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Bon: Indigenous Shamanism of Tibet

Connecting with the Elements: Within & Without

Connecting with the Elements: Within & Without


Long before the arrival of Buddhism in Tibet around the 7th century the Tibetan people practiced Bön, the indigenous spiritual tradition. Bön is rooted in nature, recognizing its aliveness and spiritual dimension. Bonpos, as the practitioners are called, cultivate strong relationships with the spiritual dimension through rituals, symbolic offerings and prayers. They believe that there are many kinds of beings that can affect one in both positive and negative ways. By maintaining awareness of such possibilities, one can be proactive in working with the various spirits to eliminate obstacles as well as receiving help.


When Buddhism became more rooted in Tibet, the Bonpos recognized that many of the Buddhist ways were wise and effective and they began to incorporate those that furthered their own path of self-realization. Bonpos also recognize that we are all capable of achieving our original, pure state through developing awareness, compassion and wisdom.

Today, Bön includes shamanic methods like those mentioned above, as well as a sutra path prescribing moral precepts, a tantra path using the body and energy to improve health of body and mind, and a Dzogchen path, which teaches how to achieve and abide in the natural, pure state of being.

Bön is an ancient religion and philosophy that remains very much alive today. There are Bön monasteries in Tibet and India and many lamas and laypeople practice both Buddhism and Bön together.