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About Yungdrung Bön School


Statue of Tönpa Shenrab at Triten Norbutse Monastery

Teachings of Tönpa Shenrab Buddha
and the knowledge of Bön


Yungdrung Bön is the original spiritual and cultural tradition of Tibet and the Himalayan borderlands, and it is one of the world’s oldest living religions. According to the Bön Scriptures, it was founded by Buddha Tönpa Shenrab Miwo, who lived over 9,000 years ago in the land of Olmo Lungring. Ol symbolizes the unborn, Mo the undiminishing, Lung denotes the prophetic words of Tönpa Shenrab, and Ring, his everlasting compassion. From Olmo Lungring his teachings first spread to Tazik and from there to Zhang Zhung, the sprawling ancient kingdom, whose territory included large parts of present-day Tibet, the Himalayan region and central Asia.

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Tönpa Shenrab propagated his doctrine more than 6,500 years before the Indian Buddhism came to Tibet in the 7th century, and his teachings have strongly influenced the development of Tibetan Buddhism over the centuries. The ultimate goal of his teachings is to achieve the pure and perfect state of mind known as Buddhahood and to help liberate all sentient beings from suffering. His wisdom has shown countless beings the path to liberation and allowed them to achieve Buddhahood, Sanggye in Tibetan. Sang means the pure state free from all negativities and Gye means perfected in all enlightened qualities.

This extraordinary spiritual tradition has been passed down from Tönpa Shenrab to the present day in an unbroken lineage of the enlightened Bön masters up until the present lineage holder and living Buddha, H.E. Yongdzin Lopön Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche.


The hagiography of Tönpa Shenrab is preserved in three versions. The earliest and shortest one is known as Dodu, the medium one in two volumes as Zermig and the third one known as Zi Jid is the most extensive in twelve volumes. These hagiographies depict how Tönpa Shenrab achieved the state of Sang Gye and how he took rebirth to benefit all sentient beings.


The doctrine taught by Buddha Tönpa Shenrab is called the Nine Ways of Bön, and it is divided into two main sections, the Bön of Causality and the Bön of Fruition. He instructed these teachings on different levels according to the capacity of beings. The Bön of Causality focuses on methods for attaining temporal happiness, welfare and harmonious relationships with the environment. It comprises teachings on medicine, astrology, divination, and rituals. The Bön of Fruition contains essential practices and methods for the realization of one’s own Nature of mind and for achieving enlightenment, the pure and perfect state of mind.

In the Nine Ways of Bön, Tönpa Shenrab taught three paths to liberation from ignorance and the cyclic existence of samsara’s wheel of birth, death and rebirth. These paths are Sutra, the path of renunciation; Tantra, the path of transformation; and Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, or the path of liberation. The highest and most profound level of teachings is the Great Perfection. By following and practicing these teachings, one is able to realize one’s true Nature of mind as an enlightened Buddha, the loving embodiment of wisdom and compassion.

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the Dalai Lama wearing the Bön headdress

Tönpa Shenrab taught that the apparent “beginning” of every new life is merely a manifestation of the karmic traces from preceding lives, and thus it is nothing but the concrete result of the positive and negative karmic imprints, which earlier actions have made upon the mind. An understanding of the “law of karma”, pointing out that that all actions create causes that will have effects, is therefore the real gateway to all the ways of Bön, which are concrete, positive remedies against suffering.

H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama regards Yungdrung Bön as the fifth Tibetan tradition, along the four Buddhist traditions. His Holiness has emphasized the importance of preserving Bön as the indigenous source of the Tibetan culture, and acknowledged its major role in shaping Tibet’s unique identity as well as providing the present generation a strong legacy of education and training in philosophy, monastic discipline, ritual and meditation.


Today scholars and practitioners around the world are drawn to Bön due to its rich and profound ancient knowledge and wisdom and its authentic spiritual practices aimed at the realization of the ultimate meaning of life. One of the unique features of Yungdrung Bön is that in addition to its transcendent spiritual practices and paths to attain enlightenment, it contains also many beneficial methods and practices that help to cultivate compassion, kindness, peace of mind and healing. The Bön texts encompass a large body of knowledge on the importance of living harmoniously within the natural environment and methods to rectify imbalances. Tibetan medicine has its roots in extremely detailed and methodical Yungdrung Bön manuscripts and practices.

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The Scriptures of Yungdrung Bön

The Scriptures of the Bön tradition are generally classified into two sections: the Kangyur and the Tengyur. The Kangyur contains the words of Buddha Tönpa Shenrab. The collection is divided into four classes. The class of Sutras comprises the texts dealing with the monastic discipline (vinaya), as well as Sutras. The hagiographies of Buddha Tönpa Shenrab are also included in this class. The class of “The Hundred Thousand” contains the Prajana Paramita texts. The class of Tantra contains the basic tantric texts of Bön. The class of Treasury expound the system of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, which contains the highest philosophical doctrines and meditation practices in the Bön tradition. Through its practice many masters have achieved the Rainbow Body in a single lifetime.

The Tengyur contains the “Commentaries of all kinds that relies on the Buddha’s Words” of the succeeding masters, volumes of rituals and their narratives, and works connected to arts, logic, medicine, and astrology.


S.E. Yongdzin Rinpoché,

H.E. Yongdzin Rinpoche, the highest spiritual authority and lineage holder of the Bön tradition describes the purpose of the Bön Scriptures: “As for the essence of the teachings, having relied upon the proper conduct and practice, there will arise qualities of the virtuous aspect and these will become means for exhausting the obscurations, which afflict the individual.”

The Bön Scriptures offer proper conduct and practice as a methodical cure against all obscurations, whether these are physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual. The Scriptures explain, how through his wisdom Buddha Tönpa Shenrab observed the obscurations and sufferings of this world, and how he chose to be reborn on earth in order to help all sentient beings. His primary teaching on enlightenment focuses on using skillful means to liberate the suffering of all being, and thus all the Scriptures encompass instructions concerning the ways to achieve this purpose.

Buddha Tönpa Shenrab taught that enlightenment is possible for all because the Basic Nature of Buddhahood, the Buddha Nature, is present within all sentient beings. As the darkness fades away with the light of the sun, in the same way the obscurations of mind dissolve, when the clear awareness, Rigpa, is realized. The excellent motivation of the followers of Bön is the pure and perfect mind, the wish to eliminate sufferings of all sentient beings.

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