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Encyclopedia > Bön

Bön is typically described as the shamanistic religion in Tibet before the arrival of Buddhism in the 7th century. With the exile of Bönpo lamas to India and the West in the wake of the communist takeover of Tibet in 1959, however, a more complex description of Bön is emerging and is now being evaluated by Western scholars. His holiness Lungtok Tenpai Nyima, is the 33rd and current spiritual leader of Bön. Shamanism is a range of traditional beliefs and practices that involve the ability to diagnose, cure, and sometimes cause human suffering by traversing the axis mundi and forming a special relationship with, or gaining control over, spirits. ... The borders of Historical Tibet (blue), as claimed by the Government of Tibet in Exile. ... Statues of Buddha such as this, the Tian Tan Buddha statue in Hong Kong, remind followers to practice right living. ... (6th century - 7th century - 8th century - other centuries) Events Islam starts in Arabia, the Quran is written, and Arabs subjugate Syria, Iraq, Persia, Egypt, North Africa and Central Asia to Islam. ... Lama can refer to: the Tibetan word for religious teacher (like the Sanskrit term guru) see Tibetan Buddhism. ... 1959 was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ...


Historical phases of Bön

According to the Bönpo themselves, the Bön religion has actually gone through three distinct phases: Animistic Bön, Yungdrung or Eternal Bön, and New Bön.

Animistic Bön

The first phase of Bön was indeed rooted in animistic and shamanistic practices and corresponds to the characterization of Bön as previously described in the West. Animism is the belief that personalized supernatural beings (or souls) inhabit all objects and govern their existence. ...

Yungdrung Bön

The second phase is the controversial phase which rests on the claims of the Bönpo texts and traditions (which are extensive and only now being analyzed in the West). These texts assert that Yungdrung Bön can be traced back to a Buddha-like founder named Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche who renounced his kingship to become a monk. He discovered the methods of attaining enlightenment and is considered to be an analogous figure to Gautama Buddha. He was said to originate 18,000 years ago in the land of Olmo Lungring, or Shambhala, which was a part of the so-called land of Tazig to the west of present day Tibet (which some scholars identify with the Persian Tajik). Tonpa Shenrab transmitted the faith (essentially Buddhism), to the people of the Zhang Zhung culture of western Tibet who were previously practicing animistic Bön, thus establishing Yungdrung ("eternal") Bön. A stone image of the Buddha. ... Bodhi (Pali and Sanskrit. ... Standing Buddha, ancient region of Gandhara, northern Pakistan, 1st century CE. Siddhartha redirects here. ... In Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Shambhala is a mystical kingdom hidden somewhere beyond the snowpeaks of the Himalayas. ... Persian art is conscious of a great past, and monumental in many respects. ... Tajik may refer to: Tajiks, an ethnicity with dwellers in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and China The Tajik language, the official language of Tajikistan Tajik, one of the of the 56 nationalities officially recognized by the Peoples Republic of China. ... Zhang Zhung culture is a culture of western and northwestern Tibet which pre-dated Tibetan Buddhism and is best known as the source of the Bön religion. ...

The most tantalizing claim (which on balance is not endorsed by most scholars) is that Buddhism may have arrived in Tibet by some other path than directly from northwest India. A transmission through Persia prior to the 7th century is not impossible. Alexander the Great had connected Greece with India almost a millennium earlier, resulting in a flourishing Greco-Buddhist art style in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The 6th century Khosrau I of Persia is known to have ordered the translation of the Buddhist jataka tales into the Persian language. The Silk Road, the path by which Buddhism traveled to China in 67 AD, lies entirely to the west of Tibet and passed through the Persian city of Hamadan. Nonetheless, we cannot identify a major center of Buddhist learning in Persia which corresponds to the Bönpo's land of Tazig. Alternative proposed sites have included the ancient cities of Merv, Khotan, or Balkh, all of which had thriving Buddhist communities active in the correct timeframe and are located to the west of Tibet. Bust of Alexander III in the British Museum. ... Greco-Buddhism, sometimes spelled Græco-Buddhism, is the cultural syncretism between the culture of Classical Greece and Buddhism, which developed over a period of close to 800 years in Central Asia in the area corresponding to modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan, between the 4th century BCE and the 5th century... Khosrau I, the Blessed (Anushirvan), (531 - 579) was the favourite son and successor of Kavadh I, and the most famous of the Sassanid kings. ... The Jataka stories are a significant body of works about the previous lives of Gautama Buddha. ... Persian (فارسی), (local name in India, Iran and Afghanistan: Fârsi), Pârsi (older local name, but still used by some speakers), Tajik (a Central Asian dialect) or Dari (Another local name in Afghanistan), is a language spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Bahrain and Uzbekistan. ... The Silk Road (Traditional Chinese: 絲綢之路; Simplified Chinese: 丝绸之路; pinyin: sī chóu zhī lù, Persian language راه ابریشم Râh-e Abrisham) was an interconnected series of routes through Southern Asia traversed by caravan and ship, and connecting [Changan, China with Antioch, Syria, as well as other points. ... For other uses, see number 67. ... Hamedan does not have any intersting points ... Merv was a major oasis-city in Central Asia, on the Silk Road, located near todays Mary, Turkmenistan. ... Khotan or Hotan (Uyghur: خوتەن/Hotǝn; Chinese: 和田; pinyin: , formerly: Simplified Chinese: 和阗; Traditional Chinese: 和闐; pinyin: ) is an oasis town and a prefecture in the Taklamakan desert that was part of the southern silk road. ... Balkh is now a small town in the Province of Balkh, Afghanistan, about 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital. ...

Leaving aside the speculation on Tazig, what can we say about the other Bön claims? The existence of the Zhang Zhung culture is supported by many lines of evidence, including the existence of a remnant of native Zhang Zhung speakers still found in Himachal Pradesh. The claim that Lord Shenrab was born 180 centuries ago, however, does not merit much consideration. The interesting question is: when did the Bön really enter the Yungdrung phase (that is, when did elements of Buddhism enter the faith)? Himachal Pradesh (हिमाचल प्रदेश) is a state in northwest India. ...

If we do not accept the Bön claim that the Buddhist elements are older than Buddha, we may consider some other milestones in Tibetan history which may mark points at which Buddhism became part of Bon.

  • In the first half of the 7th century, the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo assassinates King Ligmincha of the Zhang Zhung and annexes the Zhang Zhung kingdom. The same Songsten Gampo is also the first Tibetan king to marry a Buddhist (or in his case two): in 632 to Nepalese princess Bhrikuti, and in 641 to Princess Wencheng, daughter of Emperor Tang Taizong of Tang Dynasty China (where Buddhism is approaching its zenith). Both Tibetan and Bön history agrees that King Songtsen Gampo decides to follow Bön, despite his marriages. It is not clear if his Bön has Buddhist elements or if it is purely animistic.
  • Approximately 130 years later, King Trisong Detsen (742-797) holds a debate contest between Bön priests and Buddhists and decides to convert to Buddhism. He invites the great Indian saint Padmasambhava to bring Tantric Buddhism to Tibet in 779. According to Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the arrival of Padmasambhava represents the First Transmission of the faith. Tantric Buddhism becomes important in Tibet at this point, which may be when Bön absorbed Buddhist practices.
  • As Indian Buddhism becomes the state religion of Tibet, the Bön face persecution, forcing Bönpo masters such as Drenpa Namkha underground. In several decades, however, with the collapse of the Tibetan Empire into civil war in 842, it is possible that Bön may have experienced a partial revival in some districts, especially in western Tibet.
  • In the 11th century, approximately coincident with the Second Transmission of Indian Buddhism associated with saints such as Atisha and Naropa, a Bön school of Tibetan Buddhism emerges, clearly evidencing Buddhist aspects.

At what point prior to the 11th century did Buddhist elements actually become part of Bön? This is the mystery of the Yungdrung Bön phase. We can only hope for further textual or archaeological discoveries that will give us greater insight. (6th century - 7th century - 8th century - other centuries) Events Islam starts in Arabia, the Quran is written, and Arabs subjugate Syria, Iraq, Persia, Egypt, North Africa and Central Asia to Islam. ... This article needs to be wikified. ... Events Abu Bakr becomes first caliph or Successor of the Prophet, leader of Islam Abu Bakr defeats Mosailima in the Battle of Akraba. ... Bhrikuti (also Bhrikuti devi) was a princess of the Licchavi kingdom of Nepal during the 7th century. ... Events Founding of the city of Fostat, later Cairo, in Egypt. ... Emperor Taizong of Tang China (January 23, 599–July 10, 649), born Li Shimin, was the second emperor of the Tang Dynasty of China from 626 to 649. ... The Tang Dynasty (唐朝 Hanyu Pinyin táng cháo; 618-907) followed the Sui Dynasty and preceded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period in China. ... Events Chinese poet Li Po is presented before the emperor and given a position in the Imperial court. ... Events July 17 - Irene orders her son, the Byzantine emperor Constantine VI captured and deposed August 15 - Irenes orders are accomplished; her son is blinded, and herself declared emperor the next day. ... Guru Rinpoche, the patron saint of Sikkim. ... A mandala used in Vajrayana Buddhist practices. ... Events Offa of Mercia beats Cynewulf of Wessex and takes Bensington. ... Tibetan Buddhism, (formerly also called Lamaism after their religious gurus known as lamas), is the body of religious Buddhist doctrine and institutions characteristic of Tibet and the Himalayan region. ... Events Oath of Strasbourg - alliance of Louis the German and Charles the Bald against emperor Lothar - sworn and recorded in vernacular languages. ... (10th century - 11th century - 12th century - other centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 11th century was that century which lasted from 1001 to 1100. ... Atiśa(982 - 1054 CE) was a Buddhist teacher who reintroduced pure Buddhism into Tibet. ... This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ...

(according to Buddhist legends, before Shakyamuni came, there were three other Buddhas in the past, this may be one of those)

New Bön

The "New Bön" phase emerges in the 14th century when Bön schools adopt the Tibetan Buddhist practice of recovering ancient hidden texts known as termas (and possibly other Tibetan Buddhist practices). Whereas the Tibetan Buddhists recover texts hidden by Padmasambhava, the Bön recover texts written by their own saints, such as Drenpa Namkha. New Bön becomes an organizational entity alongside the other Tibetan Buddhist schools (Nyingmapa, Sakyapa, Kagyupa, Gelukpa). (13th century - 14th century - 15th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 14th century was that century which lasted from 1301 to 1400. ... Disambiguation: Termas are are key Tibetan Buddhist texts. ... The Nyingma tradition is one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. ... The name of the Sakya (lit. ... The Kagyu (bka brgyud) school (known as the Oral Lineage and the Spotless Practice Lineage school) of Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) traces its origins to the teachings of the Indian mystics Tilopa (988-1089 CE) and Naropa (1016-1100 CE), whose lineage was transmitted in Tibet by the great translator Marpa... The Geluk (dge lugs) School was founded by Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), Tibets best known religious reformer and arguably its greatest philosopher. ...

Presently about 10% of Tibetans are estimated to follow Bön Buddhism. At the time of the communist takeover in Tibet there were approximately 300 Bön monasteries in Tibet and western China.

The present spiritual head of the Bön is His Holiness Lungtok Tenpai Nyima, the thirty-third Abbot of Menri Monastery (destroyed in the Cultural Revolution), who now presides over Tashi Menri Ling Monastery in Dolanji in Himachal Pradesh, India. A poster during the Cultural Revolution The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (Simplified Chinese: 无产阶级文化大革命; Traditional Chinese: 無產階級文化大革命; pinyin: ; literally Proletarian Cultural Great Revolution; often abbreviated to 文化大革命 wén huà dà gé mìng, literally Great Cultural Revolution, or simply 文革 wén gé, literally Cultural Revolution) in the Peoples Republic of... Himachal Pradesh (हिमाचल प्रदेश) is a state in northwest India. ...

Bön spiritual practices

New Bön, while essentially identical with other schools of Tibetan Buddhism, may be distinguished from them by certain characteristics: Tibetan Buddhism, (formerly also called Lamaism after their religious gurus known as lamas), is the body of religious Buddhist doctrine and institutions characteristic of Tibet and the Himalayan region. ...

  1. counter-clockwise (rather than clockwise) circumambulation of chortens
  2. a nine way path that the Bön consider a superset of other Tibetan Buddhist paths. (Despite talk of a superset, the Bön divide their teachings in a familiar way: Causal Vehicle, Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen)
  3. additional texts including many in the ancient Zhang Zhung language
  4. symbolism which includes the Mountain of Nine Swastikas and the Olmo Lungring paradise.
  5. the Bön do not follow a tulku system of reincarnated leaders

The Bön school is said to resemble most closely the Nyingma school, the oldest school of Tibetan Buddhism which traces its lineage to the First Transmission. Categories: Buildings and structures stubs | Buildings and structures ... Sutra (सूत्र) in Sanskrit is derived from the verb √siv, meaning to sew. ... Tantra (Sanskrit: loom), tantric yoga or tantrism is any of several esoteric traditions rooted in the religions of India. ... -1... Zhang Zhung culture is a culture of western and northwestern Tibet which pre-dated Tibetan Buddhism and is best known as the source of the Bön religion. ... The Swastika in traditional Hindu form The swastika is an equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles either clockwise or anticlockwise. ... In Tibetan Buddhism, a tulku is a reincarnated lama. ... The Nyingma tradition is one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. ...

See Also

The Dongba are the shamans or priests of the Naxi people of southwestern China. ... Yeshey Tsogyel (rhymes with may say so well), also known in the Nyingma tradition as the Great Bliss Queen, is a mythical red skinned diety or figure of enlightenment (dakini) in Tibetan Buddhism identified with the factual wife of Emperor Tri-song-day-tsen (740 - c. ...

External links

  • Garuda Switzerland (http://www.garudaswitzerland.org/boen_e.html)
  • interview with Lopon Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche, the most senior teacher of the Bönpo tradition (http://www.buddhistview.com/site/epage/8958_225.htm)
  • details of the Bön teaching (http://www.tibet.com/Buddhism/bon.html)
  • another informative site (http://www.kalachakra-graz.at/kalachakra/eng/eng_spir/bon1.html)
  • Picture of Bön inscription (http://www.asianart.com/articles/vestiges/19b.html)



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