The Info List - Bon

Bon, also spelled Bön[2] (Tibetan: བོན་, Wylie: bon, Lhasa dialect IPA: pʰø̃̀), is a Tibetan religion, which self-identifies as distinct from Tibetan Buddhism, although it shares the same overall teachings and terminology. It arose in the eleventh century[3] and established its scriptures mainly from termas and visions by tertöns such as Loden Nyingpo.[4] Though Bon
terma contain myths of Bon
existing before the introduction of Buddhism
in Tibet, "in truth the 'old religion' was a new religion."[4]


1 Definitions of Bon 2 History

2.1 Foundation 2.2 “A Cavern of Treasures” (mdzod phug) 2.3 18th century 2.4 19th century

3 Geography 4 Gods 5 Present situation 6 Recognition 7 See also 8 Footnotes 9 References 10 Further reading 11 External links

Definitions of Bon[edit] As Bon
only arose in the eleventh century through the work of tertons, Sam van Schaik states it is improper to refer to the pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet
as Bon:

Though some people call the old pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet ‘Bon’, it is unlikely that before Buddhism
the Tibetans had a clear sense of practising a religion as such, or a specific name for these practices. In fact, the Bonpo religion only started to take shape alongside the revival of Buddhism
in the eleventh century. And when the scriptures of the Bonpo started to appear in Tibet, it was mainly through the work of tertons.[4]

History[edit] Foundation[edit] Three Bon
scriptures—mdo 'dus, gzer mig, and gzi brjid—relate the mythos of Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche. The Bonpos regard the first two as gter ma rediscovered around the tenth and eleventh centuries and the last as nyan brgyud (oral transmission) dictated by Loden Nyingpo, who lived in the fourteenth century.[5] In the fourteenth century, Loden Nyingpo revealed a terma known as The Brilliance (Wylie: gzi brjid), which contained the story of Tonpa Shenrab. He was not the first Bonpo tertön, but his terma became one of the definitive scriptures of Bon religion.[4] It states that Shenrab established the Bon
religion while searching for a horse stolen by a demon. Tradition also tells that he was born in the land of Tagzig Olmo Lung Ring
Tagzig Olmo Lung Ring
(considered[by whom?] an axis mundi) which is traditionally identified as Mount Yung-drung Gu-tzeg (“Edifice of Nine Sauwastikas”), possibly Mount Kailash, in western Tibet. Due to the sacredness of Tagzig Olmo Lungting and Mount Kailash, the Bonpo regard both the swastika and the number nine as auspicious and as of great significance. Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche
Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche
visited Kongpo and found people whose practice involved spiritual appeasement with animal sacrifice. He taught them to substitute offerings with symbolic animal forms made from barley flour. He only taught according to the student's capability with lower shamanic vehicles to prepare; until with prayer, diligence, devotion and application they could incarnate to achieve sutra, tantra and Dzogchen.[6] Bon
teachings feature Nine Vehicles, which are pathway-teaching categories with distinct characteristics, views, practices and results. Medicine, astrology, and divination are in the lower vehicles; then sutra and tantra, with Dzogchen
great perfection being the highest. Traditionally, the Nine Vehicles are taught in three versions: as Central, Northern and Southern treasures. The Central treasure is closest to Nyingma
Nine Yānas teaching and the Northern treasure is lost. Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche elaborated the Southern treasure with shamanism.[6] “A Cavern of Treasures” (mdzod phug)[edit] “A Cavern of Treasures” (Tibetan: མཛོད་ཕུག, Wylie: mdzod phug) is a Bon
terma uncovered by Shenchen Luga (Tibetan: གཤེན་ཆེན་ཀླུ་དགའ, Wylie: gshen chen klu dga') in the early 11th century.[7] Martin[8] identifies the importance of this scripture for studies of the Zhang-Zhung language:

For students of Tibetan culture in general, the mDzod phug is one of the most intriguing of all Bon
scriptures, since it is the only lengthy bilingual work in Zhang-zhung and Tibetan. (Some of the shorter but still significant sources for Zhang-zhung are signalled in Orofino 1990.)[9]

18th century[edit] The Dzungar people
Dzungar people
invaded Tibet
in 1717 and deposed a pretender to the position of Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama
who had been promoted by Lhabzang, the titular King of Tibet. This was met with widespread approval. However, they soon began to loot the holy places of Lhasa, which brought a swift response from the Kangxi Emperor
Kangxi Emperor
in 1718, but his military expedition was annihilated by the Dzungars not far from Lhasa.[10][11] Many Nyingmapas and Bonpos were executed and Tibetans visiting Dzungar officials were forced to stick their tongues out so the Dzungars could tell if the person recited constant mantras, which was said to make the tongue black or brown. This allowed them to pick the Nyingmapas and Bonpos, who recited many magic-mantras.[12] A habit of sticking one's tongue out as a mark of respect on greeting someone has remained a Tibetan custom into modern times.[citation needed] 19th century[edit] In the 19th century, Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, a Bon
master whose collected writings comprise eighteen volumes significantly rejuvenated the tradition. His disciple Kagya Khyungtrul Jigmey Namkha
trained many practitioners to be learned in not only the Bon
religion, but in all Tibetan schools. According to the Bonpo, eighteen enlightened entities will manifest in this aeon and Tönpa Shenrab Miwoche, the founder of Bon, is considered the enlightened Buddha of this age (compare yuga and kalpa). The 33rd lineage holder of Menri Monastery, Menri Trizin Lungtog Tenpei Nyima and Lopön Tenzin Namdak
Lopön Tenzin Namdak
are important current lineage holders of Bon. More than three hundred Bon
monasteries had been established in Tibet prior to Chinese annexation. Of these, Menri Monastery
Menri Monastery
and Shurishing Yungdrung Dungdrakling Monastery were the two principal monastic universities for the study and practice of Bon
knowledge and science-arts. Geography[edit]

The Bon
monastery of Nangzhik Gompa
Nangzhik Gompa
at Ngawa Town, in Sichuan.

Ethnic Tibet
is not confined culturally to China's Tibet
Autonomous Region. The broader area of ethnic Tibet
also includes, to the east and north, parts of the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan
and the southern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region; to the southwest, the Indian territories of Ladakh, Lahaul and Spiti and the Baltistan
region of Pakistan; the extreme northwest of Assam; and to the south, Bhutan, Sikkim, and parts of northern Nepal, such as Mustang and Dolpo, the regions in northeastern Nepal
inhabited by Sherpa and Tamang peoples, and extreme northern Burma (Myanmar). Even parts of modern Bangladesh were once a part of this "Greater Tibet." Gods[edit] Bonpos cultivate household gods in addition to other deities:

Traditionally in Tibet
divine presences or deities would be incorporated into the very construction of the house making it in effect a castle (dzongka) against the malevolent forces outside it. The average Tibetan house would have a number of houses or seats (poe-khang) for the male god (pho-lha) that protects the house. Everyday [sic] the man of the house would invoke this god and burn juniper wood and leaves to placate him. In addition the woman of the house would also have a protecting deity (phuk-lha) whose seat could be found within the kitchen usually at the top of the pole that supported the roof.[13]

Another set of deities are the White Old Man, a sky god, and his consort. They are known by a few different names, such as the Gyalpo Pehar called “King Pehar” (Wylie: pe har rgyal po). Pehar is featured as a protecting deity of Zhangzhung, the center of the Bon religion. Reportedly, Pehar is related to celestial heavens and the sky in general. In early Buddhist times, Pehar transmogrified into a shamanic bird to adapt to the bird motifs of shamanism. Pehar’s consort is a female deity known by one of her names as Düza Minkar (Wylie: bdud gza smin dkar, Stein1954 in Hummel 1962).

Lopön Tenzin Namdak, abbot of a Bon
monastery in Nepal

Present situation[edit] According to a recent Chinese census[when?], an estimated 10 percent of Tibetans follow Bon. When Tibet
was annexed into the People's Republic of China, there were approximately 300 Bon
monasteries in Tibet
and the rest of western China. According to a recent[when?] survey, there are 264 active Bon
monasteries, convents, and hermitages. The present spiritual head of the Bon
is Lungtok Tenpa'i Nyima (1929–2017), the thirty-third Abbot
of Menri Monastery
Menri Monastery
(destroyed in the Cultural Revolution, but now rebuilt), who now presides over Pal Shen-ten Menri Ling in Dolanji
in Himachal Pradesh, India, for the abbacy of which monastery he was selected in 1969. A number of Bon
establishments also exist in Nepal; Triten Norbutse Bonpo Monastery is one on the western outskirts of Kathmandu. Bon's leading monastery is the refounded Menri Monastery
Menri Monastery
in Dolanji, Himachal Pradesh, India. Many Bon
elements are in the Hangui (韩规) religion of the Pumi people.[14] Recognition[edit] Lobsang Yeshe, recognized as the 5th Panchen Lama
Panchen Lama
by the 5th Dalai Lama, was a member of the Dru family, an important family of the Bon religion. Under Lozang Gyatso, Bon
became respected both philosophically and politically.[15] However, the Bonpo remained stigmatized and marginalized until 1977, when they sent representatives to Dharamshala
and the 14th Dalai Lama, who advised the Parliament of the Central Tibetan Administration
Parliament of the Central Tibetan Administration
to accept Bon members. Since then, Bon
has had official recognition of its status as a religious group, with the same rights as the Buddhist schools. This was re-stated in 1987 by the Dalai Lama, who also forbade discrimination against the Bonpos, stating that it was both undemocratic and self-defeating. He even donned Bon
ritual paraphernalia, emphasizing "the religious equality of the Bon faith".[16] However, Tibetans still differentiate between Bon
and Buddhism, referring to members of the Nyingma, Shakya, Kagyu
and Gelug
schools as nangpa, meaning "insiders", but to practitioners of Bon
as "Bonpo", or even chipa ("outsiders").[17][18] See also[edit]

in Bhutan Dongba Gurung Dharma Namkha Phurba Samye Tapihritsa


^ William M. Johnston (2000). Encyclopedia of Monasticism. Taylor & Francis. pp. 169–171. ISBN 978-1-57958-090-2.  ^ Keown, Damien (2003). Oxford Dictionary of Buddhism. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-860560-9.  ^ Sam van Schaik describes "In fact, the Bonpo religion only started to take shape alongside the revival of Buddhism
in the eleventh century." - Tibet: A History. Yale University Press 2011, p. 99. ^ a b c d Van Schaik, Sam. Tibet: A History. Yale University Press 2011, pages 99-100. ^ Karmey, Samten G. A General Introduction to the History and Doctrines of Bon, The Arrow and the Spindle. Kathmandu: Mandala Book Point. pp. 108–113. [originally published in Memoirs of the Research Department of the Toyo Bunko, No. 33. Tokyo, 1975.] ^ a b Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, Healing with Form, Energy, and Light. Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications, 2002. ISBN 1-55939-176-6, pp. xx ^ Berzin, Alexander (2005). The Four Immeasurable Attitudes in Hinayana, Mahayana, and Bon. studybuddhism.com. Retrieved June 6, 2016.  ^ n.d.: p.21 ^ Martin, Dan (n.d.). "Comparing Treasuries: Mental states and other mdzod phug lists and passages with parallels in Abhidharma works of Vasubandhu and Asanga, or in Prajnaparamita Sutras: A progress report" (PDF). University of Jerusalem. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 28, 2011. Retrieved March 1, 2010.  ^ Richardson, Hugh E. (1984). Tibet
and its History. Second Edition, Revised and Updated, pp. 48–9. Shambhala. Boston & London. ISBN 0-87773-376-7 (pbk) ^ Stein, R. A. Tibetan Civilization. (1972), p. 85. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-0806-1 (cloth); ISBN 0-8047-0901-7.(paper) ^ Norbu, Namkhai. (1980). “ Bon
and Bonpos”. Tibetan Review, December, 1980, p. 8. ^ " Tibetan Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism
– Unit One" (PDF). Sharpham Trust. p. 5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 13 July 2011. Everyday [sic] the man of the house would invoke this god and burn juniper wood and leaves to placate him.  ^ "普米韩规古籍调研报告". Pumichina.com. Archived from the original on 2012-09-14. Retrieved 2013-06-14.  ^ Karmay, Samten G. (2005), "The Great Fifth" (PDF), International Institute for Asian Studies Newsletter (39), pp. 12–13  ^ Kværne, Per and Rinzin Thargyal. (1993). Bon, Buddhism
and Democracy: The Building of a Tibetan National Identity, pp. 45–46. Nordic Institute of Asian Studies. ISBN 978-87-87062-25-1. ^ " Bon
Children's Home In Dolanji
and Polish Aid Foundation For Children of Tibet". Nyatri.org.  ^ "About the Bon: Bon
Culture". Bonfuturefund.org. Archived from the original on 2013-09-06. Retrieved 2013-06-14. 


Karmey, Samten G. (1975). A General Introduction to the History and Doctrines of Bon. Memoirs of the Research Department of the Toyo Bunko, No. 33, pp. 171–218. Tokyo.

Further reading[edit]

Allen, Charles. (1999). The Search for Shangri-La: A Journey into Tibetan History. Little, Brown and Company. Reprint: Abacus, London. 2000. ISBN 0-349-11142-1. Baumer, Christopher. Bon: Tibet’s Ancient Religion. Ilford: Wisdom, 2002. ISBN 978-974-524-011-7. Bellezza, John Vincent. Spirit Mediums, Sacred Mountains and Related Bön Textual Traditions in Upper Tibet. Boston: Brill, 2005. Bellezza, John Vincent. “gShen-rab Myi-bo, His life and times according to Tibet’s earliest literary sources”, Revue d’études tibétaines 19 (October 2010): 31–118. Ermakov, Dmitry. Bѳ and Bön: Ancient Shamanic Traditions of Siberia and Tibet
in their Relation to the Teachings of a Central Asian Buddha. Kathmandu: Vajra Publications, 2008. Günther, Herbert V. (1996). The Teachings of Padmasambhava. Leiden–Boston: Brill. Gyaltsen, Shardza Tashi. Heart drops of Dharmakaya: Dzogchen
practice of the Bon
tradition, 2nd edn. Trans. by Lonpon Tenzin Namdak. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2002. Hummel, Siegbert. “PE-HAR.” East and West 13, no. 4 (1962): 313–6. Jinpa, Gelek, Charles Ramble, & V. Carroll Dunham. Sacred Landscape and Pilgrimage in Tibet: in Search of the Lost Kingdom of Bon. New York–London: Abbeville, 2005. ISBN 0-7892-0856-3 Kind, Marietta. The Bon
Landscape of Dolpo. Pilgrimages, Monasteries, Biographies and the Emergence of Bon. Berne, 2012, ISBN 978-3-0343-0690-4. Lhagyal, Dondrup, et al. A Survey of Bonpo Monasteries and Temples in Tibet
and the Himalaya. Osaka 2003, ISBN 4901906100. Martin, Dean. “'Ol-mo-lung-ring, the Original Holy Place”, Sacred Spaces and Powerful Places In Tibetan Culture: A Collection of Essays, ed. Toni Huber. Dharamsala, H.P., India: The Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1999, pp. 125–153. ISBN 81-86470-22-0. Namdak, Yondzin Lopön Tenzin. Masters of the Zhang Zhung Nyengyud: Pith Instructions from the Experiential Transmission of Bönpo Dzogchen, trans. & ed. C. Ermakova & D. Ermakov. New Delhi: Heritage Publishers, 2010. Norbu, Namkhai. 1995. Drung, Deu and Bön: Narrations, Symbolic languages and the Bön tradition in ancient Tibet. Translated from Tibetan into Italian edited and annotated by Adriano Clemente. Translated from Italian into English by Andrew Lukianowicz. Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala, H.P., India. ISBN 81-85102-93-7. Pegg, Carole (2006). Inner Asia Religious Contexts: Folk-religious Practices, Shamanism, Tantric Buddhist Practices. Oxford University Press. Peters, Larry. Tibetan Shamanism: Ecstasy and Healing. Berkeley, Cal.: North Atlantic Books, 2016. Rossi, D. (1999). The philosophical view of the great perfection in the Tibetan Bon
religion. Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion. The book gives translations of Bon
scriptures "The Twelve Little Tantras" and "The View Which is Like the Lion's Roar". Samuel, Geoffrey (1993). Civilised Shamans. Smithsonian Institution Press. https://web.archive.org/web/20070928062536/http://www.sharpham-trust.org/centre/Tibetan_unit_01.pdf (accessed: Thursday January 18, 2007) Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (2002). Healing with Form, Energy, and Light. Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-176-6 Yongdzin Lopön Tenzin Namdak
Lopön Tenzin Namdak
Rinpoche (2012). Heart Essence of the Khandro. Heritage Publishers.

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