Category Archives: Tonpa Shenrap

Buddha Tönpa Shenrap’s Ninth Deed: The Deed of Complete Awareness

Lord Tonpa Shenrap Miwoche after becoming a monk and assuming the renunciant name of Tritsuk Gyalwa

Because Lord Tönpa Shenrap possessed complete awareness of the suffering of cyclic existence, and out of compassion for sentient beings, he demonstrated a skillful method for sentient beings to release themselves from suffering and misery and to attain liberation.  This method was the path of renunciation.  Being an enlightened being, he did not need to do this for himself but chose to demonstrate this path as an example for his followers of Yungdrung Bön.  Therefore, at the age of 31 (according to shen years which equal 3,100 human years), he announced to his family and disciples that he would leave worldly activities behind and devote himself completely to the path of renunciation.

He removed his jewelry and silk robes, and then cut off his hair with a sword.  Leaving behind all of his possessions, he went to a higher realm in order to receive ordination from a disciple of the Enlightened One of the previous eon.  Returning to earth, he devoted himself to the practice of fasting, disciplined behavior, and teaching the Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind to various groups of demons.  After this, he retired to the nine-storied yungdrung mountain in order to practice in solitude.  Upon entering into the path of renunciation, many of his disciples abandoned him and his teachings and returned to their worldly activities.  However, a few disciples of greater capacity remained with him on the mountain, and to them he taught the highest view, the Great Perfection.

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Buddha Tonpa Shenrap’s Eighth Deed: The Deed of Being Completely Victorious

Buddha Tonpa Shenrap manifests as the Completely Victorious One, Nampar Gyalwa

The reincarnation  of a great king was born a prince by the name of Gya Kongtse Trulgyi Gyalpo.  At a young age, this prince had great faith in the teachings of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap and performed many acts of devotion.  At the age of twenty-five, he decided to build an exquisite temple in the ocean surrounding Olmo Lungring in order to accumulate merit for his next life.  Because human beings were unable to work in this condition, he subdued one hundred demons who each vowed to complete the construction of the foundation within fifteen days as long as the prince kept their involvement a secret.  And so, after fifteen days, the solid stone foundation of the temple rose above the surface of the ocean.

Before leaving, Prince Kongtse Trulgyal had told his mother that he would be away at the ocean for a month and that she must keep it a secret.  However, as the days passed, the prince’s wife began to worry about him and tried to get information from his mother.  Unable to withstand the constant questioning any longer, his mother finally told the prince’s wife the truth.  Stunned and angry that she had been kept in the dark, she took the children and went in search of her husband, Prince Kongtse Trulgyal.  Arriving at the ocean and crossing a small bridge to the newly constructed temple foundation, the family saw a large group of workers who all looked like the prince.  Having been discovered, the demons, all of whom had taken on the likeness of the prince, immediately fled and construction of the temple came to a halt.  In despair, Prince Kongtse Trulgyal enlisted the help of a bodhisattva who recruited the assistance of a group of water spirits in order to complete the temple’s construction.

Upon completion, the temple was truly majestic.  However, the demons who had built the foundation for the temple became jealous and began attacking the temple intent upon destroying it.  Prince Kongtse Trulgyal cried out for help from Buddha Tönpa Shenrap.   Knowing of all of these events through his perfect omniscience, the enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap instantly manifested in the sky in his wrathful form as the Completely Victorious One Nampar Gyalwa, and together with five thousand five hundred bodhisattvas, he completely subdued the group of jealous demons.  Descending from the sky to the temple, he then spoke according to the Yungdrung Bön teachings and installed representations of his enlightened Body, Speech and Mind in the temple in the tangible aspects of statues, scriptures and chortens.

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Link to the Ancient Past

Heir to the Shen Lineage and direct descendant of Lord Tonpa Shenrap Miwoche, Shen Tsukpu Namdrol Rinpoche

The Four Principal Enlightened Ones

The Four Principal Enlightened Ones of the Yungdrung Bon. Top to bottom & left to right: Satrik Érsang, Shenlha Okar, Sangpo Bumtri and Tonpa Shenrap

In the Yungdrung Bön tradition, there are Four Principal Enlightened Ones, the Dershek Tsozhi.  These are the four principal buddhas who offer skillful means in order to guide sentient beings during the time when the human life span averages one hundred years.  These Four Principal Enlightened Ones are often depicted individually as a central figure surrounded by two hundred fifty enlightened emanations.  These four are depicted in this order:

Satrik Érsang:  The name ‘Satrik Érsang’ is from the Zhang Zhung language.  She also emanates as the Wise Loving Mother known as Sherap Jamma.  The name ‘Sherap Jamma’ is from the Tibetan language and has the same meaning as the name ‘Satrik Érsang’, Wise Loving Mother.  Satrik Érsang appears as gold-colored with a single face and two hands.  In her right hand, she holds the Five Warrior Seed Syllables.  In her left hand, she holds a mirror.  She sits upon a throne held aloft by lions.  Surrounding her throughout the ten directions are: 1) the fifty peaceful, white goddesses who are emanations of her Body and who hold the Five Warrior Seed Syllables and a mirror, 2) the fifty peaceful, green goddesses who are emanations of her Speech and who hold the Five Warrior Seed Syllables and a mirror, 3) the fifty peaceful, red goddesses who are emanations of her Quality and who hold the Five Warrior Seed Syllables and a mirror, 4) the fifty peaceful, blue goddesses who are emanations of her Activity and who hold the Five Warrior Seed Syllables and a mirror. and 5) the fifty peaceful, gold colored goddesses who are emanations of her Mind and who hold the Five Warrior Seed Syllables and a mirror.  Together, these five groups of goddesses constitute her retinue of two hundred and fifty goddess emanations.

“With the uncreated and uninterrupted nature of space, the Single Mother has completely clear wisdom. 

From unborn space, clear light streams forth and becomes the Lord of Compassion.  I prostrate to the Body of Satrik Ersang!” 

— Homage to Satrik Érsang

Shenlha Ökar, also known as The Great, White Deity:  In his manifestation as one of The Four Principal Enlightened Ones, he is white in color, his right hand holds an iron hook and his left hand is in the mudra of equanimity.  He sits upon a throne held aloft by elephants.  Similarly, he is surrounded in the ten directions by fifty emanations of his Body who are white, fifty emanations of his Speech who are green, fifty emanations of his Quality who are red, fifty emanations of his Activity who are blue, and fifty emanations of his Mind who are gold colored.  All of these emanations hold an iron hook and the mudra of equanimity.

Sangpo Bumtri, also known as the White Deity of Phenomenal Existence: He  is white in color and sits upon a throne held aloft by  garudas.  His right hands holds a victory banner and his left hand is in the mudra of equanimity. Surrounding him throughout phenomenal space are fifty emanations of his Body who are white, fifty emanations of his Speech who are green, fifty emanations of his Quality who are red, fifty emanations of his Activity who are blue, and fifty emanations of his Mind who are gold colored.  All of these emanations hold a victory banner and the mudra of equanimity.

Tönpa Shenrap: In his manifestation as one of The Four Principal Enlightened Ones, he is blue in color and holds a chakshing in his right hand and his left hand holds the mudra of equanimity.  He sits upon a throne held aloft by wheels of Bön.  He is surrounded throughout the ten directions by two hundred fifty shenrap manifestations: fifty emanations of his Body who are white, fifty emanations of his Speech who are green, fifty emanations of his Quality who are red, fifty emanations of his Activity who are blue, and fifty emanations of his Mind who are gold colored.  All of these emanations hold a chakshing and the mudra of equanimity.

All translations and content 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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The Five Supreme Embodiments

The Embodiment of Enlightened Body, the yidam Walse Ngampa

In the Yungdrung Bön tradition, there is a group of five yidam deities from the Father Tantra who embody the Enlightened Body, Speech, Mind, Quality and Activity of the Enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche.  This group of five yidam deities is collectively known as the Sé Khar Chok Nga, The Five Supreme Embodiments, or literally The Five Divine Fortresses.

The yidam deity, Walsé Ngampa is the embodiment of Enlightened Body He is dark blue with nine heads and eighteen arms with which he holds various weapons for subduing obstacles.  The main ritual text for this deity is entitled, “Stages of Practice for Walsé” which was composed by the great sage Drenpa Namkha.  His consort has the peaceful nature of the enlightened Great Mother Satrik Érsang and is known as Ngammo Yumchen Tröpé Taktenma.  Her body is dark green.

Embodiment of Enlightened Speech, the yidam Lhago Tokpa

The yidam deity, Lhagö Thokpa, is the embodiment of Enlightened SpeechHe is dark blue with four heads and ten arms with which he holds various weapons for subduing obstacles.  This yidam is not widely practiced at present.  His consort has the nature of Sipé Gyalmo and is known as Jangnak Tröma.  Her body is dark green and she has blue turquoise-colored hair.

Embodiment of Enlightened Mind, the yidam Trowo Tsochok Khaygying

The yidam deity, Trowo Tsochok Khagying, is the embodiment of Enlightened MindHe is dark blue with three heads and six arms.  The main ritual text for this deity is known by the abbreviated title, “The Great Empowerment of Trowo.”  His consort is Khala Dukmo.  Her body is red and she wears a sun, moon and stars as a head ornament.

Embodiment of Enlightened Quality, the yidam Walchen Gekhko

The yidam deity, Walchen Gekho, is the embodiment of Enlightened QualityThis deity is closely associated with the ancient kingdom of Zhang Zhung and Mt. Tisé (Mt. Kailash).  He is dark blue with nine heads, four legs and the wings like a garuda.  He has eighteen arms with which he holds various weapons for subduing obstacles.  There are five tantric texts associated with the yidam.  One of them was compiled by the esteemed first abbot of Menri Monstery, Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen, and is entitled, “Secret Fierce Gekho.”  His consort is the queen of the Drala and has a body that is red.

Drukse Chempa

Embodiment of Enlightened Activity, the yidam Drukse Chempa

The yidam deity, Walpur Drukse Chempa, is the embodiment of Enlightened ActivityThis yidam is also referred to as Phurba.  He has three faces and six arms, each of which are holding a phurba, or ritual dagger.  He and his consort’s body are joined below the waist and form a single phurba adorned with snakes.  Both the yidam and his consort have wings.  There are many ritual texts associated with Trowo Drukse Chempa.

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Buddha Tonpa Shenrap’s Seventh Deed: The Deed of Completely Overpowering

tonpa shenraps 7th deed w watermark

Within the state of absolute truth, there is no duality such as “obstacle” or “ally” or “good” or “evil.”  However, from the perspective  of the relative existence of sentient beings, there is the experience of harm coming from bad things and support coming from good things.  Therefore, from his great compassion, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché displayed the methods of how to subdue harmful forces.

These harmful forces included a large group of demons in the world who not only believed wrong views but had a great hatred for human beings.  Son of the powerful demon king, Düje Thöje, was the demon prince Khyappa Laring.  From his black palace, Prince Khyappa Laring perceived a bright, unexplained light coming from the human realm in the land of Olmo Lungring.  Looking more closely, he saw that Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché was teaching and encouraging activities of virtue and wisdom and that many human beings were following his teachings.  Infuriated, he devised a plan using nine different deceptions to deter the work of Lord Tönpa Shenrap.  First, he appeared as the enlightened White Light Deity, Shenlha Ökar.  While appearing in this way, he told the Great Teacher that because times had changed, he should stop teaching and simply follow his own desires.  Recognizing this as a demon, Lord Tönpa Shenrap left the area and began teaching elsewhere.  The demon prince then manifested in turn as Lord Tönpa Shenrap’s Lama, his father, his mother, as five carefree youths, as five beautiful young girls, his brother, and his son.  All the while, the demon prince tried to convince Lord Tönpa Shenrap to stop teaching and follow the ways of non-virtue.  Each time, he failed.  Frustrated and angry, Kyappa Laring decided to use wrathful means to achieve his goal.  He conjured up a massive army of demons who attacked Lord Tönpa Shenrap with their weapons.  Remaining stable in his meditation, Lord Tönpa Shenrap transformed the weapons into beautiful flowers.  Following this miracle, the Great Teacher bestowed teachings of the Yungdrung Bön to the demon army and all of them were converted to the mind of virtue and became disciples.

Helpless to continue the attack, the demon prince Khyappa Laring pretended to become a disciple as well.  During the day, he appeared to be good and obedient, but at night he continued his activities of harm and destruction.  He tried seducing the wives of Lord Tönpa Shenrap but failed.  However, he managed to trick his daughter, Neuchung, by using a magical emanation of seven handsome youths that invited her to their kingdom.  Internally, Neuchung had felt doubt about her father’s teachings and so went with the youths.  The most handsome of the youths was actually the demon prince who seduced her and eventually took her as his prisoner.  During this time, Lord Tönpa Shenrap was teaching in a god realm but was aware of the situation through his unobstructed clairvoyance.  He sent an invisible emanation of himself in the form of a large garuda to watch over his daughter.  Once realizing her error, her father had her returned to Olmo Lungring.  There, she confessed her doubts and presented five offerings of light, incense, pure water, food, and flowers as an act of atonement.

The Mountain of Yungdrung Bon, Kongpo Bonri

Having thus far failed in all of his attempts to stop the teaching of Lord Tönpa Shenrap, the demon prince Kyappa Laring decided to attack the Great Teacher’s property.  He had his demon emissaries steal seven of his best horses and take them far over the mountains and plains into the region of Kongpo in Eastern Tibet.  Having no attachment to the horses, but seeing that the time was right to introduce the Yungdrung Bön into Tibet, Lord Tönpa Shenrap began to slowly pursue the demons.  Seeing that he was being followed by the Great Teacher, Khyappa Laring sent many magical creations to try and stop his pursuit.  All of these failed.  Crossing into Western Tibet and reaching the great Mt. Tise (Mt Kailash), Lord Tönpa Shenrap blessed it and left his footprints in a rock near the mouth of the Tsangpo River.  The Great Teacher having reached the thick forests of Southeast Kongpo in Eastern Tibet,  the demon prince manifested a great mountain in order to block his way.  Lord Tönpa Shenrap pushed down this mountain, and with the great power of his mind, created another to take its place for the future benefit of his disciples.  This is the holy Bön mountain, Kongpo Bönri.  The demon prince then forced the king of Kongpo and his armies to fight against the Great Teacher.  But again, their weapons were transformed into flowers and all attempts to defeat him failed.  The people of Kongpo were terrified by the battle and amazed by the glorious power of Lord Tönpa Shenrap.  Thus, they were converted as his disciples.  However, because the population of Tibet was still under the strong influence of demons, Lord Tönpa Shenrap focused his teaching to them on the Causal Vehicles of Yungdrung Bön which include teachings on the great non-virtue of blood sacrifices and instead the benefit of proper offerings and veneration of the powerful worldly gods, and methods of sending away or subduing negative forces.  Although he mainly taught from the Causal Vehicles of Bön at that time, he prophesied that in the future, the time would come that the Tibetans would be ready to receive the higher teachings of the Yungdrung Bön.

His army again having abandoned him, the demon prince spent the daytime listening to the instructions of the Great Teacher and spent the night time destroying things.  Still, he plotted his revenge.  One day when Lord Tönpa Shenrap had gone to Mt. Meru, Kyappa Laring used trickery to convince the Great Teacher’s wife to set fire to the boxes containing Shenrap’s teachings.  Feeling satisfaction as the scriptures burned, the demon prince went on his way.  One of Lord Tönpa Shenrap disciples ran to the fire and tried desperately to extinguish it with no success.  However, aware of what was happening, the Great Teacher had blessed the fire.  Among the ashes the great five warrior seed syllables of AH OM HUNG RAM DZA remained.  From this mantra, all of the letters were recreated and the entirety of the scriptures written anew.

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The Seventh Way: The Way of the White AH

The enlightened wrathful deity, Walse Ngampa

Among the Nine Ways of Bön, The Seventh Way is The Way of the White AH.  This Seventh Way is the first of the Nine Ways of Bön whose view is transformation rather than renunciation or avoidance.  Rather than avoiding the five poisons, they taken upon the path and transformed into the five positive qualities.  Hatred and anger are transformed into love, confusion and mental dullness are transformed into wisdom, pride is transformed into peacefulness, desire and attachment are transformed into generosity, and envy and jealousy are transformed into openness.  To support this practice, the vessel of the external environment is transformed into a divine palace and the beings within are transformed into gods and goddesses.

The Seventh Way has many requirements of ritual items, ritual activity, deity visualization, mandala construction and rules of conduct.  In general there are three primary categories of: support, accomplishment, and activity.  Within the category of support, there are three outer, three inner, and three ritual preparations.  Within the category of accomplishment, there are eighteen branches: six regarding the base, six regarding the path, and six regarding the result.  Within the category of activity, there are nine divisions that can be directly correlated to each of the Nine Ways.

Buddha Tonpa Shenrap’s Sixth Deed: The Deed of Emanating

sixth-deedAlthough Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche was already a fully enlightened being and therefore has no worldly lineage, in order to continue the royal lineage into which he was born and in order to benefit sentient beings, he had ten children.  The first born was his son, Tobu Bumsang.  Auspicious signs occurred during each of the births and all of the children possessed the major and minor marks of an extraordinary being.

His eight sons were:

  • Tobu Bumsang
  • Chebu Trishe
  • Lungdren Salwa
  • Gyüdren Dronma
  • Kongtsa Wangden
  • Kongtsa Trulbu
  • Oldruk Tangpa
  • Dungtsop Mucho Demdruk

His two daughters were:

  • Shensa Nechen
  • Shensa Nechung

His children were also his disciples and some were given the responsibility of being lineage holders.  Lord Tönpa Shenrap’s son Chebu Trishe was given the knowledge and responsibility for holding the lineage of medicine.  In that capacity, he is known as Menlha, Deity of Medicine.  His body is radiantly blue and he lifts a chakshing, or symbol of a double Yungdrung, to his heart level with his right hand and with his left hand he holds a healing plant.  As the source of the lineage of medicine, Lord Tönpa Shenrap is depicted as the Medicine Buddha with a similar body color and hand objects.  However, he holds the chakshing towards the earth.

Chebu Trishe in his aspect as Menlha, the Deity of Medicine


Pilgrimage: Kongpo Bonri

Kongpo Bonri Photo credit: Unknown

There is one sacred mountain in Tibet that both Buddhists and Bönpo circumambulate counter-clockwise, or the Bön way.  That mountain is Kongpo Bönri, the Bön Mountain.  Located in Southeastern Tibet on the Northern bank of the Yarlung River, Bönri rises to over 14,700 ft.  In general, it is heavily forested. Circumambulation of the mountain takes three to seven days and tourists begin their pilgrimage from the Eastern slope of the mountain.

During his time as a human being, the founder of the Yungdrung Bön tradition made only one trip to Tibet.  The demon Khyap pa was attempting to stop Lord Shenrap from spreading his teachings.  First, he tried tormenting Lord Shenrap’s wife and children.  When that didn’t work, he stole seven of Lord Shenrap’s horses and took them to the Kongpo valley in Southeast Tibet, hiding them beneath the castle of the king of Kongpo.  Seeing this as an opportunity to introduce the Yungdrung Bön teachings into Tibet, Tönpa Shenrap followed him.  Reaching the Kongpo valley, the demon tried to block his approach with a mountain.  Pushing this mountain down with the power of his mind, Lord Tönpa Shenrap manifested another in its place for the future benefit of his followers.  This was Kongpo Bönri.

The supreme place, Kongpo Bonri

Kongpo Bönri contains many holy and blessed sites.  These include self-appearing sacred images and mantra as well as stones that are carved with the life story of Lord Tönpa Shenrap.  At the center of the mountain is what is known as “The Heart of Küntu Zangpo.”  Here, there are five caves that are blessed by the Buddha himself.  Four caves are in each of the four directions with the fifth in the center.  It is said that circumambulating the mountain and praying from the heart can purify negativity and defilements as well as bring a long life.

Circumambulation route of Kongpo Bonri. Photo credit: Thousand Stars Foundation

EMAHO!  The Mountain of Bön is praiseworthy of all gods and humans.  It is exalted in every way like the sun and moon that illuminate the sky.  Lamas, rikdzin and khandro are always  gathered here.  It has profound, sacred treasure and magnificent self-appearing letters and symbols.  I pray to the supreme place, the great Bönri!

By circumambulating with faith and aspiration, compassionate blessings effortlessly come forth.  Emotional afflictions, latent karmic tendencies and the two obscurations are purified.   Meditation practice and any yoga that is focused upon has increased power.  May we become masters of the vast expanse of space!  And ultimately, may we realize the mind of Künzang that abides within!” 

~Excerpt from Prayer to Bönri to Quickly Attain Blessings written by the 19th century holy woman and terton of Bön, Khandro Dechen Chokyi Wangmo.  Translated from the Tibetan by Raven Cypress Wood ©2015.

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