Drala (Tib. དགྲ་བླ་, སྒྲ་བླ་, Wyl. dgra bla or sgra bla) or dralha (Tib. དགྲ་ལྷ་, Wyl. dgra lha) — dynamically active non-human beings inhabiting the air element, who are usually invisible to ordinary human perception. They form the retinue and agents of Gesar and are usually portrayed as wild, fearless warriors on horseback. As Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche makes clear, the inner aspect of drala is connected to the subtle energy system in the body, and the ‘secret’ aspect to the nature of mind.
Drala may be spelt two ways: ‘drala’ and ‘dralha’. These suggest two ways in which the inner aspect can be understood. ‘Drala’ connects it to la, one of the fundamental life-forces; so it can be seen as an aspect of our life-force which functions to protect us from our ‘enemies’. ‘Dralha’ connects it to lha, ‘deity’. This term should be understood to signify simultaneously both a natural force operating in the phenomenal world, and an aspect of our own pure awareness. Early spellings of the term suggest connections both with using sound (sgra) to arouse la (bla) (which is perhaps one reason why windhorse practices are usually recited loudly), and with controlling the flow of prana in the channels.
Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche explains the term as follows:
- In many ancient Bön texts the name 'Drala' is spelt sgra bla, which literally means 'la of sound', where la (soul or vitality) stands for a type of individual energy that is also endowed with a protective function. In more recent texts, notably those of the Buddhist tradition, we find the spelling dgra lha, 'deity of the enemy', a term which has been interpreted to mean a warrior deity whose task is to fight one's enemies. [...] Other authors, interpreting the term in the sense of 'deity that conquers the enemy's la' have instead spelt it dgra bla, 'enemy's la'.
- [...] The spelling sgra bla ('la of sound') found in the ancient texts as a matter of fact is based on a very deep principle characteristic of the most authentic Bön tradition. Sound, albeit not visible, can be perceived through the sense of hearing and used as a means of communication, and is in fact linked to the cha (the individual's positive force, the base of prosperity), wang tang (ascendancy-capacity), and all the other aspects of a person's energy, aspects that are directly related with the protective deities and entities that every person has from birth. Moreover, sound is considered the foremost connection between the individual himself and his la. From all this we can easily understand the deep meaning of the word sgra bla.
- Namkhai Norbu, Drung De'u and Bön, translated by Adriano Clemente, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1995 pp.61-62