A Brief Biography of His Holiness the 34th Menri Trizin
Lungtok Dawa Dargyal Rinpoche
His Holiness the 34th Menri Trizin Lungtok Dawa Dargyal Rinpoche, the spiritual head of the world Bön community, is from Do-mé region of Tibet. He was born on November 29, 1972 in the Chhuktruk Tsang family line of Mayön Déwa as a son of Pelyön Bumsel and Luyang Chukmo. His birth name was Norbu Sampel. His birthplace, known as Zingchu, is located in the area of Jadur Ngönmo and Dungri Karpo mountains, where the holy sites were blessed by past Bön masters like Gyabön Zingpa Tuchen. His families were members of the community around the monastery Pel Shenten Gamel Yungdrung Dargyal Ling.
In 1977, at the age of five, he entered the local primary school and continued there through the second grade. At the age of eight, he started to learn basic Tibetan reading and writing, chanting ritual texts, continuing into basic Bon practices like refuge and mantra recitation from his teacher, the great Géshé Dratok Pelchen Kyapchok.
In 1983, at the age of eleven, he entered Gamel Monastery, where the head lama Khyungtsa Tenpa Gongpel Ripoche cut his hair and gave him the name Zöpa Tsöndrü. In this way, he began the monastic life, and took the five basic precepts of a Genyen from the learned Lopon Kelzang Dargyal. As his education progressed, he learned the chanting of the Dru tradition from many Geshes and tutors, and studied the monastic chantings, ritual instruments and melodies. In time, he would take on a variety of responsibilities in the monastery like acting as shrine master, masked dancer, and so forth.
At the age of seventeen, he took the vows of a novice monk with Gamel Monastery’s Khenpo Shérap Tarchin Rinpoche and the great Lopon Kelzang Dargyal, who gave him the name Tsultrim Nyima. In the same year, he began his basic studies of Collected Topics with Lopon Kelzang Dargyal.
In 1992, at the age of eighteen, he officially entered the Dialectic school in Gamel Monastery. There, with Lopon Yéshé Gyeltsen, he completed Collected Topics, and went on to study Valid Cognition, Grounds and Paths, the profound Perfection of Wisdom, and so forth.
In 1994, when he was twenty-two, he witnessed a long awaited event in the Bön community of Tibet: the 33rd Menri Trizin, His Holiness Lungtok Tenpé Nyima, traveled from India, making his first return visit to Tibet. During this visit, the two would meet for the first time, and the future 34th Menri Trizin was able to take the 250 vows of a fully ordained monk from the 33rd Menri Trizin, who gave him the name Dawa Dargyal Wangpo. Thus the 34th Abbot, named Dawa (“moon”), followed after the 33rd Abbot, named Nyima (“sun”), forming an auspicious connection like the moon proceeding in the path of the sun.
In 1996, at the age of twenty-four, he completed his Géshé degree, rising to the rank of Géshé Lharampa among the monks of Gamel Monastery. As before, he continued to take on responsibilities like serving as debate disciplinarian, assembly disciplinarian, and so forth.
In 1997, when he was twenty-five, he first had the aspiration to study at Pel Shenten Menri Ling Monastery, the main monastic seat of the Yungdrung Bön tradition, which had been reestablished by the 33rd Menri Trizin in Himachal Pradesh, India. He eventually made the difficult journey to India with his fellow monk Tapkhé Gyatso.
On October 7, 1997, he arrived at Menri Monastery. In accordance with the tradition and strict rules of Menri Monastery, he first retook the twenty-five vows of a novice, and became one of the ordained monks of Menri Monasatery, the practitioners of the three trainings.
On October 10, he entered Bon Dialectic School in Menri Monastery. At Bon Dialectic School, he studied mainly with His Holiness the 33rd Menri Trizin, and Menri Ponlob Thinley Nyima Rinpoche, along with many other Géshés and teachers. His studies were based on the three main bodies of texts used in the Menri curriculum: Various Canonical Scriptures by the eighth teacher of Yeru Wensaka Monastery, Azha Drogon Lodro Gyaltsen; The Five Magical Lamps by Nyamme Sherab Gyaltsen; and Canonical Scriptures by the 22nd Abbot of Menri Monastery, the omniscient Nyima Tenzin Wangkyi Gyelpo. In this way, he pursued his studies at Menri Monastery for fourteen years, refining his knowledge of Yungdrung Bön’s distinctive traditions of Sūtra, Tantra, and Dzogchen, as well as studying all of the common sciences.
In 2012, at the age of 39, he was awarded the title of Géshé in the presence of His Holiness the 33rd Menri Trizin and Menri Ponlob Thinley Nyima Rinpoche. While pursuing his studies, Rinpoche also held a variety of jobs in the monastery, serving as the Treasurer, Disciplinarian, and Vice President at the Dialectic School. He was also the Chief Treasurer of Menri Monatery, Treasurer of the Yogi Temple, and served as a member of Menri-tshang. When circumstances allowed, he also taught students in the philosophy classes.
He had received a complete set of all the empowerments, transmissions, and oral instructions of the “inner”, “outer” and “secret” tantras of Bön, along with empowerments and transmissions like those related to five tutelary deities known as the Sé-khar Chok-nga. Thus, like a vase being filled, he received the empowerments, transmissions, and oral instructions that had been transmitted continuously through the line of Menri abbots. Similarly, he obtained numerous guiding instructions on the unsurpassed Great Perfection teachings, like the profound Fifteen Periods of A-tri, the Oral Tradition from Zhang Zhung, and so forth, from his root lama, His Holiness the 33rd Menri Trizin, the Abbots of Menri Monastery.
After he attained his Géshé title, in accordance with the wishes of his root lama, His Holiness the 33rd Menri Trizin, he began to serve Menri Monastery as the General Treasu
rer of the Yungdrung Bön Monastic Centre Society, and then in 2014, took on the responsibility of General Secretary.
On September 14, 2017 the world Bön community suffered a major loss, when the great, compassionate, the ultimate refuge, loving leader and guide His Holiness the 33rd Menri Trizin Rinpoche, displayed the impermanence of his own body, in order to overturn his disciples’ clinging to permanence, beyond this realm of sorrow. At that time, His Holiness Lungtok Dawa Dargyal was serving as the General Secretary to the Yungdrung Bon Monastic Centre Society, and although full of grief, he took on the major responsibilities in organizing the Memorial Service and vast cremation ceremony.
On the morning of January 1, the great Géshé, the monk from Zingchu, Dawa Dargyal, was selected as the 34th Menri Trizin, through the authentic and unique tradition of selecting the Abbot of Menri Monastery, called Tagdril. Bönpos worldwide joined in celebrating the selection of the 34th Menri Trizin at Menri Monastery. From the time of his selection, until the time that he would rise to the golden throne of the Menri Trizin, his main commitments were the practices of the tutelary deity Welpur Chenmo, and the offering rituals to Nyammé Shérab Gyaltsen.
His enthronement took place on February 20, 2018, the 5th day of the 1st month on the Tibetan calendar, the birth anniversary of Nyammé Shérapབ Gyltsen. With Menri Ponlob Thinley Nyima Rinpoche leading a crowd the monks and lay people from home and abroad, he was led with auspicious white scarves to the golden throne supported by images of five fearless lions, which sits in the main temple of Menri Monastery.
Following this, on March 21, 2018, he traveled to Triten Norbutsé Monastery in Nepal, where he met and spoke with His Eminence Yongdzin Lopon Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche. Then on April 6, he traveled to meet His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
On September 3 and 4, 2018, Yungdrung Bon Monastic Center Society organized the One Year Memomorial Ceremony of His Holiness the 33rd Menri Trizin Lungtok Tenpai Nyima Rinpoche. His Holiness the 34th Menri Trizin consecrated “the Great Stupa” in memory His Holiness the 33rd Menri Trizin and launched the “The Photobiography of His Holiness the 33rd Menri Trizin Lungtok Tenpai Nyima Rinpoche”. He also honored His Holiness the 33rd Menri Trizin with the title of “The Great father who preserved the ancient treasures of Zhang Zhung and Tibet” to express the gratitude for his selfless deeds for the Yungdrung Bon.
On September 6, 2018, a formal grand enthronement ceremony took place at Menri. Thousands of devotees came to Menri Monastery to celebrate the new beginning and seek the blessings of His Holiness the 34th Menri Trizin Lungtok Dawa Dhargyal Rinpoche.
In October 2018, His Holiness the 34th Menri Trizin Lungtok Dawa Dhargyal Rinpoche visited Sikkim for the first time. In Sikkim, he visited Sog Yungdrung Ling Bon Monastery and Yungdrung Kundrak Ling Bon Monastery and bestowed initiations to the devotees of Bon community in Sikkim.
During his travels, he met with other important Buddhist lamas and leaders in India and Nepal, to discuss how best to preserve the teachings and benefit sentient beings. Returning to Menri, he has settled down in the monastery, where he is currently performing his daily practices and commitments, and working to maintain and protect the teachings.
Excerpts from a speech by His Holiness the 34th Menri Trizin Rinpoche:
“His Holiness the 33rd Menri Trizin Rinpoche has left great legacies and now it is our responsibility to keep it going. There is a long journey ahead. But the ultimate goal is to follow his footsteps and keep the Bon tradition alive for thousands of years to come for the benefit of all the sentient beings. And I know I have his blessings whenever I need.”
The process of Selecting the 34th Menri Trizin: Tagdril
In the Tibetan Bön tradition, the Menri Trizin is selected by the spiritual guardians of the tradition through a divination process. Following the passing of His Holiness the 33rd Menri Trizin, the transition was led by His Eminence Menri Ponlob Thinley Nyima Rinpoche who, in close contact with His Eminence Yongdzin Lopon Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche, consulted and discussed with major Bön lamas, tulkus, lineage holders, and leaders both inside and outside of Tibet. The names of candidates for the position were announced December 10, 2017. Candidates were Bön geshes (similar to a Ph.D.) from Menri Monastery in India and Triten Norbutse Monastery in Nepal who had studied and practiced Bön sutra, tantra and dzogchen for 15 years or more. Among the 100 eligible geshes, candidates who did not wish to participate could submit their application to resign from the process.
In a ceremony led by His Eminence Menri Lopon Trinley Nyima Rinpoche, on December 19 the names of the remaining 64 geshes were written on small pieces of paper and rolled up into small, ceremonial dough balls (pills) of equally weighted tsampa mixed with herbs. Two days later, the pills were put into two large bowls covered by cloths that were tied, sealed and locked the shrine. Monks and nuns made special prayers to Bön deities and protectors including the deity Sipe Gyalmo (Queen of the World) and Phurpa, special protector of His Holiness Menri Trizin.
The preliminary selection of the abbot took place on December 27. The bowls were carried from the Sipe Gyalmo Protector House to the main temple, where they were brought in front of the statue of Tonpa Shenrap (the Supreme Teacher and founder of the Bön tradition). At the completion of prayers and rituals, His Eminence shook the bowls and two pills emerged. The two pills were sealed and placed into the shrine for another five days of rituals.
On the morning of January 1, the final selection ceremony, using the same process, was held. His Eminence shook the bowl with the two final pills, and the pill containing Geshe Dawa Dargyal’s name was the first to appear.
Bönpos worldwide joined in celebrating the selection of the 34th Menri Trizin at Menri Monastery in February 2018. On September 6, 2018, a formal grand enthronement ceremony took place at Menri.