History

YUNGDRUNG BÖN

Excerpt from “Opening the Door to Bön

by Latri Khenpo Nyima Dakpa Rinpoche

Olmo Lungring Mandala

Yungdrung Bön, the root culture and religion of Tibet, originated from the teachings of Tönpa Shenrab, who was born in a completely pure and spiritual land named Tag-Zig Olmo Lung Ring [hereafter Olmo Lung Ring], which is beyond the impure nature of this existing world. The birthplace of all enlightened ones, it is a perfected realm where peace and true joy last forever and it is free from any danger of destruction by any of the elements of nature.

The land of Olmo Lung Ring lies to the west of Mount Kailash and is the shape of an eight-petaled lotus divided into four parts: the inner, middle, and outer parts, and the boundary. Its sky is like an eight-spoked wheel. Olmo Lung Ring is filled with beautiful gardens, stupas, parks, and snow-covered mountains. Yungdrung Gutsek, a pyramid-shaped mountain with nine Yungdrungs ascending like a staircase to the top, is in the center of Olmo Lung Ring. While a single Yungdrung symbolizes the everlasting and indestructible essence of mind, the nine Yungdrungs symbolize the nine ways or stages of Bön. On each step of the mountain are temples of both male and female deities, and beautiful stupas that symbolize the mind of enlightenment.

Four rivers flow from Yungdrung Gutsek. The mountain has four sides that face in the four directions, and these rivers flow from the corners at the mountain’s base, from formations that resemble the heads of four different animals. From the east, the snow lion is the source of the river Narazara; from the north, the horse is the source of the river Pakshi; from west, the peacock is the source of the river Gyim Shang; and from the south, the elephant is the source of the river Sindhu.

Some scholars identify Mount Kailash in northwestern Tibet as Olmo Lung Ring, due to the lakes and snow covered mountains surround the area and four rivers that flow from it. The followers of Bön do not accept this explanation. This is because Olmo Lung Ring is not a physical place that can be visited by ordinary human beings. In order to reach Olmo Lung Ring one must practice, become purified of all negativities, and achieve enlightenment. Bönpos pray to be born in Olmo Lung Ring because this can occur only after achieving enlightenment. Visiting Mount Kailash is possible before enlightenment is reached, as long as one is determined to accept the physical challenges. This is proof to Bönpos that Mount Kailash is not Olmo Lung Ring.

Historical Bön texts state very clearly that the holy mountain Mount Kailash was in the center of the Kingdom of Zhang Zhung, which was the closest neighboring kingdom to Tibet and existed until the end of the eighth century. Zhang Zhung was integrated into Tibet after the death of the Emperor Ligmincha, its last ruler. In early times the Kingdom of Zhang Zhung extended from what is today the upper part of western Tibet, through parts of Nepal, northern India (Ladhak, Zangskar, Kinnaur, Spiti, etc.), to Pakistan (Kashmir) and to China (the Karakoram area). Most of the Bön teachings have been translated from the Zhang Zhung language into Tibetan.

Mount Kailash is a holy place for Bönpos and is blessed by the Zhang Zhung deity Me Ri. The Me Ri teachings were among the main practices of the Zhang Zhungpa (people of Zhang Zhung) and were later introduced into Tibet. The lineage of this practice has been preserved, and it continues to the present time.

From: Opening the Door To Bön, Snow Lion Publications, 2005

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