Shenrab Miwo, the founder of Yungdrung Bon religion. He is respectly called “Tonpa”
Shenrab Miwo is also known as Tonpa Shenrab Miwo. “Tonpa” means “Founder”, and is a respectable name.
He was a religious reformer, he reformed the Primitive Bon religion into the Yungdrung Bon religion, and innovated many backward rituals, customs of the Primitive Bon religion, and created a more unified Bon worldview.
He also completed Bon deity system and characters at that time, and created the early “Five Science” system. The “Five Science” of Bon religion are: Gong Qiao Science (technology), Sound theory Science (linguistics), medicine Science, External Science(astronomy) and Internal Science (religious).
Shenrab Miwo – brief
“Zhang Zhung kingdom” originated in the Gangdise (Kailash) Mountains. Before the rise of the Tubo Dynasty, the “Zhang Zhung kingdom” was the most powerful ancient civilization across Central Asia and Tibet Plateau, which created the most glorious and prosperous ancient civilization on the snow-covered plateau, known as the “Ancient Zhang Zhung Civilization” in Tibet history.
It had a huge territory, starting from the west of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir (Gilgit-Baltistan), neighboring Congling (Pamirs Plateau) and Khotan to the north, including the entire Qiangtang uninhabited area in northern Tibet, and covering the present-day India-controlled Ladakh region, Kashmir and part of Nepal to the south, and extending east to Tengchen, Chamdo, Yushu of Amdo and Kham areas. With the rise of the Tubo dynasty and the Sumpa Kingdom, the territory of the Zhang Zhung Kingdom was greatly reduced, and it settled on the plateau in the northwest of Tibet until its demise in the 7th century;
There are different opinions about his birth year.
It is said that he was the first king to unify the entire Tibetan area and establish Zhang Zhung Kingdom, so that his life period was in the 6th century BC, roughly in the same period as Sakyamuni (Siddhattha Gotama)
There is also a point of view that Shenrab Miwo may be a prince of the Zhang Zhung Kingdom, about 200 years earlier than the 1st king of Tubo kingdom Nyatri Tsenpo in the 4th century BC.
The Bon believers believe that Shenrab Miwo was born in 16017 BC,
However, there is no historical record or unearthed cultural relic to prove the true date of birth and death of Shenrab Miwo by far
After the establishment of the Tubo Dynasty, the Tibetan King Songtsan Gampo introduced Buddhism into Tibet. In order to survive, the Bon religion introduced a large number of Buddhist teachings. The original Bon religious rituals, costumes, deities, offerings, works of art, symbolic and other aspects were imitated and modified to the Buddhist teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, gradually forming the current Bon system.
Since then, the Bon believers gave Shenrab Miwo the titles of “Buddha” and “Tathagata“, and even claimed that Shenrab Miwo was the teacher of Shakyamuni’s previous life.
The traditional view in academic believes that Shenrab Miwo reformed Bon religion and founded Yungdrung Bon religion, and was an important religious reformer and founder in Tibet history.
However, some scholars believe that Shenrab Miwo may be just a reformer or a concluder in the early historical stage of the Primitive Bon religion.
Shenrab Miwo — legend
According to the legends of Bon religion and the classics of Shenrab Miwo’s life, such as “Duo Dui”, “Semi”, “Glorious Sutra”, etc.
Shenrab Miwo was born in Omoron (Vol mo lung ring) near Mt Kailash, and he had spread Bon religion since he was a child
Record of his life
- At the age of 10, he taught Yinming and acoustics (translation, linguistics)
- At the age of 12, he taught astronomy, calendar calculation, the theory of yin and yang and the five elements,
- At the age of 14, he transformed all beings in the universe,
- Before the age of 15, He taught arithmetic and medical,
- At the age of 18, resisting the attack of the Million Demon Army,
- At the age of 20, he went to Central plain of Chinese to teach Yin and Yang and the Five Elements, to India to teach Benzology, to Yugu and Bolu (Patola Sahi) to teach Tantra
- At the age of 26, he started to teach Bon
- At the age of 31, he became a monk and succeeded in cultivating in Mount Kailash
- At the age of 35 to 45, he establish precepts of Bon
- At the age of 46 to 60, he lived alone in “Yungdrung Palace”,
- At the age of 82, “October 30, Year of the Rabbit” , he passed away
Relation With Chaba Rabren
The demon Chaba Rabren had been his enemy and opponent throughout his life. The relationship between them was very similar to the relationship between Sakyamuni and Devadatta.
People regard the existence of this demon Chaba Rabren as a good thing. Because it strengthened Shenrab Miwo’s determination to realize his determination.
In order to defeat the devil, Shenrab Miwo turned himself into a terrifying god, but the more ferocious and cruel he became, the less power he had.
It wasn’t until Shenrab Miwo retired to a cave that the demon Chaba Rabren stopped fighting with him.
Viewpoints of Tibetan Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism believes that the above viewpoints of Bon religion have obvious traces of imitating the life of Buddha Shakyamuni and tampering with the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. Therefore, the life of Shenrab Miwo recorded in the Bon religion is not credible
Yungdrung Bon – the reform
Primitive Bon religion worshiped all things in nature, and had the habit of killing cattle and sheep to sacrifice to deities, burning grains, Pine branches, worshipping gods, and using witchcraft spells.
Later, Shenrab Miwo set out to reform Primitive Bon religion, personified all things in nature, and explained the existence and change of things with the concept of animism.
He opposed the sacrifice of animal, and used animal offerings made of tsampa and ghee to replace the animals that were sacrificed in Bon religion and succeeded. This was the origin of Dorma (Torma）and Butter flower
Now, “Dorma” is widely used as offerings not only by Bon but also by Tibetan Buddhists.
Although the primitive Bon religion’s practice of killing sacrifices still exists in remote areas, Shenrab Miwo’s reforms have made a useful contribution to the elimination of a large number of bad practices of killing sacrifices in Tubo and the protection of animals.