The 5th day of the 1st month of the Tibetan calendar is the celebration of the birth and cremation of Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen. This year, that date falls on February 23rd. Within the Yungdrung Bön tradition, Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen is often referred to as the second Buddha. He was a reincarnation of Yikyi Khye’u Chung, one of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche’s sons. He was responsible for uniting the three transmissions of sutra, tantra and dzogchen and founding one of the largest Yungdrung Bön monasteries in Tibet, Tashi Menri Ling.
Born in 1356 in the region of Gyalrong into the Dru lineage, as a child, he could recite mantra and read scripture without having studied. At the age of ten, he decided to become a monk. In 1387 at the age of 31, he entered the prestigious Yeru Wensaka monastery and eventually became its abbot. During a journey to Eastern Tibet, Yeru Wensaka was destroyed by flooding and mudslides. After returning, he searched the ruins of the monastery for artifacts. He took these and established Tashi Menri Monastery further up the same valley. It was now 1405 and he was 50 years old.
Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen was known throughout Tibet as a great scholar and prolific writer on the many varied subjects within the Bön scriptures. He also exhibited many miracles and signs of his spiritual realization. Twice, he flew up into the sky. During one of these flights, he burned his hat with the rays of the sun.
In 1415 at the age of 60, he passed away. His body levitated high into the air, but due to the many heartfelt prayers of his disciples, the body came back down. During the cremation, rainbows appeared and an eagle circled three times around the cremation area before disappearing into the West.
By founding Menri Monastery, he re-established the Dru family system of monasticism which became the basis for most future Bön monasteries. At its height, Menri could house over 300 monks and had four colleges of study. This monastery was totally destroyed in 1966 during the cultural revolution. In 1967, Menri Monastery was reestablished in Dolanji, India. It is a thriving center for study and practice as well as being home to a Children’s Home, a medical facility and a nunnery. It is the seat of the spiritual head of all Yungdrung Bönpo, His Holiness 33rd Abbott of Menri Monastery, Lungtok Tenpa’i Nyima Rinpoche.
Every year on this date, many special prayers and offerings are made in honor of Menri’s founder, Nyamme Sherap Gyaltsen. Also, many Bönpo will spend the day with their eyes looking skyward. If you are lucky enough to see or be visited by a vulture on this day, it is an auspicious sign of having received the blessings of the lama known as the second Buddha, the unequaled one, Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen.