Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche

The original religion of Tibet is Bön, an ancient shamanic tradition. Bön later developed into Yungdrung Bön (Swastika Bön). According to the legend of the Tibetan people the history of Yungdrung Bön in its present form starts with the birth of Tonpa Shenrab Miwo in 16,017 BCE. Shenrab Miwo had already realized complete Buddhahood in the heavenly realm of Sidpa Yesang but out of compassion he decided to incarnate among humans in order to save them and other beings from the suffering of samsara. He took birth in the Barpo Sogyad palace situated south of the central mountain Yungdrung Gutseg in the country of Olmo Lungring, the inner spiritual region of Tagzig in Central Asia. He was born into the royal clan of Mushen which descended from the Mu sky-gods. His father was the king Mibön Lhabön Gyalbön Thökar and his mother was the queen Michyi Lhachyi Yochyi Gyalzhedma. According to traditional Bönpo accounts, his life is measured in Shen years where one Shen year is equivalent to one hundred human years.

Painting of Tonpa Shenrab, origin unknown

In the course of his 81 years of on earth, Tonpa Shenrab performed Twelve Great Deeds of a Buddha before manifesting Parinirvana in 7818 BCE.
The Twelve Deeds are:
1. Taking birth
2. Spreading the teachings of Yungdrung Bön
3. Subduing and converting beings
4. Rescuing beings from the lower realms
5. Marrying
6. Manifesting progeny
7. Vanquishing the Demon Prince
8. Victory over demons
9. Renouncing the world
10. Entering into solitude
11. Gaining liberation
12. Attaining the final realization

While on this earth, Shenrab Miwo taught many different classes of beings, giving teachings suited to their various capacities. He taught beings how to calm their immediate sufferings and obtain provisional benefits through the methods of Causal Bon as well as showing the way to ultimate realization through the methods of Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen.

There is a story from Shenrab Miwo as a Yogi in one of his past lives, when he realized ultimate generosity:

One winter’s day a pack of wolves was stalking a deer which collapsed in exhaustion in front of the yogi’s dwelling. The wolves were howling and circling nearby but sensing the presence of a human they didn’t come close to slaughter their prey. The yogi clearly saw that both the deer and the wolves were suffering, the deer from fear and exhaustion, the wolves from hunger. He also saw clearly that he would have to die some day and be reborn again. He concluded that the time had come for him to actually give up his own body in order to benefit others and with this in mind he went out of his retreat-hut, walked towards the wolves, undressed and lay down so that they could come and eat his body. He even cut himself and bled to make it easier for them. In this way he saved the deer, satisfied the hungry wolves and for himself realized ultimate generosity.
(Quoted from Bö & Bön, Ermakov, 2008)

Yungdrung Bön is still practiced today by various Tibetan masters.