Oral Tradition from Z^an-z^un

Pt. 1 = History & Lineages





Bon-po Traditions

3 to 16


Primordial Buddha

17 to 28


Mind-to-Mind Transmission

29 to 48


Oral Transmission

49 to 77



79 to 106


Sayings of Tapi-hris.a

107 to 118


Bon did not decline

119 to 128


Experiential Transmission

129 to 162


Later Transmission

163 to 190

Capp. 1-2



Bon-po Traditions

3 to 16

pp. 4-5 terms

p. 4

>bond-pa "to invoke the gods"

dpa>-bo 'spirit-medium'

g.Yun-drun Bon "Svastika-dharma"

p. 5

Sans-rgyas "Buddha"

p. 7 scripts


country where used





p. 8 the 3 cycles of teachings


Theg-pa Rim dGu ('Vehicles Successive Nine')


sGo bZ`i mDzod lNa ('Portals Four; Treasury Fifth')


bKa> Phyi Nan gSan sKor gSum ('Praecepts Outer, Inner, Secret -- Cycles Three')

p. 8 gTer-ma systems

__ gTer Lugs (__ Treasure System)

was discovered at __

discoverer or concealer

lHo (Southern)

sPa-gro in Bhutan

>Brig-mtsham mTha> dkar

dBus (Central)



pp. 9-10 the 4 Portals of Bon, plus its Treasury




its contents



Chab dKar Drag-po sNags ('White Waters Fierce Mantra-s')

sPyi-spuns sKor ("General Collection") of Pha rGyud ('Father Tantra-s')


Chab Nag Srid-pa rGyud ('Black Waters Existence-Continuity')

"Causal Ways" [rGyu>i Theg-pa (p. 6)] : funereal rites, ransom rites, divination


rGyas-pa >Bum ('Extensive Prajn~a-paramita')

Khams-chen from country >Phan-yul : ethical teachings


dPon-gsas Man-nag ('Masters' Secret Instructions')

Lun ('Scriptures') of rDzogs-chen ['Perfection Great']



gTsan mTho-thog sPyi-rgyud mDzod ('Highest Purity & All-Inclusive Treasury ')

"essential material from all Four Portals of Bon"

p. 10 the 3 Cycles of Praecepts


__ sKor (__ Cycle)

__-lugs (__ System)

__ Lam (__ Path)


Phyi ('Outer')

mDo ('Sutra')

sPon ('Renunciation')


Nan ('Inner')

rGyud ('Tantra')

sGyur ('Transformation')


gSan ('Secret')

Man-nag ('Upa-des`a')

Grol ('Liberation')

pp. 383-5, n. 1:13 dGe-lugs account of the development of Bon, translated by Sarit Chandra Das in Contributions on the Religion and History of Tibet, Manjushri Publishing House, New Delhi 1970, pp. 1-19; reprinted from the J OF THE ASIATIC SOC OF BENGAL 1881.

p. 383


>Jol ('Revealed') Bon -- "During the reign of the sixth king of Tibet, ... (Khri-lde btsan-po), a demon ... (>dre) kidnapped a boy of thirteen who belonged to the ... (gshen) clan and took him to different wild places in the mountains of Tibet and Kham.

{Accounts of teen-agers learning shamanry from deities while abducted by them, are likewise known among tribes in Siberia. As for gS`en-rabs, his country was sTags-gzigs (Tajikistan), not sTod-bod; though (in mythic terms) the 6th (legendary) king of sTod-bod may have been contemporary.}

Other accounts ass the detail that this thirteen year old boy was discovered to have had the ears of a donkey, apparently from birth, whereupon the ... spirits absconded with him.

{King Midas is likewise said to have had ass's ears (apparently as a result of his having listened to tales told by Silenos the satyr).}

For thirteen more years thereafter, this boy ... came to be fully instructed in the magical arts of the non-human spirits (mi ma yin). ... Because of this Otherworld journeys ..., he knew the names and the haunts of all the spirits and demons. He knew ... which spirits brought good luck and prosperity. And he knew how to appease hostile spirits with rituals ... . ... It is said, moreover, that when he returned to his village from the wilderness, he hid his donkey's ears by wearing a white woolen turban,

p. 384

for which reason the white turban became the distinctive head-gear of the ancient Bonpos.

{Turbans are originally of Persian provenience. White is the usual color worn by Zaratustrian and by Manikhaian clergy.}

It was said of these early Bonpos that below (>og) they tamed the evil spirits,

{In Siberian shamanism, disease-causing spirits are said to reside in the world which is below ours.}

above (steng) they invoked the gods of their ancestors, and

in the middle (bar) they purified the hearth when it became polluted which would thereby offend the hearth god (thab lha)".

{cf. various hearth-goddesses (Hestia for the Hellenes, Vesta for the Latini); and also the deity (goddess or god) of the stove for the Chinese}


>Khyar ('Deviant') Bon -- "three Bonpo practitioners were invited from Kashmir (Kha-che), Gilgit (Bru-sha), and Zhang-zhung, respectively, in order to perform ... funeral rites ... . ... Such rites are known as >Dur.

One of these Bonpos, ... the one from Zhang-zhung, propitiated the deities Ge-khod (the patron deity of Zhang-zhung), Khyung (Garud[.]a), and Me-lha (the god of fire{, Agni}). Thereby he was able to fly through the air on his drum {i.e., sense doing so while entranced} and divine metal and mineral deposits hidden beneath the earth.

The second Bonpo, ... the one from Gilgit, ... could foretell the future by means of the knots ..., a practice known as ju-thig, and

{cf. the Gordian knot, tied by Gordias the father of Midas}

the use of scapula (sog dmar). Moreover, he made {praesumably while possessed by a spirit speaking through him} inspired oracular utterances (lha bka).

The third Bonpo from Kashmir ... was an expert in conducting the funeral ceremonies."


bsGyur ('Transformed') Bon -- "an Indian Pandita ... went to the north of Kashmir and dressing himself in blue robes ..., he proclaimed himself a great teacher. ...

{Blue is likewise the color of the garb of the clergy of the Kathar (in southern France) and of the Yazidi.}

p. 385

In Upper [g]Tsang, ... (gSen rgur klu-dga>, i.e. gShen-chen klu-dga>) and ... (Dar-yul sgro-lag) ... composed ... the Khams-chen, the Bonpo version of the [Prajn~a-paramita]. ... These caches of texts were known as "the White Water" (Chab dkar) and the Fruitional Bon (>bras-bu>i bon)."

pp. 387-8, n. 1:26 Bon Theg-pa Rim dGu ('Bon Ways Successive Nine'), as classified in the lHo gTer Lugs ('Southern Treasures System')



__ Theg-pa (__ Vehicle)



Phywa gS`en ('Praediction Practice') -- "divination (mo), astrological and geomantic calculations (rtsis), medical diagnosis (dpyad), and the performing of healing rituals (gto)."


sNan gS`en ('Manifestations Practice') -- "invoking the gods (lha gsol-ba) for their aid. This includes such classes of deities as the Thugs-dkar, the sGra-bla, the Wer-ma".


>Phrul gS`en ('Magic Practice') -- "exorcism (sel-ba) to elimimate ... provocations of ... spirits (gdon) who come to disturb human existence. The practitioner works ... in terms of evocation, conjuration, and application (bsnyen sgrub las gsum)."


Srid gS`en ('Existence Practice') or >Dur gS`en ('Exorcism Practice') -- "exorcising (>dur) the spirits of the dead who are disturbing the living. ...


three hundred and sixty kinds of rites for accomplishing this".


dGe-bsn~en ('Virtuous Layfolk') -- "the ten virtuous deeds (dge-ba bcu), ... as well as pious activities such as erecting stupas".


dRan-sron ('Sages/R.s.i') -- "the vows ... and the rules of ... discipline (>dul-ba)."


A-dkar ('White A') -- "transformation by way of visualizing oneself as the meditation deity and the practices associated with the man[.]d[.]ala."


Ye gS`en ('Primordial gS`en') -- "secret practices including the proper relationship ... with the Tantric consort".


bLa-med ('Ultimate-Unsurpassed') -- "ultimate and unsurpassed (bla na med-pa) ... teachings and practices of ... the process of enlightenment in terms of the Base, the Path, and the Fruit".

pp. 388-90, n. 1:27 Bon Theg-pa Rim dGu ('Bon Ways Successive Nine'), as classified in the dBus gTer Lugs ('Central Treasures System')



__ Theg-pa (__ Vehicle)



lHa Mi ('Gods-Humans') -- S`ravaka Yana of Vaibhas.ika


gS`en-rab -- "they discover the meaning ... for themselves in their meditation practice."


Prati-eka-buddha Yana of Sautra-antika


Thugs-rje Sems-pa ('Compassionate Beings {Karun.ika-sattva}') -- Bodhi-sattva Yana of Yoga-acara or of Citta-matra (Sems-tsam-pa)


g.Yun-drun Sems-pa ('Swastika Beings / Svastika-sattva') -- Bodhi-sattva Yana of Madhyamaka (dBu-ma-pa)


gTsan-spyod ('Primordial') -- "ritual activity (bya-ba, Skt. kriya)" : "the Wisdom Being (ye-shes-pa)is invoked into one's range of vision and ... petitioned ... and thereby the practitioner receives ... the blessings (byin-rlabs) of the deity."


mNon-s`es ('Clairvoyant Knowledge') -- "The focus is equally on external ritual action and internal yoga practice. This vehicle corresponds to" carya tantra : "the presence of the Wisdom Being is invoked, but this time the deity is regarded as an intimate friend".


Thugs-rje Rol-pa ('Manifesting Compassion') -- "This vehicle corresponds to the Yoga Tantra ... . ...


Establishing oneself in ... the Ultimate Truth, one ... in the Generation Process (bskyed-rim) ... transforms oneself into the meditation deity, thereby realizing ... enlightened awareness."


Kun rDzogs ('Completely Perfect') -- "Becoming established in the Ultimate Truth ... the Perfection Process (rdzogs-rim) ... Space and Awareness are realized to be inseparable (dbyings rig dbyer-med). And particularly ... the practitioner comes to realize ... the inseparability of bliss and emptiness (bde stong ye-shes). This vehicle corresponds to the [Maha-yoga] Tantra and especially the Anuyoga Tantra".


Yan-rtse bLa-med ('Highest Peak Unsurpassed') [including "yang-rtse>i klong-chen, "the Great Vast Expanse of the Highest Peak"" (p. 16)] -- "Secret Instruction Series (man-ngag sde)".

pp. 6-7 & 10 phases of Bon






"shamanism of the Jhangkris ... of Nepal" {/Jhan-kri/ < */Dhyana-kriya/ ('trance-activity')} : worshipping the bDud ('daimones') of divine world Nam

{cf. /NAM/ 'spider' (in languages of Kamerun) -- perhaps an allusion to the [Vaidik] Kala-khan~ja deities}


g.Yun-drun ('swastika; aeternal') {/su/ 'good' + /astika/ 'existence'} founded by sTon-pa ("source of revelation") gS`en-rabs Mi-bo


"Zhang-zhung appears to have been an actual language, distinct from Tibetan, apparently related to the West Himalayan Tibeto-Burman dialect of Kinnauri."

{This dialect is named for the mythic Kid-nara ('What folk?') who resemble the Kentauroi of Hellenic mythology.}



gSar ('new/recent') ascribed ostensibly to rN~in-ma sources (such as, Padma-sambhava)

p. 11 the 3 earliest transmitters of rN~in-ma texts into Bod

"the [ rN~in-ma-pa] transmission ... was ... to Central [sTod-bod] principally due to ... three teachers : the great Tantric master Padmasambhava from the country of [Ud.d.i-yana], the ... Mahapandita Vimalamitra from India, and the native-born ... translator [Vai-ros.ana] of Pagor. According to tradition, the latter came originally from a Bonpo family."

pp. 12-13 historical origins of rDzogs-chen in Bod

p. 12

"Padmasambhava ... certainly did ... teach ... the Tantric system system of the sGrub-pa bka> brgyad, the practices of the eight Herukas ... . The system forms the [Sadhana] Section (sgrub-sde) of the [Maha-yoga] Tantra. ... In the context of the system of [Maha-yoga] Tantra, [r]Dzog[s-]chen is the name for the culminating phase of the Tantric process of transformation, transcending both the Generation Process (bskyed-rim) and the Perfection Process (rdzogs-rim)."

"According to the [rN~in-ma-pa] tradition, the r]Dzog[s-]chen precepts were first expounded in our human world by ...

p. 13

(dGa>-rab rdo-rje, Skt. *Prahevajra) in the country of [Ud.d.i-yana] and were later propagated ... by his disciple [Man~ju-s`ri-mitra]. The latter transmitted them to his disciple [S`ri-simha]".

p. 13 proveniences of 2 Vajra-yana tantra-s

"the revelation of the [Guhya-samaja] Tantra is said to have occurred to

king [Indra-bhuti] in [Ud.d.i-yana]

{king Indra-bhuti is likewise said to have been a major source of Jaina literature}

and was later brought to India proper by the [Maha-siddha-s] [S`ara-ha] and [Naga-arjuna].

Moreover, the [Kala-cakra] Tantra is said to have been brought from

Shambhala in Central Asia

{S`ambhala (in this context, as an earthly locality) is believed to be Ferghana (upper valley of the river Iaxartes = Syr darya)}

to [Nalanda] in India in the tenth century [Chr.E.] by the [Maha-siddha] Tsilupa {S.ilu-pada}."

p. 15 A-khrid

"The first cycle here of [r]Dzog[s-]chen teachings is called A-khrid ..., that is, the teachings that guide one (khrid) to the Primordial State (A). ... He extracted these ... from the Khro rgyud cycle of texts ... originally attributed to [sTon-pa gS`en-rabs] in his celestial pre-existence as ... (>Chi-med gtsug-phud)."



Primordial Buddha

17 to 28

p. 18 /sans-rgyas/

"Literally, a Buddha (sangs-rgyas) is an individual who has purified (sangs-pa) the mind-stream ..., thereby coming to unfold and expand (rgyas-pa) one's innate potentialities".

p. 22 primordial buddhahood

"the Primordial Base (ye gzhi), which has been present all the time since the very beginning, ... represents Primordial Buddhahood (ye sangs-rgyas-pa), even though ... this Buddhahood is is not visibly manifest ... . ... This Buddhahood, already present, ... is designated the [Tri-kaya] of the Path (lam gyi sku gsum)."

p. 23 Essence & Nature

"the Essence (ngo-bo) means ... the state of primordial purity (ka-dag), whereas

the Nature (rang-bzhin) indicates ... luminous clarity (gsal-ba), which represents the condition of spontaneous perfection (lhun-grub)".

p. 25 praeternatural rainbow; praeternatural translucent form

"an aura of rainbow lights ... embodies the inherent light of intrinsic Awareness or Rigpa in its visible aspect as the lights of the five gnoses or primal cognitions. The sphere of rainbow light (thig-le) ... represents the purified aspect of the elements. ...

Yet ... a clear, empty, translucent form ... expresses a total spontaneous self-perfection (lhun-grub chen-po)."

pp. 25-6 sexual union of divine couples; goddess's body-color

p. 25

"The Primordial Buddha may also be depicted ... as being in sexual union ... with his consort, the Primordial Wisdom ... (... Skt. [Adi-prajn~a] ...). She is the Primordial Wisdom ... that is the Mother of all the Buddhas who have appeared throughout the ... past, present, and future. ... She is also identified with the

p. 26

Great Goddess of Zhang-zhung, Sa-trig Er-sangs. ... goddess figures, when ... golden in color ... are considered to be Sambhogakaya forms of the Great Goddess . But as the Dharmakaya, either alone or in union with the Primordial Buddha, She is also shown as nude, but as being white in color. ... . ... sexual union is ... unification and integration (zung->jug, Skt. yuganaddha)".

pp. 26-7 telepathy

p. 26

"the Primordial Buddha ... reveals the essence of [r]Dzog[s-]chen directly by way of mind-to-mind transmission (dgongs brgyud) ... . ...

p. 27

Indeed, no words were spoken at all. The transmission was direct, mind-to-mind, instantaneous and telepathic".

p. 28 divine personages praesiding over the praesent kalpa; and the future kalpa

"according to Bon cosmology, in each kalpa ... cycle of time, there exist four manifestations of the principle of enlightenment which possess both cosmogonic and soteriological functions. These ... offices or functions ... are occupied by different individuals during the different [kalpa] cycles of time."

in highest heaven Akanis.t.ha (>Og-min)

in heavens below that

on earth

rDzogs-sku (Sambhoga-kaya) gS`en-lha >Od-dkar; and his consort goddess S`es-rab Byams-ma

Srid-pa (World-Ruler) Sans-po >Bum Khri = Brahma Praja-pati

1002 Nirman.a-kaya Buddha-s

"According to the Bon tradition, there have already occurred with this [kalpa] cycle the advent of seven [Nirman.a-kaya] Buddhas; the last [i.e., 7th] ... was ... (Ston-pa gShen-rab mi-bo-che) who appeared ... some 18,000 years ago. In the indefinite future there will come the advent of the future Buddha, ... (sTon-pa Thang-ma me-sgron)".


John Myrdhin Reynolds : The Oral Tradition from Zhang-Zhung : ... the Bonpo Dzogchen Teachings. Vajra Publ, Thamel (Kathmandu), 2005.