Masters & Teachers of the YungDrung Bön Tradition
BUDDHA TONPA SHERAB
The founder of the ancient Yungdrung Bön spiritual tradition was the Buddha Tonpa Shenrab. Tonpa Shenrab was born at the palace Barpo Sogye of Tagzig Olmo Lung Ring. According to the Bön canon, his birth dates 18,000 years ago. His father was Gyalbon Thodkar of the Mu clan and his mother Yochi Gyalzhedma. His teachings are called ‘Yung Drung Bön’ or ‘Eternal Bön’, and practitioners of Bön are called ‘Bonpo’. The great Shenrab dedicated his whole life to the practice of Eternal Bön for the benefit of all beings. He taught the teaching of Eternal Bön for about five decades, showing the path of compassion to many beings. At the age of 82 he entered into nirvana. His death was a true reminder to many of his followers that we all have to experience the truth of impermanence. Throughout Shenrab’s teaching he tried to communicate with every being, showing them how to recognize their true nature and live with the moment. The essence of his teachings is how to find our home within and abide joyfully with the treasury of contentment that we are all gifted with. His teachings continue to inspire many beings throughout the centuries.
Tonpa Shenrab descended from the heavenly realms and manifested at the foot of Mount Meru with two of his closest disciples, Malo and Yulo. Then he took birth as a prince, the son of king Gyal Tokar and Queen Zangpa Ringum, in a luminous garden full of marvelous flowers in a palace south of Mount Yungdrung Gutseg at dawn on the eighth day of the first month of the Wood Male Mouse Year. He married while young and had children.
At the age of 31 he renounced his worldly life and started to practice austerity and teach the Bön doctrine. Throughout his life, his efforts to propagate the Bön teachings were obstructed by the demon Khyabpa Lagring who fought to destroy Shenrab’s work. Eventually the demon was converted and became Shenrab’s disciple.
Once, Khyabpa stole Shenrab’s horses and Shenrab pursued him through Zhang-Zhung into southern Tibet. Shenrab entered Tibet by crossing Mount Kongpo. This was his first and only visit to Tibet. At that time the Tibetans practiced ritual sacrifice. Shenrab quelled the local demons and imparted instructions on the performance of rituals using offering cakes in the shape of animals, which led to the Tibetans abandoning animal sacrifices.
He found the land unprepared to receive the Five Ways of the Fruit, the higher Bön teachings. So he instead taught the Four Ways of Cause. In these practices the emphasis is on reinforcing relationships with the guardian spirits and the natural environment, exorcising demons, and eliminating negativities. He also taught purification practices by smoke and water offerings and introduced prayer flags as a way of reinforcing fortune and positive energy. Before leaving Tibet, he prophesied that all his teachings would flourish in Tibet when the time was ripe.