Category Archives: Yungdrung Bon Monasteries

Yungdrung Bön in Mongolia

His Eminence Menri Ponlop Yangtön Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche officiates the opening of Thegchen Zhidé Dargyé LIng. Photo credit: Unknown

On December 19, 2019 a new Yungdrung Bön temple was officially inaugurated by His Eminence Menri Ponlop Yangtön Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche upon the request of its founder, Khenpo Menri Geshe Zöpa Gyatso Rinpoche. The temple is named Thekchen Zhidé Dargyé Ling, Land of the Great Vehicle where Peace and Happiness Flourish. On December 15th, His Eminence performed the rituals for consecrating and opening the eye for the new deity statues for the temple. On December 16th, His Eminence met with special guests and those who helped to establish the new temple.

The public looks on as HE Menri Ponlop Rinpoche officially opens the new temple in Mongolia. Photo credit: Unknown

Beginning on December 17th, HE Menri Ponlop Rinpoche gave the oral transmission for the practice of Sherab Jamma and Laughter of the Khandro to a gathering of monks and laypeople. On December 19th, His Eminence officially opened the new Yungdrung Bön temple, Thekchen Zhidé Dargyé Ling. In attendance were representatives of the Jonang Religious tradition, the Nepal Zhang Zhung organization, the Nepal Bönpo organization, and the Dolpo Tapihritsa School. After His Eminence cut the ribbon, the guests entered the new temple. Representations of enlightened body, speech and mind were presented which was followed by the ritual of the great lama Drenpa Namkha. After the ritual had concluded, each of the representatives had an opportunity to give a short speech.

Afterwards, HE Menri Ponlop Rinpoche spoke about the spread of Yungdrung Bön into Mongolia in the distant past. In 888 A.D., the Mongolian slave Sokpo Trel Lakchen received full ordination as a Yungdrung Bön monk from Muzi Salzang. At that time, he received the ordination name Tribar Tsultrim. Afterwards, Bön declined in Mongolia. Therefore, this is not the first spread of Bön into the country. However, through Khenpo Menri Geshe Zöpa Gyatso Rinpoche the Bön teachings are being restored in Mongolia.

He also relayed a message from His Holiness 34th Menri Trizin Rinpoche that he offered his full support and blessings and gifted the temple a golden statue of Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen. From Yongdzin Mawé Wangpo Rinpoche, the temple was gifted both scriptures and a large thangkha. HE Menri Ponlop Rinpoche gifted the temple a golden statue of the great lama Drenpa Namkha.

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Yungdrung Bön in Thailand

HH 34 Menri Trizin Rinpoche, Khen Tenpa Yungdrung Rinpoche and the founder of Himalaya Zhang Zhung Dzogchen Ling, Khen Akarpa Rinpoche. Photo credit: Unknown

On December 12, 2019, Himalaya Zhang Zhung Dzogchen Ling celebrated their 10 year anniversary with special guests His Holiness 34th Menri Trizin Lungtok Dawa Dargye Rinpoche and His Eminence Khenchen Lungtok Tenpa Yungdrung Rinpoche. This Yungdrung Bön center was founded in Bangkok, Thailand in 2009 by Khen Rinpoche Akarpa Chime Lozang. Some of the events to mark the special occasion included a talk on the subject of Mawé Sengé, performance of the Three-fold Practice of the Mother Tantra, the sacred dance of the enlightened protector Yeshé Walmo, and offering the body through the practice of chod. Khen Akarpa Rinpoche gave a talk on the view, meditation and conduct according to the unsurpassed vehicle of the great perfection.

HH 34th Menri Trizin Rinpoche presents Khen Akarpa Rinpoche with a thangkha of the successive Menri abbots. Photo credit: Unknown

Khen Rinpoche Lungtok Tenpa Yungdrung spoke about the history of the great perfection teachings of The Aural Transmission of Zhang Zhung including the five-fold advice of Lama Dawa Gyaltsen. His Holiness 34th Menri Trizin Lungtok Dawa Dargye Rinpoche presented Himalaya Zhang Zhung Dzogchen Ling with a thangkha of the successive abbots of Menri Monastery whose central figure is the saint His Holiness 33rd Menri Trizin Lungtok Tenpé Nyima Rinpoche.

Performance of the sacred dance of the protector Yeshe Walmo. Photo credit: Unknown

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Rites of Wisdom and Protection

The enlightened protector Walchen Gekhö

On the Tibetan lunar calendar, the 23rd-29th of the 8th month is designated as the time for the intensive retreat and practice of the deity Gekhö at Menri Monastery. In 2019, these lunar dates coincide with October 21st-27th on the Western calendar.

The deity Gekhö is closely associated with Mt. Tisé (A.k.a Mt. Kailash) and the ancient land of Zhang Zhung. Among the 360 emanations of this deity is the protector associated with the Aural Transmission of Zhang Zhung, Zhang Zhung Meri. This enlightened deity has both a tantric and a dzogchen empowerment. He is the primary yidam of the Yangtön lineage of lamas which includes the current Menri Pönlop Yangtön Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche.

The enlightened protector Zhang Zhung Meri

“Through the truth of pacification and through these forceful wrathful means, those who are untamed will be tamed. 

Just like adding firewood to a fire, through the afflictions themselves the afflictions are subdued and the demon of mistaken conceptuality is dispelled.”

—Extract from Practice of the Essence of the Fierce Champion Zhang Zhung Meri

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Homage to the Spiritual Master

Monks at Menri Monastery welcome HH 34th Menri Trizin Rinpoche upon his return to the monastery. Photo credit: Unknown.

“Above the crown of my head upon a throne of a lotus, sun and moon is the essence of all victorious ones, my kind lama.

I pray to those who have the ability to lead beings out of cyclic existence. Grant your blessings so that I may effortlessly accomplish benefit to self and others!”

— Extract from Tsa Lung Sol Dep, Supplication Prayer for the Practice of the Channels and Winds written by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche

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The Monastery of Blissful Meditation: Déden Samten Ling

Samling Temple complex. Photo credit: Unknown

The high altitude temple of Déden Samten Ling, or simply Samling, has been significant in the preservation of the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition.  The main temple was established more than 900 years ago by Yangtön Gyaltsen Rinchen in a remote and mountainous region of Dolpo, Nepal near the Tibetan border.  Since that time, this monastery, as well as others in Dolpo, has been maintained by a hereditary line of lamas within the Yangtön family. (For more information about the prestigious Yangtön family lineage, see previous post: https://ravencypresswood.com/2017/05/27/yangton-sherap-gyaltsen/)

map of dolpo copy

According to a text of the Yangton family lineage, some time during the 13th century Yangtön Gyaltsen Rinchen was staying near Mt. Tisé in Western Tibet (a.k.a. MT. Kailash) when he was visited in a dream by the Bönpo sage and great lama Drenpa Namkha.   The Yangtön lama was instructed to travel to Dolpo and build a temple.  Traveled the distance to Dolpo and having searched throughout its rugged terrain, Yangtön Gyaltsen Rinchen had a series of auspicious dreams while staying in the area of Bijer that convinced him that he had finally found the proper place to construct a Yungdrung Bön temple.

Chortens of Samling. Photo credit: Unknown.

Yangtön Gyaltsen Rinchen was the first of many Yangtön lamas at Samling who collected and preserved sacred texts.  Because of this, many volumes of texts have been throughout the course of many centuries. It was during a trip to Samling Monastery in 1961 that Dr. David Snellgrove discovered a copy of the Zi Ji, a hagiography of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap. He subsequently wrote and published one of the first English language translations of a Yungdrung Bön text, The Nine Ways of Bön.  The Zi Ji text that he consulted for his translation was estimated to be approximately 400 years old.

Left: H.E. Menri Ponlop Yangtön Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche, Center: H.H. 33rd Menri Trizin Rinpoche, Right: Yangtön Lama Sherap Tenzin Rinpoche. Photo credit: Unknown.

Currently, Lama Sherap Tenzin Rinpoche is the head of the monastery.  He was born in 1953 and has received extensive religious training and has been trained in the science of Tibetan medicine.

Nangzhig: Largest Yungdrung Bön Monastery in Tibet

Nangzhig Monastery edit

Nangzhig Monastery’s formal name is Nangzhig Gyaltsen Puntsok Ling, Marvelous Land of the Buddha’s Teachings which Destroys Appearances.  It is also known as Nangzhig Tashi Yungdrung Ling, Land of the Auspicious Yungdrung which Destroys Appearances.  It is located in the Amdo Ngawa region and is the largest Yungdrung Bön monastery in Tibet.  The monastery was founded by Yönten Gyaltsen in 1108.  Similar to many other monasteries, Nangzhig Monastery was destroyed during the cultural revolution that began in 1959 and many of its religious articles were hidden away.  In 1980 when the People’s Republic of China began to allow more religious practice, reconstruction and reinstallment of religious artifacts was organized by Gya ‘Ob Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche.

Nangzhig monastery complex cropped

The monastery complex is quite extensive and includes multiple temples, multiple dormitories for monks and living quarters for senior lamas, and three large chortens among other structures.   During large festivals, the monastery has the capacity to house two thousand monks.

Nangzhig students

Nangzhig Monastery has both a dialectic college and a meditation college.  There are approximately a thousand monks living there and more than two hundred new students arrive each year.  Being a major center for learning and educational exchange in Tibet, the monastery has multiple copies of the Bön canon and over two thousand blocks for printing the texts.  Monks attending the dialectic college must attend classes and debate every day except Sunday and during retreats.  Once the students of the dialectic college have completed ten years of study and successfully passed their final examinations, they receive the degree of Geshe, which is similar to a doctorate of philosophy and religion.  Monks attending the meditation college must complete a three-year retreat based upon the A Tri teachings.

For more information or to make a donation to the monastery, http://www.nangzhig.org/

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Developing Knowledge & Wisdom

White emanation of Mawé Senge, Lion of Exposition.

After the Tibetan New Year celebrations, students at Menri Monastery in India enter into an intensive retreat to cultivate the qualities of the wisdom deity Mawé Senge, Lion of Exposition. This retreat begins on the 24th lunar day of the 1st month and concludes on the 30th lunar day. In 2019, these dates coincide with February 28th through March 6th on the Western calendar. The intention of this retreat is to develop and sharpen the student’s intellect related to their upcoming studies. The practice of Mawé Senge is performed many times each day and the mantra of the deity is recited as much as possible throughout the retreat, but at least a minimum of 100,000 recitations are completed.

“I go for refuge to the wisdom deity for the intellect.

I generate the supreme mind for the benefit of vigorous training in the highest wisdom.

Having compassionately purified all karmic obscurations without exception,

please bestow the attainments of an increased intellect, useful knowledge, and a divine voice.”  

—From The Short Practice of Mawé Senge. Tibetan translation: Raven Cypress Wood

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Feast Offering to the Deities of the Mother Tantra

Deities of the Mother Tantra. Painted by Lama Kalsang Nyima. Photo credit: Raven Cypress Wood.

On the 21st and 22nd lunar days of the 1st month, Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India will perform a feast offering to the deities of the Mother Tantra. These dates are February 25th and 26th, 2019 on the Western calendar. For those who have vows with a yidam deity, performing a feast offering is an opportunity to repair any broken vows and to request the blessings and power of the deity.

The source of the Mother Tantra within the Yungdrung Bön religious tradition is the primordial Buddha Küntu Zangpo. It has three cycles: external, internal and secret. Each cycle has a root text and a commentary that was written by the sage Milu Samlek. The main yidam of the Mother tantra is Sangchok Thartuk and his consort Khandro Chema Ötso.

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Celebration of the Second Buddha: Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché

The 5th day of the 1st month of the Tibetan lunar calendar is the celebration of Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché also known as the second buddha. In 2020, this date coincides with  February 28th on the Western calendar. Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rnpoche was a reincarnation of Yikyi Khye’u Chung, one of Buddha Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche’s sons. He was responsible for uniting the three transmission lineages of sutra, tantra and dzogchen as well as 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 Rinpoché 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.

Nyamme Sherap Gyaltsen handprint

Nyamme Sherap Gyaltsen’s hand print in stone

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.

Today,  Bönpos will spend the day with their eyes looking skyward.  If you are lucky enough to be visited by a vulture on this day, it is said to be an auspicious sign of having received the blessings of the lama known as the Second Buddha, the Unequaled One, Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen Rinpoché.

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