The Three Pillars of Bon: Doctrine, Location & Founder
01 / 2005 - 05 / 2011
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO)
Adherents of the Tibetan Bon religion (Bonpos) style their religion Eternal Bon for a reason: they have outspoken ideas about the antiquity of their origins. In their view Bon traditions preserve and continue religious culture that predates the first official introduction of Buddhism into Tibetan cultural areas (7th 9th c. AD); Bonpos consider themselves to be (more) indigenous to Tibet. Nowadays, they trace their origins even as far back as 16.016 BC (in the Palaeolithic!). Tibetan Buddhism is thus portrayed as a relatively new arrival on the scene, a foreign tradition at best. There is an interesting paradox involved in this Bon historical endeavour. It resides precisely in the need felt by Bonpos to establish vis-à-vis Tibetan Buddhists the continuity of Bon from a period that, in actual fact, antedates the appearance of organised Bon and its written sources in Tibet. Due to the understandable scarcity of early (and relevant) written Tibetan and particularly Bon sources, these indigenous antecedents of Bon largely elude (textual) historical verification. The aim of the project is to understand the process of formation of Bon religious identity in Tibet at the turn of the first millennium AD; this process is defined by the presence in the area of rather successfully competing Buddhist sects, at a time when these sects were arising and Tibetan Buddhism was undergoing a major renaissance.