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Menri Monastery, Dolanji in India

Menri Tibet.jpg

Menri Monastery in Tibet photographed in 2007

The History of Menri Monastery

Menri Monastery was established in 1405 by Nyammé Sherab Gyaltsen (1356–1416), on the slope of Mount Shari Phowa in Topgyel in Tsang, Tibet. Nyammé Sherab Gyaltsen was the 18th Abbot of the first Menri Monastery that was founded in 1072 as Yéru Wensakha Monastery. Yéru Weshakha was destroyed by a flood in 1386.

The new Menri Monastery was known for its strict practice of monastic rules, which set a standard for other Bön monasteries. Menri had 250 branch monasteries, in all areas of Tibet except U, as well as in India, China, Bhutan, Sikkim, Nepal, and Mongolia.

Menri had four colleges: Lingmey, Lingto, Lingkey, and Lingzur and it educated thousands of monks in Sutra, Tantra, and Dzogchen. It became one of the most important Bön monasteries in Tibet for 700 years and holder of the original Tibetan culture and tradition, until the Chinese Cultural revolution in 1959. Menri housed between 400 and 500 monks before its destruction in 1959. Due to extremely difficult situation H.H. the 32nd Menri Trizin (Abbot) Sherab Lodrö, together with Yongdzin Rinpoche and thirty senior monks had to escape Tibet. Until 1966 Menri had had 32 Abbots from its founding in 1405.

MenTridzin Lungtog Tenpai Nyima and Rinp
Menri Monastery in Dolanji

From the mid 1960’s, a determined effort was made by the Bönpos to establish a proper Bönpo refugee settlement in India. The task of finding the land and collecting funds to purchase the land was entrusted to Yongdzin Rinpoche. With help from the Catholic Relief Services, he eventually bought some land at Dolanji, near Solan, in the mountain-state of Himachal Pradesh, northern India.

In 1967, Yongdzin Rinpoche formally established and registered the refugee settlement with the Indian Government under the name of “Tibetan Bönpo Foundation”. It is administered according to the guidelines of its own constitution by a group of elected persons, presided over by the Abbot of Menri Monastery. Around 80 Bönpo families transferred from Manali to Dolanji. Each family received a house and a small piece of land, corresponding in size to the number of family members.

After the passing of Abbot Sherab Lodrö, the 32nd Menri Trizin, in 1963, the Bön community in exile was without a head of the tradition until 1969, when Geshe Sangye Tenzing Jongdong (1929-2017) was elected and enthroned as H. H. the 33rd Menri Trizin and the name Lungtok Tenpai Nyima was given to him.

His Holiness and Yongdzin Rinpoche refounded Menri Monastery in Dolanji to preserve the Bön tradition and to provide education to Bönpo monks. The foundations of the main temple were laid in 1969 and the monastery (Pal Shenten Menri Ling) was completed in 1978.


Menri Monastery at Dolanji in India


The Dialectic School started in 1978 and the monks were organized into a full-scale religious community based on the monastic rules outlined in the Bönpo Canon. The academic program for the Geshe training was established under the guidance of Yongdzin Rinpoche, who also served as the head (Lopön) of the Dialectic School for teaching and practice. He taught the five major doctrinal scriptures and the ten general sciences. H.H. Menri Trizin and Yongdzin Rinpoche carried out all the initiations and oral transmissions to the next generation of monks and lay practitioners.

In 1986, after many years of hard work, the first class of Geshes graduated. For the past fifty years, the Bön Dialectic School of Menri Monastery has educated nearly 200 Geshes, and it is home to over two hundred monks.

The construction of the Redna Menling Nunnery started in 2002 on the opposite side of the valley of Dolanji. It is the only Bönpo nunnery outside Tibet. It houses about 80 nuns, of which around 15 senior nuns are studying the fifteen-year academic program of Geshe degree and more than 60 young girls attend the school and train the life of an ordained nun.

Furthermore, more than 370 children from Nepal and Tibet come to Menri for an educational and basic refuge. Their school is located in the valley below the monastery and it is run by the Indian government with an emphasis on the Bön educational program.

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