Yungdrung Bön History in a Broader Context

Restored Yumbu Lhakhang, Palace of the kings in the Yarlung Valley of Tibet

In 1842, His Holiness the 23rd Menri Trizen Nyima Tenzin Rinpoche [1813-1875 C.E.] composed The Chronology of the Buddha, A Necklace of Amazing Jewels. The chronology begins at the start of the current eon when the lifespan of human beings was 100,000 years and Buddha Nangwa Rangjung Tükjé had appeared in order to guide sentient beings. Moving forward in time, he details the appearance of each buddha until reaching Buddha Tönpa Shenrap who was born in the land of Tazik when the human lifespan had deteriorated to be only 100 years long. The chronology then lists his major life events and teachings. Such as,

“For three hundred years after taking monastic vows until the Wood Dragon year of his 34th shen year, he performed the three kinds of hardships in order to set an example for his disciples. Through meditative stabilization which is like the sky, he demonstrated the way to actualize buddhahood.”

Excerpt from The Chronology of the Buddha, A Necklace of Amazing Jewels

According to Nyima Tenzin Rinpoche’s calculation, 6,731 years after the parinirvana of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap in the Wood Rat Year of 1136 B.C.E, the otherworldly being of Nyatri Tsenpo is chosen to be Tibet’s first king in order to unify the minor kingdoms into a single principality. During this time, the teachings of Yungdrung Bön flourish. Elsewhere in 1136 B.C.E. and during the 12th century B.C.E., the ten-year-long Trojan war occurs, Babylonia is a newly established sovereign state, and the Olmec civilization of Mesoamerica begins to flourish. (For more information about the kings of Tibet, see previous article:

In the Wood Dragon Year of 1076 B.C.E., the great yogi, scholar, and translator Tongyung Tüchen is born in the ancient land of Zhang Zhung. He is known as one of the four scholars. The son of the 8th Tibetan king who suppressed Bön ascends the throne as the 10th Tibetan king and requests the help of Tongyung Tüchen to perform the necessary rites in order to restore harmony in Tibet and reestablish the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition. Tongyung Tüchen translates over 10,000 texts from the language of Zhang Zhung into Tibetan, and spreads many of these teachings throughout Tibet. Some sources state his lifespan was 537 years. Other sources state that it was much longer. Elsewhere in 1076 B.C.E. and during the 11th century B.C.E, the Zhou Dynasty rules China, and the Phoenician alphabet is developed.

In the Fire Garuda Year of 683 B.C.E., the 8th king of Tibet, Drigum Tsenpo, begins the first suppression of the Yungdrung Bön religion. Elsewhere in 683 B.C.E. and the 7th century B.C.E, Athens holds the 24th Olympic Games, the empire of Japan is established, and Babylon becomes the largest city in the world.

Blockprint of the Lishu Taring

In the Earth Monkey Year of 552 B.C.E, the great yogi and scholar Lishu Taring brings over 10,000 Yungdrung Bön texts from Tazik to Tibet. He accomplishes this by using his magical powers to enlist the help of birds such as vultures and cranes to carry the texts. At that time, he is 1,200 years old. He passes away at the age of 2,500 years. Elsewhere in 551 B.C.E. and the 6th century B.C.E., the Chinese philosopher Confucius is born, Cyrus the Great establishes the Persian Empire and goes on to conquer Babylon, and Shakyamuni attains enlightenment and establishes Buddhism in India.

In the Earth Ox Year of 749 C.E., King Trisong Detsun begins persecution of Yungdrung Bön. Scriptures and images are destroyed. Yungdrung Bön practitioners are given the choice of execution, suicide, exile, or conversion to Buddhism. In order to protect the teachings, scriptures and sacred objects are either hidden or sent to outlying regions. Elsewhere in 749 C.E. and the 8th century C.E., vikings from Scandinavia are raiding the European coasts, and the Maya Civilization begins to decline. Japan is in the midst of the Nara period characterized by the common people following the Shinto religion while the upper classes aspire to emulate Chinese culture and are therefore adhering to Chinese Buddhism.

In the Iron Garuda Year of 913 C.E., three Nepali acharyas who have traveled to Tibet in search of gold find a heavy box in the temple of Samyé and carry it away. Discovering it is not gold and instead filled with Yungdrung Bön texts, they trade the box for food. Eventually, the box finds its way to Bönpo lamas. The box is said to contain 340 different Bön texts. Because these texts were found and distributed in the Northern regions, they became known as the Northern Treasures. This discovery and distribution of texts begins a widespread revival of Bön and rediscovery of texts during a time when Buddhism’s influence was declining. Elsewhere in 913 C.E. and during the 10th century, Byzantine forces capture Crete, vikings settle in northern France, and lions become extinct in Europe.

Mural of Tertön Shenchen Luga at Sikkim Monastery

In the Fire Monkey year of 996 C.E., the renowned tertön Shenchen Luga is born into the Mu Shen lineage of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap. He was prophesied as being an emanation of Tongyung Tüchen. He becomes the main revealer of hidden texts in the Yungdrung Bön tradition. He passes away in 1035 C.E. Elsewhere in 996 and during the early 11th century, the Norse colonize Greenland and Newfoundland, France invades Burgundy, and the Normans conquer England.

In the Fire Monkey year of 1356 C.E., Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen is born in Gyalrong, Tibet. He became abbot of the famed Yeru Wensaka Monastery and later established Tashi Menri Monastery becoming its first abbot. He united the lineages of sutra, tantra, and dzogchen and is known as the second buddha. (For more information about Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen, see previous article: Elsewhere in 1356 C.E. and during the 14th century, the Holy Roman Empire establishes an electoral college, and the bubonic plague kills almost a third of the European population.

In the Fire Monkey year of 1776 C.E., the esteemed scholar Sherap Wangyal Rinpoche becomes the 19th abbot of Menri Monastery. Elsewhere in 1776 C.E. and during the 18th century, the United States declares independence from the British Empire, the Russian and Swedish empires are at war, and the mercury thermometer is invented.

In the Iron Horse year of 1810 C.E., the esteemed scholar Sonam Lodro Rinpoche becomes the 22nd abbot of Menri Monastery. He is renowned for his knowledge, realization, and many compositions. He is the root lama of the author of this chronology, His Holiness the 23rd abbot of Menri, Nyima Tenzin Rinpoche. Elsewhere is 1810 C.E. and during the beginning of the 19th century, the Napoleonic wars begin, Mexico gains independence, and Andrew Jackson begins a military campaign against the Creek Nation in the Southeastern United States which leads to the Indian Removal Act and their forced relocation to Oklahoma.

Translations from Tibetan by Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved. No content, in part or in whole, is allowed to be used without direct permission from the author.

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Posted on June 4, 2022, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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