"Ponlob Rinpoche is one of the great living treasures of the Bon tradition. Ponlop is a great scholar of all aspects of his tradition. I think it would be very hard to find an element of the Bon tradition with which he is not thoroughly familiar. However, he is also a great practitioner as well. Most of what we know in the West of Bon's trulkhor tradition comes from his teachings. Everyone is amazed at his physical flexibility.
As an example of the breadth of his knowledge: while working on my translation of Shardza's Fireball of Primordial Wisdom after two years I still had about 25 questions regarding the text. These ranged from disambiguation of Zhang Zhung terms to deciphering obscure passages in the text. I had asked these questions numerous times of at least five different Geshes. These Geshes referred back to the root texts - e.g. the Ma Gyu etc and calls were made to Triten Norbutse monastery for clarification but still answers were not forthcoming. I despaired of ever getting clear on these topics. Then in one afternoon, without opening a single book, Ponlop Trinley Nyima was able to answer 20 of these questions. I was amazed!
Given Ponlop's vast knowledge of this tradition I think he often struggles at how to teach in our common weekend seminar format. I can only imagine what it would be like to be asked to teach Einstein's General Relativity to 10 year old students in a foreign language in a weekend. My perception of Ponlop was first transformed one evening when I happened to have a Gelugpa Lharampa Geshe visiting. This Geshe was the top Lharampa of his year scoring highest in the debates among the Geshes of all the major monasteries. In a friendly but earnest way the Geshe began to debate with Ponlop. I only followed about 25% of the debate but I was amazed at the breadth of Ponlop's learning. The Gelugpa Geshe would periodically say: "Whereas in the Gelugpa school ..." Whenever he did this Ponlop would reply: "yes, in the Gelugpa school they hold X. whereas in the Sakya they hold Y. In the Nyingma Z." In this way he would demonstrate his familiarity with not only the Bon school but the positions of all schools on key points.
We are extraordinarily fortunate to have someone like Ponlop Rinpoche continuing the tradition. I only hope we can begin to provide extended teachings opportunities for him in the West that will allow him to begin to share some of what he knows.
Ponlop Rinpoche's biography...
Menri Ponlob Rinpoche was born on the 12th day of the 1st Tibetan month of the year 1962 in the small Himalayan village of Tsakha in the Dolpo region of northwest Nepal. Many years ago, the Dolpo region was a part of the Zhang-Zhung kingdom. In the Dolpo region we can still find the culture and language of Zhang-Zhung.
There is a small Bonpo Monastery in his village called Tarzong Phuntsok Ling Bonpo Monastery. It was the only place where people can study traditional education as well as the Tibetan language. Yangton Lama is the abbot of Tarzong Phuntsok Ling Bonpo monastery. This monastery is one of the most precious and secret monasteries for the lineage of Yangton lamas.
Ponlob Rinpoche is a member of the famous lineage of Yangton lamas. The Yangton lineage goes back to the time of Buddha Tonpa Shenrab over 18,000 years ago. Yangton lamas were the priests for the ancient kings of Tibet. Yang n’gal Tsec Cho was the priest for Nyatri Tsenpo, the 1st king of Tibet. The Yangton Lama Yang n’gal, who was the priest of the Tibetan King Pude Gungyal, established the first Yangton Monastery at Bonri in the Kongpo region of Tibet.
The Yangton lineage originated after the great practitioner Yangton Sherab Gyaltsen became famous for the perfection of his understanding and excellence in Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen Teachings. Through his studies he compiled the essence of Dzogchen teaching and created the first written manuscript of the Dzogchen Experiential Transmission (Nyam-Gyud) teaching. In 1107 AD he became the single Transmission holder of Dzogchen teaching.
At the age of 13 and on the advice from his uncle Yangton Lama Nyima Tseten, Ponlob Rinpoche went into a series of 3 months retreats during 1975, 1976 and 1977. During this time he focused on the practices for the the outer, inner and secret Deities of Bon. During these retreats Rinpoche completed the foundation practices of Dzogchen by accumulating nine hundred thousand preliminary practices. He also received various Transmissions and Empowerments of Dzogchen teachings from a variety of different masters.
In 1979, Ponlob Rinpoche’s brother [actually his cousin – KK], Lama Tashi, brought Rinpoche to Menri Monastery in India. Menri monastery is the main Bonpo monastery for Tibet as well as for the exile community of India. Rinpoche was ordained by H.H. the 33rd Menri Trizin and H.E. Yongzin Rinpoche. His studies focused on Sutra, Tanta and Dzogchen as well as Ritual, Grammar, Poetry, Astrology, Divination, Medicine, Thanka painting, Mandalas and Stupas. Ponlob obtained his Geshe Degree (Doctorate) from the Bon Dialectic School in 1989. Soon after completing his Geshe Degree, Rinpoche was unanimously appointed Principle Instructor of the Bon Dialectic School by H.H. the 33rd Mentri Trizin and H.E. Yongzin Rinpoche. Again in 1992, His Holiness and Yongzin Rinpoche further honored Ponlob Rinpoche by giving him the title of Ponlob. It is the second most revered position in Menri Monastery.
Ponlob Rinpoche continues to teach at the Bon Dialectic School where is he responsible for the training of the students. He occasionally visits the Dolpo region of Nepal to give the Transmission of Preliminary practice and teach other aspects of the Bon Religion to thousands of lay people, monks and Tantric practitioners. Ponlob regularly visits the United States and Europe where he enjoys teaching the elements of Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen to western practitioners."
John Hopkins....Northern New Mexico