Ancient Oral Instruction
of 18,000 years
The importance of the preservation of philosophical study and discourse remains in the monastic education system. This architecture ensures that written and oral instructions are perpetuated for future generations and ensures the continuation of traditional values. This example is best exemplified with Menri Monastery ( Medicine Hill ) which has been the ‘Mother Tongue’ of the Bon Tradition since 1405AD. Its roots reach back to 1196BC, when the esteemed Tagzig Bon Master and Khenpo, Zu Trul Yeshe created the monastic system in Zhang Zhung; which eventually spread into Tibet when Zu Trul Yeshe brought 500 relics of Tonpa Shenrab to Tibet. The Bon monastic system predates the Buddhist monastic system in Tibet by nearly 1,800 years and remains today as the oldest monastic system in Asia.For nearly 19 centuries starting with the first Tibetan king, Nya Tri Tsen Po and extending to the 32nd king, Tri Song Deu Tsen, Tibet and Zhang Zhung were unified under the Bon teachings. However, in the 7th century AD, through religious and cultural exchanges with India, Buddhism was introduced into Tibet.
Over the next few centuries Buddhism eventually expanded, and replaced the native Bon religion with the spiritual tradition of its Indian neighbor. Through the dedicated efforts of La Chen Drenpa Namkha, the great dZogchen master from Zhang Zhung, the Bon teachings were preserved and survive to this day. His determined effort of hiding texts in sealed caves ensured that the everlasting teachings of Tonpa Shenrab would be found and revealed to future generations. In 1017AD the Bon master from Zhang Zhung, Shen Chen Lu Ga discovered many Bon texts and relics hidden in a cave, this discovery of termas ( treasures ) was important to the Bon community in Tibet at that time. In 1405AD, Gyal Wa Nyamed Sherab Gyaltsen, a simple monk from Yeru monastery, begins to build Menri Monastery in Tsang province. It eventually houses thousands of monks, and becomes the most important Bon monastery in Tibet for 700 years, until the Chinese Cultural revolution in 1959. This timeline of 32 Menri Abbots in Tibet established Menri as one of the longest lineages in Tibetan Bon history, which educated thousands of monks in Sutra, Tantra, and dZogchen studies.
His Holiness Gyalwa Menri Trizin
This continues today in Dolanji, India, where the 33rd Menri Abbot, Lungtok Tenpai Nyima has vigorously preserved the Bon culture. This unselfish effort has ensured that the Bon tradition survives and flourishes in modern times, connecting the present, to the ancient Oral Instructions from Zhang Zhung spanning 18,000 years. For the past 40 years, Menri Monastery has educated nearly 200 Geshes, Tulkus, and Rinpoches, sharing the Bon tradition and culture with the world today.