Yungdrung Bon, or Swastika Dharma, is a Hindu sect practiced mainly by Tibetan nationalities living within India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet. Its other names are Drungmu Gyer in the ancient language of Olmo Lungring, Swastika Dharma in Sanskrit, and Grags-pa Bon-lugs, Bonpo or simply Bon in Tibetan as variants of Yungrung Bon. An adherent of Bonpo is a Bonpa. Tonpa Shenrab was a sage who had popularized the religion. According to scriptures, he had taken avatar as Shenrab to teach humanity how to achieve Moksha.
"According to the teaching of Tonpa Shenrab, the world was created by means of emanation, but in its duality, that is, light-darkness, day-night, male-female, good-evil." - Andrew Woznicki
This material universe is the Exterior Reality (phyi snod) while Inner Reality (bcud) is the pure spiritual realm. The dualistic onto-metaphysical principle for the process of existence is classed as Being (yod-pa) and Non-Being (med-pa.) Bon explains that this dualism keeps all things in cosmic harmony.
Bon's Supreme God is Kuntu Sangpo, who created the universe from a lump of slime and created creatures from an egg. The Supreme God in Bon is written of as "Yang dar rgyal po" meaning that he was present when there is nothing in the universe. Other phrases include "sNang ba 'od ldan", "Kun snang khyab pa", and "Khri khug rgyal po."
This, the three-thousandfold, is the inviolate world
—Three Hundred-Thirty Verses, Methods for Accomplishing Enlightenment
Thus, Bonpo proposes that the universe responds to the needs of the disciples. For example, if the Bon teachings are in a state of danger, the universe will respond by sending forth a Buddha for the welfare of humanity.
- Other origin tales
The Lubum Trawo reason that a serpent goddess, named Queen of the Water Spirits, of cosmic length created the physical, biological, and divine constructs of the universe out of her body. From her nostrils originated the various types of life-nourishing winds. From her blood came the 5 oceans and from her nerve channels came water courses. The light from her flesh created the earth. Animals originated from her limbs. Night and day came from her back and front. The spirit world came out of the light from her organs.
There are a few tales stating that universe originated from an egg or eggs. The oldest myth is that the entire universe arose from an egg. In another myth there were 2 eggs, 1 luminous and the other of darkness. From the light one arose an Illuminating Resplendence being (Kuntu Sangpo, an avatar of Trigyal Khugpa), while from the other came King of the Negative Realm (Kalpa Medbum Nagpo or Munpa Zerden), and this king created Tong Zham Nangmo out of his own shadow. From these 2 originated the good and evil attributes of the universe. Then of 3 eggs the Muchoi Tromdur mentions there was a white, copper, and black egg. From then came gods and humans.
Bon teaches a threefold trajectory towards self-realization.
- Repenting by disgusting the worldly matters which are the cause of human misery (Ngyes "byung)
- Training one's mind in altruistic aspiration to attain full enlightenment for benefit of all beings, that is, Bodhicitta (Byang chub kyi sems)
- Viewing the ultimate nature of reality as devoid of any inherit existence and self-identity, that is, as empty (stong pa nyid)
Jewels of Refuge
Like Buddhism and Jainism, Bonpo recognizes Jewels of Refuge (Skyabs gNas bZhi.) However, usually the Bon tradition names 4 instead of 3 (dKon mChog gSum .)
- Buddha (Tonpa Shenrab, "Sangs rGyas")
- Eternal Bon Teachings ("Yungdrung Bon Rinpo Che")
- Excellent gShen ("gShen rab gYungdrung Sems dPa")
- Master (a family guru, "Bla Ma")
Above, numbers 1, 2, and 3 correspond to the Buddhist jewels of refuge Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Bonpas have added the Master or Guru as another jewel to depend on for learning spirituality.
Buddha Shenrab taught in 3 successive cycles; first expounding the 9 Ways of the Bon, second Four Bon Portals, and the Fifth, Treasury, third the Outer, Inner, and Secret Precepts.
- 1) 9 Ways of the Bon
This is known as Theg-pa rim-dgu'i Bon.
|Way of the Shen of Prediction
|Ways of cause (rGyud-kyi theg-pa)||Four different ways of prediction: sortilege (Mo), astrology (rTsis), ritual (gTo) and examination of causes (dPyad.)|
|Way of the Shen of the Visual World
|Ways of cause (rGyud-kyi theg-pa)||It explains the origin and nature of gods and demons living in this world, the methods of exorcisms and ransoms of various kinds.|
|Way of the Shen of Illusion
|Ways of cause (rGyud-kyi theg-pa)||It contains the rites for the disposing of adverse powers.|
|Way of the Shen of Existence
|Ways of cause (rGyud-kyi theg-pa)||It is concerned with the state after death (Bar-do) and methods of guiding living beings towards the final liberation or a better rebirth.|
|Way of the Virtuous Followers
|Ways of result ('Bras-bu'i theg-pa)||It guides those who follow the ten virtues and ten perfections.|
|Way of the Monkhood
|Ways of result ('Bras-bu'i theg-pa)||Here are described the rules of monastic discipline.|
|Way of Pure Sound
|Ways of result ('Bras-bu'i theg-pa)||It gives an exposition of higher tantric practices, the theory of realization through the mystic circle (mandala) and the rituals which form an integral part of these practices.|
|Way of Primeval Shen
|Ways of result ('Bras-bu'i theg-pa)||It stresses the need for a suitable master, place and occasion for tantric practices. Here the layout of the mystic circle is described in detail together with instructions for meditation on particular deities.|
|Great Perfection (rDzogs-chen)||It is the highest attainment of the Great Perfection (rDzogs-chen.)|
- 2) 5 Portals of Bon
This is known as sGo-bzhi mdzod-lnga.
|It contains the esoteric or higher tantric practices.|
|It includes narratives and various rites, magic and ordinary, such as death, funeral, illness and ransom rituals.|
|The Land of Phan
|It explains the monastic rules and gives exposition of philosophical concepts.|
|The Lordly Guide
|It contains the Great Perfection practices (rDzogs-chen.)|
|It comprises the essential aspects of all the Four Portals.|
- 3) Outer, Inner, and Secret Precepts
|All you attendant Bodhisattvas and all you high Bodhisattvas and Arhats! Al of you Devas, Asuras, humans, and all you smell-eaters, male and female - all of you who are present here! What I am teaching here is extremely precious and true. Everybody must listen carefully. If any of you here is not listening attentively or intently then you will be continuously deluded and will fall down into Samsara again and again. If, on the other hand, you follow this Teaching, obey it and practise it, then gradually you will enter the great path of precious release from Samsara. Then you will no longer be deluded or be lost in Samsara. Gradually, if yo continue to practise with virtuous motivation, you will achieve the precious result of Tharpa, liberation in the highest realms such as Ogmin Zhingkham, and ultimately Buddhahood.|
Each sentient being has 2 types of seeds that are kept in their kunzhi namshe or alaya. If a human engages in positive causes, this leads to the release of suffering. If though, a human meets negative causes, it leads to staying in Samsara.
A religion for the world
Although Bonpo remains mainly practiced by Tibetan nationalities, and some Indians and Chinese, it was intended to be a dharma to which everyone can learn from and apply towards Moksha, just like other Hindu sects.
Bonpas preached the philosophy to various countries and an annual summit of practitioners commenced in a famous cave temple. According to scriptures, Shenrab, like ascetic Rishabha, traveled other kingdoms outside of India. He even went to China and taught the Chinese Bonpo Legtang Mangpo. Other missionaries of Bonpo had also traveled in different countries to teach the doctrine. Namse Chyitol.g of the Gilgistan is accredited with having converted King Seve Salbar of Afghanistan to Yungdrung Bon.
"Among the countries to the north and south of Jambu Island, the places where the teacher pressed down with His feet on the earth, with His actual body are the following: China, Tanguts, India, Nepal, O-rgyan, Za-hor, Kashmir, Turkharistan, Khotan, Ta-zig, Zhang Zhung, Mon-yul, Khitan, Phrom, Gesar, Bru-sa, Qarluq, Uighur, and Tibet." - dBra-ston
This list of countries is based on the list of Tibetan placenames of countries from the scripture Srid-pa Las-kyi gTing-zlog-gi rTsa-rgyud Kun-gsal Nyi-zer Sgron-ma. It substituted "India" for "rGya-gar", which is actually, more accurately "sub-Himalayan India". O-rgyan is Oddiyana. Bru-sa is Gilgitstan. Tunguts refers to the land in the Kurban-Tungut Desert in southern Kazakhstan. Ge-sar is the part of mainland China north of Tibet yet west Tarim Basin.
"The blessed, spread the teachings and converted beings within the [Eighteen] Great Countries of the Gods (Lha) Ta-zig (sTag-gzig), Oddiyana (U-rgyan), Tokharistan (Tho-gar), Camara (rNga-yab), rNga-yab-zhan (?), Za-hor, Turkestan (Gru-gu), Little Balur (Bru-sha), Kashmir (Kha-che), Khotan (Li), Nepal (Bal), India, China, Nan-chao ('Jang), Hor Gesar, snowy Tibet and Zhang Zhung. Ultimately, they all visibly entered Bon Proper (Bon nyid.)" - Dkar-ru Grub-dbang, 19th century Bonpa scholar
The gSang-sngags Rdzong-'phrang Nyi-'od rGyan by Thu'u-kbwan was a book of notes from a summit between Bonpas of countries of Olmo Lungring, sub-Himalayan India, Tibet, China, Turkharistan, and some others. The summit's would always take place in a cave named Mang-mkhar lCang-phrang. Cave temples or cave monasteries were very popular throughout Hindu history. (Even today pilgrimages continue to them.)
A popular missionary of Bonpo was gShen-chen kLu-dga. He was a descendant of Shenrab's lineage in the dMu-tsha clan. gShen-chen was requested to send Bon scriptures.
An emanation of Da-mi-thad-kye
—The Middle Key of dPon-gsas Da
'TShe-mi Shag-'bar with 4 others requested teachings, and were known as the 4 Chiefs of Upper Nyang. Then the 8 Pillars of Lower Hyang requested teachings: 1. Rong-bu A-tsa-ra, 2. Rong-bu G.yung-drung-gstug-phud, 3. Phug-pa rGod-po, 4. sTag-sgom Rtsang-po-'bar, 5. Ra-zhags 'Phags-pa, 6. Ra-zhags Mon-skyid, 7. Skyi-dpal 'Dui-gsas, 8. Bru-sha Lha-gnam-gsas. There were several receivers in various regions of Tibet. From Nyang-stod 3 are named, and from La-stod 3 are named, and from 'Bring-'tshams there were 3.
Many Bonpa clergy were well connected with nationalities both within and outside of India. One can see Bonpo influence and interactions with the world in the story of King Srong-btsan sGam-po. He maintained relations with royalties outside of the Subcontinent. The king took Princess Lig-tig-sman from Zhang Zhung as his wife and she brought with her a Zhang Zhung image of Lord Shenrab when he was age 1, from the Temple of dKar-nag bKra-gsal in Olmo Lungring, and for that image was built the Them-chen Temple in Tibet. From Nepal he married Princess Khri-btsun and she had brought with her a Nepali silver image of Byams-pa 'Khor-lo for which was built the Temple of Ra-sa in Tibet. He also married Chinese Prinecss Kong-co and she had brought a Chinese image of Shenrab at the age of 9 for which was built the Temple of Ra-mo-che. The king had invited a monk from Sub-Himalayan India, Akarashilamati, who had brought with him a sandal-wood self-created image of Shenrab, and for it was built the bCu-gcig-zhal Temple in Lhasa.
Om Ma tri Mu Ye Sa Le Du is its chief mantra, and is the hymn of compassion.
Bonpas worship both Buddhas and demigods.
The most important god in Bon, considered prime even over Guru Shenrab, is a primordial Buddha named Kuntu Sangpo, or All Goodness, who is in a constant state of fulfillment (Nirvana.) Having created the universe he is considered the Supreme God.
Gods are known as the lha. There are 3 categories of lha, the highest of which are the Buddhas, next the Bodhisattvas, and finally the Dra-lhas (Sky-gods), the last of whom are always in conflict with the hDre (demons.) Apart from gods, some Bonpo practitioners are also said to have had access to the divine. For example, King Tho-tho-ri sNyan-shal is believed to have been given Bon teachings from heaven, according to the Byams-ma.
- Major gods
|Tonpa Shenrab||Guru||May The Teacher Come To Our World!
May The Teaching Be Bring As The Sun Rays! May Teachers And Students Increasingly Learn And Accomplish! May There Thus Be Good Fortune That The Teachings Long Remain!
|Shenlha Odkar||Demigod||A Om Hung A Aa Kar Sa Le Oh A Yang Om Dhu|
(Yum Chen Sherab Chamma)
|Demigod||Om Ma-Wa Ma-Te Ma-Hi Mo-Ha
E Ma Ho Ma-Ye Ru-Pa Ye-Ta Dhu-Dhu So-Ha
|Demigod||Om Na-Ma Se La Amita Se Gyer Dun-Pung
Om A Hung Ram Dza Samaya Tita Lhen
|Saint-Warrior||Hung Tro Ta Ya Ghar Una
Tri Trong Ha Ra Nye Lo Yo So Thun Tu
|Guru||Ah Om Hung
Drenoa Mu La Ha Ri Nis Sa Si Di Hring Hring Hung Hung Dza Dza
|Demigod||Om Red Na Ku We Ra Ha! Yag Sha Zam Bha La Ye So Ngo Drub Red Na Si Ti Dhu!|
|Sidpa Gyalmo||Demigod||So Ma Ma Za Nye Lo Yo Ram Thun Jo!|
|Demigod||Om A Bhi Ya Nag Po Bad Sod So Ha|
You are well known by the name to the followers of Yungdrung Bon in Tazik (Shinaki),
Almost as important than the Buddhas, are the Bodhisattvas, known in Tibetan as Yungdrung Sems-dpa's which translates in Sanskrit as Swastikasattvikas, meaning Swastika-beings.)
- Kunang Khyabpa
- Salba Rinjing
- Gela Garchug
- Jhe drag ngo med
- Gava don drub.
Each resides in a different paradise.
- Protectors of the Word (bKa'-skyong)
- Ma-mchog Srid-pa'i rGyal-mo
- Mi-bdud 'Byams-pa Khrag-mgo
- bTsan-rgod Hur-pa
- Dbal-bons - Lord Protector
- Classification of other supernatural beings
|Shinje||Demigod||Judge of the dead|
- Classes of prominent lhas
- Pho-lha (Tuletary god)
- Thab-Iha (Hearth god)
- Yi Dam-lha (Personal god)
- Yab-lha (Ancestor god) - One such was King gNya-'khri btSan-po the Lha-sras (Son of gods), during whose reign Bonpo was introduced into Zhang Zhung by Shenrab.
- Classes of venerated spirits
- btShun (Ancestors)
- Sa-bDag (Earth Landlords)
- Zhi-bDag (Earth owners)
- Mainstream Devas
- Brahmā in other sects
Brahma is known in Bonpo scriptures as 'Bram-ze'. ’Gyur ba blo gsal’ [bram ze’i bu ’gyur ba blo gsal] has been written as the 'Son of Brahma'.
Shiva is written of as mGon-po Phyag-drug-pa.
Garudas and Nagas are commonly mentioned in scriptures.
Shenrab's divine words (bKa) of Bon Gyi Thengpa Rempa Ga has the power to develop spirituality of the followers of Bonpo in a threefold way:
- Negative spirituality by possessing the Wisdom of Renunciation (spong lam)
- Positive spirituality by unfolding the Secrecy of Transformation (sgyur lam)
- Sublime spirituality by aiming to attain the Great Perfection (dZog-chen)
Bonpa scriptures are divided into 2 major groups; Kanjur and Katen. The prior are the words of Shenrab himself, while the latter are dependent on the Kanjur.
The Kanjur itself consists of 4 categories of scriptures; mDo, 'Bum, rGyud, and mDzod.
|mDo'dus||Biography of Shenrab|
|gZer-mig||Biography of Shenrab|
|gZhi-brjid||Biography of Shenrab|
|Srid pa spyi mdos|
|Nyer mkbo'i snang ba|
|Legs bshad rin po che'i mdzod|
|Rigdzin Rigpai Thukgyu|
|Khams-brgyad gTanla 'Bum|
|Srid-pa'i mdZod-phug Chen-mo|
|rNam-dag Yu,-gyi 'Phrin-las||Outer Tantras (Sngags Phyi)|
|Thang-ma-'od-rgyal-gyi mChod-gtor||Outer Tantras (Sngags Phyi)|
|Mu-dra Lha'i Phyag-rgya||Outer Tantras (Sngags Phyi)|
|tSha-tsha||Outer Tantras (Sngags Phyi)|
|Kun-snang-khyab-pa||Outer Tantras (Sngags Phyi)|
|Rab-gnas Skor gSum||Outer Tantras (Sngags Phyi)|
|Kun-rigs Lha-ma-yin-ygi Sbyin-bsreg||Outer Tantras (Sngags Phyi)|
|Zhi-ba Yongs-rdzogs||Inner Tantra (Sngags Nang)|
|Man-ngag Thig-le Dbyings 'Chad||Inner Tantra (Sngags Nang)|
|Khro-bo Dbang-chen Gzhung Rtags||Inner Tantra (Sngags Nang)|
|Dbang Chu-bo Rab-'byam||Inner Tantra (Sngags Nang)|
|Dus Drug Ma-mo||Inner Tantra (Sngags Nang)|
|Srid-pa'i-rgyal-mo||Inner Tantra (Sngags Nang)|
|Ma-mo 'Dus-pa Yang-snying||Inner Tantra (Sngags Nang)|
|Mu-stegs A-mu-kha Phung-gi Rgyud||Protection mantra against malevolent spirits|
|Shan-pa Ma Bzhi'i Gsang Sgrub|
|Khans-chen||Protection mantra against malevolent spirits|
Three traditions of Bon
- Revealed Bon
- Derived Bon
- Transformed Bon
Two types of Bonpas
"Bon was not a sinister perversion of Buddhism, but rather an eclectic tradition which, unlike Buddhism in Tibet, insisted on accentuating rather than denying its pre-Buddhist elements." - M. Alejandro Chaoutl-Reich, Ph.D.
- White Bonpas - Those who practice Bonpo in conjunction with Buddhism
- Black Bonpas - Those who strictly practice Bonpo
Historically the two spiritual traditions of Tibet have been Grags-pa Bon-lugs (Bonpo) and gSans-ba Chos-lugs (Buddhism) and normally Buddhism played a role in the lives of most Bonpas since its introduction to them. Except for 2 kings noted in the rGyal-rabs gSal-ba'i Me-long, the interaction betwween Bon and Chos have been friendly for the most part.
Disciplic succession of monastic order
According to the 'Dul ba rgyug drug, the succession of Shenrab's monastic institution succeeded in the order below. The rTsa rgyud nyi sgron confirms that this lineage began in the time of the transmission of the 'Dul ba rgyug drug by Shenrab, and lasted until the era of rule of the 8th Tibetan emperor, Gri-rum bTsan-po.
|Ga-chu gTsug-phud rGyal-ba|
|Ya-gong Ye-shes rGyal-ba|
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