Lopön Tenzin Namdak
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- 1 Life and career
- 1.1 Birth, family & early education
- 1.2 Menri Monastery & awarded Geshi degree
- 1.3 First professorship, retreat at Sezhig Monastery
- 1.4 Flight from the homeland: wounding, capture by the Chinese & escape to Nepal
- 1.5 Kathmandu and the meeting of Tibetologist David Snellgrove
- 1.6 The building of the Tibetan Bönpo Foundation in Dolanji, Himachal Pradesh
- 1.7 Spiritual leader of the Bönpo community in exile
- 1.8 Yungdrung Bön Shedrup Lobnyer Dude: Lamas college at Dolanji
- 1.9 Third trip to The West
- 2 Notes
- 3 References
Life and career
Birth, family & early education
Lopön Tenzin Namdak (Tib. slob dpon bstan 'dzin rnam dag) (1926 – ) was born in Khyungpo Karu (khyung po dkar ru) in Kham, East Tibet, to a family of famous artists. In 1933, at the age of seven, he entered Tengchen Monastery (steng chen). In 1941, Lopön Rinpoche went to Yungdrung Ling (gyung drung gling), then one of Central Tibet's two principal Bönpo monasteries. At Yungdrung Ling, Lopön Rinpoche helped execute a series of wall paintings in a new temple. In 1944 Lopön Rinpoche went on pilgrimage to Nepal including Solu-Khombu, Pokhara, Mustang and Kathmandu.
In 1945 at the age of nineteen Lopön Rinpoche returned to Yungdrung Ling to commence studies in philosophy (tsennyi; mtshan nyid). During 1945 – 1950 Lopön Rinpoche lived principally an eremitic existence cloistered with his tutor and guru Gangru Rinpoche (sgang ru tshul khrims rgyal mtshan) with whom he studied poetry (nyanga; snyan ngag), cosmology (dzopu; mdzod phug), grammar (da; sgra), monastic discipline (dulwa; 'dul ba) and the principal stages on the path to enlightenment (salam; sa lam).
Menri Monastery & awarded Geshi degree
Lopön Rinpoche, went to Menri Monastery (sman ri, literally "the medicine mountain") in Tsang Province in central Tibet in 1950 where, on the instruction of Rinpoche, he commenced his Geshe (dge bshes) studies, the Tibetan equivalent to a doctorate degree, which he achcieved in 1953 .
First professorship, retreat at Sezhig Monastery
Lopön Rinpoche became the professor (slob dpon) at Menri Monastery from 1953 – 1957. Lopön Rinpoche left Menri and this position in 1957 due to increasing conflicts between the indigenous Tibetans and the encroaching Chinese communists. In 1957 Lopön Rinpoche departed Menri and Central Tibet for Sezhig Monastery on the Dangra Lake in northern Tsang where he remained in spiritual retreat until 1960 .
Flight from the homeland: wounding, capture by the Chinese & escape to Nepal
Post Lhasa uprising (10 March 1959), many greatly esteemed lamas of Tibet, including the present Dalai Lama and the Gyalwa Karmapa, along with numerous Tibetan refugees departed their homeland to seek refuge in India and Nepal.
Riding this exodus, Lopön Rinpoche endeavoured to reach safety in India in 1960, but was shot, wounded, and seized by Chinese soldiers and imprisoned for ten months. Lopön Rinpoche made good his escape via the small principality of Mustang to the safety of Nepal.
Kathmandu and the meeting of Tibetologist David Snellgrove
While in Kathmandu in 1961, Lopön Rinpoche and the English tibetologist David Snellgrove became colleagues. David Snellgrove invited Lopön Rinpoche to London where, through a Rockefeller Foundation grant, he became a visiting scholar at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Lopön Rinpoche resided for a period at the University of Cambridge. The collaboration with David Snellgrove resulted in the publication of The Nine Ways of Bön which includes extracts translated from the esteemed Ziji (gzi brjid): an extensive hagiography of the Buddha, Tonpa Shenrab. This collaborative work was the first scholarly study of the Yungdrung Bön tradition to be conducted in the West. Lopön Rinpoche stayed in England for three years, until 1964. Lopön Rinpoche made a second visit to Europe in 1969 at the invitation of professor Helmut Hoffmann where he was a visiting scholar at Munich University with whom he collaborated on compiling of the Dictionary of Written Tibetan .
The building of the Tibetan Bönpo Foundation in Dolanji, Himachal Pradesh
A social worker known as Doctor Khepa who was working in Nepal (Dorthang) Bon community as a social worker, had come to India and was looking forward to help any Bonpo community in India. Somehow he got to know about the small Bonpo community in India and decided to continue his support for the Bon community in India as well. At the time when he reached there, the head of the Menri monastery the then Menri Trizin his holiness had just expired and the next successor of the Menri trizin had not been appointed as yet. So at that time an acting head had to be appointed, and for that the organisation Bod Kyi Bonpo Tsokpa was started and Lopon Tenzin Namdak was appointed as the director by the members of that group and Dr Khepa. After that Dr Khepa had arranged some fund from the Catholic relief service for the Bonpos to purchase a place where they can start a small Bon community. The fund was transferred and the land had to be purchased. After searching many places Dolanji was selected. But the Bonpo community was not able to purchase the land due to certain legal barriers. Finally Gungthang Tsultrim helped the Bonpo community to get the land registered for the organisation Bod Kyi Bonpo Tsokpa, of which the director then was Lopon Tenzin Namdak, by including the Dolanji in the organisation called Tsokpa Chuksum, in which there were other settlements registered such as the Bir settlement in Himachal and Clement Town in Dehradhun etc. Dolanji, near Solan in Himachal Pradesh. In 1967 the settlement was formally established and registered with the Indian Government under the name of the Tibetan Bönpo Foundation. About seventy families transferred there from Manali and each received a house and a small piece of land, the size depending on the number of people in the family in question. The Tibetan Bönpo Foundation possessed its own constitution and administration, with the Abbot of Menri acting as president. The new settlement at Dolanji was named Thobgyal Sarpa (thob rgyal gsar pa) after the village Thobgyal in Tsang Provence which was located near Menri Monastery. Most of the Tibetans in the new settlement came from the Mount Kailash region and Upper Tsang in the west, and from Hor, Kongpo, Derge, Amdo and Gyarung in the east of Tibet.
Spiritual leader of the Bönpo community in exile
After the death of the abbot of Menri in 1963, Sherab Lodro, the abbot of Yungdrung Ling became the spiritual head of the Bönpo community in exile. Sherab Lodro came to Dolanji with a band of monks who founded a new monastic community. An intimate prayer chapel and a few small houses were built. In 1969 the successor to the abbot of Menri was established by lot and the office fell to Lungtog Tenpai Nyima Rinpoche (lung rtogs bstan pa'i nyi ma rin po che), who was installed as the thirty-third abbot of Menri.
Following the death of Yungdrung Ling abbot, Sangye Tenzin assumed the spiritual leadership of the Bönpos in exile. More houses were established, along with a library and abbot's residence (labrang; bla brang). Monastic life was structured around the ordinances of the Vinaya (dulwa; 'dul ba). The foundation for the principal temple was inaugurated in 1969 and completed in 1978 and named Pal Shentan Menri Ling (dpal gshen bstan sman ri'i gling). The whole complex was styled the Bönpo Monastic Centre and formed part of the Tibetan Bönpo Foundation.
From 1970 – 1979 Lopön Rinpoche continued writing and teaching whilst in residence at the Bönpo Monastic Centre. Concurrently, Lopön Rinpoche was engaged in New Delhi with the publishing of a large number of significant Bönpo texts. From 1967, when the first monks came to Dolanji, teaching had been done by Lopön Sangye Tenzin (former head teaching master at Menri) and assisted by Lopön Tenzin Namdak, who became his successor.
Yungdrung Bön Shedrup Lobnyer Dude: Lamas college at Dolanji
When Sangye Tenzin died in 1968, Lopön Tenzin Namdak was assigned the full responsibility for the education of the younger generation of monks. By 1978 a sufficient number of Bönpo texts had been published so that classes could be organized around them in a curriculum. Thus a lama's college (shedrup; bshad sgrub) was established in 1978, organized under the guidance of Lopön Rinpoche who served as one of the two professors at the college. The official name of the college is Yungdrung Bön Shedrup Lobnyer Dude (gyung drung bon bshad sgrub slob gnyer 'dud sde).
The purpose of the new lama's college at Dolanji was to preserve the tradition of philosophy established and developed at Yeru Wensaka (gyas ru dben sa kha), where philosophical analysis and logic were applied to the understanding of Do Ngag Semsum (mdo sngags sems gsum), that is, to the teachings of the Sutras, the Tantras and Dzogchen. Unlike the Nyingmapa tradition, the Bönpos developed a system of logic and debate specifically relating to the Dzogchen teaching., At Menri in Tibet, the monks studied the five scripture systems (Dozhung Nga; mdo gzhung lnga) in the philosophy college, but all instruction in Tantra and Dzogchen was done in private. The five scriptures, actually five collection of texts, are:
- 1 Tsema (tshad ma) – Pramana or logic;
- 2 Parchin (phar phyin) – Prajnaparamita or the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras;
- 3 Uma (dbu ma) – Madhyamaka philosophy;
- 4 Dzopu (mdzod phug) – Abhidharma or cosmology;
- 5 Dulwa ('dul ba) – Vinaya or monastic discipline...
However, at the revived Menri at Dolanji, students also study Tantra and Dzogchen in the college, as well as the above five scriptural systems which pertain to Sutra. Also included curriculum are the secular sciences (rignai; rig gnas), such as grammar, poetics, astrology, and so on. The college has a nine-year term of studies which prepare the student for degree of Geshe. The first group of young monks graduated in 1986 .
Another Bönpo monastery and college has been established under the direction of Lopön Tenzin Namdak in Nepal. Known as Triten Norbutse (khri brtan nor bu rtse), it is located near the auspicious Swayambhu, west of Kathmandu.
Third trip to The West
In 1989, Lopön Tenzin Namdak made his third visit to the West, this time to England, America and Italy, at the invitation of the International Dzogchen Community of Chögyal Namkai Norbu Rinpoche in those countries. During the course of six months Lopön Rinpoche presented to interested Western students the Dzogchen teaching according to the Bönpo traditions of the Atri (a khrid) and the Zhang Zhung Nyengyu (shang zhung snyan rgyud).
Also, in the beginning of 1991, he visited Germany, England, the Netherlands and Italy. During his visit to these countries he gave discourses and teaching on various meditation systems and fields of study of the Bön tradition. Later that year he was invited by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to represent the Bön tradition at the Kalachakra Initiation in New York. In this way, Lopön Rinpoche has been spreading the Bönpo teachings in many countries. His permanent residencies are in Kathmandu (Nepal) and Dolanji (India).
- Lopön is a title that may be rendered in English as 'Great Teacher'.
- Lopön Tenzin Namdak and Dixey, Richard (2002). Heart Drops of Dharmakaya: Dzogchen Practice of the Bön Tradition. Snow Lion Publications. ISBN :1559391723