Category Archives: Zhang Zhung

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

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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In the Language of Zhang Zhung: Gyer

The ancient land of Zhang Zhung had a written language with multiple scripts and practiced the Yungdrung Bön teachings.  Many Yungdrung Bön texts were originally written in the Zhang Zhung language and later translated into Tibetan, Sanskrit, Chinese, etc. as the teachings dispersed to other countries due to political circumstances. Each Zhang Zhung king had a personal Yungdrung Bön lama that would perform the necessary prayers and rituals as well as act as a spiritual guide.

In the Zhang Zhung language, “gyer” literally means “to recite or to chant with a melody” and it is equivalent to the Tibetan word “bön.” “Gyer ro” means “priest” or more literally “the one who recites” and is the equivalent to the Tibetan word “bönpo.” “Gyer pung” means “lopön” and refers to an educated lama who teaches the scriptures. “Gyer ngor” means “shenrap.”

Gyer Pungs Nangzher Lopo

The great 8th century scholar, Yungdrung Bön lama, and royal priest to the Zhang Zhung king was Gyer Pung Nanghzer Lopo. He is an important lineage holder of the Zhang Zhung Nyen Gyü, the Aural Transmission of Zhang Zhung. Among Yungdrung Bön texts, this scripture was protected by Gyer Pung Nanghzer Lopo and therefore never needed to be hidden due to the political persecution of the Yungdrung Bön religion. Because of that unique circumstance, there was never a gap in these teachings being handed down directly from teacher to student.

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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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.

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