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Bon Sect – Tibetan Native Religion

The teachings of Bön Sect were firmly established in Zhang-Zhung, an autonomous state with its own language, literature, and culture before the 7th century. The state was divided into three sections known as the “Three Doors”: inner (Phugpa), outer(Gopa), and middle (Barpa). The Olmo Lung Ring is the inner door, Tazik is the middle door, and Zhang Zhung itself is the outer door.

History of Bon Religion

Tonpa Shenrab taught the Bön doctrine, which was recorded in three accounts and spread by his disciples to neighbouring countries such as Zhang-Zhung, India, Kashmir, China, and eventually Tibet. The transmission of the teachings was facilitated by Siddhas and scholars who translated texts from the Zhang-Zhung language into Tibetan. Although the current Bonpo canon is written in Tibetan, many of the older works retain titles and even entire passages in the Zhang-Zhung language. As a result, the teachings of Bön thrived throughout the ancient empire of Zhang-Zhung and gradually spread to Central Tibet before 600 A.D.

The Bön religion continued to prosper in Tibetan areas until the emergence of Buddhism. Over time, the narrative of Bön has been shaped by the influence of Buddhism, which arrived in Tibet in the 7th century. The Bön religion has undergone three distinct phases: Animistic Bön, Yungdrung or Eternal Bön, and New Bön. Although Tibetan Buddhist rituals contain many elements of the native Bön tradition, the New Bön of today undoubtedly reflects Buddhist influence. Nevertheless, both religions share a common commitment to the enlightenment of all sentient beings. A heightened sense of aesthetics is integral to the religious practice of Bön, whether it is expressed through the arts, philosophy, theology, mudras, mantras, ritual, dance, or astrology.

In the eighth century, Emperor Ligmincha was assassinated by the 38th Tibetan king Trisong Detsen, which led to the end of Zhang Zhung’s independence. The land and culture of Zhang Zhung were gradually assimilated into Tibet and eventually disappeared. However, many Zhang Zhung words from ancient Bön texts still exist in the modern languages of Kinnaur, Lahul, Spiti, Ladakh, Zanskar, and some Himalayan regions of Nepal. Presently, the practitioners of New Bön continue to honour the abbot of Menri Monastery as the leader of their tradition.

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