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Observations placeholder

David-Neel, Alexandra – The Bons and their place in Thibetan mysticism



Type of Spiritual Experience


This is background information, although the information that many Bons are also magicians implies abilities in some - but unspecified - spiritual way

A description of the experience

My Journey to Lhasa – Alexandra David-Neel

The Bons are followers of the faith that prevailed in Thibet before the introduction of Buddhism. Their beliefs may originally have been much like those of the shamanists of Siberia, but it is most difficult to be certain of this, for at the time when primitive Bon doctrines existed in Thibet, writing was probably not known in the country. Consequently, there is no hope of finding any genuine Bon scriptures. The Bons themselves affirm that they possess books of a high antiquity, written before Buddhism entered Thibet. There may be something true in these affirmations, but up to the present no authentic proofs have come to light.

Nowadays Bons resemble, in so far as their religious practices are concerned, the old "Red Caps" sect, called ningma-ningma ("the most ancient of the ancients"), with the difference that they slaughter animals for sacrifices. As for their monasteries, they have copied those of the lamas; their clergy wear a habit identical with that of the lamaists and they style themselves lamas as well.

In brief, the White Bons are merely lamaists who have kept a part of the old religious practices, just as the lamaists have incorporated in Buddhism an almost equal part of the same.

The Black Bons are more original and nearer the primitive shamanism. Most of them are only ignorant, vulgar sorcerers, but a few interesting and intelligent men may be found here and there in their midst who hold peculiarly bold philosophical views, and some of them are believed to be powerful magicians.

However, the common run of the Bons distinguish themselves from the lamaists only by keeping their sacred edifices on the left when circumambulating these, whereas the lamaists keep them on the right. One may add that, instead of the formula "Aum Mani Padme hum" recited by the lamaists, the Bons repeat "Aum Matriye salendu," which some travellers have understood as "Matri Matris da dzu." Space forbids treating the subject in fuller detail.

The source of the experience

Tibetan Buddhism

Concepts, symbols and science items



Black and White

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps