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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,

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Gathering of Power

His Eminence Menri Lopon Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche leads the community during a tantric ritual at the Yungdrung Bon monastery of Menri in India


Continued Compassionate Action

The monks of Triten Norbutse Yungdrung Bon Monastery located near Kathmandu, Nepal continue to offer food and medical services to villagers even as they themselves continue to live outdoors.  Photos from the Himalyan Bon Foundation.

free medical care after earthquake

Drupdha Khen Rinpoche of triten norbutse sponsoring food for villagers triten norbutse monks helping villagers after earthquake

Triten monks helping during earthquake 2015 8

Triten monks staying outside after earthquake 2

HE Ponlop Rinpoche of triten norbutse after 2015 earthquake 2

Compassion in Action

Monks from the Yungdrung Bon Monastery of Triten Norbutse located near Kathmandu, Nepal help to free neighbors from collapsed buildings after the devastating earthquake. Photo credit: Unknown

Triten monks helping during earthquake 2015

Triten monks helping during earthquake 2015 2


Triten monks helping during earthquake 2015 6


The Sixth Way: The Way of the Fully Ordained

Yungdrung Bon nuns in Tibet. Photo credit: Mary Ellen McCourt

Within the Nine Ways of Bön, the Sixth Way is the Way of the Fully Ordained.  Or, literally translated, the Way of the Straight and Righteous.  This involves accepting the renunciation vows of a monk or nun and living accordingly.  A novice receives 25 vows that form the basis of taking the further vows of the fully ordained.  For monks, there are 250 vows for full ordination.  For nuns, there are 360 vows.  According to the words of the enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap:

“In front of the abbot, the teacher and the witness, accept the vows with joy, faith and devotion.  Abandon the karmic tendencies of the three poisons.”

During Lord Tönpa Shenrap’s time in the human realm, he demonstrated the path of monastic discipline by becoming a monk.  At that time, he was known as Tritsuk Gyalwa.

Lord Tonpa Shenrap demonstrating the path of monastic discipline. In this form, he is known as Tritsuk Gyalwa.

“Don’t hate enemies or turn and go the other way.  Don’t be attached to friends and relatives.  Don’t cherish wordliness.  Body and mind should be single-pointed and at ease.  In your outer conduct, don’t act in an agitated manner.  In your inner ethics, don’t wander in to laziness.”

Raven Cypress Wood© All Rights Reserved

(This blog is offered for free to the worldwide students of Yungdrung Bön.  It is made possible by readers like you.  If you would like to join in making a gift of support for this blog or the translation work of Raven Cypress Wood, please go to, click ‘Send’ and use Raven’s account  Any amount is of great support!)

The Precious Spiritual Guide

His Eminence Menri Lopon Yangton Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche participating in a Yungdrung Bon offering ritual. Photo credit: Unknown

“The holy lama is the source of everything.  With body, speech and mind one should respectfully cultivate faith and zeal.” Founder of the Yungdrung Bön spiritual tradition, the Enlightened Lord Tönpa Shenrap Miwoché


The Joyful Holiday Spirit

Monks in xmas hats

Spiritual Leaders of Our Time

HH 33rd Menri Trizen and HH 17th Gyalwang Karmapa at Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India 2013

The Field of Accumulation: Abbots of Menri Monastery

Tsok zhing according to Menri

The Yungdrung Bon Merit Field of the Menri Tradition

In the Yungdrung Bön tradition, the place where the deities and objects of veneration are gathered is called the “Tsok Zhing”, the “Field of Accumulation”.  It is also sometimes translated as the “Field of Merit” or the “Merit Field” because what is being accumulated by paying homage and making offerings to this place is merit, or virtue.  The Merit Field consists of the images of the enlightened deities and protectors which represent Enlightened Body, chortens which represent Enlightened Mind, and scriptures and the sound of mantra which represent Enlightened Speech.  The lower section of the Merit Field also contains unenlightened but powerful and worldly protectors that are oath bound to protect the Yungdrung Bön.  There are many different depictions of the Merit Field according to different lineages.  However, the most well-known image is the Merit Field according to the tradition of Menri Monastery.   The Merit Field is depicted in a very specific way and this is the proper guide for a practitioner’s visualization. 

Merit Field Outline Guide 1-34

Because this Merit Field is based upon the Menri tradition, the central figures are primarily associated with the Menri Monastery.

1. The glorious teacher who has blessings and who has the nature of all of the collective Victorious Ones, the all-good essence of the kind root lama, Shenlha Ökar.  He has the 25 mudra of the Perfected Enjoyment Body.  He wears the  13 peaceful ornaments and has the 9 ways of purity.  He has the 32 major marks and the 80 minor marks.  He has the 40 items of nobility and he radiates forth a million rays of light.

2-34 are the abbots of Menri Monastery.  Beside each of the names is the year in which they became abbot of Menri Monastery.

2. The one who united the three transmissions, the Second Buddha, Nyammé Sherap Gyaltsen.  He has the appearance of a fully ordained monk.  He held the knowledge of the doors of Bön without any exceptions.  He was the abbot of the prestigious Yeru Wensaka Monastery in Tsang, Tibet.  It was destroyed by a flood and mudslide in 1386.  In 1405, he established Tashi Menri Monastery according to the Bön Dru lineage with artifacts that he had recovered from the ruins of Yeru Wensaka.  At its height, Tashi Menri Monastery could house over 300 monks and had four colleges.  It was completely destroyed during the Chinese invasion in 1966.

3. The regent of the Guide who was the Second Buddha, Rinchen GyaltsenHe became abbot in 1415.

4. The great abbot, Namkha Yeshé, 1446

5. Künzang Gyalten, 1464

6. Tenzin Rinchen Gyaltsen, 1485

7. Tsultrim Gyaltsen, 1511

8. Sonam Yeshé, 1532

9. Sonam Yundrung, 1575

10. Shétsu Drungmu, 1610

11. Shérab Özer, 1647

12. Yungdrung Gyaltsen, 1662

13. Shérab Lodro, 1677

14. Shérab Özer, 1686

15. Tsukpü Özer, 1697

16. Yungdrung Tsultrim, 1706

17. Rinchen Özer, 1722

18. Rinchen Lhundrup, 1735

19. Sherap Tenzin, 1760

20. Shérap Wangyal, 1776

21. Yungdrung Wangyal, 1789

22. Püntsok Namgyal, 1805

23. Sonam Lodro, also known as Sherap Gong Gyal, 1810

24. Nangton Dawa Gyaltsen, also known as Sonam Gyaltsen.  In 1834, he founded the renowned Yungdrung Ling Monastery.

25. Nyima Tenzin, 1836.  He was also one of the main teachers of Yungdrung Ling Monastery.

26. Sonam Püntsok,

27. Shérap Yungdrung

28. Sangye Tenzin

29. Tenzin Tsultrim

30. Püntsok Lodro

31. Gyalwa Lodro

32. Tenpa Lodro

33. Nyima Wangyal

34. Sherap Lodro.  He is the first abbot of Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India. 1968.  Upon ordination as the 33rd throne-holder of Menri Monastery, he was given the name Lungtok Tenpé Nyima.

The 33rd Holder of the Golden Throne of Menri Monastery, His Holiness Lungtok Tenpe Nyima Rinpoche

(This blog is offered for free to the worldwide students of Yungdrung Bön.  It is made possible by readers like you.  If you would like to join in making a gift of support for this blog or the translation work of Raven Cypress Wood, please go to, click ‘Send’ and use Raven’s account  Any amount is of great support!)

Consecrating a Sacred image

statue with group photo of lamas

On September 1, 2014 in Amdo, Tibet, an official consecration ceremony was held for the newly erected statue of the Lord of the teachings, the Great Lama Drenpa Namkha.  The sacred image was erected at the Yungdrung Bön monastery of Gamal Gomchen which is the largest in the area.  The consecration was performed by the great abbot Sherap Yungdrung Wangyal Rinpoche, Ponlop Menri Geshe Sherap Tharchin, the supreme tulku of Dangri Do Ngak Shedrup Gyaltsen and many other lamas and monks from the five main monasteries and the thirteen branch monasteries.  Additionally, there were many well known and respected Yungdrung Bön practitioners present.

The supreme tulku of Dangri Do Ngak Shedrup Gyaltsen

The sacred statue was erected by the supreme tulku of Dangri, Do Ngak Shedrup Gyaltsen, for universal benefit and especially for the benefit of the Amdo region.  This is the first time that such a statue of the Great Lama Drenpa Namkha has been erected in this area of Tibet.

Official Consecration Ceremony for the Sacred Image of Lachen Drenpa Namkha

The sacred image was empowered with countless sacred and blessed objects from knowledge holders and superior beings of the past from both Zhang Zhung and Tibet.  In particular, these countless sacred objects included a collection of objects of support for enlightened Body, Speech, and Mind from the great masters of this area of Amdo.

Countless blessed and sacred items to be placed inside the sacred image

The original article appeared on the Tibetan language website Himalayan Bon.  You can read the full article and see more photos by following the link:


The Saint. Founder of the Lineage: The Guidance of AH

Teacher of the Me'u Lineage, The Saint, The Supreme Gongdzo Ritropa

Teacher of the Me’u Lineage, The Saint, The Supreme Gongdzo Ritropa

Within the Yungdrung Bon tradition, there are three primary lineages of Dzogchen teachings.  These teachings contain the highest and most advanced view and are found within the Ninth Way among the Nine Ways of Bon.  One of these three lineages is called AH Ti, or The Guidance of AH.  The founder of this tradition was the lama from the family lineage of Me’u named Gongdzo Ritropa.  He is commonly referred to simply as Dampa, The Saint.  Born in 1038 in the Shang area of Tibet, he was the oldest of four brothers.  Although he was forced to marry at the age of eighteen, he left married life in search of spiritual teachings.

He primarily received teachings from eight different lamas.  Deciding that he would be of greater benefit as a monk, he requested ordination.  So at the age of 24, he received the full monk’s vows.  Following the advice of one of his lamas, he decided to spend his time as a reclusive practitioner rather than as a scholar.  In Karpo Drak, he remained in solitary retreat for twelve years.  He  showed many signs of accomplishment such as flying through the air and leaving his hand and foot prints in stone.

In addition to material that he collected from other sources, he added his own mind treasure to his teachings known as The Guidance of AH.  He organized these dzogchen teachings into eighty practice sessions.  In the 13th century, the holder of the lineage A Zha Lodro Gyaltsen condensed the number of practice sessions to thirty.  Later in the same century, the lama Dru Gyalwa Yungdrung further condensed the practice into fifteen sessions and composed the text The Guidance of AH in Fifteen Sessions.  This text is widely used today among dzogchen practitioners.

Sacred Music

monk playing large cymbals Triten Norbutse

A monk plays the cymbals during a ritual at the Yungdrung Bon monastery of Triten Norbutse near Kathmandu, Nepal

Great Minds

HH Dalai Lama & YTNR

HH 14th Dalai Lama with the preeminent Yungdrung Bon Master HE Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche

Sacred Education

new geshes at menri 2014

New graduates of Menri Monastery’s dialectic school. Having received their doctorate, they will now carry the title of ‘Geshe’.

Becoming a Geshe

Tenzin yangton debating for geshe degree

Monks debate in the presence of the head teacher of the dialectic school of Menri Monastery, HE Menri Lopon Thrinley Nyima Rinpoche

In the days following the celebration of the Tibetan New Year, Yungdrung Bön monks studying in the dialectic schools will undergo a retreat in order to practice the deity of wisdom, Mawé Sengé.  This is done in order to support and increase their intellectual capacity.  Students who graduate from the dialectic school are awarded the title of ‘Geshe’.  Translated, the title literally means ‘Knowledgeable, spiritual friend.’   This degree is similar to a doctorate of religious philosophy in the West but takes well over a decade of study to complete.  In addition to the Yungdrung Bön, the Buddhist schools of the Geluk and Sakya also have geshe degree programs.  Recently, a geshe program was begun for the Yungdrung Bön nuns of Rayna Menling which is located near Menri Monastery in India.

Studies in the dialectic schools are demanding and exacting.  Many thousands of pages of text must be memorized and then recited without error in front of one’s teacher.  These texts cover a wide range of subjects.  Not only supporting the student’s knowledge, this memorization is needed during the debates, a central feature of the dialectic education.

Bon monks debating

Yungdrung Bon monks at Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India practicing debate

In a debate, there is a ‘defender’ (seated) who puts forth a thesis and aims to defend the thesis with statements of truth and without contradiction.  The ‘questioner’ (standing) rigorously questions the validity of statements put forth by the defender and aims to lead the defender into contradicting his thesis.  Once the proper beginning rituals are complete, the questioner begins the debate by posing a question to the defender which allows them to put forth the statement of their position.  In the beginning, the questioner might ask questions in order to further clarify the defender’s position.  Once this is clear, the questioner proceeds to try and draw the defender into accepting the truth of statements which will either lead to a contradiction of the thesis or establish a position that is beyond common sense.  In formal debates, the defender must answer quickly or the audience will join the questioner in adding pressure to hurry, or worse, openly taunt the defender. If the defender reaches the point of directly contradicting the opening position, the debate is over and the questioner is victorious.  However, it is also possible that the defender will put forth an argument strong enough that the questioner is left without a strategy and can think of nothing to say.  In that case, the defender is victorious.  It is also possible for the debate to conclude without a clear winner.  Debates are very physical activities and can even appear to an unknowing observer as quite aggressive.  Formal debates can last for many hours and continue until very late into the night.

Once the student has passed their final examinations, there are many ceremonies and rituals to be performed which occur over the course of many days.  After graduation, many geshes return to their home regions in order to take on positions of leadership and education within the local temple.  Others stay at the monastery or travel throughout Asia, Europe and the West in order to offer the teachings of the Yungdrung Bön.

HH debating during final geshe degree 1958 Lhasa

HH 14th Dalai Lama debating for his geshe degree in 1958 Lhasa, Tibet

The Joyful Holiday Spirit

Monks in xmas hats

Directly Manifesting Compassion

The children of Shurishing Yungdrung Kundrakling Monastery receive the donation of sports shoes from a kind sponsor

In South Sikkim, there is a Yungdrung Bön monastery with over 30 children.  Many of them are completely dependent upon the monastery to take care of their every need.  The abbot of this monastery is Khenpo Yongten Gyatso.

The children of Shurishing Yungdrung Kundrakling Monastery in South Sikkim

If you would like to know more about these children, the monastery, or how you can become a sponsor, please follow the link below.


Monastic Training

young and older monks practising debate

Young monks learning to debate at Triten Norbutse Monastery near Kathmandu, Nepal

Sacred Place

A seat for one of the monks at Triten Norbutse Yungdrung Bön Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal.

monk seat

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