Five Sisters of Long Life
Five Sisters of Long Life (tshe ring mched lnga) - protectoress of the Dharma, embodied as the Thon Thing Gyalmo (mthon mthing rgyal mo) or Gaurishankar mountain -- syn (jo mo tshe ring mched lnga) 'The five sisters of Long Life', they are:
- Tashi Tseringma (bkra shis tshe ring ma), she is white with one face and two arms, holding a golden nine-pronged vajra in her right and a long-life flask ornamented with an auspicious knot and a swastika in her left hand. Her mount is a white snow-lioness.
- Tingi Shalzangma (mthing gi zhal bzang ma), she is blue with one face and two arms, holding a silver mirror in her right and a banner of the gods in her left hand. She rides a mare.
- Miyo Lozangma (mi g.yo blo bzang ma), she is yellow with one face and two arms, holding a bowl with delicious foods in her right and a mongoose in her left hand. Her mount is a tigress.
- Chöpen Drinzangma (cod dpan mgrin bzang ma), she is red with one face and two arms, holding a wishfulfilling jewel in her right and a jewel encrusted casket in her left hand. She rides a hind.
- Täkar Drozangma (gtal dkar ´gro bzang ma), she is green with one face and two arms, holding a bushel of durva grass in her right and a snake noose in her left hand. Her mount is a female turquoise dragon.
According to various traditions, they might be described slightly differently. The above description is according to the Karma Kagyu tradition. Worshipped by all schools, they are particularly popular with the various Kagyu schools because of their connection with Jetsun Milarepa. They are considered the most important among his non-human disciples and were particularly charged with protecting Milarepa's lineage.
According to the tshe ring mched lnga'i bka' gtad kyi zur 'debs sman btsun dgyes pa'i zur mig, by Khewang Sangye Dorje (mkhas dbang sangs rgyas rdo rje) (1569-1645), a Drukpa Kagyu master and disciple of the great 4th Gyalwang Drukpa Pema Karpo (1527-1592), Tashi Tseringma and her sisters took their first oaths from the dakini seng gdong ma in the great charnel ground "Singha" (this name is not mentioned among the various lists of the eight great charnel grounds of India).
Later they took further oaths from Guru Padmasambhava in Kham, at a place named zla nyi kha la rong sgo, where he concealed the gter ma of Tukdrub Barchey Kunsel (bla ma'i thugs sgrub bar chad kun sel), and made them promise to be the guardians of this cycle of teachings. Then they took more oaths in the charnel ground called mun pa sgra sgrogs in India from the mahasiddha Krishnacharya (nag po spyod pa); and finally from Jetsun Milarepa at yongs rdzong in Tibet.
Together with Karag Khyungtsünma (kha rag khyung btsun ma), who is one of the twelve Tenma goddesses (bstan ma bcu gnyis), they are the special protectors of the Tukdrub Barchey Kunsel terma cycle, rediscovered by the great treasure finder (gter ston) Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa (1829-1870). Their residence is said to be Thon Thing Gyalmo (mthon mthing rgyal mo), a (supposedly) five peaked snow mountain on the border of Tibet and Nepal. Another name for this mountain is jo mo gangs dkar, the Nepalese Gaurishankar.
In the lha sman bkra shis tshe ring ma'i sgo nas 'jig rten dang 'jig rten las 'das pa'i rjes gnang bkra shis tshe dbang rab rgyas, (bka' brgyud sngags mdzod), vol. 6, pp. 493-526, by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye (1813-1899), we read several accounts on how the Tseringma sisters repeatedly appeared to various lineage masters, aided them and renewed their oaths with them. At and immediately after Milarepa's time, they appeared to his close disciples like Gampopa, Rechungpa, Ngendzong Repa and Repa Shiwa Ö etc. and repeatedly helped and advised them. The instructions and transmissions for the practices of the Tseringma sisters were, among others, all given to Milarepa's sun-like disciple Dagpo Da-Ö Shönnu (sgam po pa), (1079-1153) who passed them on to his students. From there on onwards, these were handed down within all the four major and eight minor Kagyu schools until the present day.
Through the 1st Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa (1110-1193) these were transmitted into the Karma Kagyu tradition. He had repeated visions of them, as did Drukpa Gyalwang Je (the 2nd Gyalwang Drukpa, 1428-1476) and Drikung Chöying Rangdrol. Among many other masters, they also appeared to the 3rd Karmapa Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339), the 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje (1556-1603) and the 6th Shamar Rinpoche Garwang Chökyi Wangchuk (1584-1630), who composed the tshe ring mched lnga'i mchod gtor gyi rim pa, the main Tsheringma practice text in use nowadays by monastic communities of the Karma Kagyu (bka' brgyud sngags mdzod, vol. 6, pp. 437-460). A shorter text, more suitable for individual daily practice, the dgyes rgu'i dpal bskyed, was composed by the 15th Karmapa Khakyab Dorje (1871-1922). It is contained in his collected works (mkha' khyab rdo rje gsung 'bum, vol. 10, pp. 207-218]]).
When the omniscient 8th Tai Situpa Chökyi Jungne (1700-1774) was traveling to Nepal, he met the Tseringma sisters in actuality and received much advice from them. There are many stories about how they, until the present day, again and again appear to many practitioners of the various Kagyu lineages and aid and advise them.
Sacred Places of Tseringma in Bhutan
The Paro valley of Bhutan is said to be particularly prosperous as there are dwelling places of each of the five Tseringma sisters there:
- Tashi Tsheringma, riding on a lioness resides in Drangje Gönpa at the centre;
- Thinggi Zhalzangma, riding on a mare resides in Ramna Temple to the east;
- Miyo Langzangma, riding on a tigress, in Tengchen Gönpa to the south;
- Chodpan Drinzangma, riding on a doe, in Dzongdrakha to the west; and
- Taykar Drozangma, riding a turquoise dragon, in Gangteng Temple to the north.
Local people beleive that if a person goes on a pilgrimage and visits all five of these sacred sites in a single day they will obtain the blessing of wealth and good fortune.