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A Look Into The Bon Religion Of Tibet

Introduction The Bon religion of Tibet is mysterious and enlightening. Today there are far fewer Bonpos (practitioner of Bon than e!er before due to the "hinese take o!er of Tibet. There are a few monasteries established in India and #epal that carry on this tradition. It was in #epal that I had the great fortune to !isit a Bonpo monastery. At the time I was researching shamanism as practiced in #epal and Tibet. This led me to the Bonpos$ why% &rom their appearance they were absolutely indistinguishable from any other Tibetan Buddhist monk. It is into their history we must del!e to see their roots in the shamanistic cults of Tibet. It is in their current ritual and magical practices that we see a li!ing and powerful shamanic tradition neatly integrated with Buddhism. By whate!er means and method the Bon ha!e found and are practicing the 'harma$ or Bon as they call it. Is it not a Buddhist teaching that the 'harma will find the most skillful means to teach% In this respect Bon is a legitimate lineage of Buddhism and should be treated as such. Bon has suffered much through its history. #ot only the recent persecution by the "hinese but a history of persecution by Buddhists has left Bon all but e(tinct. I encountered many difficulties in this study including much pre)udice against the Bonpo by *estern and Tibetan scholars alike. It is my hope that in this day Bon will recei!e the ade+uate attention it deser!es rather than being treated as a cheap knock off of Tibetan Buddhism. The 'ali Lama,s words gi!e force to this hope- .Bon is Tibet,s oldest spiritual tradition and$ as the indigenous source of Tibetan culture$ played a significant role in shaping Tibet,s uni+ue identity. "onse+uently I ha!e often stressed the importance of preser!ing this tradition./(*angyal &oreword 000 A Brief 1istory of Bon The se!enth and eighth century held in store massi!e changes that would alter the Tibetan people and landscape fore!er. Buddhism found its way into Tibet during those two centuries. Tibet was at a !ery special position when it recei!ed this new religion due to the almost simultaneous importing of Buddhism from both India and "hina. Tibetan Buddhism as well as Bon reflects this uni+ue synthesis. *hen Buddhism found its way into Tibet$ Bon had already been established there from ancient times. It is impossible to tell when e(actly Bon began in Tibet$ but it has e(isted there possibly as long as the people ha!e. The Bon that was being practiced at the time Buddhism arri!ed in Tibet was an animistic and shamanistic religion that dealt mainly with death rituals and was not consolidated under any sort of religious organi2ation. There are no known temples or monasteries associated with this ancient religion. It is this ancient religion in which modern Bonpos root their religious heritage. The religious scene in Tibet gets interesting around the middle of the ninth century when a new Bon religion emerges from western Tibet. The appearance of Buddhism in Tibet had slowly forced the old Bon religion out of the nobility and royal patronage. Though Buddhism was the 3official, religion of the land the old Bon was e(isted amongst the people as a sort of folk religion. This new Bon that

suddenly appeared was almost indistinguishable from Buddhism. &rom the land of 4hang 2hung came this new synthetic Bon. (4hang 2hung was added into the Tibetan empire during the se!enth century The synthesis lies in the traditional ways of Bon which centered around magic$ astrology$ and pragmatic concerns combined with new ideas that focused on the idea of ultimate liberation from the world of samsara. The appearance of this new Bon resembles Buddhism so much so that monks from either tradition standing side by side could not be distinguished. Like Buddhism this new Bon$ commonly referred to as *hite Bon$ was centered around the teachings of an enlightened indi!idual$ a Buddha. &or Bon their founder$ Tonpa 5henrab$ was the true Buddha of our historical reality. The word which refers to Buddhists and Buddhism in Tibetan is "hos$ both Bon and "hos are Tibetan translations of the 5anskrit word$ 'harma. 'uring the tenth century many Bon te(ts began to emerge. 6ost of these te(ts were terma treasures said to ha!e been hidden by Tonpa 5henrab himself for later disco!ery. These te(ts were slowly compiled in the following centuries and systemati2ed into the official cannon of Bon literature. The 7an)ur consists of appro(imately 89: !olumes all of which .came to light no later than 8;<=... and were assembled by around 8>?:./(7!aerne Bon Rescues ; 6any of these te(ts are direct translations of Buddhist te(ts into Bon terms$ but others are distincti!ely Bon originals. 6uch tension has risen up o!er whether Bon te(ts are simple plagiarisms of Buddhist te(ts and the lack of !erifiable e!idence lea!es this argument !irtually unresol!able. The fifteenth century saw the building of Bon monasteries. @re!iously Bon monks could marry and li!ed amongst their fellow laymen. #ow great monasteries erected in Buddhist fashion sprang up primarily in the west of Tibet though there were se!eral strong Bon communities scattered throughout the whole of Tibet. Bon monasteries pro!ided monks with the same monastic codes and functions as Buddhist monks. These monasteries were supported by their lay followers. Bonpos were now able to not only pro!ide their traditional ritual ser!ices$ but they could pro!ide their patrons with anything that their Buddhist counterparts could. O!er ne(t few centuries following the emergence of the reorgani2ed Bon$ there were many religious conflicts between the Buddhists and the Bonpos. 6any of the conflicts centered around attempts to gain political fa!or and royal patronage. &urther conflicts arose o!er !arious geographical areas. Buddhists continually reappropriated areas sacred to traditional Bonpos. In a particular famous tale 6iAla rasApa$ a Buddhist$ fought a magical battle with #aAro bonAchung$ a Bonpo$ for possession of the sacred Bonpo mountain$ 7ailash. The tale ends when .6ila completely defeated his opponent and made himself master of the famous mountain./(1offman 99 B!ents like this contributed to the bitter ri!alry sometimes found between Bonpos and Buddhists. The Bonpos suffered much at the hands of Buddhists during the centuries after Tibet,s theocracy had been established. The "hinese also posed a problem for Bonpos. The "hinese were helping the go!ernment of Tibet resol!e religious conflicts which resulted in many Bon monasteries being destroyed. Bonpos could be imprisoned if they were percei!ed as a threat. Treatment of the Bonpos continued this way until the fourteenth 'ali Lama recogni2ed their !alue. Like all Tibetans the Bonpos suffered irreparable losses when the "hinese communists in!aded$ laying waste to anything in their way. Today few Bonpo remain in Tibet$ e(cept as a folk religion. Like their Buddhist counterparts most Bonpos fled to India where they ha!e reestablished monasteries and continue to practice the eternal Bon.

000 Black Bon

The indigenous religious practices of Tibet were an important part of Tibetan life and in the future characteristic of Tibetan Buddhism. It is impossible to date the origin of these practices$ but they closely fit in with the practices of the surrounding tribes. This early !ersion of Bon is often referred to as 3Black Bon, to distinguish it from the latter 3*hite Bon,$ which closely resembles Buddhism. Bon of this era was not a highly systemati2ed religion. There is no e!idence of any temples or any o!er reaching religious authority or organi2ation. Black Bon was primarily concerned with the prosperity of the Tibetan people and their passage into the afterlife. There e(isted within this religion many strong shamanic elements. This is e!ident in the world !iew of these ancient Tibetans. *e can see their cosmology was centered around the great mountain 7ailash. This was a cosmic mountain which was home to the gods. The presence of a cosmic world mountain is a common theme present in many shamanic systems and is found in many of the shamanic people of Asia. Another !ery interesting shamanistic element of the early history of Bon is its relationship to the royalty. Cust as the Tibetan go!ernment is now a theocracy$ so the ancient lineage of kings had a special religious significance. It is said that the early kings of Tibet descended from the sky !ia a magical rope. It seems that .for kings communications between hea!en and earth were ne!er altogether broken. And the Tibetans belie!ed that in ancient times their so!ereigns did not die but ascended to hea!en./(Bliade >;8 The little historical e!idence we ha!e as to what the early Bonpos did has been found in the tombs of the kings. 6uch of the BongoDs acti!ities were focused on death rituals that aided the transport of the dead into a more fa!orable realm. .The rituals of the Bon often in!ol!ed sacrificing animals (mainly horses$ yak$ and sheep $ making offerings of food and drink$ and burying the dead with precious )ewels$ the benefits of which were apparently transferred to them in the afterlife through shamanic rituals./(@owers ch8= *hat characteri2es shamanism is a controlled use of altered states of reality. 5hamen are masters of ecstasy and use this power to gain otherworldly knowledge. In trance shamen can lea!e their body$ communicate with the dead or spiritual entities$ call upon spirits to enter their body$ or perform any number of magical feats. Typically shamen use their trance states to heal and pro!ide information useful for the welfare of their community. &rom what we know of the religious roles of the Bonpos$ they were di!ided in two. The first type of priest was called a Bonpo and their role was centered on ritual acti!ity. The Bonpo priests were concerned with the accuracy of ritual procedure. They carried out rituals$ but only ones that could be conducted from the mundane realm. The other classification of priests were called g5hen. These were the shamen and fre+uently they worked in con)unction with the Bonpo. The g5hen were the guides of the dead. They would send !arious animals into the otherworld to aid the recently deceased. It is interesting to note that 5henrab Tonpa,s name comes from this ancient office of shaman. 5henrab actually means great shamen. Little can be told of what went on with the early Bon religion because there are no written accounts and the religion was pushed out by the Buddhists. The Buddhists forced the Bonpos to stop many of their practices including their !ery important animal sacrifices. The best clue in gi!ing us a picture of what the early Bon religion was like is the folk religion practiced many Tibetans still to this day. In the folk religions scattered throughout Tibet we can find the old Bon gods and funeral practices being performed. The other clue we ha!e to the old Bon religion is held within the folds of Buddhist and 3*hite Bon, traditions. There are many strong shamanic elements that characteri2e Tibetan Buddhism and set it apart as a uni+ue form of Buddhism.

000

*hite Bon The new systemati2ed Bon that emerged during the tenth century in many ways more closely resembled Buddhism than it resembled the old Bon faith. This new !ersion of Bon is usually called *hite Bon. Bonpos claim that the change in the appearance of their religion is due to the hidden treasures of Tonpa 5henrab being found. Tonpa 5henrab is to ha!e said that his teachings will come to the Tibetans when the time is ripe and they are ready. The appearance of Bonpos resembles that of Buddhists so much so that they can sometimes be indistinguishable. The Bonpos began to build monasteries and perform many of the ser!ices that their Buddhist counterparts did. The religious beliefs of the Bonpos share some elements with Buddhism while retaining a distincti!ely Bon fla!or. &or instance the prior emphasis the Bonpos placed in worldly power and success were supplanted by ideas of liberation from the rounds of samsara. The religious beliefs and practices of the Bonpos are directly attributed to Tonpa 5henrab. They are organi2ed into three cycles. The first cycle are the #ine *ays of B!erlasting Bon. These teachings were found in the form of termas by many famous tertons (terma disco!erers . It is interesting to note that the #yingma tradition also organi2es its teachings in a similar nine stage system$ though the content of the first four stages differ. The first four ways are called the *ays of the "ause. These are concerned primarily with .the myths$ legends$ rituals$ and practices concerned mainly with working with energy in terms of magic for healing and prosperity./(*angyal ;? @erforming miracles$ fortune telling$ astrology and death rituals are included in the four *ays of the "ause. These teachings are similar to the practices of Black Bonpos and are most likely the same practices integrated into a larger system. The ne(t fi!e stages in the #ine *ays of Bon are identical to those found within the #yingma tradition. These final fi!e stages are called the *ays of the &ruit. The paths presented here are geared towards liberation from the cycle of samsara and soul transmigration. The teachings in these stages are mainly thought to be of Buddhist origin$ though Bonpos claim it is from Tonpa 5henrab. The content$ regardless of its origin is nonetheless Buddhist whether it refers to 'harma or Bon it is the same. The second cycle of teachings from Tonpa 5henrab are di!ided into fi!e parts$ the &our @ortals$ and the One Treasury. The &irst @ortal teaches many of the tantric practices found in Buddhism as well as spells. The 5econd @ortal is concerned primarily with matters of ritual. These rituals are magical and directed towards beneficial ends and purification. The Third @ortal describes the monastic and lay rules that Bonpos must follow. There accompanies these rules philosophical e(planations of each. The &ourth @ortal consists of instructions for mental and spiritual e(ercise. 6editation and the practice of '2ogchen are included in this @ortal. The one Treasury .comprises the essential aspects of all four @ortals./(*angyal ;= The &inal cycle of Tonpa 5henrab,s teachings are parallel to teachings in Buddhism. They 6irror the Tibetan system of 5utra$ Tantra$ and '2ogchen. In Bon they are classified as the Outer$ Inner$ and 5ecret @recepts. The outer cycle is the path of the renunciate (5utra . The inner cycle are transformational practices using mantras (Tantra . The 5ecret @recepts are those of '2ogchen the highest teaching in both Bon and Buddhist traditions. To show the similarities between Bon and Buddhism I would like to present this +uote concerning the fi!e poisons$ ignorance$ attachment$ pride$ anger$ and )ealousy. The great lion$ king of practice The great lion of practice stands proudly on the snowAmountain. *hen all the darkness of the fi!e poisons ha!e disappeared$ All suffering dissol!es and perfect Buddahood is obtained. The 5i( Lokas are practice that recei!e great attention within Bon. The 5i( Lokas practice is

based around the purification of beings in other realms of e(istence. Through the sufferings and pains of the beings in these other realms the practitioner relates to these beings and can purify them in their own life. The goal of the 5i( Lokas is to train the practitioner in gaining self awareness. .As you grow strong in your self awareness and are no longer dri!en by your emotions you can lead a more open$ balanced and creati!e life./(4hang 8 &i!e of the Lokas correspond to the fi!e poisons$ the 5i(th Loka is la2y )oy. *ith a false sense of accomplishment and )oy the happiness and fulfillment one feels will e!entually gi!e way to the fi!e poisons once more. The 5i(th Loka is purification of this based on e!erlasting compassion for all life. The highest and final teaching of Bon is '2ogchen$ which will be addressed separately. 000 The Life of Tonpa 5henrap &rom the hea!ens pour down a da22ling array of light and good fortune. A brilliant shaft of white light descends from the sky and enters the head of king rEyalAbonAthodAdkar. This light penetrates the young king through his entire body until it rests finally in his se( organs. 5uddenly a red light descends from the sky and finds its target in the beautiful rEyalA2hadAma. 5he was once a low cast maiden$ but ha!ing married rEyalAbon she is of high eminence amongst her people. The soothing red beam flows through her body settling in her womb. &rom the union of these two a wonder child is born. This child immediately takes se!en steps and speaks causing those present to weep. 5o the story goes from the g4erAmyig$ a Bon te(t which describes the life of its founder the Lord Tonpa 5henrab 6iwoche. The birth of this child may sound somewhat like that of 5akyamuni. Like 5akyamuni Buddha Lord Tonpa 5henrab would grow up to be the founder of a great spiritual tradition. Akin to 5akyamuni in that he manifests as the li!ing Buddha for our age in history$ Lord Tonpa 5henrab is the true Buddha of our age teaching at least one thousand years before the birth 5akyamuni. Though Buddhists regard this as heretical$ to Bonpos it is the truth. Like Euatama Buddha the story does not always begin with his birth. Lord Tonpa 5henrab was in the 5idpa Fesang hea!en$ though at this time is name was 5alwa. In hea!en 5alwa and his two brothers studied the eternal Bon. After ha!ing become fully enlightened beings they asked the god of compassion$ 5henlha Okar$ how best they could help sentient beings and free the minds of those trapped in samsara. 5henlha Okar instructed them to descend upon the earth and teach humans the eternal ways of Bon. They should teach in the three successi!e ages$ the god of "ompassion ad!ised. The oldest brother went to the past ages to teach$ 5alwa came to our present age to teach$ and the youngest brother is the sa!ior of future generations. In 8<?G B"B Lord Tonpa 5henrab came to teach this world the ways of Bon. 5henrab is a title that means greatest shaman and Tonpa means teacher. Hnlike many claims made by *estern scholars Lord Tonpa 5henrab,s life does not closely resemble that of 5akyamuni$ the life of 5henrab 6iwoche is remarkably different. Tonpa 5henrab grew up as a king and li!ed as such his entire life$ ne!er ha!ing renounced the world. 1e preaches Bon doctrine from a !ery young age and continues to do so all of his life. Interesting that he did not resort to asceticism or monasticism to li!e in accordance with Bon. Tonpa 5henrab$ howe!er did not preach in Tibet$ but rather he is from the land of Olmo LunA gring in the region of Ta2ig. In Bon cosmology Olmo LunAgring is one third of the e(isting world. The land is shaped like a lotus under a wheel like sky. The geography of this land$ as is custom for Tibetan !iews of their land$ a mythical geography. The only way to reach Olmo LunAgring is through a narrow mountain passage created by an arrow from Tonpa 5henrab,s bow. The real location of Olmo LunA gring is a mystery$ some scholars place it around mount 7ailash$ but this is probably a symptom of *estern tendencies to root e!erything in .the real world./ Olmo lunAgring is like 5hambala it is a place of mythic consciousness and great importance to li!ing Bonpo.

Ta2ig or Ta2ik is sometimes thought to refer to the shamanic Ta)iks of Asia. These attempts at locating these lands can not be pro!ed and will most likely ne!er result in a definiti!e answer. Tonpa 5henrab married at a young age. 1is wife was 1osA2a rgyalAmed$ the .sinful wife/ who needed to be purified by Tonpa 5henrab. They had children and li!ed as !ery powerful and popular rulers. Tonpa 5henrab,s life was full of many epic ad!entures and +uests. One such epic +uest found him chasing after his arch ri!al$ the demon 7hyabpa Lagrig. Always attempting to spoil the flourishing of Bon$ 7hyabpa Lagrig stole 5henrab,s horses and fled into unknown land. It was through the land of 4hang 2hung that Lord 5henrab followed 7hyabpa and found himself in Tibet. This was the only occasion in which Lord Tonpa found himself in Tibet$ and it was only for a brief time.At that time the Tibetans practiced ritual sacrifices. 5henrab +uelled the local demons and imparted instructions on the performance of rituals using offering cakes in the shapes of sacrificial animals that led Tibetans to abandon animal sacrifices./(*angyal I9 In fact it is said that Lord Tonpa found Tibet to be a bit rough and underde!eloped. 1e said that Tibet was not ready for the higher teachings of Bon and so he only taught the basic four ways of cause. .In these practices the emphasis is on reinforcing relationships with the guardian spirits and the natural en!ironment$ e(orcising demons$ and eliminating negati!ities. These practices are similar to what one would find in Tibet before the ad!ent of Buddhism$ these are the practices of the original Bon priests. The higher teaching were concealed away by Lord Tonpa 5henrab in the form of Terma. Terma are hidden treasures that teach the eternal Bon. Tibetan Buddhism is also full of terma treasures and in fact .many masters of #yingma and Bon of the *hite Tradition taught and disco!ered many of their common teachings and transmitted them to each other at !arious times./(Rab)am 88I Lord 5henrab prophesied that these treasures will be found in Tibet when the people are ready to hear the eternal Bon. #earing the end of his life Tonpa 5henrab began to retreat away from worldly life and dedicate himself to meditation and mortification. 1is wi!es and disciples followed suit. 1e found that it was time for .him to lea!e the misery behind$/ and fell ill. Like 5akyamuni many of his disciple begged him to stay$ but in order for Bon to flourish he must set an e(ample and enter into final #ir!ana. 1e passed away promising to return in a future age. 1is body was burned and like any other master of great accomplishment many relics were left behind. The historical e!idence for the life of Tonpa 5henrab is on a whole none(istent e(cept for in the minds of the many Bonpo who passionately follow his lead$ searching for liberation from suffering.

000 The Tradition of '2ogchen 5elf arising wisdom is the base The fi!e negati!e emotions are manifested energy 5eeing emotions as mistaken is an error Letting them be in their nature is the method To find the nonAdual state of liberation O!ercoming hope and fear is the result. ATen2in *angyal '2ogchen or '2ogApa "henApo literally means perfection$ fulfillment$ complete and great. The teaching of '2ogchen is found within all of Tibet,s religious traditions$ but it is nati!e to only two.

One of them is the #yingma lineage of Buddhism and the other is the nati!e religion of Tibet$ Bon. There are many teachings that are shared between the #yingmapas and the Bonpos. In fact many important teachers of both of these two lineages were acti!e with both of these lineages. 6any terma te(ts were disco!ered by both #yingmapas and Bonpos. It is not supprising to find many similarities between these two traditions. &or e(ample they both classify and order their teachings in the same way$ which is different from e!ery other Buddhist lineage. '2ogchen teachings ha!e traditionally been the most secreti!e set of teachings in Tibet. Ereat '2ogchen masters were rare because it is traditionally passed down from teacher to student in the form of direct transmission. The guru points out the nature of mind to the student and thus begins the student on the path. A single teacher may only point out the natural state of mind to one or a few students thus limiting the growth of '2ogchen transmission to a slow crawl. In our modern day many '2ogchen masters ha!e begun to teach '2ogchen to the *est. Our time is a time of urgency and books are e!en printed about '2ogchen to insure its transmission. '2ogchen describes the natural state$ Buddha nature$ or primordial state of an indi!idual. This is the base of '2ogchen and is empty and primordially pure. This is the naturally liberated state of an indi!idual. It is naturally liberated as it re+uires nothing$ it is already complete and perfect. The base is clarity and the source of nir!ana as well as the source of samsara. The base of '2ogchen is only the beginning there is a path that must be followed. The path is a process whereby the practitioner gains insight and clarity into their primordial nature. .7nowledge of the true condition of the base of the indi!idual creates the flow of rigpa. This is culti!ated through meditation$ continuous in the postAmeditation period so that it can be integrated in our beha!ior or attitude and acti!ities in e!eryday life./(*angyal >8 A '2ogchen master once tried to e(plain the difference between 4en and '2ogchen. .In 4en when is one not meditating% In '2ogchen when does one e!er meditate%/ The fruit of the practice is the actuali2ation .of the inherent three 7ayas in this !ery lifetime and culminates in the attainment of the rainbow or light body at the end of life./(*angyal >I The three 7ayas are #irmanakaya$ 5ambogakaya$ and 'harmakaya. *ith the rainbow body there remains no physical body after death. In Bon the primary Buddha is 7untu 5angpo. 1e is also the primary Buddha of the #yingma tradition$ though for the rest of Tibetan Buddhists it is Jairocana Buddha. This points to more of the similarities between Bon and #yingma. 7untu 5angpo is the primordial Buddha he is synonymous with 'harmakaya. 1e is the primordial essence of the uni!erse. It is with 7untu 5angpo that '2ogchen practitioners identify and unite. To best present the '2ogchen teachings I will include a brief e(planation by Tapihritsa. 1e is the embodying essence of a combination of all the Bon lineage masters. 1e is not a god but .In the Bon tradition$ we do the practice of guru yoga$ of blending our mind with the natural mind of the guru !isuali2ed as the deity Taphiritsa./(*angyal >? These are Tapihritsa,s teachingsOn the .&our Eoodnesses/ 8. Jiew- By omniper!asi!eness$ let unconditioned selfAawareness go into the selfAliberated !ision not grasped by mindK this way is good. I. 6editation- Let baseless e(perience unconditionally percei!e the non referential and selfAclear meditationK this way is good. ;. Beha!ior- *ithout dualistic choosing$ let e(periential !ision directly perform fle(ible actions which are without attachmentK this way is good. >. &ruit- Let the limits of hope and fear selfAliberate into the unobtainable selfAarising reali2ationK this way is good.

ATaken from *onders of the #atural 6ind 000 "onflicts in the study of Bon The intricacies in!ol!ed in the study of Bon are +uite challenging. An academic study of Bon runs se!eral risks. &irst of all the researcher is separate form the religion and is an outsider. This can pose se!eral problems. One issue is that of understanding. 6any of the practices of the Bonpos cannot be understood from the !antage point of an outsider. To grasp fully the concepts and ideas presented with Bon it is necessary to e(perience them. Bon is essentially e(periential and no amount of intellectual understanding will e+ual the smallest bit of e(perience. Being an outsider to Bon also has another problem. @re)udices can easily seep into what is supposed to be an ob)ecti!e study. Barly reports made by the "hinese refer to Bonpos as heathens and their religious ceremonies as barbaric. Jalue )udgments are easily made e!en without the intention to do so. The difficulties I encountered when researching Bon began to grow almost e(ponentially. By !irtue of the sheer lack of any material related to Bon I knew this would not be an easy endea!or. There is !ery little written about Bon. The ma)ority of information on Bon comes from books about Tibet that de!ote a few pages at best to Bon. The Bonpos ha!e a !ast collection of writings$ but they ha!e not been translated. The Bonpo,s cannon is called the 7an)ur and consists of at least one hundred and ninety !olumes. This official cannon represents only a small part of the written work of the Bonpos. As @er 7!aerne$ a worthy Bon scholar$ notes .Only a handful of Bonpo te(ts ha!e been e(plored at all$ and of these only one ma)or te(t has been partially translated./ 1e suggests that the Bonpo collection is .in all likelihood the last ma)or te(tual collection from Asia to remain almost entirely une(plored by *estern scholars./(Bon Rescues 8:: By this handicap alone Bon remains hidden behind the barriers of language. The history of the scholarly study of Tibet and Buddhism plays a ma)or role in the way that Bon has been treated. Tibet has become a romantici2ed island where things were perfect and holy. Tibet is called the land of religion. The *est fell in lo!e with Tibet and its Buddhism. Buddhism is the ma)or religion of Tibet and therefore the most !isible. *hen scholars from the *est began to study Tibet and Buddhism they did not meet with the Bonpos$ but instead focused on the Tibetan Buddhists. One problem this leads to is dismissing Bon in fa!or of Buddhism. Bon can be treated as inferior or preA Buddhist and hence preAenligtened. Bon is treated as the old and worn away religion. To understand why *estern scholars ha!e not attempted or been able to gi!e a fair e(ploration of Bon can be traced to the Tibetans themsel!es. The bitter ri!alry that has e(isted between the Buddhists and the Bonpos dates back hundreds of years. B!en today attitudes toward the Bonpos by Tibetans are as if the Bonpos are silly and mistaken. There is no hostility there anymore as they get along and li!e side by side. *hen in India and #epal I heard many )okes about the Bonpos from Tibetans. Tibetans and *estern scholars alike ha!e long belie!ed that the Bonpos ha!e simply plagiari2ed Buddhist te(ts and stolen Buddhist practices. This is true to a certain e(tent. 6any Bonpo te(ts are direct translations from Buddhist te(ts and usually found their way in from the #yingma lineage of Buddhism. Recent scholarship has some startling news to announce to those who feel that the Bonpos did nothing but plagiari2e. 'a!id 5nellgro!e deser!es a lot of credit for being the first to reassess the treatment of Bonpos. 1e says that the greater part of Bon te(ts were .absorbed through learning and then retold$ and this is not )ust plagarism./(5nellgro!e 8I &urther disco!eries ha!e come to light as scholars ha!e been able to pro!e that the word by word Buddhist and Bon parallel te(ts ha!e been miscredited. *hereas formerly thought Bon te(ts were copies it is in fact .the other way around- the Bonpo te(t has been copied by Buddhist authors./(Bon Rescues 99 Rather than pro!ing the autonomy of either religion this goes beyond that dualism and demonstrates that these religions were mutually

influential on each other. Rather than attempt to point out each atrocity and e(ample of poor or e!en hostile scholarship I ha!e tried to point to what may be some of the causes of difficulty in Bon scholarship. I will$ howe!er$ gi!e some e(amples of bad scholarship to demonstrate what it can do and the forms it can take. In his discussion of Bon 1elmut 1offman relates the transition of te(ts from Buddhism to Bon. 1e does this in a !ery despicable manner when he says that Bonpos .plundered/ the te(ts of India and Tantric Tibet.(1offman << Another e(ample pro!ided by 1offman is the way in which he describes Bon as a sinister counterpoint to Buddhism. Bonpo art and motions flow to the left as Buddhists turn toward the right. There is no inherent mischief in this$ but listen to 1offman,s description. .&or e(ample the points of their holy sign the swastika did not turn to the right but sinistrally to the left... Its essence lay largely in contradiction and negation./(1offman 9< If that is not enough he makes this comparison$ .)ust as the mediae!al 5atanist desecrated the 1ost$ so the Bonpo turned their sacred ob)ects in a sinister fashion./(9< 'ear 1offman pro!ides us with one more characteri2ation$ he says that Bon can be found in the .backward/ parts of Tibet.(8:: It is not )ust western scholars who contribute to a misunderstanding of Bon$ but Tibetans as well. &rom a Buddhist Rinpoche comes this statement$ .Buddhist teachings were translated into Bon for re!enge and to compete with Buddhism./(Rab)am 88I

To dwell on in)ustices will ha!e no positi!e outcome so I conclude this section with hopes that there may be positi!e and considerate scholarship done in the future. Thinking critical about these issues can lead to accurate and beneficial portrayals of Bon. 000

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