The history of Bon is difficult to clearly ascertain because the earliest surviving documents referring to the religion come from the 9th and 10th centuries, well after Buddhists began the suppression of indigenous beliefs and practices. Moreover, historian Per Kværne notes that "Bon" is used to describe three distinct traditions:
- the pre-Buddhist religious practices of Tibetans that are "imperfectly reconstructed essentially different from Buddhism" and were focused on the personage of a divine king;
- a syncretic religion that arose in Tibet during the 10th and 11th centuries, with strong shamanistic and animistic traditions, that is often regarded by scholars as "an unorthodox form of Buddhism;"
- "a vast and amorphous body of popular beliefs" including fortune telling.
However, other scholars do not accept the tradition that separates Bon from Buddhism; Christopher Beckwith calls Bon "one of the two types of Tibetan Buddhism" and writes that "despite continuing popular belief in the existence of a non-Buddhist religion known as Bon during the Tibetan Empire period, there is not a shred of evidence to support the idea... Although different in some respects from the other sects, it was already very definitely a form of Buddhism."
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, recognizes the Bon tradition as the sixth principal spiritual school of Tibet, along with the Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu, Gelug and Jonang schools of Buddhism, despite the long historical competition between the Bon tradition and Buddhism in Tibet.
The syllable -po or -pa is appended to a noun in Tibetan to designate a person who is from that place or performs that action; "Bonpo" thus means a follower of the Bon tradition, "Nyingmapa" a follower of the Nyingma tradition, and so on. (The feminine parallels are -mo and -ma, but these are not generally appended to the names of the Tibetan religious traditions.)
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Famous quotes containing the word bon:
“We women are not made for governing and if we are good women, we must dislike these masculine occupations; but there are times which force one to take interest in them mal gré bon gré, and I do, of course, intensely.”
“Resorts advertised for waitresses, specifying that they must appear in short clothes or no engagement. Below a Gospel Guide column headed, Where our Local Divines Will Hang Out Tomorrow, was an account of spirited gun play at the Bon Ton. In Jeff Winneys California Concert Hall, patrons bucked the tiger under the watchful eye of Kitty Crawhurst, popular lady gambler.”
—Administration in the State of Colo, U.S. public relief program (1935-1943)
“Our books are false by being fragmentary: their sentences are bon mots, and not parts of natural discourse; childish expressions of surprise or pleasure in nature; or, worse, owing a brief notoriety to their petulance, or aversion from the order of nature,being some curiosity or oddity, designedly not in harmony with nature, and purposely framed to excite surprise, as jugglers do by concealing their means.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)