Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche

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Tonpa Shenrab Tonpa Shenrab.jpg
Tonpa Shenrab
Tonpa Shenrab life story, 19th-century painting, Rubin Museum of Art Tonpa Shenrab - Life Story 19th century, Collection of Rubin Museum of Art..jpg
Tonpa Shenrab life story, 19th-century painting, Rubin Museum of Art
Tonpa Shenrab life story, 19th-century painting, Rubin Museum of Art Tonpa Shenrab - Life Story 19th century Collection of Rubin Museum of Art.jpg
Tonpa Shenrab life story, 19th-century painting, Rubin Museum of Art
Olmo Lung Ring, homeland of Tonpa Shenrab Miwo, 19th-century painting, Rubin Museum of Art Homeland of Tonpa Shenrab Miwo Olmo Lungring. Tibet, 19th century, Rubin Museum of Art.jpg
Olmo Lung Ring, homeland of Tonpa Shenrab Miwo, 19th-century painting, Rubin Museum of Art

Tonpa Shenrab (Tibetan : སྟོན་པ་གཤེན་རབ་མི་བོ་།, Wylie : ston pa gshen rab་ mi bo "Teacher Shenrab") or Shenrab Miwo (Wylie : gshen rab mi bo)—also called the Buddha Shenrab, Guru Shenrab and a number of other titles—is the legendary founder of the Bon tradition of Tibet.


[Shenrab Miwo] occupies a position very similar to that of Śākyamuni in Buddhism, but... we have no available [or pre-10th century] sources with which to establish his historicity, his dates, his racial origin, his activities, and the authenticity of the enormous number of books either attributed directly to him or believed to be his word." [1]

The story of Tonpa Shenrab was revealed in a fourteenth century terma of Loden Nyingpo. [2]


The name Shenrab Miwo is in the Zhang-Zhung language, which is a relative of Old Tibetan; while many suggestions have been put forward as to its meaning, it appears to be the Zhangzhung word "bodhisattva" (equivalent to Tibetan shégya sempa, Wylie : shes rgya sems dpa'). [3]

Shenrab's life according to Bon traditions

According to Bon doctrine, Tonpa Shenrab and lived 18,000 years ago, predating Gautama Buddha. [4] Practitioners of Bon believe that he first studied the Bon doctrine in Tagzig Olmo Lung Ring, at the end of which he pledged to Shenlha Okar, the god of compassion, that he would guide the peoples of this world to liberation.

Like Gautama, Tönpa Shenrab was of royal birth. Tonpa Shenrab renounced his royal inheritance at the age of thirty-one to travel the path to enlightenment. Tonpa Shenrab embraced the life of a renunciate and commenced austerities, spreading the doctrine of Bon; at length, he arrived in the land of Zhangzhung near what is widely held to be Mount Kailash.

Accounts of Tonpa Shenrab's life are to be found in three principal sources, the Dodü (Wylie : mdo 'dus), Zermik (Wylie : gzer mig), and Ziji (Wylie : gzi brjid). The first and second of the accounts are held to be terma discovered by tertön in the 10th or 11th century; the third is part of the oral lineage (Wylie : snyan brgyud) transmitted from teacher to disciple.

Aspects of Shenrab Miwoche

Shenrab Miwoche is said to have three aspects or forms:


  1. Karmey, Samten G. (1975). A General Introduction to the History and Doctrines of Bon, pp. 175-176. Memoirs of the Research Department of the Toyo Bunko, No. 33. Tokyo.
  2. Schaik, Sam van. Tibet: A History. Yale University Press 2011, page 99-100.
  3. Hummel, Sigbert (1992). "gShen". Bulletin of Tibetology. Gangtok, Sikkim, India: Namgyal Institute of Tibetology. 28 (3): 5–8.
  4. "Yungdrung Bön". Yeru Bön Center. Retrieved 2019-03-25. The founder of Bön is Tonpa Shenrab Miwo, who, according to Bön tradition, first brought the Bön teachings to what is now Western Tibet 18,000 years ago.
  5. The Tibetan for dharmakaya is chos sku in the Buddhist context; though a case can be made that Bon borrowed some, or even much, of its current terminology from Buddhism, to suggest that Sanskrit words are thus the "source" of this terminology is dubious.

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