Category Archives: Tonpa Shenrap

Venerating the Sacred

Tonpa shenrap bday shrine Menri 2015

Shrine during the celebration of the birth of the enlightened Lord Tonpa Shenrab Miwo at Menri Monastery in India. Photo credit: Unknown


Direct Descendants of the Enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché

Over 18, 000 years ago, in the ancient realm of Olmo Lungrik, the founder of the Yungdrung Bön spiritual tradition was born.  The enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche was born into the human realm as a prince.  He later adopted the life as a monastic in order to display the path of renunciation to his followers.  However, prior to this, he was married and had sons and daughters.  The direct descendants of this Shen lineage have continued until this very day.  Currently, there are two sons who are direct descendants of Lord Tönpa Shenrap.

Heir to the Shen Lineage, Tsukpu Namdrol Rinpoche, during a visit to the Yungdrung Bon monastery of Gangru Dargye located in Khyungpo, Tibet

Lamas of the Shen lineage

The two sons of the Shen lineage who are direct descendants of the Lord Tonpa Shenrap.

In November of 2014, His Holiness, the supreme 33rd Menri Trizen Lungtok Tenpé Nyima offered prayers to both descendants.

Shen Tsukpu Namdrol Rinpoche

Shen Tsukpu Namdrol Gyaltsen Rinpoche

prayer to Shen Tsukpu namdrol Gyaltsen written by 33 Menri trizen 2

Prayer of Stability for the Shen Heir, the Supreme Tsukpu Namdrol Gyaltsen


Highest praise for the best of crown ornaments,

   Storehouse of the ocean of sutra, tantra and unsurpassed division of teachings,

From the proper understanding of the profound meaning of the innermost essence,

May the victory banner of liberation and realization be established!

Murik Shen Yungdrung Nyima

Murik Shen Yungdrung Rangdrol Nyima Rinpoche

Shen prayer to Yungdrung Nyima

Prayer for the Shen Heir, the Supreme Murik Shen Yungdrung Rangdrol Nyima


Essence of the king of doctrines, the supreme Yungdrung Bön,

Distilled essence of the teachings of renunciation, transformation and liberation,

Having raised a stronghold through the dynamic energy of self-liberated awareness,

May the sun disc of realization and liberation eternally appear!

Composed by 33rd Menri Trizen Luntok Tenpé Namdak Rinpoche on the Western date of 11/26/2014

Translated by Raven Cypress Wood

The original article first appeared on the Tibetan language website Himalayan Bön and can be viewed here:

The Fifth Way: Committing to the Path of Virtue of Lay Practitioners

Central Figure of the Tibetan Thangkha Painting for The Fifth Way

Within the Nine Ways of Bön, the Fifth Way is called The Way of the Virtuous Lay Practitioners and specifies the proper conduct and commitments of a lay person taking vows. This Fifth Way is the first of the Nine Ways classified as ‘Ways of the Result’ or ‘Bön of the Fruit.’ In the Tibetan language, a lay practitioner is called ‘ge nyen’ [Tib. dge bsnyen] which literally translates as ‘one who serves virtue’ or ‘one who draws near to virtue.’ When asked the meaning of these concepts, the enlightened all-knowing teacher, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwo answered,

“Virtuous means without negative actions. This is one who is committed to serve virtue through their body, speech and mind. Service means serving without holding contradictory views and properly remaining steadfast in service to virtue.”

In general, the lay practitioner commits to practicing the ten virtuous actions and renounces the ten non-virtuous actions of body, speech and mind.  Buddha Tönpa Shenrap defines this kind of renunciation as 1) not performing the actions, 2) not requesting or encouraging others to perform them and 3) not feeling pleased that others have performed the negative actions. Similarly, one commits to 1) acting according to the ten virtuous actions, 2) encouraging others to participate in these activities and 3) feeling joy that others have performed virtuous actions. This is the inner practice.

The Three Virtuous Actions of the Body:

  1. Rather than killing, protecting the life of other beings.
  2. Rather than stealing, practicing generosity.
  3. Rather than engaging in sexual misconduct or causing others to break their vows, keeping one’s own vows and respecting the vows of others.

The Four Virtuous Actions of Speech:

  1. Rather than lying, speaking the truth.
  2. Rather than creating discord, speaking in a way that brings people together.
  3. Rather than using hurtful speech, speaking gently and kindly.
  4. Rather than gossiping or mindlessly talking, speaking in a useful way or reciting prayers.

The Three Virtuous Actions of the Mind:

  1. Rather than coveting the possessions and accomplishments of others, being generous and open.
  2. Rather than wishing harm to others or feeling resentful, cultivating the desire to help others.
  3. Rather than holding wrong views, practicing the teachings of Yungdrung Bön and establishing a true and authentic view.

When asked to teach the outward form of the lay practitioner, The All-knowing Teacher, Tönpa Shenrap first instructed the gathered assembly to erect the first Elegant Chorten of the Yungdrung Bön according to his detailed instructions. Once completed, he consecrated the chorten [Sanskrit: stupa] and then began teaching the outer forms and behavior of a gen nyen or lay practitioner.

Elegant Yungdrung Bon Chorten edit

The Elegant Chorten of the Yungdrung Bön

The practitioner must go before a pure lama who guides disciples and take the appropriate vows. According to the written commentary of the 23rd abbot of Menri Monastery, HH Nyima Tenzin,

“As for the vows of a gen nyen: There are five kinds of lifetime vows.  To abandon killing, to abandon taking what is not given, to abandon impure, wrong kinds of sexual conduct, and to abandon false speech are four.  Abandoning one of the four kinds of food is the fifth.  Some people have taught abandoning alcohol as a branch vow.

This is the gen nyen of completely renouncing according to the five kinds of established laws.  Because of that, the gen nyen of pure behavior has renounced the basic kinds of impure activity.”

As for killing, one must abandon killing in anger especially another human being. One must abandon stealing, especially when it is driven by desire. One must avoid sexual contact that is damaging or abusive, and one must avoid harmful speech especially if it creates a division within the spiritual community and avoid lying especially about one’s spiritual experiences and attainments. As for the fifth which is a branch vow, one renounces either one of the four kinds of food. In this context, the four kinds of food are 1) meat, 2) garlic, 3) solid food after the mid-day meal, and 4) intoxicants such as drugs and alcohol. Regarding drugs and alcohol, the deeper meaning is the renunciation of intoxication which is an obstacle to mindfulness.

According to Buddha Tönpa Shenrap in The Fifth Way,

“As for the lifelong inner rules, one must abandon killing due to the influence of anger, abandon taking what is not given due to the influence of desire or attachment, abandon acting secretly to get what one wants without consideration of cause and effect due to the influence of ignorance, abandon performing dirty work due to the influence of pride, and abandon rough and abusive speech, meaningless talk, and telling lies. One must apply one’s self to their opposites.”

The Buddha goes on to describe the outer practices.

“As for the five intermediate principles, one should perform pure cleansing rites, perform prostrations and circumambulations with devotion and aspiration, create and place tsa tsa, and offer torma. Presenting offerings is a branch of gathering the [two] accumulations.”

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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Buddha Tonpa Shenrap’s Fifth Deed: The Deed of Marriage

During the time that the Buddha Tonpa Shenrap Miwoche was teaching his many disciples the Four Doors of Bon and the Fifth which is the Treasury, the King of Ho Mo Yul along with his entourage came to invite the Teacher to his country.  Not having finished the teaching, the Buddha was unable to accept the king’s invitation.  However, he sent one of his three main disciples as an emissary.  The disciple, Yikyi Khyechung, returned to Ho Mo Yul with the king.  Arriving, both humans and non-humans came to pay their respect and to receive teachings.  Then, Yikyi Khyechung took up the life of an ascetic and retreated to a cave to meditate. After a time, the queen of Ho Mo Yul was struck with a violent illness.  A diviner was consulted and she informed the king and queen that only the Buddha Tonpa Shenrap could cure the illness.  The king returned to the Buddha in person and requested his help.  Having finished his current teachings, the Buddha went to the country of Ho Mo Yul and cured the queen of her illness.  The grateful queen offered her daughter, Hoza Gyalme ma, as a bride for Tonpa Shenrap. Previously, the god Indra had implored the Buddha to take a wife so that he might have children to continue his lineage.  At that time, the Wise, Loving Mother of all of the buddhas, Sherap Chamma, emanated ten different manifestations of herself as princesses in royal households so that Buddha Tonpa Shenrap could accept them as wives.  In this way, Hoza Gyalme ma was the first of these ten manifestations of Yum Chen Sherap Chamma.

Buddha Tonpa Shenrap’s Fourth Deed: The Deed of Guiding

fourth-deed-guiding-w-watermarkAs the Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché was teaching his disciples, a messenger came to him with a request for help from the deity Sangpo Bumtri.  In the land of Öma Jamkya there was an evil minded prince, named Tobu Dödé, that was slaughtering many living beings including humans. The deity Sangpo Bumtri respectfully requested the Buddha’s help to tame the mind of this evil minded prince.

As Buddha Tönpa Shenrap accompanied by some of his disciples arrived to help, Tobu Dödé incited his army to rise up and kill all of them. Remaining in his golden chariot, the Buddha emanated rays of light into the four main directions which manifested as flaming, wrathful deities. Each of these deities was dark blue having nine heads, four legs, and eighteen arms each holding a different weapon. Upon seeing these deities, many fainted and Tobu Dödé feared for his life. Falling upon his knees before Buddha Tönpa Shenrap, he begged for mercy and vowed to stop killing and to practice virtue. However, even though the evil minded prince had made a vow and had received teachings from the Buddha, his mind remained filled with hatred and anger.

Sometime later, Tobu Dödé fell seriously ill and began to have visions of hell. He cried out for the Buddha to help him and then died. Due to his previous actions, he was reborn into the realm of hell and was tortured. His cries of pain were heard by the Buddha and, due to His great compassion, He descended into hell. Calling out with the mantra “A KAR A ME DU TRI SU NAKPO ZHI ZHI MAL MAL!” both the Lord of death and Tobu Dödé recognized him. The Buddha told him that although the realm of hell was only a manifestation of his own mind, it had now taken form due to his previous karma. The Buddha instructed him regarding the nature of karma and the essence of meditation. When Tobu Dödé’s understanding had changed and his mind developed, even though he continued to be in the realm of hell, the heat and cold no longer harmed him.

Meanwhile, the family and companions of Tobu Dödé, fearing for the consequences of their own negative karma after their death, approached the Buddha and asked for his help. In order to teach beings, He invoked the deities and made offerings on behalf of Tobu Dödé. After seven days, he was freed from the realm of hell. However, because his negative karma continued to ripen, he was successively born into each of the realms of cyclic existence. At the same time, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche continued to supplicate the deities and make offerings. Being released from the hell realm, Tobu Dödé was reborn into the realm of the hungry ghosts. After seven days, he was released and was reborn into the realm of animals. After seven days, he was released and reborn into the realm of human beings among barbarians. After seven days, he was released and reborn into the realm of the demi-gods. After seven days, he was released and reborn into the realm of the gods. Although the realm of the gods is filled with leisure and happiness, it remains within cyclic existence and is impermanent. However, due to the continued offerings and supplications of the Buddha, Tobu Dödé was reborn as a human being in the purest land of Olmo Lungring.  In this way, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche showed a method for releasing the suffering of negative karma.


Sacred Symbols

A young boy holds a wooden chakshing, symbol of Buddha Tonpa Shenrap Miwo

A young boy holds a wooden chakshing, symbol of Buddha Tonpa Shenrap Miwo

Buddha Tonpa Shenrap’s Third Deed: The Deed of Taming

Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwo Emanating Buddhas into each of the six realms of cyclic existence

In order to guide sentient beings out of their suffering and to realization and liberation, Buddha Tönpa Shenrap emanated countless manifestations of himself throughout all the realms of existence.  Although these emanations appeared in different forms according to sentient being’s understanding, his mind remained unchanged.

In the Yungdrung Bön tradition, it is believed that until a being reaches that state of buddhahood, they are bound to be reborn again and again throughout the six realms of cyclic existence.  These six realms of cyclic existence, or six destinies, are from the lowest to the highest: the hell realm, the hungry ghost realm, the animal realm, the human realm, the demi-god realm and the god realm.  (Here, god refers to beings that can have great power and meditative realization but who are still bound by karma.)  Because of this, the Buddha emanated six enlightened beings from his mind into each of these realms.  These six enlightened beings are of one essence but due to the specific suffering and obstacles of the beings within each realm, they each emphasize a particular quality for the predominant suffering related to that realm.

Because the predominant suffering related to the hell realm arises from hatred, this Buddha emphasizes teachings of love.  Because the predominant suffering related to the hungry ghost realm arises from greed, this Buddha emphasizes teachings of generosity.  Because the predominant suffering related to the animal realm arises from ignorance, this Buddha emphasizes teachings of wisdom and awareness.  Because the predominant suffering related to the human realm arises from jealousy, this Buddha emphasizes teachings related to openness.  Because the predominant suffering related to the demi-god realm arises from pride and envy, this Buddha emphasizes teachings of peacefulness.  Because the predominant suffering related to the god realm arises from contentment and laziness, this Buddha emphasizes teachings of diligence.

Buddha Tonpa Shenrap’s 2nd Deed: Spreading the Teachings

Buddha Tönpa Shenrab teaching subjects such as medicine, divination, astrology, and ritual

Tönpa Shenrap began the spread of the Yungdrung Bön by first giving teachings related to cosmogony and cosmology to two of his primary disciples, Malo and Yalo, to bodhisattvas who had descended from heaven to receive the teachings, and to many other powerful, worldly deities.  Then to the gods of Mt. Meru and other deities, he taught powerful methods for subduing negative forces.  Traveling to the city of Langling, he taught from the 100,000 verses of Perfecting.  In Olmo Lungring, countless human and non-human beings gathered including those who were to be lineage holders.  To this assembly, he taught the Nine Ways of Bön.

More specifically, it is said that on the 30th day of the lunar month, that Buddha Tönpa Shenrab taught the beings of the formless realm.

On the 1st of the lunar month, He taught the gods who reside in space in the highest realm.

On the 8th of the lunar month, He taught the clear-light gods.

On the 13th of the lunar month, He taught the tsangri gods.

On the 14th of the lunar month, He taught the gods of the form realm.

On the 15th of the lunar month, He taught on Mt. Meru to the gods of the desire realm.

On the 16th of the month, He taught the gods of Gyalchen Rikshe.

On the 22nd of the lunar month, He taught the demi-gods.

On the 29th of the lunar month, He taught the (sanskrit: naga) of the desire realm.

Therefore, these days are significant in the Yungdrung Bön lunar calendar.

Buddha Tonpa Shenrap’s First Deed: The Deed of Being Born

(The Buddha, Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche, being received by gods and goddesses at the royal palace)

According to the Yungdrung Bön, the Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche took birth into this world over 18,000 years ago in the land of Olmo Lungrig as a prince in the palace of Barpo Sogyé.  He was already and enlightened being and therefore beyond cyclic existence.  However, because of his great compassion for sentient beings who experience missery and suffering, he took birth in this realm.  Therefore, the act of birth was a great deed of compassion.

He was born just before sunrise on the 15th day of the 12th lunar month to the king, Gyalbon Thökar, and to the queen, Gyal Zhema.  He showed all of the major and minor marks of an enlightened being.  A gathering of gods from above, a gathering of deities from intermediate space, and a gathering of powerful spirits of the earth, all circumambulated the palace and proclaimed that they had come to be the first disciples of the Teacher.

He was given the name ‘Shenrap’ because he was born into the Shen clan and was the highest, rab.  He was named ‘Miwoche’ because he had taken a great human form.  His personal name was ‘Künle Namgyal’, Completely Victorious over Everything.

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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