Bön, or more precisely Yung Drung Bön, is the original religion and culture of Tibet. It emerged with ancient Tibetan kingdom called Zhang Zhung. The religion has its founder and uses counter-clockwise svastika. It has survived up to present days in Nepal in the Dolpo region, which historians consider to be the last resource of the original (animistic) Tibetan tradition preserved in the world. We can find here the proto pre-Buddhist Tibetan culture, which Buddhists suppressed in other areas of the Himalayas (Tibet). Bön is also referred to as Bonpo or Bon-po.
The culture (kingdom) of Zhang Zhung, Xang Xung, or Shang Shung had its center right near the Mount Kailash, and it expanded to the present near-Kashmir area in India (Ladak). Its capitol was Kyunglung, the silver Garuda. In about the year 800 AD the kingdom fell apart, albeit it had successfully dominated the region for centuries before Christ.
The founder of Bonpo (Yungdrung Bön) was Tonpa Shenrab mibo, who was born in this ancient kingdom – Zhang Zhung. Dolpo, too, was part of this kingdom. The founder is also known as Buddha Shenrab. Bonpo followers believe that their founder – the enlightened master like Buddha, was born in Shambala and visited Tibet from therein some 18,000 years ago. The mythical land of Shambala, also known as Olmo Lung Ring in the Bonpo religion, is difficult to trace physically and its origin remains rather a mystery. This mysterious land is also described as being dominated by a pyramid of nine svastikas – the Nine Ways of Bön.
Bonpo (Yungdrung Bön) is different from Buddhism. It consists of “nine Bonpo ways” or “thegpa gu”. The religion believes in karma and reincarnation like Buddhism, but instead of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths the emphasis is put on thegpa gu. Yum Chen Sherab Chamma is the Goddess of Bonpo and Shenlha Wodkar is her counterpart.
Bonpo has three basic forms –
2) Yungdrung Bön – the nine-way svastika dharma (an elaborated system to achieving Total Completeness or Dzogchen), and
3) its more modern form which drew many of its present teachings from historical Buddhism. As a consequence, many scholars consider this third Bonpo school to be part of the Tibetan Buddhism.
In Yungdrung Bön, the Buddhas are not the Buddhist ones. The name “Buddha” simply implies that a person titled thus was enlightened. However, in the modern Bonpo school, which is a part of the Tibetan Buddhism, the Yungdrung Bon Buddhas are considered to be the previous enlightened forms of the Buddha. Buddhists have a legend that before Buddha first appeared as Gautama Buddha in about the year 563 BCE, he had manifested himself several times before. Yungdrung Bön has its lamas, its teachings, its literature, and it found its way to other countries, too.
Buddhism arrived to Tibet around the 7th century AD. On the Yeru Bon Center website you will learn that Buddhists destroyed much of the Bonpo culture in Tibet. They also persecuted followers of the Bonpo religion. This probably answers why following a religion alone does not suffice if the most important thing is overlooked: “Do not do things that make you a Buddhist, a Hindu or a Bonpo, but do things that make you the best in everything you choose to do.”