Bon is believed to be an indigenous religion of Tibet which followed its people when they migrated in the Himalayas of Nepal. It’s the religion of the Himalayas around 11th century before the advent of Buddhism in the region.
Bon is the religion and Bonpo is referred to the people (followers of Bon religion) or sometime the culture of people where they practice and follow the beliefs of Bon religion. The religion of Bon is believed to be founded by Tonpa Shenrab.
Bon practitioners can be found in Tibet, China and some parts of central Asia, though in the Himalayan region of Nepal, it was in the state of fading away as more people in the region now are practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism. The religion, culture, belief and art of Bon are little known to the world as it is often confused with Buddhism.
Bon as a religion today has evolved to a certain degree accepting some of the basic teachings from Buddhism which is known as Bon Sarma i.e. New Bon. This may be one of the main reasons why the religion and culture of Bon along with its arts and artifacts are often mistaken as of Buddhism in the rest of the world especially in the west.
There are still a few numbers of practitioners of Bon found here in different parts of Nepal mainly in the monasteries and temples in the Mustang and Dolpa districts high in the mountains.
The monasteries and temples that are practicing and preserving the culture of Bonpo in different parts of the Himalayas in Nepal are:
In Mustang District:
- Klu Brag Monastery
In Dolpo District:
- gYung Drung Shug Tshal Gling Monastery
- Dar Rgyas Phun Tshogs Gling Monastery
- Yang Dgon Monastery
- bSam Gling Monastery
- mTha’ srung Monastery
- sPung mo and sPu mer Temples
- gYung Drung Tre Ston Gling Monastery
- Srid Rgyal Monastery
In Rukum District:
- Dorpatan Monastery
- Mon Ri Zur Gsum Temple
In Kathmandu City:
- Khri Brtan Nor Bu Rtse Monastery
- Triten Norbutse Monastery
Yungdrung Bon (in short Bon) is the religion and culture practiced by the people living in the Himalayas who are descendants of the Tibetan communities who migrated from Tibet.
Triten Norbutse Monastery (Bonpo Educational Center) in Kathmandu can provide anyone who is interested in the Bon religion and culture followed in the Himalayas of Nepal as well as Tibetan culture.
There are few books on this explaining its religion and culture like Bon: The Magic Word, authors David L. Snellgrove, Jeff Watt, Samten G. Karmay, Per Kvaerne, Dan Martin, Charles Ramble and Henk Blezer and Sacred Landscape and Pilgrimage in Tibet of which authors are Geshe Gelek Jinpa, Charles Ramble, and Carroll Dunham, where as photographs are by Tom Kelly that helps people understand what the religion of Bon is, its history; how it came to be, how it was forgotten and lost in many places and how it evolved into New Bon for its survival when it was pushed out by Buddhism.
A Survey of Bonpo Monasteries and Temples in Tibet and the Himalaya is another valuable source of information made ready for the interested readers by Dondrup Lhagyal, Phuntso Tsering Sharyul, Tsering Thar, Charles Ramble and Marietta Kind.
In recent years as more people are becoming aware of this religion, it’s slowly but surely reviving itself in the high mountains of Nepal and people are making an effort to preserve and continue this unique religion and culture in the Nepalese Himalayas.
Bon and Tibetan Buddhism two separate religions prevailing in the Nepalese mountains, yet similar in some ways, when you first encounter them, you may confuse one for the other; See if you can spot the difference and experience it!