Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bon Bibliography Downloadable

Just as every Tibetanist has her or his idea about how to transcribe Tibetan script into the Roman — the very word 'Romanization' strikes fear into many, and rightly so — every one of them has different ideas about the history of the Bon religion. I won't venture to guess which position you are taking. Well, Are you a believer in Bon as the truly original religion of Tibet? Do you think it came from a place off to the west of the Tibetan plateau called Tazik? Do you think it's just another form of Buddhism adapted — whether through natural processes or intelligent design — to the Tibetan culture and mentality? Whichever slope of this three-sided pyramid you may be falling down at the moment, you will find something to edify and entertain you in the literature about Bon and its followers, who are called Bonpos.

So without too much more ado I will just send you to our sister site where I've just successfully uploaded a new combined bibliography of Bon. It ought to be entirely annotated, but as it turns out only some of the entries have accompanying descriptions.

I think it would be safe to say that this is the biggest bibliography of literature about Bon of its kind. It is true that there are bigger bibliographies of Bon literature in Tibetan language, including catalogs of the Bon Ka and Katen — popularly misnamed the “Bonpo Kanjur and Tanjur” — and a very big bibliography of Tibetan-language reprints done by Samten Karmay. You'll find those bibliographies listed in this one.

This ‘combined bibliography’ puts together the bibliographical entries (minus the annotations) from this book, with the content of this article, and adds a lot of newly published items.

Enter here.

Bon voyage!

Bon chance!

PS: I'll be going off now in an attempt to hang up a PDF version of the thing, since it looks a royal mess the way it is.

Well, that was a lot easier than I expected, but no PDF is for the time being available.

Done already. Bon nuit, mon ami.


  1. A Bon question for you, if you don't mind - to your knowledge, is zhi ba 'od dkar a variant name for gShen lHa 'od dkar?

    love the site.


  2. Dear Greg,

    I'm not sure if it couldn't be a further name of Gshen-lha 'Od-dkar. But often divine symbols of high aspiration are qualified as having the dramatic attitudes conveying either peaceful or wrathful poses & expressions. Gshen-lha 'Od-dkar is clearly of the peaceful kind. So I don't see the necessity of saying it. It goes without saying. Still, if you try putting Zhi-ba 'Od-dkar in your google-box, you can find examples of it. Give it a try.

    Did that make sense?

    Thanks for writing.


  3. Greg, Apparently Zhiwa Okar is from the terma of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Does that seem like it could be correct to you? -Dan

  4. Thanks Dan. That makes sense. I was familiar with Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche's reference to a Zhiwa Okar. I guess I was wondering if there was a precedent for that variant, or if it was indeed recognizably a variant at all, to your knowledge.

  5. Well, regardless of what Wikipedia says, I don't think Bonpos will ever recognize it as an alternative name. Unless, of course, they get their information from Wikipedia! I could be wrong, but I know of no Bon source for the form Zhi-ba 'Od-dkar. Period. But even more than that, I really really doubt that Gshen-lha 'Od-dkar —depicted seated in meditation with a hook of compassion for insignia and practically identical to the 'Dharmakaya' level Enlightenment— could belong to this 'primitive' group of 9 wermas in Trungpa Rinpoche's vision. Is he supposed to be a warrior in chain mail carrying weapons galloping across the plateau? No way this equivalence is going to work in terms of iconography. That's what I'm thinking.

    You can see in the Bon bibliography these two small pieces of writing on Bon:

    TRUNGPA, CHÖGYAM (Chos-rgyam Drung-pa, 1939-1987)
    1126 Some Aspects of Pön. Contained in: James Fisher, ed., Himalayan Anthropology (The Hague 1978), pp. 299-308.
    1127 The Pon Way of Life. Vajradhatu Sun (Dec 1984-Jan 1985), pp. 10, 28.

    When you read these pieces, you see that for him Bon just means the cult of protective deities as practiced by followers of Chos (Buddhism). True, Bonpos do have protectors, local spirits, etc., just like everyone else, but they would hardly see this as adequate portrayal of Bon. They won't recognize themselves or the things they do in these writings. That's the main problem from my perspective. I don't know if it answers your question, or if it answers it well enough.

  6. That speaks to my question very directly, thanks! From the Bon perspective, then, Shiwa Okar would not be recognizable. Nonetheless, I wonder to what degree Chogyam Trungpa would have intended a connection. We could only speculate here, of course. Are there any other 'Od-dkar-s to your knowledge?

    Namkha Drimed Rinpoche equates Shiwa Okar with an "Akar Werma" - have you ever heard that name?

    Thank you for the references - I will investigate them as soon as I am able to procure them.

  7. I also don't know or find anything about an Akar Werma (a dkar wer-ma), but in the Phenomenal Shen Vehicle (snang gshen theg-pa), the 2nd of the 9 Vehicles, you do have the expression Thukar Werma — in Wylie transliteration: Thugs-kar (or Thugs-dkar, or Thug-dkar) Wer-ma.

    Thug-dkar by itself is a name for a class of human-friendly 'genies,' helpful for long life, prosperity and the like. And they do belong to the bigger general class of the 'enemy gods' (dgra lha / sgra bla). Which at least means that your Akar Werma and this Thukar Werma are located in the same general level of Bon teachings. More I can't tell you. But if you want to look into this more I can recommend D. Snellgrove's "The Nine Ways of Bon" p. 63 ff.

  8. Greetings From Lithuania!

    I want to say BIG thank you for the bibliography. For a master student from Vilnius University, trying to do a research on Bon (it sounds so ridiculous especially if anybody knows that we have only one (can I call ?) who has done his Phd on Kalachakra, and nobody else to help) it is a real treasure! And another BIG thank you for the link to the New Horizons in Bon Studies pdf files that is the treasury.

    So Far I have noticed few articles omitted:

    Complementarity and Opposition in Early Tibetan Ritual. By DOTSON, BRANDON.
    Source: Journal of the American Oriental Society; Jan-Mar2008, Vol. 128 Issue 1, p41-67, 27p.

    Matthew Kapstein speaks about Bon in his The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism. Oxford University Press, 2000. And this was somehow lost in the bibliography, or may be I haven't noticed (also possible).

    The Origins and Early History of rDzogs chen. By: Esler, Dylan. Tibet Journal, Fall2005, Vol. 30 Issue 3, p35-64, 30p; (AN 22356518). This article from The Tibet Journal appears full text in the EBSCO database, but I can not find this Fall2005 issue in the online available Table of Contents for the Tibet Journal.

    I also would like to ask why there is so little done in the field of contemporary Bon studies. Very little is done on Bon communities in exile, restoration of Bon monasteries and the problems arising in Bon communities because of increasing tourism or Chinese style modernization. Few interesting articles to be mentioned:

    Two Temples, Three Religions, and a Tourist Attraction: Contesting Sacred Space on China's Ethnic Frontier
    by Xiaofei Kang
    Modern China, May 2009; vol. 35: pp. 227 - 255.

    Thobgyal Sarpa: the Only Tibetan Bonpo Settlement in India, by Thupten K. Rikey. Read in the Seminar organised by SYLFF Association of Helsinki University in co-operation with Confucius Institute at the University of Helsinki. On 25 September 2008.

    This little so far, I hope I was not too rude to offer the articles to be included.


  9. Dear I,

    I'm never surprised at what good things come out of Lithuania. By chance or fate or luck or karma, some of my closest friends are from Vilna. Thank you so much for the additions to the bibliography. It won't be visible to anyone except for myself yet, but I've added them all to the bibliography (with exception of the Kang article which is actually already there: no. 508).

    A small correction: the page nos. for the Esler article are 33-62. I have no idea why I overlooked it for the bibliography, although I do remember reading it.

    I think there is so little (meaning not enough) done in every field of study and research. These days I'm inclined to think there is a real danger that in the near future it will be the past, and not the present, that will be sorely neglected in Tibetological conferences. Not everyone thinks that looking back at the past is a good idea. And perhaps they do have a point... It was great to hear from you. My best.


  10. Thanks for an answer. I think past, present and future are equally important. We can not neglect either of them. It's a pity that we usually tend to go to the extremes. But most important, I guess, is to look for new methodologies and theories which could help us to find the answers to the questions of the past, present and future. Here I would like to mention Zeff Bjerken's approach in his article about Bon "Shamans", may be that's one of the ways we could go.


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