Introduction continued


In ancient times the Greeks and Romans often related to the same deities but would call them by different names — e.g., the Greeks would refer to the messenger of the Gods as “Hermes” and the Romans would refer to him as “Mercury.” A similar situation exists between Yungdrung Bön and general Buddhism. If we take for example, the great Bön Teacher Sherab Mawei-Seng-ghe, the Buddhist equivalent is Manjushri. Represented iconographically, they are practically identical.

Even amongst general Buddhist schools, this anomaly is in evidence — e.g., where Indian Buddhists might refer to Manjushri, Tibetan Buddhists might refer to Jampei-yang (Jam-yang for short). Similarly all schools anticipate the coming of the future Buddha — Tonpa Chi-med Jam-dhen — or Buddha Maitreya — as he is more commonly known.

Central Beliefs

Central to the Yungdrung Bön belief system is the notion of Samsara, or cyclic existence, whereby sentient beings go through a succession of re-births within the various modes or realms of existence. The type of birth which one takes within Samsara is believed to be determined by the karma, which one has accumulated over previous lifetimes.

The ultimate aim of all sentient beings is considered to be to achieve Sang-gye (Enlightenment), thus liberating themselves permanently from the suffering of Samsara, with a view to helping others do the same.

The teachings of Yungdrung Bön aim to provide the practitioner with various methods and wisdom to cope with and transform life”s challenges, ultimately with a view to attaining Enlightenment. They are contained in the Bön Theg-pa Rim-gu (The Nine Gradual Views of Bön), Bön Go-zhi Zöd-nga (The Four Portals and Treasure as the Fifth) or Bön Chi-nang Sang-soom (The External, Internal and Secret Bön).

These are practised through the three different paths of Pang-lam (the Renunciation Path, which is the path most commonly followed by monks and nuns), Gyur-lam (the Transformation or Tantric Path) and Drol-lam (the Liberation Path — also known as the “Direct Path” since, through it, one neither has to renounce nor transform one”s negative experiences as with the other two, but can simply liberate them by applying Ta-Gom-Chöd Soom (the View, Meditation and Characteristic Behaviour of Dzogchen). Within Dro-lam, it is possible to realize Ja-lu Wö-ku Chen-po (The Great Rainbow Light Body) — i.e., Enlightenment in this very life and body.


Practical Relevance

Q: What then does such an ancient, esoteric spiritual tradition have to offer in these modern times?

Through time immemorial, mankind has engaged in the pursuit of happiness, but happiness is an elusive concept. How often does one achieve the goal, which is believed will provide happiness, only to find such happiness disappear shortly afterwards? This may be because people tend to define happiness in a very limiting way and thus spend much of their lives chasing after illusions of happiness — a bit like the mirage of the oasis in the desert which disappears when the spot is eventually reached — thus the thirst for happiness is never fully quenched.

The teachings of Yungdrung Bön help us to define what constitutes true happiness and to look at the obstacles which prevent us from achieving it. They then provide us with a “tool kit” with which to tackle and surmount all obstacles — thus putting happiness firmly within the grasp of all. With this kit, we can at last turn on the inexhaustible water tap to quench the thirst — thus achieving a greater sense of fulfilment and inner contentment.

The hectic pace at which most people in modern society live their lives in these modern times, often gives rise to stress-related or psychosomatic conditions, which lead many to seek solutions in modern medicine, psychotherapy, psychology or psychiatry, new age therapies and so on. However, upon closer inspection one can identify that many such therapies may have their roots in ancient spiritual traditions, such as Yungdrung Bön, and are simply “packaged” differently.

Yungdrung Bön teachings emphasize taming the Mind in order to effect inner changes — thus providing one with a philosophy of life geared at developing positive ways of thinking and transforming even the most extreme and adverse of life experiences into something positive from which to grow!


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