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“Bla – the mysterious Bönpo ‘soul’: its ramifications in meditation, rituals and healing”, is an illustrated lecture exploring bla in relation to many aspects of life, death and practice. Slides include photographs taken during a bla ‘gugs ritual performed by Yongdzin Lopon Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche in Shenten Dargye Ling, 2010.

The presentation was originally given by Dmitry Ermakov at Oxford University, March 2014, when he was invited to speak at the Oriental Institute for the Tibetan Studies program.

“Bön as Multifaceted Phenomena: Looking beyond Tibet to the Cultural and Religious Traditions of Eurasia” by Dmitry Ermakov, “Bon, Shang Shung, and Early Tibet” Conference, SOAS, London, 10 September 2011.


Dmitry Ermakov (Oxford University) Bön is a complex phenomenon which was once spread far beyond Tibet, but do its origins lie beyond the Tibetan Plateau? I shall examine this by looking at certain cultural phenomena. Firstly, I would argue there are four types of Bön: gdod ma’i bon, g.yung drung bon, bon gsar ma and what I have dubbed Mixed Bön, which comprises a conglomeration of the first three types along with various elements from other religions. Secondly, I take a closer look at the Deer Cult which was common throughout Eurasia from Paleolithic times until today using archaeological evidence such as Deer Stones as well as myths and ritual costumes from France, the Caucuses, South Siberia, Mongolia, Amdo and West Tibet to demonstrate the importance of the Sky Deer. I then relate this to the Bön culture of Zhang Zhung, in particular to the smrang from a g.yang ‘gug ritual. Having established possible routes this cross-pollination of ideas and cultural mores may have taken to and from Tibet, I move onto the question of whether Bon mdo sngags gsems gsum may also have originated outside Tibet. In view of the lack of textual evidence, I base my argument on concrete archaeological finds, namely rock carvings of stupas/mchod rten found in Gilgit and Ladakh. I then compare these with the depictions of Bönpo mchod rten described in gZi brjid. In the light of the breadth and depth of the Bön tradition, a multi-disciplinarian approach is needed to better understand this multifaceted phenomenon and its multiple origins.

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This film maps a journey made by Geshe Gelek Jinpa, a Bönpo Geshe (Doctor of Religious Philosophy) researching the ancient Zhang Zhung Empire which once stretched across the Tibet-Qinghai Plateau. The documentary follows Geshe Gelek as he travels through Mustang, a remote area of the Himalaya, on his misson to undertake the first survey of the Bönpo peoples living there, as well as to record religious sites, both ancient and modern at the request of Bön Mahasangha of Nepal. During this trip he discovers many treasures of Bön such as ancient texts, statues, historical records, and joins Prof. Charles Ramble in the dramatic recovery and identification of a significatnt Bönpo library at Mardzong. Other highlights include establishing the exact locations of a historic Bönpo monastery, Bönkor, and the hermit cave of Zhang Zhung Nyengyud Dzogchen master Rong Thogme Zhigpo. The fillm also shows unique footage of the Dögyab ritual held in the village of Lubrak to dispel negativities. With sensitive camerawork and editing by Kemi Tsewang, himself a native of Lubrak, and an informative commentary by Carol Ermakova and Dimitry Ermakov which adopts an ‘insider’s’ perspective, this film offers a precious insight into the rich historical heritage and living tradition of Bön in the Nepal-Tibet borderlands.

Authors: Jinpa, Gelek; Tsewang, Kemi

Issue Date: 2009

Publisher: Triten Norbutse Monastery & Bon Buddhist Federation

Script: Carol Ermakova & Dmitry Ermakov

Narration: Carol Ermakova

Cinematography: Kemi Tsewang, Geshe Gelek Jinpa, Renan

Research and Direction: Gelek Jinpa, Kemi Tsewang

Editor: Kemi Tsewang

Subtitles: Kemi Tsewang

Music by: Deuter, Kamal & Anuhama, Tenzin Lodoe, Evolution, VA, Shpongle, Native American flute

རྒྱལ་བ་གཤེན་ཚང་། སྟོན་པ་གཤེན་རབ་ཀྱི་གདུང་རྒྱུད། GYALWA SHENTSANG: The Living Descendants of Buddha Tönpa Shenrab




དམུ་གཤེན་ཡབ་སྲས་སྤྱི་བོར་མཆོད། །


On the crown of our heads we cherish Mu Shen father and sons

Imbued with Buddha’s Body, Speech and Mind,

Precious pearls on the unbroken garland

Of Pure and Perfect Tönpa Shenrab’s family line.

This short video is an interview with Yongdzin Rinpoche, his exact words, edited by Nagru Geshe Gelek Jinpa and Kalme Tsewang in Shenten Dargye Ling, France, January 2018. Special thanks to: Dulwai Khenpo Samten Tsugphü, Abbot of Vinaya at Triten Norbutse Monastery, Nepal; Pönzang Geshe Mönlam; Christophe Moulin; Carol Ermakova, and Dmitry Ermakov.