Menri Trizin, spiritual head of Bon religion, dies at 90

The spiritual head of Bon religion, Menri Trizin Lungtok Tenpai Nyima, is seen in a file photo taken in McLeod Ganj, India, on 8 March 2009. He died at his monastery Menri in Dolanji, India, on 14 September 2017. He was 90.

The spiritual head of Bon religion, Menri Trizin Lungtok Tenpai Nyima, is seen in a file photo taken in McLeod Ganj, India, on 8 March 2009. He died at his monastery Menri in Dolanji, India, on 14 September 2017. He was 90. File photo/Tibet Sun/Lobsang Wangyal

By Tibet Sun Newsroom

McLEOD GANJ, India, 15 September 2017

The 33rd Abbot of Menri Bon Monastery, the spiritual head of Bon religion, Menri Trizin Lungtok Tenpai Nyima, has died at his monastery at Dolanji, Solan, on Thursday. He was 90.

According to a note released by his monastery, he was in Thugdam (meditative state) at the time of his death.

He was made to lead the Bonpos (followers of Bon, which predates Buddhism in Tibet) in 1969 when he was teaching Tibetan history and religion at the University of Oslo, Norway.

After assuming the responsibilities, he worked towards establishing at Dolanji the original Menri Monastery that was founded in 1405 in the Central Tibet, which was destroyed during China’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.

Lungtok Tenpai Nyima was born in Tibet in 1927, in a village called Kyongtsang, near the Chinese border, in the north eastern province of Amdo.

He was given the name “Lama” by a local priest. His mother died when he was a child, and he was raised by A-Nyen Machen, an elderly friend of his family.

When Lama was eight years old, his father Jalo Jongdong took him to the nearby monastery of Phuntsok Dargye Ling, where his lifelong journey to study the Bon religion began.

He completed his Geshe (equivalent to doctorate) degree in philosophy at age 25 under the guidance of Lopon Tenzin Lodro Gyatso.

At 27, he set out on foot for pilgrimage, initially to China, and made his way to Lhasa later. For the next several years he studied in Tibet at the Bon monasteries of Menri, Khana, and Yungdrung Ling, where he became known as Sangye Tenzin Jongdong. He also lived for a time at Drepung Monastery in Lhasa.

After the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, he fled Lhasa for Nepal and met the Abbot of Yungdrung Ling in the province of Dolpo, where the renowned teacher was living in exile.

In 1962, he left for London to teach at the School of Oriental and African studies at the University of London, where he also studied Western history and culture.

Menri Trizin Lungtok Tenpai Nyima has focused his time and attention towards creating a vibrant and authentic learning centre of Bon culture and tradition at the monastery in Dolanji.

Before the arrival of Buddhism to Tibet in the eighth century, Tibetans for centuries followed Bon, an indigenous shamanic and animistic religion.

The practitioners of Bon suffered persecution with the rise of Tibetan Buddhism during the reign of King Trisong Detsen in the 8th century, leaving only a small minority of the population practicing the religion. Many were driven to the borders of Tibet. It is believed that only a few hundred thousand Tibetans follow Bon today.


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