On January 1, 2018, four months following the death of His Holiness Menri Trizin 33rd Lungtok Tenpai Nyima, a Menri Geshe--Dawa Dargyal--was chosen to succeed him as the 34th Menri Trizin by means of a unique process. (Please enjoy the essay below by Samten Karmay, a leading scholar of Bon religion and philosophy, who generously offered to explain this historical selection process.) The Bon Foundation extends its congratulations to H.H. Menri Trizin 34th, Geshe Dawa Dargyal Rinpoche! Geshe Dawa was born in 1972 in Eastern Tibet’s Amdo Province and has been living and working for many years at Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India. An accomplished practitioner of Yungdrung Bon, he has worked closely and faithfully with H. H. Menri Trizin 33rd in the administrative oversight of Menri through the Yungdrung Bon Monastic Society. We are so happy to offer him our very best wishes and support.
Menri Monastery was founded in 1405 by Nyamme Sherab Gyaltsen (1356-1415) and located in the district of Thobgyal, east of Shigatse. However, the monastery was destroyed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. In 1970 Lungtok Tenpai Nyima, the 33rd Abbot, founded the new Menri Monastery in Dolanji, Himachal Pradesh, India.
The title Menri Trizin,“Holder of the Menri throne”, was used in India for the first time when Lungtok Tenpai Nyima was chosen to be the Abbot. Among the Tibetan religious schools, only the Bon have selected their abbots by lot, a unique traditional practice in Bon history.
The only qualification for a candidate is that he have a Geshe degree, an advanced education equivalent to a western Doctorate of Divinity, and that his education must have taken place in the monastery where he studied and from which he received the degree. Menri abbots have always been Menri Geshes. However, in 2017, in the case of the 34th Menri Trizin, it was agreed that candidates who had obtained their Geshe degrees from the Triten Norbutse Monastery in Nepal would be included. There is no limit to the number of qualified candidates whose names can be in the vases, nor is there any discussion of who is more likely to be the new abbot. In this selection process, the number of monks from both monasteries totaled sixty-four.
Traditionally, the name of each candidate is written on a small piece of paper and rolled into a pill-sized ball made of tsampa dough. These balls are dried in the sun and sealed in wax. They are put into a vase well-covered with silk cloth and kept on the altar of the Protector Deity Temple while the monks of the Monastery perform various rituals and say prayers lasting several weeks. During this time, the supervisor of the ritual repeatedly turns and shakes the vase to make sure the balls are well-mixed. At the end of the ritual on a designated date and in the presence of all monks and laity, the supervisor shakes the vase once more until one ball comes out. Before revealing the identity, he makes a speech to emphasize that the name contained in the ball was chosen by the protector deities. He then reads out the name.
However the process of choosing the 34th Menri Trizin, the rituals were slightly different. Two vases were shaken and one ball arose from each, and both were placed in one vase. On January 1, 2018, after five days of offerings and prayers over the names in the protectors' temple, the balls were taken to the main temple where monks and laity had gathered. It was then that one ball arose from the vase and Menri Lopon Thrinley Rinpoche announced the name of the chosen abbot: Drugdrug Dawa Dargyal. The chosen one is a Geshe from Sharkhog, a region of Amdo, northeastern Tibet. He was born in 1972 and he spent most of his life at Menri Monastery in India.