THE BÖN TRADITION

YungDrung Bön is Tibet's oldest spiritual tradition, and the founder of the Bön religion is Buddha Shenrab. He is said to have been born in the mythical land of Olmo Lung Ring, whose exact location remains something of a mystery. The land is described as dominated by Mount Yung-drung Gu-tzeg(Edifice of Nine Swastikas), which many identify as Mount Kailash in western Tibet. Due to the sacredness of Olmo Lung Ring and the mountain, both the counter-clockwise swastika and the number nine are of great significance in the Bön religion.

Due to royal patronage of Indian Buddhism by Tibet's king Trisrung Detsun (7th century), Bön was discouraged and practitioners faced persecution and banishment. Practically nothing is known about Bön during the period from the eighth to the early eleventh centuries. However, with the relentless devotion and endeavour of sincere followers such as Drenpa Namkha (9th century), Shenchen Kunga (10th century) and many others, Tibet's indigenous religion, was rescued from oblivion and re-established itself alongside Buddhism in Tibet.

More than three hundred Bön monastries were established in Tibet prior to the Chinese invasion in 1959. Menri and Yungdrung monastries were the major monastic universities for the study and practice of Bön doctrines. In the nineteenth century, a Bön Master, Sharza Tashi Gyaltsen, gave Bön strength and a new incentive through his collected writings comprising eighteen volumes. His follower Kagya Khyungtrul Jigmey Namkha, trained many disciples learned in not only the Bön religion, but in all the Tibetan sciences. However, with the Chinese invasion of Tibet, like the other spiritual traditions, Bon faced irreparable losses.

The Bön tradition has received explicit support from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who made a two day visit to Menri Monastery, Dolanji, where he was impressed by the students' educational achievements. In addition, he made a statement at the 1988 Tulku Conference in Sarnath, in which he stressed the importance of preserving the Bön tradition, as representing the indigenous source of Tibetan culture, and acknowledging the major role it has had in shaping Tibet's unique identity.

Senior Teacher of YungDrung Bön, Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche has described the history of Bön as occurring in three phases. The ancient Bön was shamanic. In other words, it was based on the belief that spirits residing within the earth's framework of mountains and rivers, trees and sky are sensitive to human action and therefore must not be harmed. Pollution and degradation of the natural world will provoke the spirits into creating illness and harm to humans. Shamans work to appease and communicate with these spirits, for instance, as in a prayer for rain. The next phase, the Yungdrung Bön, or Eternal Bön consists of the higher teachings found in Lord Tonpa Shenrab's revelations of truth. These are found in the cycles of Sutra, Tantra and Dzongchen, written here in their commonly known Sanskrit counterparts. Lastly, there is new Bön, which appeared around the 14th century, 700 years after Buddhism took root in Tibet. This Bön relied upon teachings which were saved during the persecution of Bön by Tibet's Buddhist kings.

His Holiness The Dalai Lama
His Holiness The Dalai Lama

His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama wrote "The Bön tradition has bequeathed the present generation a strong legacy of education and training in philosophy, monastic discipline, ritual and meditation. It encourages a combination of literary study, vibrant debate, and personal reflection."

Masters & Teachers of the YungDrung Bön Tradition

BUDDHA TONPA SHERAB

སྟོན་པ་སངས་རྒྱས་གཤེན་རབ་མི་བོ།

The founder of the ancient Yungdrung Bön spiritual tradition was the Buddha Tonpa Shenrab.  Tonpa Shenrab was born at the palace Barpo Sogye of Tagzig Olmo Lung Ring. According to the Bön canon, his birth dates 18,000 years ago. His father was Gyalbon Thodkar of the Mu clan and his mother Yochi Gyalzhedma. His teachings are called ‘Yung Drung Bön’ or ‘Eternal Bön’, and practitioners of Bön are called ‘Bonpo’. The great Shenrab dedicated his whole life to the practice of Eternal Bön for the benefit of all beings.  He taught the teaching of Eternal Bön for about five decades, showing the path of compassion to many beings.  At the age of 82 he entered into nirvana. His death was a true reminder to many of his followers that we all have to experience the truth of impermanence.  Throughout Shenrab’s teaching he tried to communicate with every being, showing them how to recognize their true nature and live with the moment.  The essence of his teachings is how to find our home within and abide joyfully with the treasury of contentment that we are all gifted with. His teachings continue to inspire many beings throughout the centuries.

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Nyamme sherab gyaltsen - THE FOUNDER and first abbot of menri monastery, tibet

ཉམ་མེད་ཤེས་རབ་རྒྱལ་མཚན།

Nyamme Sherab Gyaltsen was born in 1356 in Gyarong in the village of Tegchog, East Tibet and is considered to be a manifestation of She-rab Ma-we Seng-Ge (the Wisdom Lion of Speech) the great liberator. His father was a Tantric master known as Lugyal from the Ra lineage and his mother was Rinchen Men.  From early childhood, he was recognized as an extraordinary child: without studying, he could recite mantras, remember and learn spiritual texts easily and was also self-aware.  After discovering at the age of 10 the suffering of cyclic existence, he followed the teacher Chala Yungdung Gyaltsen, soon became a monk, took 25 vows and was given the spiritual name Sherab Gyaltsen.  From then on he received the higher teachings of Bön: Dho – the Path of Renunciation, Nag – the Path of Transformation, and Dzogchen – the Path of Self Liberation.  With great devotion he practiced and learned mainly from the teaching tradition of Yeru Monastery and by following the Great Master Rinchen Lodoe.

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H.H. menri trizin 

༸སྐྱབས་རྗེ་སྨན་རིའི་ཁྲི་འཛིན་རིན་པོ་ཆེ།

He is the world-wide spiritual leader of the Bön religion of Tibet. He was born in Amdo, in the far eastern region of Tibet, in 1927 and became a monk at the age of eight, at Kyong Tsang monastery, near where he was born.

When he was sixteen he entered the Dialectic School at the monastery, and after eight years of study took his Geshe degree, specializing in Tibetan medicine, astronomy and astrology. Soon after, at the age of twenty-six, he traveled to Gyalrong in eastern Tibet, where he printed the Bönpo scriptures, a set of over one hundred books called the Kangyur, from wood blocks kept by the king of Trochen Gyalpo, one of the eighteen kingdoms of Gyalrong. He then brought the published Kangyur back to Kyong Tsang Monastery. Then he traveled to central Tibet in Tsang province, for further studies at the Bön monasteries of Yung Drung Ling, sMenri and Khana. Later he went to Drepung monastery in Lhasa to do research and practice, staying five years until the 1959 uprising. At the time of the conflict against the Chinese in 1959 he fled on foot from Tibet to Mustang, on the border of Tibet and Nepal, then to Pokhara, Nepal, and then to India. While in India he got word that the Abbot of Yungduung Ling monastery and many Bönpo lamas had reached the Bön monastery of Samling, a very old and important monastery in the Dolpo region of Nepal, and he went to join them. After some time they all traveled down to the valleys of Nepal.

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H.E. Menri Yongdzin

༸སྐྱབས་རྗེ་སྨན་རིའི་ཡོངས་འཛིན་རིན་པོ་ཆེ།

H.E. Menri Yongdzin Rinpoche is the most senior teacher of the Bönpo tradition. He was born in 1926 in southeastern Tibet. Rinpoche began his studies at an early age and took his vows at 15. He continued his studies at the major Bönpo monasteries: gYung-Drung-Ling and sMenri in Tsang near Shigatse in central Tibet. Rinpoche’s two main masters were Bonruponlob Rinpoche and the Venerable Lopon Sangye Tenzin, Rinpoche.

Rinpoche was elected to the position of Lopon in 1953 at the young age of 27. This same year he obtained the Geshe degree from sMenri Monastery. As Lopon, or Head Teacher, Rinpoche is part of an unbroken lineage of 33 generations through Nyamme Sherab Gyaltsen, the founder of sMenri Monastery in Tibet. He was the teaching master from 1953 to 1957 when conflicts between the Chinese and Tibetans in Central Tibet became severe. He entered a long retreat in northern Tsang until 1960 when the Chinese invasion forced Rinpoche to flee Tibet. With great difficulty, including being shot and incarcerated by Chinese soldiers, Lopon Rinpoche was able to reach safety in Nepal.

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H.E. Menri Lopon

༸སྐྱབས་རྗེ་སྨན་རིའི་སློབ་དཔོན་རིན་པོ་ཆེ།

Rinpoche was born on the 12th day of the 1st Tibetan month of the year 1962 in the small Himalayan village of Tsakha in the Dolpo region of northwest Nepal. Many years ago, the Dolpo region was a part of the Zhang-Zhung kingdom. In the Dolpo region we can still find the culture and language of Zhang-Zhung.

There is a small Bonpo Monastery in his village called Tarzong Phuntsok Ling Bonpo Monastery. It was the only place where people can study traditional education as well as the Tibetan language. Yangton Lama is the abbot of Tarzong Phuntsok Ling Bonpo monastery. This monastery is one of the most precious and secret monasteries for the lineage of Yangton lamas. Lopon Rinpoche is a member of the famous lineage of Yangton lamas. The Yangton lineage goes back to the time of Buddha Tönpa Shenrab over 18,000 years ago. Yangton lamas were the priests for the ancient kings of Tibet. Yang n’gal Tsec Cho was the priest for Nyatri Tsenpo, the 1st king of Tibet. The Yangton Lama Yang n’gal, who was the priest of the Tibetan King Pude Gungyal, established the first Yangton Monastery at Bonri in the Kongpo region of Tibet.

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Khenpo tenpa Yungdrung rinpoche

མཁན་པོ་བསྟན་པ་གཡུང་དྲུང་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་

Rinpoche is the abbot (khenpo) of Triten Norbutse Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal, one of the two main Bon monasteries outside of Tibet. Khenpo Rinpoche was born in 1969 in Dhorpatan, a remote area of western Nepal. Established with aid from the Swiss Red Cross, the Dhorpatan settlement is one of the earliest refugee camps for Tibetans in exile; most of its residents are Bonpos from western Tibet.

The monastery in Dhorpatan, Tashi Gegye Thaten Ling, was founded by the 32nd Menri Abbot, Kundun Sherap Lodroe. Khenpo Rinpoche's father, Lama Tsultrim Nyima, was an accomplished practitioner who dedicated his life to the welfare of the Dhorpatan community and the survival of the precious Yungdrung Bon tradition. It was a great loss to Khenpo Rinpoche and the community when his father passed away at a relatively early age. 

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Nangzhgig kyabgon

སྣང་ཞིག་སྐྱབས་མགོན་སྐལ་བཟང་བློ་གྲོས་རྒྱ་མཚོ།

Nangzhig Kyabgon was born in 1983 and was recognized as the reincarnation of Nangzhig Kyapgön Tenpa Rabgye by high lamas of both Bön and Buddhist traditions. This includes very esteemed lamas such as Menri Yongzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche and the late 10th Panchen Lama. At the age of six, Nangzhig Kyapgön took monastic vows in front of the golden tombs of Nangzhig high lamas. He was initiated in the presence of four lamas, including Jawob Rinpoche. With a great celebration, he was enthroned upon the Golden Throne of Nangzhig Monastery.

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Gyawob Rinpoche

༸སྐྱབས་མཆོག་རྒྱ་འོབས་བསྟན་འཛིན་དབང་རྒྱལ།

Gyawob Rinpoche was born in 1927 in Amdo Ngawa. He was recognised as the reincarnation of Khyungmong Tenpa Lodoe, who was the great master of Chinese Phowa Drongjug practice as well as the 21st reincarnation of Khyungmong Rinpoche. At the age of 7, Rinpoche entered the Nangzhig monastery and began his primary education until he completed all the monastic studies, such as reading, writing, recitation, chanting and so on. At the age of 11, he took the vows of novice monk from Nangzhig Kyabgon Namkha Lodoe, and was then named Tsultrim Tenzin Wangyal. In addition, Gywob Rinpoche also received teaching of Bon Sutra, Tantra, Dzogchen from Nangzhig Kyabgon Namkha Lodoe. At the age of 17, he received the empowerment, instruction and teaching of A-khrid, Nyengyu and Dzogchen from his uncle Sangye Tenzin, and in particular, he received teaching and empowerment of three mother tantras (Magyu Sangye Gyusum).

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Geshe YongDong was born in the village of Nagpa, Amdo, Tibet in 1969. His childhood years were spent much like that of any other Tibetan boy at that time. He had a large extended family of many aunts and uncles... Read More


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