Triten Norbutse Monastery

The first Triten Norbutse Monastery was founded in Tibet in the 14th century by the great Bönpo Master Shen Nyima Gyaltsen (born A.D.1360), a descendant of the Shen lineage, which is also the lineage of Buddha Tonpa Shenrab, the founder of the Bön religion.

Triten Norbutse was one of the four main Bönpo monastic institutions in Tibet that provided the entire Bön cultural and religious education from that period on until the Chinese occupation. The academic and cultural heritage of this monastery was very rich. The monastery was highly valued by all the Bönpo communities in Tibet. It was later destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.

The Triten Norbutse Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal was founded by H.E. Yongdzin Lopon Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche in 1987. Located on a hill facing the great Stupa of Swayambhu in Nepal, it was said to have been miraculously blessed by the Buddha-Tönpa Shenrab.

The monastery was established with the following intentions:

  1. To provide a complete Bön education and practice program to the younger generation of Bönpo people in the Himalayan borderlands, such as Dolpa and Mustang, and to Tibetan refugees. Even though there have been many Bönpo Monasteries in Dolpo, Mustang, and other districts of Nepal for many centuries, nowadays none of them is able to offer the opportunity to complete the full Bönpo study program.
  2. To offer the full opportunity to study and practice the tradition of Bön to students, scholars, and practitioners from other parts of the world.
  3. To preserve and restore the Bön cultural and religious heritage.
  4. To serve as a center for the social and religious life of the Bönpo communities.

The Students

At present, there are over two hundred monks Triten Norbutse Monastery, including Nepalese and Tibetan refugees. The monks, as part of this community, receive all they need from the monastery free of charge. This includes basic needs such as food, clothes and books and study materials and their health care needs.

From time to time the monastery also hosts students, practitioners, and scholars from western countries.

Education Program

The main education program is in two sections:

  1. An academic program leading to the Geshe degree provides the complete curriculum of Bön philosophy from its major canonical texts and general Bön educational sciences and arts, i.e. astrology, poetry, medicine and Tibetan grammar etc. There are also the courses on studies of religious rituals, arts, and music. Having successfully completed this course of studies, the Geshe degree, which is the highest Bön religious academic rank that corresponds to the European doctor of theology, will be obtained. Students in this program mainly concentrate on scholarly studies, that after completing them, they will apply this knowledge to their spiritual practice.
  2. The Meditation Training Program specializes in Dzogchen, which means “Great Perfection”, and it is a system of meditation on the Nature of Mind. It provides the entire teachings on the four major Bön Dzogchen texts to acquire a deep understanding and experience of meditation.

Achievement to date of the three main objectives

  • Study Program
  1. Until now, the year of 2018, eighty-seven of our students passed their geshe examination under the observation of the H.H. Menri Tridzin Rinpoche, the spiritual head of Bön religion and various important Bönpo masters and teachers. They are now giving teachings to other monks, as well as taking part in different monastic and social activities for the benefit of humanity and the tradition within many different parts of the world.
  2. Forty students of the meditation training class have also completed their course of studies so that we now have a group of serious and experienced practitioners to perform rituals, and to guide and practice meditation.
  3. In 1990, a traditional herbal medical school was started in a remote area of West Nepal under the guidance of this monastery. It has been of great benefit for the local people and for the students. Twenty-five students, including seven girls, were awarded their Traditional Herbal Medical Doctor degree.
  • Preservation work
  1. A new library, which allows easy and free access to Tibetan and Himalayan studies not only for monks-students in the monastery but also for anybody interested in this field, has been established. The library contains the complete Bönpo canonical texts and many collections of other Buddhist texts. There are also works from philosophical systems of other eastern and western traditions in various western languages.
  2. With the objective of saving precious and rare texts for publication in different forms, such as CDs, books, and tapes etc., we are computerizing the rare Bönpo texts and recording important teachings as well as ritual chants. We are also building a photographic archive.
  3. Publication of a yearly magazine containing articles and essays related to this tradition. We have also published several important works on various subjects related to Bön studies in collaboration with other academic institutions of eastern and western countries such as National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka.
  4. A research project on the effects of one of the many Bönpo meditation techniques has been carried out with some of our practitioners under scientific observation by leading American scientists.
  • Social Services
As a consequence of all these activities, the monastery has assumed a place of considerable importance in its community. In Tibetan and Himalayan society, a monastery serves as a center for the social life of the community in many ways: it is the meeting point on festive occasions, people come here with physical and mental problems to find help and guidance, there are public prayers and meditations for peace and prosperity in the country and the world, sacred medicine is collected and consecrated, public lectures are given to reinforce faith in the peace and harmony in community, rites for the welfare of the deceased and of the living beings are performed, and the monastery is one example of a favorable environment with positive influence on its surroundings.

Current activities and projected plans for the future

The monastery continues within the two sectors of the original education program as its main activities, with further progress in the following areas:

  • The ongoing preservation and digitization of ancient texts and art archives in the form of publicly available collections.
  • With the aim of improving the education of lay practitioners in Dolpo and Mustang, the establishment of a new and innovative school curriculum based on the traditional monastic program, yet implementing modern educational methods. Participation to be open to all lay practitioners regardless of their gender or social status.
  • With the intention to bridge traditional and modern medical practices in the treatment of illness and disease, the development of a center for traditional Himalayan/Tibetan Medical practice, where both patients and scholars can come and benefit.