The 7th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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About Bon and Menri
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Among the many Tibetans who fled their homeland since the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959, many are Bonpo, followers of Bon, which is the oldest spiritual tradition of Tibet. Bonpo believe their culture to have originated in the land of Olmo Lungring (located in a larger country referred to as Tazig, a region probably to the west of present-day Tibet) and that it flourished as it moved eastward through the Kingdom of Zhang Zhung, which made up much of what is now western Tibet. The ancient roots of Bon religion derive from a profound respect for nature and emphasize the healing of physical and environmental as well as spiritual afflictions. As Indian Buddhism was being established in Tibet, many native Bon elements were incorporated into the incoming religion, resulting in a distinct religion known today as Tibetan Buddhism.
In turn, Buddhist influences are abundantly evident in Bon religion as it currently exists. The two religions are distinct in many ways but share a strong and identical commitment to bringing an end to all suffering. Although they trace their origins to ancient times, Bonpo practice a living doctrine dedicated to perpetuating the teachings of their founder Tonpa Shenrab, who occupies a preeminent position in Bon culture similar to that of Sakyamuni in Buddhism. Tonpa Shenrab's teachings are collectively known as Yungdrung Bon or the "tradition of Eternal Wisdom" and include the Nine Ways of Bon that outline the laws of cause and effect on the path to spiritual liberation. Bon monasteries have survived throughout Tibet despite long periods of persecution. H. H. the Dalai Lama's recognition of Bon as the native religion of Tibet and one of its five core spiritual traditions is an important acknowledgement of Bon's significant role in Tibetan history and current affairs.