating there is this situation.

don and you should do this ransom offering. And so we do these a lot of times what Lama Dawa and I did were the more elaborated ones. Ceremonies, you know, and so the offerings themselves were a little more elaborate with thread crosses and stuff like this. And then we would we would go out.

The person wouldn’t go out. And then you just wait. And I would certainly find they would report back, Oh, you know, this legal case is going in my favor now, or, you know, this problem that I had with my neighbor is resolving. I saw again and again that there’s some positive change, you know, and that now the situation can correct itself

you’re trying to remove that which is Blocking whatever it is you’re trying to do, whether you’re, it’s your health or the movement of your finances, the movement of your activities, your relationships, like everything’s in this flow and when there’s something blocking, then we start to have a problem

whether it’s a deficiency problem or a blockage problem. And so you’re trying to remove that and then the situation can correct itself, . .

Olivia Clementine: So the particular title of the text that we’re talking about right now includes eight wisdom dakinis and emphasizing their wisdom energies and the text itself Gives instruction of what to do over a 30 day period and actions to take based on specific days.

And I’m wondering how these wisdom energies play into those 30 days, astrologically even, I mean, I imagine there are calculations. I’m not sure what it entails, but just any elaboration in terms of the relationship between the wisdom energies and the days chosen themselves? Like, is there a relationship between those days of the month and that particular Wisdom Dakini energy?

Khandro Kunzang: Well, it’s just a way that that system of astrology has. divided up those 30 days into eight groups. And how they do it is like the world of astrologers, it’s very complicated.

I, I’m not an astrologer, but I like to read about it. They are looking at so many things. And so, there are different ways to group the energies, and then they take that grouping of energy and give it a name. they deify it, right? So it doesn’t mean that there’s a specific goddess out there.

It’s a constellation of these energies that they have mapped out according to astrology. Whatever system they were using could be an elemental system like this, and then they They find these commonalities and put them in this group, these commonalities and put them in this group, and then they give it a name and it’s their way of viewing this as a living system, you know, that they’re not just, you know, dead planets circling in the sky, you know, it’s a living system with intelligence.

And so every group of energy has its own force that’s alive. And they give it, they give it a name of a goddess, it’s their view of the world that it’s that there’s a wisdom intelligence behind what we would say is a mathematical calculation is math. Math is kind of this dry thing in the West, but it wasn’t that way.

Math was magic. You know, in Persian cultures it was magic, mathematicians and what they did. So that magic of the numbers, the magic of these equations, they perceive as having this intelligent deification. They deified it. They weren’t the only culture that did this. You know, many ancient cultures did this.

Olivia Clementine: Yeah, so well said, though, it’s really inspiring to think of it that way. So every 30 days, are you going through the same cycle of where the energy lies in that particular month? Or is each month it’s changing?

Khandro Kunzang: That particular, Every third, there’s other texts that will go according to the days of the week, Monday through Sunday, or they have a grouping of the Five Wisdom Dakinis. There’s different groupings and different calculations, but Lama Dawa preferred that particular one. He said, this is the one that everybody uses.

This is the most commonly practiced of all the different kinds of. Groupings, and they also provided the more detailed information, right, that it gives us a peek into the behind the scenes going on, right, and also a more detailed list of the kind of symptoms that you can have. And so he chose that particular one to teach, but he’s taught some other ones.

So there’s lots, there’s lots of systems and sometimes they contradict. It’s the same with Naga calendars.

There’s so many systems of calculating and people are like, well, this one, it says this and it contradicts this. You know, that’s just how it is. It’s a, it’s a very multi dimensional world, , and just pick your system and, work with that.

I love that.

Olivia Clementine: So you did also mention the Vajra Armor Mantra and that also entails the Eight Classes of Spirits.

And where did this mantra come from?

Khandro Kunzang: Well, the Vajra Armor Mantra that Lama Dawa has transmitted and I now teach comes from Dorje Lingpa, who is a major Terton. And there actually many lineages of Vajra Armor Mantra because Guru Rinpoche hid this mantra as so many things in the Nyingma tradition.

Open this. It was, you know, a mantra that he put together based on the texts that were available at the time of all these healing mantras. He created this put together these 30 syllables that, you know, represent this volume of a hundred thousand healing mantras, and then buried them and hid them as termas with prophecies of who would reveal.

And so Dorje Lingpa was one of the, he wasn’t the first terton, but he was one of the early tertons. And then there have been subsequent, you know, there’s one in the Ratna Lingpa, there’s one in the Dudjom. They mostly are the same. Sometimes they have one or two syllables added to it, and sometimes they have an image of a deity associated with it.

So there’s different lineages of this in the terma tradition. So what I’m teaching from Lama Dawa, it comes from specifically from Dorje Lingpa’s terma. And that, of course, comes from Guru Rinpoche. They all, they all trace back to Guru Rinpoche.

Olivia Clementine: And would you share about the use and the process of how it rebalances our inner and outer

Khandro Kunzang: elements?

Well, it’s something you recite many, many times and through the blessings and the resonance of the mantra, you are resonating all the subtle energies in your system. This is how mantras work in general, but also you’re, you’re accumulating the siddhi of the mantra. You’re doing it enough times that it’s accumulating a kind of energy within you, and that gives you the protection, and so in the system that we teach, we have tests that we do, so people do this three day retreat, or it’s really five days. It’s three full days and two half days. Right. But according to a Dorje Lingpas instruction, we do these strict boundaries, silent retreats, and people are reciting the mantra.

And then at the end of the retreat, there’s tests, the different water tests is the first level of fire tests like this. And the test shows that you have increased this mantra energy sufficiently to then move into the next phase of the training. So in the beginning, it’s for your own protection. All right, the mantra gives, there’s 15 ways, according to Dorje Lingbo’s term, there’s 15 ways that it protects us.

And it lists all the don. This is where we all learn about the don, because all the different things it protects us from are listed and explained. And so it’s for our own protection. And then the level two is then, then we learn how to use this for others. So there’s different things we consecrate. We consecrate water.

We consecrate salt. We consecrate mustard seeds. We make special clays, healing clays. There’s many different substances that we consecrate with a mantra, and then they can be used in a variety of treatments, right? And so people learn about that in level two and then level three. Then we go into the activity Dorje Lingpa wrote, the – calls the activity of how you can then use this for all kinds of things, making treasure vases and averting negativity, you know, affecting the weather.

There’s many, many things. That, you know, growing your garden. There’s one for fermenting. I use it for my pickles. You have to make this, put the mantra on a stone from a cemetery, consecrate it and put it in with your ferment. So I have it in there with my pickles.

Olivia Clementine: (laughter)

I’m wondering if you think the tests, for instance, Vajra Mantra tests, do you think that’s more unusual these days, testing practitioners on what they’re seeing, what they’re experiencing? I

Khandro Kunzang: guess it’s unusual nowadays, but on, you know, what I’ve learned from my teachers Dawa, who are old school yogis, old school practicing in the Mahasiddha tradition, not in the monastic tradition, but in this sort of solitary yogi style, is that all tantric practices have Tests, all of them do.

In other words, they’re a sign that is there to show that there’s some purification that’s happened and some blessings have entered in and your mind is, your mind is being transformed, doing kyerim generation stage retreats, you know, what shows up in the kapola of alcohol, that’s has to be there, right?

It’s not really a test, but it’s a sign like this or Phowa. A lot of people are familiar with Phowa as a common practice. But the way Lama Dawa, when we did Phowa retreats, seven day strict boundary Phowa retreats, he had the little piece of kusha grass that he was sticking in people’s crown chakra that would open up.

That’s a test and a sign. So, so long also has many of these kinds of tangible things that you and other people can observe that in some ways seems like it was impossible, right? So that’s why they don’t get talked about a lot because then people are like, well, prove it or show it or whatever, but they show up at the end of your practice when you’re taking the mudra.

And then there are tests, so it’s just in that tradition of showing a sign at the end. This comes from Lama Dawa’s research in the literature of Dorje Lingpa’s termas, there were these particular tests, water tests. Are done and that’s where people are taking some saffron water in their mouth after they have done the three days of mantra recitation and then that, you know, golden yellow water is dropped into a glass of clear water.

And then there are different signs that show up. And so I have to read those signs and certain things show up. That means certain things. Or the fire test is they have to blow through a special tube, a silver tube, and burn a mandala. You know, the fire energy has to be strong enough that it burns up this image of a mandala that’s on a piece of paper,

so that means their fire energy has been purified, that’s a sign, so they’re, these are. They’ve always been part of my training, but yeah, I think you’re right. It’s unusual. I don’t know if a lot of Lamas are doing this, you know, including this as part of their dissemination of the teachings with their students.

And, you know, maybe it’s because a lot of Lamas have so many students, you can’t possibly do this when you have a lot of students, right? It’s the smaller groups that you can do this. But Lama Dawa was adamant about this, this, you know, you’re cutting corners if, if we’re not including things like this.

I was told that when we do practice, we’re doing them either according to number or according to time. Or according to signs.

The Vajra Armor Mantra is according to time. You do this for three days. That’s Dorje Lingpa.

You know, so some things are according to a time. And then that time is done, and you have done that practice. And then finally, it’s according to sign. You do the practice until the signs come. And this was what my teachers Advocated you do the practice according to signs, you may have the signs quickly, or you may take some time you have to do it over and over again, doesn’t matter you’re doing it according to the signs, that’s what they, that’s the Mahasiddha tradition. I think in the.

Monasteries are the larger Dharma centers where you have lots of people you have to go according to number and according to time, because that’s how you can have a lot of people going through the same program at the same rate, it becomes standardized, whereas it’s much more individualized if you’re doing it according to signs, but that was the old fashioned way of doing it.

Yeah, it seems

Olivia Clementine: really important. Yeah. Keep that going.

Khandro Kunzang: Yeah. As much as possible. Yeah. As

Olivia Clementine: much as possible. So a question about Lama Dawa. I heard you say once that you said how he was raised in a dharma family where everything was focused on the dharma, and you mentioned that his mother did retreat.

And I was wondering if you know much about her retreats. Like, was she a householder that would kind of integrate retreat, or did she really step away and go into retreat? How was

Khandro Kunzang: that for her? You know, it was in and out. So they both did practice and pilgrimage, you know, they did these arduous pilgrimage and part of their practice was chud.

So that requires you going to charnel grounds, right, and Lama Dawa was born in such a pilgrimage. They were, they were in Mukti Narayan to do their 108 charnel ground practice and she’s pregnant and she gets birthed to Lama Dawa in the middle of that, you know. It’s incredible, actually, if you think about it.

So that’s. You know, that’s retreat. You’re doing, you know, you’re not in a place, but that is deep practice, you know, and so, you know, that’s part of it. And they did many kinds of pilgrimages, but they also had their, their Gomba monastery in this very remote area of Delpo. And And so the winters were very, very extreme there.

You know, Lama Dao would tell stories about how the whole, they were up in the mountain, in the mountain with their, their cave gompa. And he’d look down and there’s the villages down there. And they would be covered with snow. Their houses completely covered with snow and they would have to. poke holes for the chimney smoke to come out.

And the only way you knew there was a house there is oh, there’s a hole with chimney smoke coming out. They were completely buried in snow in the wintertime, these these villages, and their animals lived in the houses with them. And they had to have enough food stored for the winter to feed their animals all winter while they were completely snowed in.

So during those winters, they did retreats. His parents would do retreats and they would trade off because, you know, they had, they had the kids, you know, Lama Dawa and his sister, Pema And Dorje, his older brother, they would cook and serve the parents, right? But then the parents, they traded off. Sometimes, you know, he was, you know, in a stricter tree and sometimes she was, but their whole life was practice.

Like they didn’t lie down to sleep. They had boxes. That they slept upright in. His mother had a box and his father had a box and that’s how they slept. They slept sitting up, you know, so they lived in perpetual retreat. In a way, you could say that they lived the way that the yogis and yoginis live and yes, then there’s the interaction with the villagers coming to request different things or they have to do certain, you know, annual pujas for the villages.

So, Cause the villagers are supporting them and they in turn are serving the villagers. And his mother was the one who had the special eyes to do divination practice. So his parents did mirror divinations, but it was his mother that looked in the mirror and his father did the little ritual.

They did it together, so it said that she has special eyes, and that’s how Lama Dawa got special eyes. They, they do say that it’s something that’s inherited, right? So it was his mother that had that ability to do, to look in the mirror, but they did it together. Right. So it’s hard to separate, it’s a truly a partnership this way, mutually supportive and like that.

And raising kids in the middle of it. Yeah.

Olivia Clementine: So what would happen with the children?

Khandro Kunzang: Yeah. They, you know, doing their thing. They were, you know, they’re quite independent.

Yeah, I mean, he had a younger brother who died because he ate poison mushrooms, they were outside and, tending the animals and things like that. Participating in the rituals, learning to make the tormas, learning to slowly, slowly do things and praying and learning the prayers, learning how to read and write, learning how to make different things.

Yeah, it was all part of their family life.

Olivia Clementine: In terms of Dharma marriage and qualities that are within a Dharma marriage, what would you say, from your own experience, then also from hearing about Lama Dawa’s parents, what would you encourage in your relationship, if you’re really cultivating Dharma through relationship?

Khandro Kunzang: You’re doing the same practices, you’re sort of co working on, you know, co deciding on what, your life is revolving around these practices, , your life doesn’t revolve around your work. You have maybe the same teacher, and then if you have a particular practice, the other partner will support that, right? In whatever way is appropriate. Yeah. It’s not a typical life. The Ngakpa tradition is not really a householder tradition.

You know, householders are People who have jobs, who have other responsibilities, who are also doing Dharma practice on the side. It’s not really householders, you know, they’re real yogis, yoginis, and their life is the Dharma. They don’t have outside work, you know, there’s no outside work, and sometimes they live very poorly.

You know, they, they live in caves, they don’t have money, they don’t have a lot of possessions, they have very difficult lives, they’re enduring a lot of hardship, because they’re just doing their practice, and you know, Kunzang Dorje Rinpoche, my guru and his wife, the same thing, you know, until they moved into our house in 2002, when he was in his late 70s, They always lived in caves and tents and really rough places, you know, their whole life.

They just wandered. He always wanted to live in the place where Guru Rinpoche was, so he would only live there. He lived in Pharping, he lived in Bodha, he lived in Sikkim, he lived in Tso Pema in the caves. Never choosing to live in a house like this, for a short time in Sikkim when he was leading retreats.

At the request of Dudjom Rinpoche to lead retreats in the Rigdzin Sogdrub at that time, the Prince of Sikkim requested him to stay in Sikkim and I’ll build you a big monastery here and he ran away, he and his wife took the bus at night and ran away, he saw that as being entrapped, you know, so they were truly outside of society that way and didn’t go for the, the trappings of a comfortable life and hot showers and indoor plumbing and electricity.

That wasn’t their life. So the same thing with Lama Dawa’s parents, you know, they’re choosing a life of practice, which is not an easy life, but it’s just because they don’t want anything interfering with their ability to do practice. And some of it is time, like some practices have to do with timing.

There’s a time to do this and a time to do that. So they need the total freedom. To engage in the practice with no outside constraints. You know, it’s so funny. I was reading this new translation that came out of advice from Nup Sangye Yeshe, who, you know, very old one of the original Padmasambhava disciples and, and he had this book about guidelines for practitioners and it was recently translated into English and there’s a suggestion in there that you have a weapon to, to fight off the tax collectors who can be obstacles for your practice.

Olivia Clementine: So great, listen everybody to that one.

Khandro Kunzang: They’re like, wow, you know, even they worried about that back then, you know, got those damn tax collectors by cave to demand their tax, oh my goodness.

Olivia Clementine: Is there anything else you want to share anything that feels important right now you know I know you’re in the midst of so many projects

Khandro Kunzang: well, you know, the one project that’s been going on here is this Vajrakilaya Mandala project that now we are raising money to build the temple for this, and this was a vision that Lama Dawa had, you know, a long time ago as part of his prophetic vision is of the future and he there were many interesting things that would come in the mirror about future times.

And of course it’s one reason why we are here why we’re in this particular place in Northeast Iowa on the Mississippi River because there’s something very special and very uniquely stable about this area, we looked at land on the east coast, New York, we looked at land on California coast. A lot of places for this.

Vajrakilaya Mandala vision, he said that we need to build and we need to have three of them, one in the U. S., one in Mexico, one in Nepal, to stabilize the coming conflicts and difficulties, particularly around war. He always saw that. And this is, 15 years ago. And of course, here we are right at the precipice of so many conflicts that could just

get way out of hand. And, so we call the Peace Mandala, but it’s really a Mandala Vajrakilaya, three dimensional Mandala Vajrakilaya. And we had this carved in Nepal. It took three years and we brought it back in 2020, just as the pandemic was closing down. It was wild, you know. I’m sitting in Nepal watching China just close down.

It was surreal. And then, you know, we barely got out because all the countries were closing their borders . And so we got in in the U. S. in March of 2020, like the day before the United States closed our border. But we managed to ship this by air during that time. And so we got it here and it was sitting in storage like this.

And likewise, our Mexican sangha, their mandalas just finished and that’s been shipped to Mexico, and then there’s the Nepal mandala project. So these are big projects. That these different groups that Lama Dawa students are continuing to bring to fruition. And, you know, it’s very specifically to cut negativity of warfare.

That’s what Vajrakilaya is all about. And it feels like, this really needs to be done yesterday, but it’s taking its own time. So that’s what we’re about here in Iowa is to now build the temple to install this mandala this Vajrakilaya mandala here.

There’s some information on our website, Phurba Thinley Ling, so people can write if they want more information about that. But at some point, the construction will begin. It’s very big, you know, maybe will be one of the largest three dimensional mandalas in America as far as I know.

At the time when Lama Dawa was seeing these things, now I can see, I’m watching all his prophetic visions come to light.