Bon, also spelled Bön (Tibetan: བོན་, Wylie: bon, Lhasa dialect: [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 and established its scriptures mainly from termas and visions by tertöns such as Loden Nyingpo. Though Bon terma contain myths of Bon existing before the introduction of Buddhism in Tibet, "in truth the 'old religion' was a new religion."
Gods and spiritsEdit
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 (dzong) 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.
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).
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. 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. 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 (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 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.
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.
“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. Martin 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.)
The Dzungar people invaded Tibet in 1717 and deposed a pretender to the position of 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 in 1718, but his military expedition was annihilated by the Dzungars not far from Lhasa.
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. A habit of sticking one's tongue out as a mark of respect on greeting someone has remained a Tibetan custom into modern times.
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 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 and Shurishing Yungdrung Dungdrakling Monastery were the two principal monastic universities for the study and practice of Bon knowledge and science-arts.
Definitions of BonEdit
The Bon religion can be classified in two stages:
- The native Bon or "black Bon" (also "Spirit Bon")
- The Yungdrung Bon or "new Bon"
The first and original stage of Bon relied on magical and shamanistic rituals and was thus named as "black Bon". Black Bon shares many similarities with traditional Chinese folk religions, but also with Mongolian shamanism and other religions like Shinto or Muism.
The second stage is the rediscovered Bon, that has absorbed several aspects from Buddhism.
As Bon only arose in the eleventh century through the work of tertöns, 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 tertöns.
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 northeast Indian states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh; 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."
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 Menri Trizin Rinpoché, successor of Lungtok Tenpa'i Nyima (1929–2017), the thirty-fourth Abbot of 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.
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 in Dolanji, Himachal Pradesh, India.
Lobsang Yeshe, recognized as the 5th 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. 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 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".
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").
- 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.
- Van Schaik, Sam. Tibet: A History. Yale University Press 2011, pages 99-100.
- "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.
- Karmay, 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.]
- 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.
- "Bön (Tibet's Ancient Religion)". Tibetpedia. 2016-05-25. Retrieved 2019-05-04.
- "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, archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-09-15, retrieved 2010-05-24
- 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.
- 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 Rinpoche (2012). Heart Essence of the Khandro. Heritage Publishers.
- Ghulam Hassan Lobsang, Skardu Baltistan, Pakistan,1997. " History of Bon Philosophy " written in Urdu/Persian style. The book outlines religious and cultural changes within the Baltistan/Tibet/Ladakh region over past centuries and explores the impact of local belief systems on the lives of the region's inhabitants in the post-Islamic era.