Blog Archives

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/

Raven Cypress Wood ©All Rights Reserved. No content, in part or in whole, is allowed to be used without direct permission from the author.

Don’t want to miss a post? Scroll to the bottom and click “Follow this blog.”

Pilgrimage: Kongpo Bonri

Kongpo Bonri Photo credit: Unknown

There is one sacred mountain in Tibet that both Buddhists and Bönpo circumambulate counter-clockwise, or the Bön way.  That mountain is Kongpo Bönri, the Bön Mountain.  Located in Southeastern Tibet on the Northern bank of the Yarlung River, Bönri rises to over 14,700 ft.  In general, it is heavily forested. Circumambulation of the mountain takes three to seven days and tourists begin their pilgrimage from the Eastern slope of the mountain.

During his time as a human being, the founder of the Yungdrung Bön tradition made only one trip to Tibet.  The demon Khyap pa was attempting to stop Lord Shenrap from spreading his teachings.  First, he tried tormenting Lord Shenrap’s wife and children.  When that didn’t work, he stole seven of Lord Shenrap’s horses and took them to the Kongpo valley in Southeast Tibet, hiding them beneath the castle of the king of Kongpo.  Seeing this as an opportunity to introduce the Yungdrung Bön teachings into Tibet, Tönpa Shenrap followed him.  Reaching the Kongpo valley, the demon tried to block his approach with a mountain.  Pushing this mountain down with the power of his mind, Lord Tönpa Shenrap manifested another in its place for the future benefit of his followers.  This was Kongpo Bönri.

The supreme place, Kongpo Bonri

Kongpo Bönri contains many holy and blessed sites.  These include self-appearing sacred images and mantra as well as stones that are carved with the life story of Lord Tönpa Shenrap.  At the center of the mountain is what is known as “The Heart of Küntu Zangpo.”  Here, there are five caves that are blessed by the Buddha himself.  Four caves are in each of the four directions with the fifth in the center.  It is said that circumambulating the mountain and praying from the heart can purify negativity and defilements as well as bring a long life.

Circumambulation route of Kongpo Bonri. Photo credit: Thousand Stars Foundation

EMAHO!  The Mountain of Bön is praiseworthy of all gods and humans.  It is exalted in every way like the sun and moon that illuminate the sky.  Lamas, rikdzin and khandro are always  gathered here.  It has profound, sacred treasure and magnificent self-appearing letters and symbols.  I pray to the supreme place, the great Bönri!

By circumambulating with faith and aspiration, compassionate blessings effortlessly come forth.  Emotional afflictions, latent karmic tendencies and the two obscurations are purified.   Meditation practice and any yoga that is focused upon has increased power.  May we become masters of the vast expanse of space!  And ultimately, may we realize the mind of Künzang that abides within!” 

~Excerpt from Prayer to Bönri to Quickly Attain Blessings written by the 19th century holy woman and terton of Bön, Khandro Dechen Chokyi Wangmo.  Translated from the Tibetan by Raven Cypress Wood ©2015.

Sacred Yungdrung Bon Temple in the Himalayas

Shrine inside the Yungdrung Bon temple of Yanggon Thongdrol Puntsok Ling in the village of Tsarka in Dolpo, Nepal

 

Anniversary of Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Attaining the Rainbow Body

New Shardza statue edit

Here, Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen is depicted as a yogi by having long hair and wearing a yogic white shawl

The 13th day of the 4th month on the Tibetan lunar calendar is the anniversary of the rainbow body of Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen.   Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen was a Yungdrung Bön monk, teacher, scholar and realized practitioner of the modern age.  In 1934, he attained the rainbow body, Tibetan jalu, which is a sign of high realization in the practice of Dzogchen.  Essentially, the practitioner has purified their karma and realized the ultimate state of mind such that at the moment of death, the five elements which construct the physical body dissolve into pure light rather than degrading.  In this way, over the course of a few days, the physical body proportionally shrinks and, in some cases, completely disappears leaving only the hair and nails.

Hair and nails of Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen that were recovered after his attainment of the rainbow body

Hair and nails of Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen that were recovered after his attainment of the rainbow body

Throughout his life, Shardza Tashi Gyalstsen was known for stringent adherence to the many hundreds of vows that he had taken throughout his life.  Additionally, he taught a multitude of disciples, organized the reconstruction of temples, went on pilgrimages, and spent a great deal of time in isolated meditational retreats.  A prolific writer, he wrote volumes on the subjects of Bön history, instructions and guidance for the practice of Tibetan yoga, and detailed instructions for the advanced practice of inner heat, known as Tummo, among many other subjects.

 In 1934 at the age of 76 during an offering ceremony, he began to spontaneously sing songs of realization.  A few days later, he sewed himself inside of a tent and forbid any of his disciples to open the tent.  The next day, rainbow lights began appearing above and around the tent.  After 3 days, the ground shook.  By the 4th day, rainbow-colored mist was seen coming through the seams of the tent.  On that 4th day, Shardza’s disciple Tsultrim Wangchuk, afraid that his lama’s body would completely disappear and leave nothing for veneration, opened the tent.  He found Shardza’s body enveloped in rainbow light, levitating in midair, and shrunken to the proportional size of a 1 year old.  The area around the heart was still warm but most of the nails of the hands and feet had fallen onto Shardza’s seat below.  For the next 49 days, disciples paid their respect.  After that, the precious remains were placed into a reliquary chorten.  From time to time, many people have reported seeing clear or rainbow-colored light emanating from this chorten

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

 

Shardza Hermitage

Shardza Ritro

This mountain hermitage was founded by the great master Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen in 1890 at the age of 33.  It is located in the Kham region of Tibet on the Northeast bank of the Dzachu river and is inaccessible by vehicle.  The place where Shardza lived and meditated is located further up the mountain and referred to as the ‘upper hermitage’, or Dechen Ritro, the mountain hermitage of great bliss.  Below, is the ‘lower hermitage’ consisting of the temple where he taught his disciples as well as a small printing house.

Shardza Ritro gompa

(The temple at Shardza Hermitage)

During Shardza’s lifetime, the hermitage only housed a few of his disciples.  Now, however, it is a famous pilgrimage place for both Bönpo and for Buddhist.  It is also a place for personal retreat, especially long-term.  Because it is a hermitage rather than a monastery, retreatants provide for their own food and necessities although laypeople do offer some donations of meat and roasted barley flour, or tsampa, a traditional Tibetan food.

Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen statue with blue background(Statue of the famous yogi, scholar, and lama, Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen)

In 1934 at the age of 76, Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen attained the rainbow body as a sign of his great realization.  Rainbow light was seen coming from the tent where he had retreated, and upon entering the space, his disciples discovered that his body had shrunk to the proportional size of a 1 year old and that it was levitating above his meditation seat.  His remains were placed in a reliquary chorten which has been seen to emit rays of clear or rainbow colored light.

the place of Shardza's rainbow body(The actual holy place at Shardza Hermitage where Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen attained the rainbow body of light.)

Gyaltsab Thutop Namgyal

The current successor of Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen at the hermitage is Gyaltsab Thutop Namgyal.

Yungdrung Bon in Mustang

A Yungdrung Bon temple in Jomson, Mustang

Illuminating the Sacred

Nangzhig-Monastery-at-night

The Yungdrung Bön Monastery of Nangzhig during one of the New Year celebrations

%d bloggers like this: