Category Archives: Zhang Zhung

In the Language of Zhang Zhung: Uya

The First Spread of the Yungdrung Bön Teachings within the Realm of Tibet

Depiction of the ancient land of Olmo Lungring

The founder of the Yungdrung Bon religious tradition, Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche, was born into human form as a prince in the ancient land of Olmo Lungring within the ancient country of Tazik in the Wood Mouse year of 16,017 BC*.  Having taught the Yungdrung Bön to numerous disciples within Tazik, the teachings were eventually translated into three hundred sixty languages.  It is said that one hundred ninety-four of these languages pertained to realms beyond the borders of  Olmo Lungring.  Although Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche made one journey into Tibet and taught the offering of torma as a substitute for harming living beings, the Yungdrung Bön teachings were not widespread at that time.

And so, having been translated and entrusted to various knowledge holders, the teachings were spread first into Zhang Zhung before spreading to India and China, and on into countries such as Kashmir, Nepal, Togar, Gilgit, Phrom, Zahor and Sumpa.  From Zhang Zhung, India and China, the teachings spread into the realm of Tibet. Because of this, many of the Yungdrung Bön texts today retain some of the original Zhang Zhung words, as well as words of other languages, which predate their translation into the Tibetan language.

The 1st universal ruler of Zhang Zhung, King Tri Wer Laje, possessor of the Golden Horned Crown and close disciple of Lord Tonpa Shenrap

During the reign of the first seven kings of Tibet, the teachings of Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoche flourished and each of these Tibetan kings had one or more Royal Bön Shen, or personal Yungdrung Bön priests, who acted as a kind of spiritual bodyguard to the king by protecting his lifespan, power and wealth as well as giving spiritual guidance.

Yumbu Lhakhang in the Yarlung Valley. Palace of the 1st Tibetan king, Nyatri Tsenpo, and used for centuries by his successors.

The first person appointed to rule as king over the entirety of Tibet, Nyatri Tsenpo, is said to have been of a supernatural lineage and was anointed king in the Wood Mouse year of 1136 BC.  During his reign, the Twelve Kinds of Knowledge of the Causal Vehicles of the Yungdrung Bön doctrine were widely spread and practiced.  His son, Mutri Tsenpo, invited one hundred eight Zhang Zhung scholars to Tibet and established forty-five centers for Yungdrung Bön practice and study.  During the reign of the next five Tibetan kings, the Yungdrung Bön had royal support and flourished.

1st Tibetan king: NyatriTsenpo

2nd Tibetan king: Mutri Tsenpo

3rd Tibetan king: Tingtri Tsenpo

4th Tibetan king: Sotri Tsenpo

5th Tibetan king: Daktri Tsenpo

6th Tibetan king: Jangtri Tsenpo

7th Tibetan king: Tride Yakpo

King Tride Yakpo had a son by the name of Drigum Tsenpo who was enthroned at the age of thirteen.  The Royal Bön Shen continued to be very powerful and influential in the royal court due to their deep connections with the kings of the Zhang Zhung empire.  King Drigum Tsenpo’s ministers began telling him that the words of the Bön Shen were more powerful than that of the king and that they posed a great and immediate threat.  Although he had practiced Bön in his youth, King Drigum Tsenpo called the Bön Shen together and told them that there was not enough room for both his authority and theirs in Tibet.  Therefore, he ordered them into exile.  With the exception of specific causal vehicle practices which were used to protect the king’s power and wealth, Drigum Tsenpo began the suppression and persecution of all of Lord Tönpa Shenrap’s teachings.  This was 683 AD, the first persecution of Yungdrung Bön which resulted in the hiding of texts as terma, or hidden treasure.

The Bön Shen loaded their texts upon domestic animals and traveled to the borderland of Zhang Zhung where they held a conference.  It was decided that in order to preserve the teachings, they would divide the texts among them.  Some of them traveled to the borderlands or other countries in order to spread the teachings.  Others hid the precious scriptures of the Yungdrung Bön and performed prayers of aspiration that the teachings would reemerge in a more favorable time and that the teachings of Lord Tönpa Shenrap would again spread for the benefit of sentient beings.

*All dates from Gal Che’i bsTan rTsis Phyogs bsDus, A Summary of Essential Chronology, published by Triten Norbutse Monastery.

Raven Cypress Wood© All Rights Reserved

Doorway to Zhang Zhung

The Six-peaked Doorway into Zhang Zhung. On the right, is the meditation cave of Drenpa Namkha. On the left, is the meditation cave of his son, Tsewang Rikdzin. Photo credit: Unknown.

The Four Principal Enlightened Ones

The Four Principal Enlightened Ones of the Yungdrung Bon. Top to bottom & left to right: Satrik Ersang, 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 beings.  These four are depicted in this order:

Satrik Ersang:  The name ‘Satrik Ersang’ is from the Zhang Zhung language.  She also emanates as the Wise Loving Mother known as Sherap Chamma.  The name ‘Sherap Chamma’ is from the Tibetan language and has the same meaning as the name ‘Satrik Ersang’, Wise Loving Mother.  Satrik Ersang 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!”  ~translated from the Tibetan by Raven Cypress Wood

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.

Raven Cypress Wood© All Rights Reserved

The Language of Zhang Zhung

Fire puja offerings photo Geshe Kunchap 2014 11These boards with mantras written in gold were created in order to be offered during the fire ritual of the Yungdrung Bön tradition,   These mantras are written using the ancient Zhang Zhung script.

Discovery from an Ancient Kingdom

gzi found in Ngari region of Western Tibet

Zi bead found in Western Tibet. Photo credit: Unknown

Recently, an archaeology professor working in the Ngari region of Western Tibet, South of the Ganges River, discovered an ancient zi from a gravesite. This was the area of the ancient kingdom of Zhang Zhung.

The original article can be read in full at the Himalaya Bon Tibetan language website: http://himalayabon.com/news/2015-04-10/574.html

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