The initial and local religion born and grown in the ancient Tibetan society, also known as “Srid pa rgyud kyi bon”
Primitive Bon Religion was a local religion born and grown in the ancient Tibetan society. It was a pristine worship of deity. It believed that everything was spiritual. The objects that it worshiping include the sky, earth, sun, moon, stars, thunder and lightning, hail, ountains and rivers, earth and rocks, vegetation, and animals, etc, all phenomena in nature
Due to the production practice, when the early Tibetan got rid of the state of completely passively adapting to nature like other animals, they gradually became aware of many natural objects and phenomena related to the interests of people’s economic, but they were unable to control them, and just to have certain hopes and prayers for these things and phenomena, and worshiping them. Hence, it gradually gave birth to naturally “primitive religion”. At that time, it was a primitive “natural religion” that was popular in Tibet, which was called “Primitive Bon religion.”
Bone tools, stone tools, and more delicate pottery unearthed from Tibet, cliff paintings and stone carvings with hunting as the main content found in Ali, southern Tibet, eastern Tibet, Tibetan areas in Gansu and Qinghai; and more than two thousand ancient tombs and gold and stone utensils exhibited in the primitive society’s simple and magical nature worship, deity worship, creature worship, ancestor worship, totem worship, iconic symbol worship, etc., which prove that the Tibetans are in The ancient times, like the human development process in other regions of the world, also experienced an early and long period of primitive religion.
However, it is still unable to determine who its founder was.
Primitive Bon Religion – Features
In ancient Tibetan records, the “Bon” was the meaning of repeated chanting, which refered to the repeated chanting of various primitive Bon mantras, which was extremely important in various rituals of Primitive Bon religion
In the ancient Tibetan plateau, people believed that the only way to be blessed and kept demons and monsters away from people was to perform killing sacrifices through certain primitive Bon rites.
Its rituals were often performed by Shaman for divination, prayer, incantations, sacrifices, and various special rituals, which were similar to the characteristics of “shamanism”.
According to the available information, it has the following basic features:
- These primitive beliefs are produced in different times and regions, with different concepts and rituals, and they did not command or beloned to each other;
- These primitive beliefs focus on practice and rituals, and their theoretical achievements were not high;
- The clergy were all laymen and paid attention to the inheritance of father and son;
- Almost all of these primitive beliefs took the responsibility of exorcising demons, curing diseases and eliminating disasters, Soliciting fortune and wealth, and blessing for peace. Playing a role in solving people’s daily difficulties, soothing people’s souls, and maintaining social balance;
- There was a general lack of awareness of “the others” and ultimate care for the believers.
Multi Bon, period
Probably in the Stone Age, various primitive beliefs prevailed in the Tibet Plateau, which was the polytheistic worship collectively known as the “Primitive Bon religion”. This period is called the “Multi-bon period” by Tibetan scholars.
There are many kinds of it mentioned in relevant historical materials in Tibetan. It can be divided into different genres according to its different focus. For example, the divine calculation is called “divine bon”, and the astronomical calculation is called “astronomical bon”,
Others include Heaven Bon (Deity Bon), Geo Bon, The Great Bon, as well as Chanting Bon, Bathing Bon, Lucky Bon, Dragon Bon, Magic Bon, Wo Bon, Zan Bon, etc. , there were a total of thirty-three different types of primitive bon
Bon Religion, Primitive & Yungdrung Bon
In the literature of Yungdrung Bon religion, the religion founded by “Shenrab Miwo” and considered to be orthodox is called “Yungdrung Bon religion” which appeared after Primitive Bon religion. In other words, “Bon religion” does not mean “Yungdrung Bon religion”.
The word “Bon” did not occur at the same time as Shenrab Miwo’s theory, and it had nothing to do with Shenrab Miwo’s religious theory.
Before Shenrab Miwo, Primitive Bon religion had been active in Zhang Zhung kingdom for a long time. The shaman of Primitive Bon religion provided relief to the people and eliminated the evil spirits, and they had a large number of believers.
In addition, the religion that Shenrab Miwo funded was not originally called “Bon“, but “Gyre“. This was an ancient Zhang Zhung script, which was later translated into Tibetan “Bon”.
Therefore, “Bon” is the general term for the local religions in Tibet. It includes Primitive Bon religion and the Yungdrung Bon religion, both of which belonged to different stages of the development of Bon religion.
*The Primitive Bon religion is also called “Srid pa rgyud kyi bon“
It should be noted that – as Primitive Bon religion had gradually died out, and some theories and viewpoints of Primitive Bon religion have been absorbed by the subsequent Yungdrung Bon religion, then the “Bon religion” mentioned in modern society is usually the abbreviation of “Yungdrung Bon religion”, and it does not involve the Primitive Bon religion
Primitive Bon and Tubo Dynasty
Primitive Bon was first developed in the southern part of the present-day Ngari area, which was called Zhang Zhung in ancient times, and then spread to the entire Tibetan area from west to east along the Yarlung Zangbo River.
The deities in the sky occupy an important position in the Bon religion. According to legend, Nyetri Tsenpo, the first king of the Tubo kingdom, was the son of the deity and descended to the world along the Sky ladder
After completing their careers in the world, Nyetri Tsenpo and the other six Tsenpo after him followed the sky ladder to return to the sky.
Drigum Tsenpo who was the 8th Tibet King of Tubo kingdom was killed in the world, that leaded the sky ladder being cut off. From then on, Tsenpo, the son of Deity, could no longer return to Sky. Drigum Tsenpo was the first Tubo king who left his body in the world. Since then, Tomb for Tibet king of Tubo kingdom began to be built
The activities of the Bon religion were mainly carried out by shamans, and the magical instrument that shamans could not do without was the drum. This has always influenced the later Tibetan Buddhism to include the drum as one of the important instruments.
Shamans had great prestige in society. From weddings and funerals, farming and grazing, to the Carrier League, the burial and construction of the mausoleum of Tsenpo, and the succession to the throne of New Tsenpo, the decision was mostly made by the Bon Shamans
With the expansion of the power of Bon shamans, Tsenpo’s power was gradually weakened.
The shamans who dominate state affairs were the children of the great nobles hereditary. And shamans always supported the noble power and attacked the royal family on key issues under the guise of deity’s will.
Therefore, the contradiction between the Tubo royal family and the Bon religion has become increasingly acute.
At the beginning of the 5th century, India Buddhism was introduced to Tibet and was supported by the Tubo royal family.
In 755 AD, after Trisong Detsen came to the throne, he proposed to allow representatives of Buddhism and Bon to debate the pros and cons of the two religions.
At the end of the debate, Trisong Detsen, who was already clearly inclined to Buddhism, announced that he believed Buddhism was reasonable, he himself believed in Buddhism, and Bonism was unreasonable.
Afterwards, he gathered the people who believed in Bon religion and pointed out three ways for them:
-1, Convert to Buddhism;
-2, give up their religious career and become a taxpayer of the Tubo dynasty;
-3, if they were neither unwilling to reform, nor unwilling to be a civilian, then they would all be exiled to the remote areas
From then on, the Bon religion was greatly suppressed in the Tubo Kingdom.