Category Archives: Yungdrung Bon Monasteries

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: Nyamme Sherap Gyaltsen

The 5th day of the 1st month of the Tibetan lunar calendar is the celebration of the birth and cremation of Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen.  In 2019, this date in the Western calendar is February 9th. 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. Lama Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen was responsible for uniting the three transmissions 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 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.

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The Next Generation of Knowledge Holders

Young Yungdrung Bon monks in Sikkim preparing to receive HH 34th Menri Trizin Rinpoche. Photo credit: Unknown.

Grand Enthronement of His Holiness 34th Menri Trizen

HH 34th Menri Trizen Dawa Dargye Rinpoche with Dr. Lobsang Sangye. Photo credit: Unknown

The grand enthronement ceremony of His Holiness 34th Menri Trizen Dawa Dargye Rinpoche was attended by the president of the Central Tibetan Administration, Dr. Lobsang Sangay. During the event, Dr. Sangay gave a speech and also presented the 34th Menri Trizen Rinpoche with a mandala offering.

A Rich Tradition: Barlé Gonpa

Murig Geshe Nyima Kunchap bestowing an empowerment of longevity at Barle Gompa 2018. Photo credit: Unknown.

A twenty minute walk from the village of Barlé in Dolpo, Nepal is the Barlé gonpa called Yungdrung Shuk Tsal Ling. The main part of the temple located next to the lama residence is said to be over 500 years old. The surrounding area is very green in Summer and the village residents rely heavily upon agriculture. Although the village is a mix of both Bön and Buddhist families, they visit each other’s temples and sacred sites.

Left: Barle Rinpoche Right: Barle Rinpoche with Geshe Kunchap Rinpoche

The Barlé gonpa was renovated by the father of Barlé Lama Tsukphü Gyaltsen, who assisted in the work. Although most of the Barlé lamas have been ngakpas, or householder lamas, Barlé Lama Tsukphü Gyaltsen did not want to follow this lifestyle and instead received monk’s vows at the age of eighteen. He traveled to Samling and stayed there for three years. He received teachings and initiations from Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche as well as from Sangye Tenzin Rinpoche. Eventually, he returned to the village of Barlé and immediately began to look for a proper place for secluded meditation.

The cave hermitage of Barle Rinpoche. Photo credit: Geshe Nyima Kunchap

A thirty minutes walk from the gonpa, up a steep cliff, he found the spot that he was looking for. The nearby rock formation naturally resembled a chorten and there was a stone painting of the enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap nearby. Here, he began to construct Drak Gön hermitage, literally “Stone Temple Hermitage.” The first part was completed in 1962. For thirty years, from 1970-2000, he remained in retreat at the hermitage. On the 27th lunar day of the 4th month in the Western year 2000, his outward breath stopped. His body remained in the five-fold meditation posture for three full days.

Recently erected chorten overlooking Barle village. Photo credit: Geshe Nyima Kunchap.

After the passing of Barlé Rinpoche, his nephew Lama Lhakpa assumed the duties of the main lama of Barlé. He was a householder and lived in the lama residence. He unexpectedly passed away in 2015 and his son took up the duties of being the village lama.

Murig Geshe Nyima Kunchap Rinpoche with the residents of Barle at the newly erected chorten. Photo credit: Unknown

Both a relative and student of Barlé Lama Tsukphü Gyaltsen Rinpoche, Murig Geshe Nyima Kunchap Rinpoche was born in the village of Barlé. At the age of eight, he began learning the Tibetan language and thangkha painting. At the age of fourteen, he learned to make torma and practiced the ngondro, or foundational practices. Strongly wanting to become a monk, he left the village of Barlé and made his way to India where he received renunciate vows from HH 33rd Menri Trizen Rinpoche and HE Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche. Completing his studies in the dialectic program, he received his doctorate of Geshe in 1994. Subsequently, he worked as the Bön department chairmen at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Varanasi. He founded and acted as president of the Dolpo Bon Society and founded the Dolpo Bon School for girls and boys. Although he travels worldwide teaching and performing rituals of the Yungdrung Bön tradition, he regularly returns to the village of Barlé. Most recently, he personally sponsored the construction of a sacred chorten in the village. (See previous post: https://ravencypresswood.com/2018/07/21/a-chorten-for-barle-village/) In these ways, he continues to preserve and expand the rich Yungdrung Bön traditions of his lineage for the benefit of the Barlé residents, and beyond.

Geshe Kunchap Rinpoche leading the consecration ritual for the newly erected chorten in Barle village. Photo credit: Unknown

The tulku of Barlé Rinpoche was recognized at an early age in the village of Barlé. He naturally showed the signs of being familiar with the life of his previous incarnation, Barlé Lama Tsukphü Gyaltsen Rinpoche.

Barle Tulku, Tsewang Rigdzin Gyaltsen. Photo credit: Unknown

Although a difficult decision for his mother, she agreed to have him go to Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India in order to receive the proper training.Geshe Nyima Kunchap has taken personal responsibility to ensure his well being and education.

Geshe Nyima Kunchap Rinpoche and Tulku Tsewang Rigdzin Gyaltsen. Photo credit: Unknown.

 

The Sharp Point of Wisdom

Monks debating at Nangzhig Monastery. Photo credit: Unknown

Homage to the Spiritual Father!

HE Menri Ponlop Rinpoche offers the mandala to HH 34th Menri Trizin during his enthronement ceremony at Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India. Photo credit: Unknown

May the Light of Joy Shine for Everyone!

young monks at Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India. Photo credit: Unknown

 

Selection of the New 34th Menri Trizin

Offerings to the Religious Protectors of Yungdrung Bon. Photo Credit: Menri Monastery

After lengthy consultation with His Eminence Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche, the selection process for the 34th Menri Trizin began on the 1st day of the 11th lunar month, December 19th 2017, at Menri Monastery under the direction of His Eminence Menri Lopon Yangton Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche. In general, every Yungdrung Bön geshe is an eligible candidate. However, due to the current difficult situation, it has been decided that only those candidates outside of Tibet are eligible. If for any reason, an eligible geshe does not want to be considered as a candidate, he is free to withdraw his name by contacting the monastery. After these considerations, there were approximately sixty names of eligible candidates.

Names of candidates. Photo credit: Menri Monastery

On December 19th, Menri Lopön Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche, Triten Norbutse Khenpo Tenpa Yungdrung Rinpoche, as well as other exalted professors and administrative members wrote each candidate’s name onto a small piece of paper, and placed that paper inside of a ball of tsampa dough, which was then dried in the sun. Each of these balls of tsampa dough were placed into two separate vases, and sealed with wax. These vases were placed in the protector temple and will remain there while lengthy prayers and offerings are made to the religious protectors in order to invoke their wisdom.

Prayers and rituals being performed. Photo credit: Menri Monastery

On December 21st, many prayers and offerings were made in order to remove all obstacles and hindrances. On December 22nd, the main rituals began which will take six days to complete. The majority of the monastic community will be performing the One Hundred Thousand Offerings to Sipé Gyalmo in the main temple. Simultaneously, there will also be offerings and prayers to the main yidam of the Menri Trizin, Purba, at the Menri Trizin lama residence by a smaller group of monks.

Yungdrung Bon monks praying in the main temple of Menri Monastery. Photo credit: Menri Monastery.

On the morning of December 27th, His Eminence Menri Lopön Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche will shake the first vase until a ball of tsampa dough comes forth. Then, he will similarly shake the second vase until a ball of tsampa dough comes forth. These two balls of dough, each containing a candidate’s name inside, will then be placed into a vase. Another five days of offerings and prayers to the religious protectors will commence.

Notice and schedule of ritual events posted at Menri Monastery. Photo credit: Khedup Gyatso.

On the morning of January 1st, the vase containing the two names will be shaken in front of the sacred image of Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche in the main temple by His Eminence Menri Lopön Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche. The tsampa dough that emerges will contain the name of the 34th Menri Trizin. This traditional process is known as Lha Sung Den Tarwa, Requesting the Religious Protectors to Reveal the Truth.

During this time, it has been requested that the worldwide Yungdrung Bön family offer prayers and aspirations for the selection of the 34th Menri Trizin.

Offering Light

Offering light at Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India. Photo credit: Unknown.

Offering Devotion and Receiving Blessings

His Eminence Yangton Menri Lopon Rinpoche presents the butter lamp offering.

On November 4, 2017, on the 15th day of the 9th Tibetan month, Tashi Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India held memorial events to mark the 49th day after the passing into liberation of the 33rd Menri Trizin Lungtok Tenpé Nyima Rinpoche. By invitation of His Eminence Menri Lopon Trinley Nyima Rinpoche, the tulkus, professors, geshes, and monks assembled in the temple. There, before the precious cremation bones, ash and relics of the 33rd Menri Trizin Rinpoche, with a feeling of intense longing, they prostrated and recited the Prayer to the Victor Bön, His Holiness Lungtok Tenpé Nyima Rinpoche.

L-Holy cremation ash C-Holy ringsel R-Holy cremation bone

Following that, the Praise of the Twelve Deeds of Shenrap Miwo Künlé Nampar Gyalwa was recited. Having formally presented the precious cremation bones, ash and relics to His Eminence Menri Lopon Rinpoche, he gifted each member of the monastic community with the actual accomplishment of the support for blessings, a majestic and empowered cremation bone.

Nuns of Menri perform the Tsewang Bo Yulma Tsok.

In the afternoon, the Menri community of nuns gathered and performed the Feast Offering of the Tséwang Bö Yulma. During this time, other monastic colleges within Menri Monastery performed various practices and rituals as well. Later, everyone gathered outside in the courtyard and again recited the Praise of the Twelve Deeds and the Prayer to His Holiness Lungtok Tenpé Nyima Rinpoche.

L-Cremation tsa tsa containing holy cremation bone. R-Public receiving a tsa tsa.

From then until midnight, both the monastic community and the public offered butter lamps, prostrations, and circumambulated the lama residence where the 33rd Menri Trizin had lived. At midnight, the public were invited to come before HE Menri Lopon Rinpoche and to receive a holy tsa tsa containing a majestic cremation bone inside. All of these holy relics, which are imbued with extraordinary power, are objects of support for the faithful to receive unlimited blessings and to develop profound devotion.

The Yungdrung Bon community chanting in the courtyard.

Once everyone had received a holy tsa tsa, they gathered outside where HE Menri Lopon Rinpoche led the presentation of the five offerings, the recitation of Offerings to the Lama, and the Prayer to His Holiness Lungtok Tenpé Nyima Rinpoche.

May the Wheel of the Yungdrung Bön Turn Forever!

Monks at Menri Monastery during the commemoration time for His Holiness 33rd Menri Trizen Rinpoche. Photo credit: Unknown

 

Prostrations to the Root Lama!

Offerings outside the lama residence at Menri Monastery after the passing off His Holiness 33rd Menri Trizen Rinpoche.

Gaining Knowledge

Yungdrung Bon monks during exams at Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India. Photo credit: Unknown

May the Yungdrung Bön Flourish!

Nangzhik Yungdrung Bon Monastery in Tibet

 

Sacred Gathering

Monks during a festival at Triten Norbutse Monastery near Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo credit Andrzej Nieckula

Prayers for Peace and Harmony

Prayer Flags at Tashi Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India. Photo credit: Unknown

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