Bon in Dolpo

Bon religion in Dolpo

A short glimpse of Bon religion

Bon religion can be classified into three types. They are prehistoric Bon, Yungdrung Bon and New Bon. The activities of prehistoric Bon are akin to central Asian shamanism. Secondly, Yungdrung Bon was founded by Buddha Tonpa Shenrab who lived on this earth many thousands of years before Buddha Shakyamuni in the land of zhang zhung.

During the 8th century the king of Tibet, Trisong Detsen invited Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche, abbot Boddhisattva and some priests from china. With the agreement of king and ministers, the abolishment of Yungdrung Bon was initiated and when the Yungdrung Bon was on the verge of declination, Bonpo lama and priests started to hide the crucial texts as treasures in secure caves and few texts were modified with Indian Buddhism. In the mean time some Bonpo adapted both the yungdrung Bon and some parts of Indian Buddhist rituals and emerged as a New Bon.

The Yungdrung Bon which was founded by the Budha Tonpa Shenrab is subdivided into Dho (the path of renunciation, Ngag (the path of transformation) and Dzogchen (the path of liberation). These practices have been kept intact from the times of Budha Tonpa Shenrab up until now and still practiced by monks, nuns, yogis and yogini. It is alive and unchanged in Himalayan regions.

Till 8th century Dolpo was a part of Zhang Zhung province. During eight Century, Tibet king Trisong Detsen (755–797 A.D) had assassinated last king of Zhang zhung -Ligmikya and Dolpo became a free zone. In10th century Dolpo was under the kingdom of Purang and later on it was under Los (Upper Mustang) and Jumlang (Jumla).

In the 18th century King of Gorkha Prithivi Narayan Shah started the unification of Nepal and Dolpo also became a unified part of the country.

Bonpo community in Dunai:

Starting from Dunai the district headquarter of Dolpa, there is a Bonpo community – Dolpo Bon School and a beautiful Bonpo Stupa. This community was established with assemble of Bonpo lamas, prominent people from different Bonpo villages of Dolpa. Old local people used to say that this place was blessed by a Bonpo Lama by leaving footprint on a rock and people named the place Lama Palio in Nepali which means footprint of Lama.

Bonpo village in Barle (Tichurong):

The second Bonpo community near Dunai is Barle village. There is a main village monastery named Yungdrung Shuktsal Gon and every Lama and yogi has their own temples in their houses. The old monastery and some stupas are more than five hundred years old. The present head Lama of the monastery is Lama Namkha Wangden. There are also some holy relics of great yogis in the monastery. The pilgrimage site the Holy mount Riwo Walber was blessed by the deity Takla Meber and used to be the meditation and retreat centre for many lamas and yogi in the past. So once in a year both many Bonpo and Buddhist peoples from different villages participate in the annual circumambulation of the holy mountain. There are customs to perform different ritual annually and seasonally.

On the way to Dho Tarap there is a ruin of ancient Bon monastery called Merbu Samten Ling which used to be the main monastery of Treton lineage.

Bonpo community in Dho Tarap:

In Dho Tarap village there is a Bonpo monastery called Deden Phuntsok Ling. In ancient times, many Bonpo Dzogchen yogis spent their whole life in Tarap and attained Rainbow body. Around the monastery there are a great number of old stupas and prayer stones engraved with the three hearts mantras. The present head Lama of the monastery is Lama Yonten Pasang. There is another monastery called Riwo Bumpa Gonpa. This monastery is shared by both Bonpos and Buddhist and also the wall paintings in the main monastery contain both Bon and Buddhist divinities.

The stupa of Yungdrung Wobar is an important and old Bon stupa. In ancient times, Zhang Zhung yogi, Tonggung Thuchen, Debon Gyimtsa Machung and many Bonpo came to Tarap and blessed the sacred mountain Pawo Drungnga. There is a cave hermitage in the mountainside and footprint of yogi Tonggyung Thuchen.

Bonpo community in Tsarka:

From Tarap through Jyagola la pass, there we get Tsarka village.  There are old Phuntsok Ling and new Phuntsok Ling Bonpo monastery.  The original or old monastery was isolated from village. So it was dangerous as bandits often attacked there. Therefore a new monastery was re-established near the village. Menri Ponlob Trinle Nyima Rinpoche who is the second most important leader of the Bonpo world is also from Tsarka village. Present head Lama of the monastery is Geshe Yangton Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche.

Samling monastery in Bicher:

Samling monastery was founded by the great Dzogchen yogi and zhangzhung nyengyud lineage holder Yangton Gyaltsen Rinchen in 1183AD. Since early times this monastery used to be the main educations centre of Bon monastery in Dolpo. Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen(great perfection) were taught in the monastery. There are many Holy Scriptures, statues, chortens and relics of several great Tantra and Dzogchen practitioners. Yangton Sherab Tenzin is the current lineage holder Lama of the monastery.

Tha-Sung Tso Ling monastery in Tso village:

This monastery was founded by Treton Tsewang Tsultrim in 15th century. It also used to be the centre Bonpo monastery of lower Dolpo. This monastery is situated at the bank of the Nepal’s deepest lake called Phuksumdo. This lake is holy for the followers of Bonpo as it was blessed by many Treton lamas. Geshe Samdup Nyima and Geshe Sherab Gocha are taking the responsibility of the monastery.

Bonpo community in Pukmo village;

The entrance of the village is holy Zijyi Wober stupa with beautiful mural of Bon deity Kunsang Gyalwa Gyatso peaceful form of very wrathful deity Walse Ngampa.

In the past there used to be a shrine and many animals were regularly sacrificed to the local sprit. Treton Lama Tsewang Tsultrim subdued the sprit and built Namgyal Lhakhang to stop sacrifice and started peaceful offering taught by Budha Tonpa Shenrab. Near around this village there are also Pugmo Dechen Ling monastery, Thegchen Rabgye Ling monastery,and Shugri Nyishar a retreat and meditation centre.

In a gist there are also few Bon monasteries in very lower parts of the Dolpo such as Tsalung Sridgyal monastery few hours far from Tripurakot, Monri Zursum monastery in Khalibo and Yungdrung Drodul Ling monastery in   Hurikot.

With a complete anti clockwise (Way of Bonpo) circulation of Dolpo, we can visit holy Bonpo pilgrimage site and monasteries of Dolpo.

Reference books:

  1. Gyalshen gi dungrab by Yanggom migyur gyaltsen
  2. Bayul Bongi kyareng Sarpa book of Nepal Bon Buddhist Federation