Nyungné is a fasting ritual of the 1000-armed Avalokiteshvara belonging to the Kriya Tantra tradition. Its purpose is to purify negative karma in a short time and to develop great compassion. For two days, November 11 and 12, a group of monks, nuns and a few lay practitioners gathered in Chapagaun gompa for the first nyungné practice held in that monastery. Drupla Öpak guided the practice for 6 monks, 10 nuns and only 3 lay practitioners.
One of these three was my friend Dawa Dorje. Dawa is a friend from Nepal who I meet regularly in pujas in our Ka-Nying monastery in Boudha. He seems to me a very diligent practitioner! Dawa told me that this was not the first time that he had participated in the practice of nyungné,. He did it before with the nuns and other practitioners in Nagi gompa. The way he explained the practice to me sounded quite challenging! (Maybe that’s why not so many lay people joined the practice this time… but I’m just guessing).
According to Dawa, one set of nyungné consists of two days. The fasting starts the first day after lunch, so in total one has to spend two nights and one day fasting. And fasting here means no food or drinks! I asked Dawa how difficult was for him to fast in this way, and he said that he felt very very hungry! He was so hungry that he couldn’t sleep well, and after 30 hours of fasting, he started almost a minute-by-minute count down until they would eat again. During the period of time when they were fasting, they could only rinse their mouths but not drink a single drop of water. Dawa really made an effort to follow the instructions, so he didn’t drink at all, and he said that he noticed how the mere feeling of the water in the mouth was already soothing. I can only imagine!
When the fasting was over, the first thing they drank was amrita, or Tibetan dütsi, which consists of alcohol blessed with a mendrub pill. Then they received some water with glucose, followed by Tibetan tea (made with butter and salt), and finally some tsampa (barley flour mixed with tea). That must have tasted like the best food ever!
Benefits of Nyungné
I asked Lama Jinpa Gyatso about the benefits of doing this fasting practice. He said that when practitioners fast in this way, and combine it with the related practice of buddha Avalokiteśvara one can get a glimpse of what the pretas (hungry spirits, Tibetan yi daks) experience.
And at the same time, one purifies the karma that leads to such an unfortunate birth. Moreover, one also creates the conditions not to be reborn as such spirits. If it happens that one would take birth as a hungry spirit in a future life, by having done this practice, the time that one would have to spend in such suffering will be shortened considerably.
The practice sounds tough, but definitely worth trying. I will consider joining next year!