Yungdrung Bön

One of the most ancient spiritual traditions in the world, with a unique heritage.

Bön — usually referred to as pre-Buddhist Tibetan religion of ancient Tibet — is the native culture and tradition of the Himalayan region, one of the most ancient spiritual traditions in the world, with a unique heritage and uninterrupted transmission lineage.

Unfortunately, for a long period of time this religion was often an object of misunderstanding both in Tibet and in the West, erroneously identified with primitive shamanism and animism. The reason for this confusion was that the word bön originally used to describe various existing religious, magic and ritual traditions, based on the elements common for all the pan-Asian shamanism.

Etymologically, the word bön comes from the verb bön pa — “to pronounce magic formulas”, such as chants, recitations, invocations etc. But this popular bön should be distinguished from the higher forms of religious culture, bearing the same name, from the spiritual path of enlightenment, comparable with the Buddhist tradition. This higher Teaching is known as Yungdrung Bön, or Eternal Bön and historical sources of this teaching lie in the ancient realm of Tagzig in Central Asia and the Buddha Tönpa Shenrab, who lived in Tagzig about 18000 years ago.

Although Bön is a complete and organized religion formally recognized in a number of countries, many of its principles and doctrines are similar to those of Buddhism, and the essential difference between these two traditions lies mainly in their origin. All four Tibetan Buddhist schools (Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu, and Gelug) revere the historical figure of Shakyamuni as their founder and the source of traditional teachings. While the Bönpo, the followers of Bön, consider their tradition to have originated not from the Indian prince Siddhārtha Gautama, but from another Prince — Shenrab Miwo, who manifested as a Buddha in a more ancient era in a place called Olmo Lungring, in Tagzig. The spiritual path to liberation preached by Tönpa Shenrab became widely practiced in the ancient Kingdom of Zhang Zhung in Western Tibet, and then spread to the Central Tibet.

Over the course of history, the Yungdrung Bön repeatedly suffered persecution and several times was on the verge of total extinction. In the 20th century, as a result of tireless efforts from the elders of the Bön tradition and their assistants, monasteries and centers for the study of this ancient culture were built outside of Tibet. Misconceptions about the Bön religion gradually disperse due to the interest from the academic community and researches conducted by scholars from all around the world.