The exact meaning of ‘shamanism’ still remains unclear to many, as does the exact meaning of ‘Bön’, so this book could be of great benefi t, helping the reader to gain a clear understanding of the relationships between Yungdrung Bön and shamanic traditions. By studying Bө & Bön, even though many parallels may be apparent, one will be able to clearly distinguish the fundamental differences in the origin, practices and goals of these ancient religions. This book can be equally useful for practitioners and scholars of Bön, Tibetan Buddhism and shamanism alike.
Many writers have sought to establish a link between the Bön religion of Tibet and the shamanic traditions of Siberia. These attempts are largely unsystematic and piecemeal, and the results have been unconvincing. This remarkable book is the most thorough attempt to date to explore these connections. On the basis of wide-ranging scholarship as well as a long and close association with the most eminent exponents of the traditions he explores, the author presents the richness of Tibetan Bön and Buryatian Bө Murgel, discerning beneath the distinctive features of these systems a matrix of beliefs and practices in which they have their origins. Written from an “emic” perspective of sympathy with the tenets of Bön and Bө Murgel, this fascinating and provocative book is sure to stimulate interest and debate concerning the religious heritage of Inner Asia.
This book is a serious documented study of academic value but at the same time not dull and can even be read by a public who is not specialized in the topic. Dmitry Ermakov himself admits that he chose to write from an "internal" point of view, that is the point of view of a scholar who is not uninvolved in the subject matter but rather participates in it. As an example, concerning the history of the teachings, in particular those of Yungdrung Bon, the author has chosen to follow the dating suggested by traditional Bon texts even though there is no proof that they are exact, basing himself on the principle that there is not even sufficient proof to show that they are wrong. And often, in his study of rituals, his observations are based on first hand observation even when it contradicts work done previously by other scholars of the same subjects. Chapter XV is particularly interesting in which the author cites the works of the Indian scholar Tilak (1856-1920) and some recent scientific discoveries to support the theory according to which the cradle of Aryan civilization, and possibly of the whole human race, is found in the Arctic. The theory is not new but the way in which Ermakov reconstructs the relation between prehistoric migrations and the development and transformation of religions, philosophies and traditions is interesting. The book is divided into chapters which deal with different thematic aspects of the two traditions being examined and include history, geographical locations, purification and healing rituals, the cult of the deer, "white" magic and destructive magic, the spread of Bon in Eurasia as well as other topics. One of the author's aims is to clarify once and for all the widespread misunderstanding according to which Yungdrung Bon is considered to be a type of Tibetan shamanism committed to animal sacrifice and black magic which only later on took on some aspects of Indian Buddhism in an attempt to justify itself in the eye of Buddhists. Comparing the traditions of the Buryatian Bo Murgel and Tibetan Bon from a historical, mythological and ritualistic point of view shows that this is not so.
It is rare to find a book like this. Most comparative studies books show the author knows a great deal about one subject and not so much about the other. However, not only does Dmitry Ermakov know both intimately well, but he has produced a work that is remarkably free from the usual dry, pseudo-ethno/anthropological academic approach (which keeps the reader at arms length from the topic) and he has also rescued Shamanism from the sloppy New Age brigade who have hijacked the term for their own ends. This is a really impressive work that gets inside the mind-sets of both types of practitioners of the ancient religions of Bon and Bo Murgel. Normally you have to dig very deep (or know several languages) to find little nuggets of information like those found here and on finishing the book you feel like we have only just begun to explore the real history of religions and even our civilization. The ancient Eurasian roots of mankind make for fascinating reading. Bon history and practice has been unfairly dismissed by many Tibetan Buddhists and Western scholars who have not fully investigated and appreciated it and Ermakov has provided an extremely valuable service here. Central Asia was an incredibly important and fertile ground in the ancient history of religion and a melting pot for ideas, and much more scholarship needs to be done in this area. The author corrects a lot of misunderstandings about Bon and about the term "Shamanism", especially in how it is often applied erroneously to Bon practice. The fascinating study of Bo Murgel shows much in common with our own pagan and Western esoteric traditions, and indeed, the common religious heritage of mankind from prehistoric times. The sheer depth of information, notes, and even excerpts from highly personal diaries, may be detracting for some - and the author is also not afraid to boldly posit theories and speculate - but there is no denying the heartfelt enthusiasm of the author for the subject, which comes alive in the pages. And, actually that is the whole point - as being a practitioner of both Bo and Bon you get a unique insider's view of both religions. It would be impossible to fully understand otherwise. This is an excellent book that perhaps may only prove its true value in the future as new research pushes back the boundaries and prejudices of our understanding of our prehistorical religious heritage.
Here is something that I personally find most interesting -- one of those ventures into speculative history that you "know" must be right -- but the task of proving it up seems daunting, lest the right set of circumstances comes along. A dauntless, young Russian practitioner -- Dimitry Ermakov -- nephew of the head of archaeology at Kiev University, has taken the time and trouble to research what must surely be one of the most fascinating studies ever attempted: the relationship between Siberian shamanism and pre-Buddhist Bon. This is not for the faint of heart, but the author attacks it with great vigor, and he actually gets somewhere. He starts with a simple question that has occurred to many of us through the years -- I seem to remember John Reynolds began exploring this many years ago -- and this is actually more of a "what if" than a question: what if magical traditions in Tibet during the Domai Bon era, actually had their origins elsewhere, and if so, where? The simplicity is deceptive, because the answer to that question also impacts medicine just as heavily as it does religion. For example: there is much in the deeper practices of the Medicine Buddha (and Tibetan traditional medicine) than can be accounted for by Indian origins. There is indeed much in Vedic medical literature that smacks of elsewhere. The author doesn't shy away from these avenues -- indeed, he takes Indo-Iranian influence head on, which makes for an interesting read -- and he also opens up some lines of inquiry that are most worthy of further examination. I don't want to spoil your joy of reading this book by dwelling on this and that -- I want to stop right now and earnestly suggest you support this young author's very valuable work by visiting his web site and then purchasing a copy. Very highly recommended.
In what appears to be a life's work, Ermakov presents a compelling exploration of the comparative elements in prehistoric Bon traditions and "shamanic" Siberian practices. Particularly interesting are the cosmological models of both cultures, and the shared mythic motifs also found in other Indo-European traditions. Bo & Bon is a fascinating tour de force of anthropological research, as well as a comprehensive examination of the esoteric beliefs and practices of early Tibetan Bon and Buryatian Bo Murgel tenets. Not f or the fainthearted but essential reading for practitioners and scholars of Tibetan Buddhism, Bonpo, and Tengeri traditions. Worth it for the sheer antiquity of these religious heritages.
This is a thorough work exploring the link between the Bön religion of Tibet and the shamanic traditions of Siberia. Based on wide scholarship and association with the eminent exponents of the tradtitions, it examines the religious tradition of Yungdrung Bön which contains methods and wisdom to benefit individuals on all levels of life rights up to the prefect state of the Buddha. It also deals with the Bө Murgel tradition of Buryatia as a syncretic tradition embracing several kinds of prehistoric Bön. A comparative study of the traditions reveals parallels as well as fundamental differences in the origin, practices and goals of the religions. The volume delves into the historical and geographical background of the traditions and their understanding of concepts of soul, divination, healing and magic. It discusses their cosmology, classes of gods and spirits, transmission, initiation and purification rituals, functions of rituals, ritual costumes and objects.
In spring 2014 I revisited the Karma Triyana Dharmacharkra monastery near Woodstock, NY (as a tourist) and of course visited the accomapying Namse Bangdzo Bookstore. The monastery is Tibetan Buddhistic, but my interest was caught by a small number of books about Bön, the pre-Buddhistic religion of Tibet. In two I thought to have found both some history, but also an 'inside view' of the religion itself. One of the books had a plus: it is not only about Bön! As you can see in the title of the book that is subject of this review, that is the one I brought home. The book is massive in size (800+ pages) and contents. Much of the information is new to me, so that makes the book extra overwhelming. [...] Ermakov has both studied and lived both traditions and came to the conclusion that they sprang from the same source. A source which he calls: "the prehistoric Bön of Eurasia". This "prehistic Bön of Eurasia" reminds a lot of what scholars of comparative religion call the Indo-European religion. This makes the book even more interesting than I expected! [...] There is a very handy glossary and the index is nicely detailed. A great book with a very interesting approach to comparitive religion and instructive both about Bön (of which I knew little) and Bө (of which I knew nothing) and even Germanic heathenry and other Indo-European religions. [...] A sidenote for the faint-hearted. However friendly the current Dalai Lama is, the conversion from the various sorts of Bön to Buddhism was not always a very friendly traject and you will learn a thing or two about this part of history too. Also about current forms of Tibetan Buddhism by the way, so if this has your interest, this book might be for you too