Friday, March 4, 2016

The Nine Ways of Bon & Iranian Central Asia


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"The teachings of Yungdrung Bon did not solely originate in Zhang-zhung, but were said to have been brought from Tazik, that is, Iranian speaking Central Asia, to Zhang-zhung in Western and Northern Tibet by a number of mysterious white-robbed sages long before the political events of the seventh and eighth centuries.........".....

"..... it now appears likely that before Indian Buddhism came to Central Tibet in the seventh and eighth centuries, Zhang-zhung had extensive contacts with the Buddhist cultures that flourished around it in Central Asia and in the Indo-Tibetan borderlands. Just to the west of Zhang-zhung there once existed the vast Kushana empire which was Buddhist in its religious culture. It was an area in which Indian Buddhism interacted with various strands of Iranian religion-- Zoroastrian, Zurvanist, Mithraist, Manichean, as well as Indian Shaivism and Nestorian Christianity. This was also true of the oasis cities of the Silk Route to the northeast of Zhang-zhung .... the Kalachakra Tantra is said to have been brought from Shambhala in Central Asia to Nalanda in India ....certain trends within Yungdrung Bon, rather than being later plagiarisms and imitations of Indian Buddhism concocted in the tenth century, actually do go back to a kind of syncretistic Indo-Iranian Buddhism "......

"Nine different ways, or vehicles..... even though one is a practitioner of a higher ‘Way’, this does not exclude the practice of one or more of the lower ‘Ways’ should the need arise. Although the methods differ, all of the Nine Ways have compassion as their base..... three different classifications of the Nine Ways of Bön according to the region in which the texts were found after being hidden. These three are referred to as The Southern Treasures (terma texts revealed in Bhutan and the southern area of Tibet)...... The Northern Treasures (terma texts revealed in Zhangzhung and northern Tibet)...... and The Central Treasures ( terma texts revealed in central Tibet close to Samye)......The Nine Ways of Bön"...

"It is held that Tonpa Shenrab first studied the Bon doctrine in Tagzig Olmo Lung Ring, at the end of which he pledged to Shenlha Okar, the God of Compassion, that he would guide the peoples of this world to liberation....The ultimate souce of their teachings is sTag-gzigs , a country situated rather vaguely still further to the west... ".... Ways of Bon

The Nine Ways of Bon according to The Southern Treasures: (David Snellgrove’s 1961 translation remains the only extended translation of the Nine Ways that is available!)

IX. THE SUPREME WAY (bla-med theg-pa)..... The Unsurpassed Way: This Way is primarily focused upon the practice of Dzogchen, or The Great Perfection. This Way does not rely upon antidotes of any kind, ritual or practice with a meditational deity. It is concerned with the realization of the true nature of one’s own mind.....The categories and ideas elaborated in this IXth Vehicle are usually referred to as the teachings of the 'Great Perfection' ( rdzog-chen ).....the Way of Dzogchen (khyad par chen po'i theg pa or rdzogs pa chen po, abbreviated rdzogs chen) .....In general, the Dzogchen teachings are found only in the old unreformed Tibetan schools of the Buddhist Nyingmapas and the non-Buddhist Bonpos...

VIII. THE WAY OF THE PRIMEVAL SHEN (ye-shen theg-pa)......The Way of the Primordial Shen: This Way is primarily focused upon higher tantric practice......This deals with the need for a suitable master, as suitable partner, and a suitable site. The preparation of the mandala is then described in detail together with important admonitions not to forget the local divinites ( sa-bdag ). The process of mediation (known as the 'Process of Emanation'-in Sanskrit utpattikrama) is recounted. The last Part of this section describes the 'Proces of Realisation' (Sanskrit nispannakrama), which is the 'super-rational' state of the perfected sage. His behaviour might often be mistaken for that of a madman....(ye gshen theg pa) renders the guidelines for seeking a true tantric master and the commitments (dam tshigs, parallel to the Sanskrit samaya) that bind a disciple to his tantric master

VII. THE WAY OF PURE SOUND (a-dkar theg-pa)......The Way of the White AH: This Way is primarily focused upon tantric practice using visualization..... It gives a very good account of the tantric theory of 'transformation' through the mandala......It then goes on to refer briefly to the union of Method and Wisdom as realized by the practiser and his feminine partner.....Way of Primordial Sound (a dkar theg pa) charts the integration of an exalted practitioner into the mandala of highest enlightenment;

VI. THE WAY OF THE GREAT ASCETICS (drang-srong theg-pa).....specifies the proper conduct for those who are fully ordained practitioners.....drang-rong translates rsi which in India refers to the great seers of the past.......Drang-rong is used by bonpos to refer to fully qualified monks, corresponding to the buddhist term dge-slong (= bhiksu ). This is the way of strict ascetic discipline....... The Way of the Fully Ordained: This Way specifies the proper conduct for those who are fully ordained practitioners.....Way of a Monk (drang srong theg pa) codifies monastic rules and regulations;

V. THE WAY OF THE VIRTUOUS ADHERERS (dge-bsnyen theg-pa).......specifies the proper conduct of lay person taking vows.....dGe-bsnyen is the normal Tibetan term for upasaka which in India referred to the Buddhist layman. Similarly, here it refers to those who follow the practice of the ten virtues and the ten perfections, and who build and worship stupas....... The Way of the Virtuous Lay Practitioners: This Way specifies the proper conduct of lay person taking vows....Way of a Lay Follower (dge bsnyen theg pa) contains the ten principles for wholesome activity...


The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Ways are classified as The Causal Ways, or the Bön of Causes. ....Tibetan Shamanism is found in the first four causal ways. Shamans in Tibet take a very earthy and dualistic approach to life, healing the disturbances and illnesses in this life without being concerned about the next life.....These first four causal ways of the native Tibetan shamans’ paths, are called: Chashen (The way of the Shen of Prediction), Nangshen (The Way of the Shen of the Visible World), Trulshen (The Way of the Shen of ‘Magical’ Illusion), and Sichen (The way of the Shen of Existence).....shamanism, healing, magical rites of exorcism, astrology, and divination (these practices belong to the four lower or Causal Ways among the Nine Ways of Bon


IV. THE WAY OF THE SHEN OF EXISTENCE (srid-gshen theg-pa)...... This Way is primarily focused upon rituals for the dead and methods to promote longevity for the living......This deals with beings in the 'Intermediate state' ( bar-do ) between death and rebirth, and ways of leading them towards salvation......Way of Existence (srid gshen theg pa) details funeral and death rituals....Working with the soul of the living and the dead is the most important feature of the fourth way, Sichen, which contains a detailed explanation of the principle of the la (soul), yid (mind), and sem (thinking mind). “The la is the karmic trace, which is stored in the kunzhi namshe, (or base consciousness). The sem follows the karmic trace and produces blissful, painful and neutral experiences which are experienced by the yid....When a living person’s soul is lost, shattered, or disordered, there are practices to recall and reinforce its energy, such as soul retrieval. In relation to the dead, there are explanations of 81 different types of death, such as accidental death, suicide, murder, and sinister death....following these kinds of death, it is very important to perform appropriate of the most important practices performed by Tibetan shamans of the sichen path is soul retrieval – Lalu (literally redeeming, or buying back the soul), and Chilu, (redeeming the life-energy)..”

III. THE WAY OF THE SHEN OF ILLUSION (hprul-gshen theg-pa).....This Way includes venerating a deity or master and then applying mantra and mudras in order to accomplish a goal such as requesting assistance from natural energies.....This is concerned with rites for disposing of enemies of all kinds. The rites described here are to be found in the bon tantras, e.g. those of dBal-gsas and the khro-bahi rgyud drug .....Similar practices are referred to in Buddhist tantras, e.g. Hevajra -Tantra...... The Way of the Shen of Manifestation...Way of Illusion ('phrul gshen theg pa) explains the rites for the dispersal of adverse tulpas, entities and energies.....Shamans of the third way, Trulshen, go where there is strong, wild energy, where they perform practices to conquer the spirits and demons that inhabit those places, subjugating them into their service. One achieves this through practising mantra (words of magic power), mudra (meaningful hand gestures to communicate with gods and spirits), and samadhi (meditation), while performing sadhanas (devotional practices) to engage various wrathful goddesses such as Walmo and Chenmo."

II. THE WAY OF THE SHEN OF VISUAL WORLD (snang-gshen theg-pa).....The Way of the Shen of the Phenomenal World: This Way includes rituals dealing with communication with external forces such as rituals of protection, invocation, ransom of the soul and life-force, and of repelling negative or harmful energies.....It is concerned with overpowering or placating the gods and demons of this world...Way of the Visual World (snang shen theg pa) details the psychophysical Universe....Nangshen, comprises various rituals for purification to summon energy and enhance prosperity, to suppress and liberate negative forces, and to invoke and make offerings to powerful deities and pay ransoms to demonic spirits.... In ransom rites, an effigy is prepared which represents the beneficiary of the rite, or the shamanic practitioner who is performing it....people often make life-size effigies dressed it in her clothes, so that it was very lifelike and resembled her closely.....

I. THE WAY OF THE SHEN OF THE PREDICTION (phyva-gshen theg-pa)......This Way includes divination, astrology, various rituals, and medical diagnosis.....four methods of prediction: (a) divination, sortilege (mo)......(b) astrological calculation (rtsis).....(c) ritual (gto).....(d) medical diagnosis (dpyad)....Way of Prediction (phyva gshen theg pa) codifies ritual, prognostication, sortilege and astrology....Chashen, the first way, comprises medical diagnosis and healing, as well as various ancient divination and astrological rites performed by the shaman to determine whether the person who needs to be healed has an energetic imbalance, or is being provoked by a demonic spirit, or negative energy.....

"... if the causal means of shamanism were practiced widely in the world, it would be of great benefit for the environment and the world community......It would be of even greater benefit if all nine vehicles were practiced.".......Shamanism in the Native Bon Tradition of Tibet-By Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche.....

"In 1961, Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche, Geshe Lungtok Tenpa’i Nyima Rinpoche, the future abbot of Menri Monastery, and Geshe Samten Karmey were invited to England by David Snellgrove. During this time, Yongdzin Rinpoche suggested the translation of excerpts of the Nine Ways based upon the Southern Treasures. Yongdzin Rinpoche personally selected the passages that David Snellgrove translated. In 1967, these excerpts were published as The Nine Ways of Bön. At that time, very little was known about the Yungdrung Bön tradition among Western scholars. There was a great deal of theorizing and conjecture. So, although Snellgrove’s translation of the text is quite accurate, his own personal conclusions as to the origins and influences of the Yungdrung Bön should be taken within the context of the time in which he was writing. However, to-date, his translation remains the only extended translation of the Nine Ways that is available."

"The ultimate souce of their teachings is sTag-gzigs , a country situated rather vaguely still further to the west... " ......The Nine Ways of Bon: Excerpts from Gzi-brjid". Edited and Translated by D.L. Snellgrove, pp.1-23 London Oriental Series , Vol 18, Oxford University Press 1968......

"In the Tibetan Bon traditon.....the first 4 of the Nine Ways are Shamanic Levels of Ordinary Elemental Magic.......the the next 3 are Tantric Transformation Levels.....and the highest 2 are Dzogchen Direct Experience all nine levels of Bon the connecting deity is Shenlha Okar."

"Tibetan Bonpo in ancient times appeared to cover a number of different types of practitioner, whether shaman, magician, or priest. Here there seems to be a strong parallel of the role of the Bonpo in ancient Tibet with that of the Druid in ancient pre-Christian Europe. Just as the Druidic order was divided into the three functions of the Bards, the Vates, and the Druids, who were singers, soothsayers, and magicians respectively, so the ancient pre- Buddhist kingdom of Tibet was said to be protected by the Drung (sgrung) who were bards and singers of epics, the Deu (lde'u) who were soothsayers and diviners, and the Bonpo (bon-po) who were priests and magicians."(John M.Reynolds)

"The Nyingma classifies the teachings into 9 yanas or vehicles for realisation. These are all equally precious and each is complete within itself with a ground, a path and a fruit." ...

"According to the Nyingmapa school, the various systems of teachings are subdivided into the following nine paths or “vehicles” culminating in purified Maha Ati awareness. The first three generally teach the way of renunciation (spong lam), the second three teach purification (sbyong lam), and the last three the way of transformation (sgyur lam):
1. The worldly vehicle of divinities and men (‘jig rten Iha mi’I theg pa), including all non-Buddhist religions.
2. The vehicle of the shravakas (listeners) and of the pratyekabuddhas –those who seek enlightenment solely for their own sake, i.e.; Hinayana Buddhism.
3. The vehicle of the bodhisattvas, consisting of the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism.
Next appear the three vehicles known as the External Tantras. These teachings and practices are concerned with purification and preparation to receive the wisdom teachings of realized beings that follow. These vehicles are known as: 4. Kriya Tantra; 5. Ubhava Tantra; and 6. Yoga Tantra. Concerning the next three vehicles, strictly speaking only 7. Maha-yoga, and, 8. Anu-yoga, are known as Internal Tantras. Classed as tantras, they are teachings and practices involved primarily with the transformation of the individual into the pure dimension of realization.
9. Ati-yoga, the self-liberated state, is based on the direct experiential knowledge of the primordial state, the joining (or realization of the inseparability) of what is known as the Path (or: Child) and Mother Luminosity.".....


March 2016


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