About Us
about us, about us

About us

The Spiritual Tradition of Bon

The spiritual tradition of Bon dates back to at least eight thousand years ago to its founder Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche, in the land of Tagzik Olmo Lung Ring. This is the ancient land of the Zhang Zhung kingdom, in what is now Tazhikistan, Tibet and Nepal centered around Mount Kailash. Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche's teaching permeated the entire subcontinent, influencing the early development of the Vedic and Tibetan Buddhist religions. The Bon traditions were primarily passed down via unbroken family lineage for thousands of years.

The area of Nepal known as Mustang Valley near the village of Jomsom, provided one of the few accessible routes across the Himalayan range, between the Vedic culture of India and the Bon culture of Zhang Zhung to the north. Trade and travel by foot and animal continues to this day along the route. As a result, Mustang Valley became a region of co-existence, tolerance and sharing of mystical wisdom between the great spiritual traditions of Bon, Buddhism and Hinduism. Examples of this link are Mount Kailash, which the Bon consider the center of the world, and the spiritual power center of Muktinath which are both considered sacred by all three religions.

Many Bon realized yogis such as Drenpa Namkha, Yangton Tashi Gyaltsen, and others meditated and attained Buddhahood here in this valley. It is said that the great Hindu sage, Valmiki Rishi, wrote the great epic, “Ramayana”, here in the 5th to 4th century A.D. In the 8th century A.D., Mahayana Buddhist practices were brought from India to Tibet along this same route of the Mustang Valley with the visit of Shantarakshita, followed by Padmasambhava and his 25 disciples on their way from India to the land of Tibet. These sages all walked along this corridor along the Kali Gandaki River of the Mustang Valley. The Kali Gandaki or Krishna Gandaki River is one of the major rivers of Nepal and a source of the sacred Ganges River. This was the passageway from India into Tibet, with many pilgrimage sites at the locations of these sages’ realizations.

Bon and the Indo-Tibetan practices have co-existed and flourished in this area for more than a thousand years.

These important spiritual traditions have come under peril in the last half-century. Unless something is done to reverse these trends, the profound tradition of Bon, which has flourished as an unbroken spiritual lineage, passed down from heart to heart with each generation over thousands of years, will cease to exist as a living tradition within one or two generations in this region.

In the region of central Mustang, there currently isn’t a single working Tibetan Bon monastery left that’s fully functioning and vibrant. There is no functioning retreat center for Bon lamas and yogis to practice in the area where their lineage holders attained Buddhahood. Only Geshe Sonam’s Root Lama is left in the region with a meditation hermitage in the village of Lubrak and two other Bon Lamas who have had to leave the region to live and teach in India because there is insufficient financial support for them to remain in their homeland and sustain their religion and traditions locally. So, in just one or two more generations, all these practices are in peril of disappearing from their native land.



His Holiness Menri Trizin

His Holiness Lungtok Tenpai Nyima, the 33rd Menri Trizin, was the worldwide spiritual leader of the Bötradition and abbot of Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India. He died on September 14, 2017.

His father Jalo Jongdong took him to the nearby monastery of Phuntsog Dargye Ling, where he learned to read, write, and chant and where he began his lifelong study of the Bon religion. Devoting himself to spiritual practice and scholarship, he completed his Geshe degree in philosophy at 25 under the guidance of Lopon Tenzin Lodro Gyatso. The following year he traveled south to the Bon province of Gyalrong, where he printed copies of the Bon Kanjur from traditional woodblocks. After gathering a vast amount of material, and using mules to carry more than 100 volumes of the sacred texts, he made an arduous, six-month journey back to his monastery. At 27, he set out on foot as a pilgrim, initially to China, where he visited a number of holy sites, and then continued on, by truck, to Lhasa. For the next several years he studied in Tibet at the Bon monasteries of Menri, Khana, and Yungdrung Ling, where he became known as Sangye Tenzin Jongdong. 

In 1959, he fled Lhasa for Nepal and met the Abbot of Yungdrung Ling in the province of Dolpo, where the renowned teacher was living in exile. It was also in Dolpo, at Samling Monastery, that he first encountered Tibetan scholar Professor David Snellgrove of the University of London. In Dolpo, spurred by the urgent need to preserve Bon religion and culture, Sangye Tenzin collected many important Bon texts in both printed and woodblock form, which he subsequently took to India, once again using mules as the most available and reliable means of transport. In 1961, together with Samten Karmay and several other Bon monks, Sangye Tenzin made his way to New Delhi. There, with the encouragement and support of Tibetan specialist E. Gene Smith (then the South Asian representative of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.) he continued his lifelong commitment to copy, print, and preserve invaluable sacred Bon texts and literature. In 1962, with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation in New York, Sangye Tenzin Jongdong, Samten Karmay, and Tenzin Namdak taught Tibetan culture as assistants to Professor Snellgrove at the School of Oriental and African studies at the University of London where they also studied Western history and culture. While in England and during his travels in Europe, Sangye Tenzin stayed at a number of Christian monasteries. In 1964, he attended a private audience with Pope Paul VI in Rome.

In the mid-1960s, a permanent camp for Tibetan Bonpos was established at Dolanji, in India’s Himachal Pradesh, on land chosen by Lopon Tenzin Namdak and purchased by the Catholic Relief Services in New Delhi. In 1966, at the invitation of Tibetan scholar Per Kvaerne, Sangye Tenzin Jongdong was living in Norway and teaching Tibetan history and religion at the University of Oslo. It was then that he learned that he had been selected to succeed the 32nd Abbot Menri as spiritual leader of the Bon religion. In 1969, after extensive preparatory initiations, he assumed his duties as the 33rd Abbot of Menri and accepted the responsibility of leading the effort to reestablish at Dolanji the original Menri Monastery that has been founded in 1405 in the Tibetan province of Tsang and destroyed during Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. Since then, with insight, skill, and tireless commitment and with the generous assistance of many friends and supporters, H. H. Menri Trizin has focused his time and attention on creating in Dolanji a vibrantly authentic Bon monastery and a living center of Bon culture and tradition.


Geshe Sonam Gurung

Geshe Sonam Gurung, the subject of the film “From Mustang to Menri”, left his home in Mustang Valley at the age of nine to be trained as a monk at Menri Monastery based on the wishes of his root Lama, Yundrung Gyaltsen Rinpoche. Now, thirty years later, Geshe Sonam has returned back to his home in the region of Mustang. He is returning to rebuild Bon Culture in this great spiritual home of the world. This is the fruit of his root Lama’s wishes and the precious teachings he received from His Holiness Gyalwa Menri Trizin, the 33rd Abbot of Menri Bon Monastery and the spiritual head of the Tibetan Bon religion and his other teachers at Menri monastery.


Amchi (Dr.) Khedup Loden Gurung

Amchi (Dr.) Khedup Loden Gurung has been associated with MCECE for many years and has been collaborating with the Foundation on initiatives associated with the Chebumedical clinic in the Mustang Valley in Nepal. He is widely regarded as a highly accomplished doctor versed in Tibetan Bon Medicine. The purpose of the medical clinic is to provide communities in the Mustang Valley area with greater access to traditional Tibetan Bon medical practices. The Mustang Cultural and Educational Center MCEC currently has only one Bon doctor, Khedup Loden Gurung, offering medical treatments from a room that is adjacent to the MCEC children’s home in Jomson. The facilities are limited and demand from Mustang villages has been overwhelming with people traveling from far-away regions to receive treatment. Amchi Khedup Loden currently treats around 300 patients per month. The construction of a dedicated medical clinic at the Monastery will enable MCEC to vastly expand both the volume, variety, and quality of treatments.

Our Goal

His Holiness Menri Trizin and Geshe Sonam’s vision is to re-establish the vibrant Bonpo community that once flourished here in Mustang. Geshe Sonam has established the Mustang Cultural Education Center (MCEC) to make this vision a reality. The journey to realizing the fruit of this vision requires many steps. Bon culture and spiritual traditions must be re-built from the foundations, beginning with providing a cultural center for the community, then educating the children in their traditions, and finally creating the Bon religious and ritual support for Mustang Valley.





© 2013 mustang culture & education center (P) Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Terms & Conditions apply.