Bönzhik Khyungnak was born 7 years earlier than the first Karmapa, Dusum Kyenpa.
Bönzhik Khyungnak (bon zhig khyung nag), also known as Shengom Zhikpo (gshen sgom zhig po), was born in Nyangto (nyang stod) district, the son of Shen Yungdrung Khorlo (gshen g.yung drung 'khor lo) and Dreza Sogema (bre za bsod dge ma). He was recognized as a reincarnation of lama Loro Zhikpo (lo ro zhig po), also known as Loro Repa (lo ro ras pa) who was an acquaintance of his father. The identification marks him as perhaps the first tulku (sprul sku) in any Tibetan religious tradition, born as he was some seven years before the 1st Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa (dus gsum mkhyen pa, 1110-1193). At the time of his birth, the infant was blessed by Megom Zhikpo (mes sgom zhig po) who gave him the name Bönzhik Khyungnak, “The Bönpo Hermit, the Black Garuda.”
The young boy seems to have been endowed with incredible faculties and abilities as the tradition reports that he was able to read at the age of three without studying it previously. It is said that he also had numerous visions of Bön protectors such as Yeshe Welmo (ye shes dbal mo), the main Guardian of the Bön Dzogchen teachings, Trowo Wangchen (khro bo dbang chen) and Tsochok Khangying (gtso mchog mkha' 'gying). He studied extensively under the guidance of Megom Zhikpo before studying with Zhugom Trulzhik (zhu sgom 'khrul zhig). It is Zhugom who first introduced him to his own natural state and who gave him instructions on Dzogchen practice. Zhugom transmitted him a cycle entitled The Embodiment of All Jewels (rin chen kun 'dus) which appears to be no longer extant.
The 3rd master that Bönzhik met was Kunga Zhikpo (kun dga' zhig po) whom he encountered in 1123 in Nyangro (nyang ro) district. Kunga Zhikpo gave him instructions on the practice of Clear-Light ('od gsal) and taught him the main principles of the practice of Tögel (thod rgal).
Thereafter, Bönzhik did a solitary retreat and reached some signs of success in these practices. In particular, he gained mastery over his mind and inner winds (rlung), deepening his experience of Clear-Light.
4 years later, Bönzhik pursued his practice by doing a strict retreat on the two phases (bskyed rim and rdzogs rim) of higher tantras. It is said that during this special retreat he received initiations and instructions on the yoga of channels, winds and essences (rtsa rlung thig le) and bardo states from a black woman who appeared on the roof of his meditation house.
After this vision, his experiences improved and deepened to such an extent that he got rid of all defect in his meditation.
Having concluded his retreat, Bönzhik went to see the hermit Ramar Ritröpa (ra dmar ri khrod pa) from whom he received further teachings. Later, he came back to his master Megom Zhikpo who gave him initiation in the maṇḍala of the 64 Wrathful Kings (khro rgyal), and after that Bönzhik took up monk's vows.
That same year, Megom passed away at the age of 75. At that time, Bönzhik received the ultimate blessings of his master and remained absorbed in the experience of Clear-Light ('öd gsal) for an entire month. His practice greatly intensified and he reached a total mastery over his own primordial awareness (rig pa), as well as various spiritual signs of realization.
After some time, Bönzhik went to U-Tsang where he intended to spread Bön teachings and guide others on the path to liberation. Several auspicious signs are said to have occurred as he was travelling and he started to gather around him some followers from Kyisho (skyi shod). He intensified his practice and gained deeper experience in the principles of the natural state.
It is at that time that he met a woman called Jonyonma (“the crazy one”) Dokselma (jo smyon ma mDog gsal ba) who became his consort shortly thereafter.
Bönzhik started to preach intensively and to give numerous teachings. When he was in the region of Taklung (stag lung) monastery, it is said that his teachings aroused the jealousy of some Buddhist monks who tried to poison him; some even tried to murder him directly by stabbing. However, the later tradition states that Bönzhik remained temporarily unaffected and simply generated the wrathful pride of his protective deities, engaging in a spiritual dance which aroused faith in the people assembled for the occasion. It is also said that the poison given by the Buddhist monks started to affect him but a female deity appeared to him spontaneously and a gave him a special treatment to cure him totally. Thereafter, in order to avoid such situations again, he decided to dress in white robes and to wear a bow and arrows on his back.
After his stay in Taklung, Bönzhik decided to go back to Nyangto where, at Taktsel Dongon (stag mtshal rdo sngon), he met the man who would become his root teacher, Zhikpo Kunga (zhig po kun dga'). At their meeting Bönzhik made offerings to Zhikpo Kunga, prostrated and requested instructions.
Thereafter he proceeded towards Bodong Bonne (bo dong bon gnas) where he followed the teachings on logic of Tulku Shenwa (sprul sku gshen ba). Following this, Shengyi Dransong Zhonla (gshen gyi drang srong zhon bla) requested him to teach Bön in U again and Bönzhik proceeded towards the highlands of Nyima Jang (jyi ma byang).
While he was residing in the Tsingding (tsing lding) temple, it is said that new wonders happened, arising as incredible visionary manifestations. At dawn, the experience of Clear-Light ('od gsal) pervaded his mind and he saw the whole world and existence without any obstructions.
Later on, as Bönzhik was practicing in Sakar (sa dkar) monastery, it is reported that he had a vision of a black woman who handed him a skull filled with a strange boiling beverage. He then had a vision of the main Dzogchen protector, Yeshe Welmo, who transmitted him numerous instructions as well as prophecies for the future.
Bönzhik's practice then reached a peak during which he gained power over his own primordial awareness without ever regressing from this realization. The tradition states that he had visions of all the Dzogchen lineage holders, starting with Tseme Öden down to masters contemporaneous with him.
During one of these visions, the goddess Sipai Gyelmo appeared to him and urged him not to spread the teachings he had received in visionary oral transmissions – the Nyengyu Rigpa Chertong (snyan rgyud rig pa gcer mthong) – and not to write them down.
Later, Yeshe Welmo is said to have appeared to him and to have authorized him to transmit these teachings to a single suitable disciple after compiling them into written form for the benefit of future generations.
A few years later, in 1183, he passed away at the age of 81.
Discussion of the fifth religious tradition of Tibet.
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