Bon

An indigenous religion of Tibet that is, along with Buddhism, one of the two main religions of the country. Many aspects of Bon were mixed with the Buddhist traditions introduced from India in the 8th century and gave Tibetan Buddhism much of its distinctiveness. Disagreement amongst the ruling class of Tibet in the 8th and 9th centuries resulted in the noble families choosing Bon and the ruling house choosing Buddhism.

Quick Facts

Go Historic ID
31030
Names
Bon Tibetan
Bonpo
Bon po Tibetan
Related Topics
reincarnation until gain enlightenment

More Definitions

Refers to an indigenous religion of Tibet that is, along with Buddhism, one of the two main religions of the country. Many aspects of Bon were mixed with the Buddhist traditions introduced from India in the 8th century and gave Tibetan Buddhism much of its distinctiveness. Disagreement amongst the ruling class of Tibet in the 8th and 9th centuries resulted in the noble families choosing Bon and the ruling house choosing Buddhism. The religion became organized around the 11th century largely thanks to the Buddhist concern for written works. Besides surviving in many aspects of Tibetan Buddhism, Bon continues to thrive in the northern and eastern frontiers of Tibet. It is unclear how much continuity there is between ancient and modern Bon. The features of ancient Bon are hard to determine because all early description are Buddhist and what is known of Bon today is heavily influenced by Mahayana Buddhism. Ancient Bon seems to have featured animism, shamanism, and the practice of magic rites. The Bon gods of the atmosphere, the earth, and subterranean regions were incorporated into the Buddhist pantheon as lesser deities. There is evidence of a cult of divine kingship in which the kings are seen as manifestations of the sky divinity; this belief may be the root of the reincarnated lamas of Buddhism. Bon oracular priests have as their counterpart the Buddhist soothsayers. Aspects of Bon doctrine are virtually identical to that of Tibetan Buddhism, including doctrine of buddhahood and the bodhisattva ideal. Particularly noteworthy are the dzogchen beliefs of Bon that are shared with the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism; these beliefs hold that there is an ineffable state beyond all Buddhas and all manifestation. The Bon monastic system is also almost identical to that of the Geluk school. Nevertheless, believers in Bon rigorously guard their non-Buddhist image. Shenrab is considered the founder of the religion and the historical Buddha Shakyamuni is said to be a manifestation of him. Bon scriptures are of one of two groups: the 'Kanjur,' containing myths, doctrines, and biographies of Shenrab; and 'Katen,' containing commentary and ritual and iconographic works. The name Tibet is derived from Bon.

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Bibliography

  1. 1.  The Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus, 300264544. The J. Paul Getty Trust.