Foundation for the Preservation of Yungdrung Bön / གཡུང་དྲུང་བོན་ཉར་ཚགས་རིག་མཛོད།

Connections between Siberian Shamanism, Bön and Taoism

Connections between Siberian Shamanism, Bön and Taoism

This article is an adaptation of a talk given in Italian on 22nd January, 2023 for Tianwu – Scuola di Medicina Classica Cinese e Arti Taoiste. Thanks to Carol Ermakova for translating it into English.

 Topics covered

Introduction to the shamanism of Siberia and Central Asia

Prehistoric Bön of Eurasia

Bön as a multifaceted phenomenon.

The word ‘bön’

Etymology of the word ‘bön’

Meaning of the word ‘bön’

Four types of Bönpo religions

Prehistoric Bön

Yungdrung Bön

Doctrines of Yungdrung Bön

New Bön

Mixed Bön

Bө Murgel

Bön of the Deer

Differences between Bө Murgel and Yungdrung Bön

Possible vectors via which Yungrung Bön and Prehistoric Bön could have spread in Central and Inner Asia, the Tibetan Plateau and Southern Siberia

Connections between various types of Bön and pre-Taoist and Taoist religions of China

Bear transformation techniques in Bө Murgel and the pre-Taoist religion of China

Symbolism of the swastika in Taoism, Bө Murgel and Bön

The Juthig Divination of Zhang Zhung, the ‘Rope Writing’ of ancient China and Inca of Peru

Yungrung Bön in China: links with Taoism

Bönpo origins of trigrams and astrological science

Creation Models in Taoism, Bön and Bө Murgel

Creation Model in Taoism

Creation Models in Bön

Creation Model in Bѳ Murgel


Printed books and journals

Web resources

Topics covered

Introduction to the shamanism of Siberia and Central Asia 

The ancient belief systems and spiritual traditions of Eurasia, and indeed of the world in general, are often called ‘shamanism,’ a word which today covers a multitude of sins, as they say. For some, ‘shamanism’ is defined as an ancient technique of ecstasy, in other words, any type of possession or medium techniques. Others use the term indiscriminately for various spiritual paths that belong to very diverse cultures the world over, including those which make little or no use of any sort of techniques of possession. Then there are the so-called ‘New Age Shamans’ who believe in whatever they fancy, creating and following a mixture taken from various traditions, but without having any idea/clue about the calling, obligations and work of a true shaman.

In shamanic traditions of Siberia, as in Bön and Buddhism, each teaching/all the teachings have their own specific source and are passed down through a line of authentic masters. Therefore, the principle of lineage is of great importance and acts as a mechanism to safeguard the purity of the transmission against external influences or internal corruption. It is thanks to this principle of lineage that these traditions have come down to us today in good working order. Moreover, there is confusion between ‘shamanism’ and ‘paganism,’ names which are often used interchangeably. Taking all this into consideration, I try to avoid the term ‘shamanism’ as much as possible.

Actually, the word ‘shamanism’ has a very precise meaning. It is a russification of the tungus-evenki word <Šaman>, an adjective used to describe the priests of their religion. Many scholars have sought to lend the Tungus word ‘Šaman’ other meanings, such as ‘one who is excited, moved or raised’ or ‘inner heat’ or to trace it back to another language, claiming that the term is derived from the Chinese sha men,[1] Pali <śamana> or Sanskrit <Śramana>, which means ‘to make an effort,’ ‘ascetic’ or ‘one who believes in equanimity’ and, as part of a name or epithet of the Buddhist monks or itinerant preachers inspired by the Buddha’s teachings. The shramana ascetic movement itself was not initially linked to any school of philosophy or religion and existed even before the appearance of the Buddha Shakyamuni.

There is no support for any of these hypotheses in either the language or culture of the Tungus, and the last idea is obviously completely wrong since the Tungus shamans have nothing to do with the practise or teachings of Buddhism. To shed light on all this, I asked Russian scholar and philologist Alexei Burykin, the foremost specialist in the Tungus language and culture at the Institute of Linguistic Research, Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg to shed light on this matter, and he kindly replied as follows:

“The word šaman ‘shaman’ has only one meaning in the Tungus language group: it just means ‘shaman’, the priest. Some trace it to the verb sa-, ‘to know’ but this is highly unlikely because this verb has a long vowel while šaman has a short one […] As for me, this Tungus word should be compared with the Nenets word sambana, a designation of one category of Nenets shamans. These sambana shamans shamanize to the Underworld in a similar way to the shamans of Tungus who, basically do mainly that.”

At the beginning of the 20th century, the absolute majority of Western scholars who had investigated the native Siberian shamanic traditions insisted on the fact that the term ‘shamanism’ should only be used in relation to the peoples of northern Asia and a few small areas of Western Europe, such as the regions bordering Russia where Mongols and Kalmyks settled. Scholars such as D. Klemenz, M.N. Hangalov, W. RadloffL, von Shrenck, V. Bogoraz, V. Jochelson and many others unreservedly maintained that the understanding of shamanism as a religious and cultural phenomena limited to those territories and the nations who lived there prior to the Russian conquest of Siberia. Nevertheless, later researchers gradually distanced themselves from this clear definition, and the term began to lose its significance and precise value. With the onset of the New Age movement, which turned everything into a confused and indigestible mishmash, this term was soon applied to any tradition or psychic technique irrespective of whether they had in fact any connection with native Siberian traditions or with the methods used by Siberian shamans. As such, the term ‘shaman’ became inadequate for any serious research.

Moreover, some teachers who belong to religious traditions where an idea and figure of a shaman is absent nevertheless try to reinvent themselves as ‘shamans’ and dub their tradition as ‘shamanic’ in an attempt to better sell themselves and their beliefs to the public. Actually, they only damage their own traditions and degrade the meaning of the word ‘shaman.’ The term ‘shamanism’ is not bad in itself although it suffers from the problem faced by all ‘isms’ which is undue generalisation.

Prehistoric Bön of Eurasia 

For this reason, I prefer to use the term ‘prehistoric bön‘ rather than ‘shamanism’ to denote all the pre-Yungrung Bön traditions of Tagzig, Zhang Zhung, Tibet and its borderlands. The term ‘prehistoric bön of Eurasia’, refers to the gamut of ancient magical traditions of Eurasia. These include: the so-called ‘folk religions’ of China or pre-taosim; ancient traditions of the Arian tribes; ‘shamanic’ traditions of Siberia; the traditions of the ancient peoples of the Great Steppe, such as the Hunnu (Xiongnu),[2] Syanbi (Xianbei),[3] Zhu-Zhang;[4] and also some Native American traditions that came to the Americas from the Eurasian continent via Beringia. These traditions are, to a greater or lesser extent, all similar to each other, like close cousins or relatives, and while some of these similarities may be borrowed, on closer examination the archaic layers of ancient religions practised by those nations show common features and elements that must have sprung from a common cultural and religious source that I call the Prehistoric Bön of Eurasia. The ‘folk religions’ of Eurasia would seem to have a common ancestor, a common source that cannot be traced through written documents because it is extremely old and as such is the remnants of an ancient but spiritually and culturally advanced religion – or perhaps number of religions – that were once practised over vast tracts of our planet. This hypothesis is becoming more and more tenable thanks to new archaeological findings and intensive research into different cultures. I’m thinking here of the discovery by Uighur archaeologist Dolkun Kamberi who found a piece of human skull in Xinjiang that is 500. 000 years old,[5] for instance; or the modern archaeological research and DNA analysis of mummies in Xinjiang by Victor Mair and associates;[6] the discovery of the famous Ötzi, the Iceman, in the Italian Alps in 1991;[7] the accidental discovery by Indian oceanographers of the submerged remains of a pre-Harappa city off the Bay of Cambay, Gujrat, in 2001.[8] These discoveries push back the dawn of humanity and the development of human culture to progressively earlier dates.

As we can see from the myths and rituals that have been passed down to us over the millennia and as the powers of some priests of surviving traditions – for example Bө Murgel – attest, the Prehistoric Bön of Eurasia held a very profound knowledge of the invisible dimension of energy and the ways to manipulate it for the benefit of the priest and the community; knowledge of how to appease, befriend, attract, control and repel human and non-human beings and energies of different dimensions and dispositions; knowledge of how to harmonise the human dimension with that of other beings; knowledge of human energy with its system of channels, chakras and subtle winds and how this interacts with the surrounding environment and the cosmos at large; extensive knowledge of herbal and mineral substances for medicine, poison and magic; knowledge of our planet’s geomantic energy currents – and the list could go on. Nowadays, it is hard to imagine the fruits to be obtained from harnessing such vast and profound knowledge, but echoes of this powerful religion or religions resound through the many myths and legends of magicians and heroes found in any culture on Earth. These may sometimes be weak signals, sometimes distorted and confused, or sometimes incredibly precise, yet all these echoes reflect the great wealth of this proto-religion, the Prehistoric Bön of Eurasia.

It is extremely difficult to say precisely when the Prehistoric Bön of Eurasia originated and who its prophets or teachers were, or in fact what its core or principal doctrines were. Technically speaking, the origin of this cultural and religious phenomenon is in the dimension of the heavens, home of the main gods and demons. According to most archaic religions, it was the celestial gods and demons that gave both ‘white’ and ‘black’ magical knowledge to mankind and taught the emerging human race many skills needed to survive and thrive in the world. 

As for its geographical location, in my opinion Prehistoric Bön originated in the northern hemisphere in the circumpolar regions of Eurasia, from where it spread throughout the world. It is this supposition that led me to coin the term ‘Prehistoric Bön of Eurasia.’ Traditions of Prehistoric Bön seemed to have been primarily focused on the acquisition of worldly benefits and ordinary magical powers (common siddhi[9] in Yungdrung Bön[10] and Buddhist terms) but did they actually incorporate more profound teachings through which an insight into the underlying condition of existence as a whole could have been realised? There are no ready answers. We can only see fragments reflected in various so-called ‘primitive’ traditions but it is impossible to reconstruct a true picture of the religious source because they have undergone thousands upon thousands of years of transformations including adapting to new environments and changes, destruction, loss of essential teachings, later additions and ‘cross-pollination.’

Bön as a multifaceted phenomenon

The word ‘bön’ 

Etymology of the word ‘bön’

Before talking about the Bön religions, we should briefly explore the etymology and meaning of the word ‘bön’ itself.

Actually, the etymology of this word is unclear. Some suggest that it derives from the Tibetan verb bon pa[11] meaning ‘to express,’ ‘to recite,’ ‘to recite mantra.’ However, this is not certain as it could also have been the other way around: the verb could have come from the word ‘bon.’ Others trace it to the Sogdian word ‘bwn,’ an equivalent of Skt. dharma, and while this may be, in the languages of the countries in and around the Tibetan plateau in the pre-imperial period, Bön was known by the following names:

In the language of Zhang Zhung – hos and gyer;

In Tibetan Bönpo and ritual texts, the latter is also used interchangeably with bon;

In the Tanguut or Xi-Xia language it was called rog rog;

In the Drusha[12] or Gilgit language it was rung smar.

Since these countries lay in close proximity to Tibet, whose territory at the time was limited to U-Tsang, Central Tibet, it is unclear why Tibetans would adopt a Sogdian name. In my opinion, then, we must leave the question of the etymology of the word ‘bön’ open. 

Meaning of the word ‘bön’

As for the meaning, prior to the arrival of Indian Buddhism in the 8th century AD, the word chos was also widely used as a synonym for bon but with more emphasis on ritual traditions and various customs. For instance, terms such as lha bon and lha chos were synonymous. In the 8th century A.D., when Indian Buddhism arrived in Tibet, Tibetan Buddhist translators used the word chos to translate the Sanskrit term ‘dharma’, with the result that, after the 8th century, chos and lha chos came to mean almost exclusively ‘Buddha-Dharma.’ Hence Buddhists were called chos pa to distinguish them from bon po.

In its usage, the term ‘bön’ is similar to the Sanskrit word ‘dharma’. It has a wide semantic range and, depending on the context, can mean: ‘religion,’ ‘doctrine,’ ‘religious law,’ ‘phenomenon,’ ‘essential nature of existence,’ ‘Bönpo practitioner.’ It is commonly found in many compounds used in the Yungdrung Bön tradition such as bon nyid – equivalent to Skt. dharmatha, bon sku – equivalent to Skt. dharmakaya, and so on.

Various traditions of India and Nepal, such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism, all use the word ‘dharma’ to designate their doctrines, hence these four traditions are often referred to as the ‘dharmic religions of India’ despite fundamental differences in their views. As such, the various traditions of Hinduism are called Hindu Dharma, among which we find Vaishnava Dharma, Shaiva Dharma and so on; the teachings of the prophet Mahavira are called Jain Dharma, teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni are called Buddha Dharma, and teachings of Guru Nanak are called Sikh Dharma. Before Shakyamuni’s Buddhism was introduced from India, the word ‘bön’, in its meaning ‘religion’, was used in exactly the same way in Tibet and was applied to all contemporary spiritual traditions there. This led to considerable confusion and problems. Unfortunately, even today ignorance persists regarding the true nature of Prehistoric Bön and Yungdrung Bön, and this has led to sectarianism and other obstacles for the Tibetan community as well as for non-Tibetans studying Buddhism or Yungdrung Bön. No one with even a passing familiarity with Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism, for example, would say that they are the same religions just because they use the same word – ‘dharma’ – to designate their religious doctrines; it is obvious that their doctrines are quite different. The same applies to the pre-Buddhist spiritual traditions of Tibet – although ‘bön’ is part of their names, the views and teachings of these different traditions differ considerably.

Four types of Bönpo religions

Now let’s take a look at the different Bönpo religions. I’m using the plural deliberately here because, as well as the other meanings we have just mentioned, the word ‘bön’ refers to four main categories of spiritual traditions:

• The first is Domai Bön[13] – Prehistoric Bön from Zhang Zhung and Tibet. This is the oldest type of Bön and was practised on the Tibetan plateau before the arrival of Tönpa Shenrab Miwoche.[14] Domai Bön encompassed many different ritual traditions addressed to various classes of deities and spirits and can be loosely labelled as ‘shamanic’ although this label is by no means satisfactory.

• The second is Yungdrung Bön – the Religion of Swastika, or Changeless and Ceaseless Religion, sometimes also known as Bön Nyingma[15] or Old Bön. Yungdrung Bön is the teachings of the Central Asian Buddha Mura Tahen,[16] who was born in Wolmo Lungring,[17] the central region of a Central Asian land called Tagzig,[18] somewhere northwest of Mount Tise[19] (Kailash). In Tibet he is known as Tönpa Shenrab Miwoche, which can be translated as ‘Supreme Teacher of Men’ or ‘The Great Man of the Shen Clan’. Yungdrung Bön, then, is a Buddhist doctrine in the general sense of the word.

• The third is Bön Sarma[20] or New Bön, a syncretic tradition that emerged in the 8th century A.D. following the fusion of Shakyamuni Buddhism with Yungdrung Bön and was created on the orders of the Tibetan emperor Trisong Debtsen.[21] Although followers of New Bön use ritual methods which combine Yungdrung Bön and Indian Buddhism, in terms of doctrinal basis they rely firmly on the canon of Yungdrung Bön.  

• The fourth is Mixed Bön. The threefold division detailed above is the traditional classification found in Yungdrung Bön and Bön Sarma sources. However, it does not take into account many traditions that have arisen as a result of these three types of Bön interacting and mixing in different proportions, often with added elements of other religions such as Hinduism, Taoism, native Siberian traditions and so on. So this type of eclectic tradition is the fourth type of Bön for which I coined the label ‘Mixed Bön’.  

Prehistoric Bön

The exact origins of the archaic traditions that intermingled in Prehistoric Bön, as and how they evolved, are lost in the mists of time. They were oral traditions, which are now largely extinct in modern-day Tibet. However, by studying the Mixed Bön traditions that have survived in the Tibetan borderlands, Bhutan, Nepal and Siberia and that contain the practices of Domai Bön, we can begin to piece together a general outline of how the belief systems of Prehistoric Bön might have emerged. It appears that these traditions were initiated by spirits or gods of various classes. The spirits or gods selected humans endowed with particular characteristics of body, energy and mind and taught them how to establish a bridge of communication between themselves and the human dimension. They taught cosmology, offering rituals and invocations to their chosen priests, as well as a wide variety of healing and magical methods. The priests’ special powers were maintained through the regular offerings they made according to the instructions they had received, and in return for these offerings, the gods and spirits provided the priest with knowledge, protection and other benefits for the clan, the wider community, and nation or country, thus ensuring that the priests remained privileged and indispensable members of society. The methods (and powers) received in this way were passed on to a successor who was found with the help of those same supernatural beings who had initiated the traditions, and thus lineages were established and preserved from generation to generation.

In the works of Western scholars, Domai Bön is sometimes referred to as a ‘folk’ religion. In Tibetan, it is also called Hlachö[22] and its practitioners, who are often mediums, are called hlapa or pawo.[23] Strictly speaking, however,Hlachö is only one type of Domai Bön and today the practice of hlapa/pawo belongs to the category of Mixed Bön.

According to Yongdzin Lopön Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche,[24] the traditions of Domai Bön did not survive in Tibet in their pure form because its practitioners had largely converted to Yungdrung Bön by the 8th century AD and then also mixed with the elements of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. When Trisong Debtsen launched his persecution of Bön,[25] these mixed traditions were pushed from Tibet to the borderlands, where they still exist today. Hlachö still remains as a remnant of Domai Bön in Tibet, but hlapa/pawo priests now attached to various schools of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism.

Figure 1. Tibetan Hlapa. Left: public domain image. Right: image courtesy of Prof. Charles Ramble.

Since it is difficult to find pure and authentic practitioners of this ancient tradition, we must turn to texts and oral traditions for further information. A particularly useful source is a Yungdrung Bön treatise called Srid pa spyi mdos, The Universal Dö of Existence, an ancient oral tradition dating back to the time of the 2nd Tibetan king and the great Yungdrung Bön practitioner Mutri Tsenpo.[26] According to Bön chronology,[27] Mutri Tsenpo was born in 1074 BC. According to Yongdzin Lopön Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche, The Universal Dö of Existence was written by Lama Rasang Trinnekö,[28] a royal priest of King Tagri Nyenzig,[29] in the 5th-6th century AD. In other words, we are talking about an extremely ancient text from the time when Domai Bön was still widely practised in Tibet.

The Universal Dö of Existence contains a list of Domai Bön traditions whose practitioners opposed the Yungdrung Bön followers of Tönpa Shenrab. These were: Dön Bön, Düd Bön, Dur Bön Si Bön and Tsen Bön,[30] and from this we can see that the various branches of Domai Bön appear to have been related to placating a specific class of beings or resolving a particular circumstance. Thus, Dön Bön dealt with the provocations of negative energy; Düd Bön used rituals to appease the class of demons living in the sky; Si Bön contained practices to ensure the continuation of generations; Dur Bön was concerned with death rituals, and Tsen Bön was related to the Tsen spirits. Some of these ritual practices would have involved blood sacrifices.

Yungdrung Bön 

Now let us talk a little about Yungdrung Bön, the second of the four types of Bön religions, which is the doctrine of the Central Asian Buddha Tönpa Shenrab Miwoche. According to historical sources within Yungdrung Bön, Buddha Tönpa Shenrab Miwoche was born on the 15th day of the 1st month of the year of male wood mouse, which corresponds to 16,017 BC. His parents were King Mibön Hlabön Gyabön Thökar[31] and Queen Michyi Lhachyi Yochyi Gyalzhema.[32] His birthplace was Barpo Sogye,[33] the southern palace in Wolmo Lungring, the central region of Tagzig, probably located somewhere in the Pamir Mountains in Central Asia.[34]

Figure 2. Tönpa Shenrab Miwo. Thangka by Geshe Mönlam Wangyal.

Figure 3. Wolmo Lungring. Mural in Triten Norbutse Monastery. Photo courtesy of Christophe Moulin.

Since he was already enlightened before he took human birth, Tönpa Shenrab started teaching immediately. He lived 82 ‘shen-years,’[35] each equal to 100 human years. He manifested the final liberation[36] in 7818 BC. So according to this traditional system, his life spanned 8,200 human years. Modern scholars, of course, consider this impossible. Using a complicated series of calculations, Tibetan scholar and Dzogchen[37] master Chögyal Namkhai Norbu,[38] arrived at 1917 BC as the year of Tönpa Shenrab’s birth, with his parinirvana occurring in 1835 BC. If we accept this hypothesis, then Tönpa Shenrab was contemporary with the Chinese Xia[39] dynasty (2205-1766 BC). However, since the life of Master Lishu Tagring[40] of Yungdrung Bön, who himself is said to have lived 2500 years, forms the central pillar of this calculation, Western scholars do not accept Chögyal Namkhai Norbu’s dates, either. Khenpo Tenpa Yungdrung[41] of the Triten Norbutse[42] Bönpo Monastery in Kathmandu has suggested a different matrix for calculating Buddha Tönpa Shenrab’s birth and parinirvana. According to him, the traditional date of 7818 BC should be considered the historical date of the Parinirvana. From this, we subtract 82 normal human years to establish the year of birth. Following this matrix, we arrive at the year 7899 BC as the year of Tönpa Shenrab’s birth.   

Doctrines of Yungdrung Bön 

During his lifetime, Buddha Tönpa Shenrab gave a great number of teachings. Unlike the better-known Buddha Shakyamuni of India who taught only sutras during his time on Earth, Tönpa Shenrab Miwoche taught all the doctrines of the four main levels of the Yungdrung Bön in their entirety:

  • Methods for bringing worldly benefits. 
  • Do[43] or sutra, belonging to the path of renunciation. 
  • Gyu[44] or tantra, belonging to the path of transformation. 
  • Dzogchen, belonging to the path of self-liberation.

All the doctrines of Yungdrung Bön are organised into the Nine Ways of Bön[45] which in turn are divided into two main sections: Bön of Cause[46] and Bön of Fruit.[47]

The Bön of Cause consists of practical methods for harmonising all aspects of the environment and bring about temporal and spiritual benefits for all beings. Tönpa Shenrab took these methods from various streams of Prehistoric Bön and transformed them to fit his doctrine of compassion and emptiness. Thus blood sacrifices, for example, were replaced with the offering of various objects (such as torma,[48] for instance) empowered by mantra and visualisation in order to satisfy and appease various classes of deities and spirits and deal with various circumstances. This category comprises the four lower ways:

  • Chashen Thegpa, The Way of Prediction which contains methods of prognostication, astrology, medicine and healing. 
  • Nangshen Thegpa, The Way of Universal Harmony which contains knowledge of cosmic origins and practices to harmonise the various dimensions of the universe.
  • Trulshen Thegpa, The Way of Magic Power which contains methods for protection from harm. 
  • Sishen Thegpa, The Way of Helping the Dead which contains rituals for the well-being of the deceased and protection of the living from death-related negativity.[49]

                The Bön of Fruit teaches methods for purifying ignorance and negative emotions and attaining Buddhahood. Five Ways that belong to this category:

  • Genyen Thegpa, The Way of Religious Observances for Lay People
  • Drangsong Thegpa, Religious Observances for Monks and Nuns
  • Akar Thegpa, The Way of the White A – lower or external tantras. 
  • Yeshen Thegpa, The Way of Primordial Shen – higher or inner tantras. 
  • Lame Thegpa, Supreme Way – teachings on the Great Perfection, Dzogpa Chenpo, the pinnacle of Yungdrung Bön which is the Path of Self-liberation.[50]

New Bön

Fuigure 4. Tibetan Drenpa Namkha, Pagor Berotsana and Guru Padmasambhava. Murals in the Temple of Great Liberation, Merigar, Arcidosso, Tuscany, Italy. Images courtesy of Instituto Shang Shung.

Now a few words about Bön Sarma or New Bön. This is an eclectic tradition created by two great scholars and practitioners, the Tibetan Bönpo master Lachen Drenpa Namkha[51] and Berotsana of Pag[52] whom most of you probably know as one of Guru Rinpoche’s most important students, Berotsana. However, Berotsana was also a very important translator of Yungdrung Bön. He translated many texts from the Gyagar Bönkor[53] or Indian Bön Cycle written in Sanskrit and other texts such as Thegrim[54] or Gradual Way in the language of Gilgit[55] and so on. This New Bön tradition recognises all the texts of the Yungdrung Bön Kangyur[56] and Katen[57] but in terms of practice and rituals, New Bön follows a lineage in which elements of Buddha Dharma and Yungdrung Bön are combined. Guru Padmasambhava[58] plays an important role here and is said to be a reincarnation of Pema Thongdrol,[59] one of the sons of Drenpa Namkha of Zhang Zhung[60] who lived many centuries earlier. This tradition of New Bön was created in response to Trisong Debtsen’s orders to practise Yungdrung Bön and Buddha Dharma together. It is still very popular in eastern Tibet, today, especially in Kham.[61]

Mixed Bön

Bombo, Kyabri, Pachyu and Lama 

As I explained earlier, I use the term Mixed Bön to refer to the wide range of spiritual traditions of the Tibetan borderlands, the Himalayas, China, the Great Steppe and Southern Siberia where Domai Bön, Prehistoric Bön, is mixed with Yungdrung Bön and other religions.

Figure 5 shows the priests of the Mixed Bön of Nepal. On the left is a Tamang Bombo and on the right are the three main categories of priests of the Tamu (Gurung) people: the Kyabri, the Pachyu and the Lama.

Each specialises in different type of rituals. Kyabri (centre) mainly specialise in death rituals; as such, their line could be related to Dur Bön streams of Prehistoric Bön or to the Sishen Tegpa of Yungdrung Bön. Their yidam[62] is the sacred bird Nami. Their doctrinal text Kyerlo, now recorded in Nepali, mentions Tönpa Shenrab, the Buddha of Yungdrung Bön, as Miworkhe, but the story is heavily mixed with local myths and their pantheon is also highly mixed.

Pachyu on the left are the healers and tellers of cosmological myths. Their gods are called Lah and appear to have parallels with the Tibetan Hlapa.

Lama (right) is similar to Kyabri but is said by some Gurung researchers such as L. S. Akshunna (Gurung)[63] that they are mostly Buddhist tantrists.

All three types of priests perform blood sacrifices characteristic of many Domai Bön streams. But as you can see, both Kyabri and Lama wear Rignga crowns with images of the five Buddhas of Yungdrung Bön or Buddhism, neither of which permit blood sacrifices of any kind. There is, then, a clear inconsistency between the appearance of these priests and their practice.

Figure 5. Left to right: Maili Lama, Tamang Bonbo. Photo courtesy Alessandra Campoli; Three Gurung (Tamu) priests Pachyu, Kyabri and Lama. Sicles Museum, Madi, Pokhara, Nepal. Photo courtesy of L.S. Akshunna (Gurung). 

Dhami of Humla 

Figure 6. Left: Dhami from Humla, Nepal, praying to Mount Kailash. Photo by Thomas L. Kelly. Courtesy of Loel Guinness. Top right: Dhami and Dhangre wearing white turbans decorated with white wool tufts just like those worn by Zhang Zhung’s Aya Bönpos. Photo by Thomas L. Kelly. Courtesy of Loel Guinness.་Bottom right: A folio with an illustration showing people in the ancient costume of Zhang Zhung from a rare old text Throse Walphur Ngagchyi Do (Khro gsas dbal phur sngags kyi mdo / ཁྲོ་གསས་དབལ་ཕུར་སྔགས་ཀྱི་མདོ།), Treatise on the Mantra of the Fierce Walphur Deity, held at Yungdrung Changra Shar Gompa (G.yung drung lcang ra shar dgon pa / གཡུང་དྲུང་ལྕང་ར་ཤར་དགོན་པ།), Mustang. Photo  courtesy of Nagru Geshe Gelek Jinpa.

Practice of the Dhami priests of Humla, Nepal,  is an eclectic mix of Domai Bön, tribal traditions, Hinduism and Buddhism and also includes blood sacrifices. Their main gods reside on Mount Tise (Kailash) and in Lake Mapang[64]  (Manasarovar), once the heart of Zhang Zhung’s Bönpo Confederation. In fact, every Dhami must go to Mt. Tise and Lake Mapang to receive real power; only after this can they practise in their homeland.  The Dhami wear special woollen turbans just like those worn by Aya (Arya) Bönpo[65] of Zhang Zhung which is demonstrated by the Figure 6 above. Today the word ‘arya’ means ‘noble’ in Tibetan, but in the days of the Zhang Zhung Empire it probably meant literally Bönpo of Aryan origin. It is interesting to note here that Sanskrit was spoken in the Zhang Zhung region around Mt. Tise,[66] which likely included Humla territory. This also suggest that a wave of Aryan migration from the Great Steppe passed through this region and that some Aryans settled here and their genome, language and spiritual traditions mingled with those of the local population. 

Dongba of Nakhi 

This slide shows two Dongba priests from Nakhi (Naxi) in Yunnan, south-east China. The one on the left is dressed similarly to the Tibetan Hlapa, Tamang Bombo and Pachyu of Tamu we saw earlier. The one on the right is dressed similarly to the Kyabri and Bön Lama of Tamu. He uses a shang,[67] a flat Bönpo bell, and behind him on the altar we can see a picture of a Drabla[68] god. Dongba use a unique pictographic script said by them to have been created by Tönpa Shenrab (Tomba) himself and, also syllabic geba script. Their religion is a peculiar blend of Domai Bön, Yungdrung Bön and Taoism. They worship Werma Nyinya[69] and other ancient protective Drabla deities of Zhang Zhung as well as Taoist gods. They also recite Om Ma Tri Mu Ye Sa Le Du,[70] the mantra of Tönpa Shenrab, but sacrifice animals in rituals.

Figure 7. Top left: A Dongba priest in ritual attire – public domain iamge. Bottom left: A Dongba priest holding drum and shang in front of the altar with amages of Drabla and Werma gods – public domain image. Top and botom right: A Nakhi manuscript with both dongba and geba characters – Harvard-Yenching library, public domain images. In the middle of the  bottom image ‘s top row is the god Werma Nyinya  with tiger head and wings, holding a sword and banner. Centre right: The logograms ‘Nakhi’ and ‘Tomba’ in dongba characters – Michael Everson – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Bө Murgel 

Buryat and Mongolian ‘shamans’ call their religion Bө Murgel or Bө Shazhan[71] with ‘murgel’ and ‘shazhan’ both meaning ‘religion’ in general and ‘bө’ being the main name. They call their male priests ‘bө’ and their female priests ‘utgan.’[72] The Bө Murgel religion is not peculiar to the Buryats alone but is found in various forms among the various Mongolian tribes and also in Tuva. Despite the fact that the various native Siberian spiritual traditions have many cults and concepts in common – due largely to their similar cultural, religious and geographical environment – the differences between them are comparable to those between the world’s major religions. One of the most important aspects found in all Siberian religions is polytheism, and indeed this is highly developed in modern Bө Murgel, which probably has the largest and most complex pantheon of all native Siberian religions. The main distinguishing feature of Bө Murgel, however, are its cults of Huhe Münhe Tengeri[73] (Eternal Blue Sky) and Tengeriin[74] (sky-dwelling gods). In my opinion, it is these cults that are fundamental to Bө Murgel and define the distinct techniques and approach of the bө priests, although their true meaning can easily be misinterpreted.

Figure 8. Bѳ-priest. A traditional Mongolian cotton painting, G. Butchuluun. Public domain image.  

Meaning of the word ‘bө’ 

There can be no doubt that Bө Murgel is a Bön tradition. This is, first of all, clear from its name. The word ‘bön’ has survived in Mongolian-Buryat dialects to this day as ‘bө.’

At my request, my friend Buriato Dorjo Doogarov presents an interesting reconstruction of the etymology of the Mongol-Buryat word ‘bө’:


Ongon Daralga 

Before a bө or utgan can begin to practise, they must receive calling and transmission from the Tengeriin sky gods or Ongon ancestral spirits. The transmission of spiritual lineage is called Utkha, ‘spark,’ and the call to become a bө or utgan is known as Ongon Daralga[76] – ‘Pressure of Ongon spirits.’ Or, as it is often referred to in Western works on shamanism ‘shamanic illness.’

This call can manifest in various forms and under different circumstances, but it always marks the beginning of a very difficult and painful period in which the Ongon ‘put pressure on’ the future bө, who undergoes a process of enormous inner transformation. Depending on individual circumstances, this metamorphosis can take up to several years. It is a period when all the future bө or utgan’s ordinary concepts and perceptions are broken and destroyed. He or she undergoes a ‘virtual death’ and is then ‘reborn,’ transformed into a spiritual being with a new experiential vision and perception of the universe and all its beings, which is accompanied by certain special knowledge and powers reserved for a bө or utgan. the call can come in the dream state or in the waking state, and each bө or utgan experiences it differently; everyone has their own story.


Utkha[77] is the root and spiritual origin of the Bө or Utgan. It is absolutely fundamental to any Bѳ Murgel priest or priestess. It can be described as a magical spiritual energy, an enhancement given to the first bө of a clan lineage and then passed on within that clan from one bө or utgan to the next.

The first utkha was received by the first bө on Earth, Mergen Hara, also known as Buhumei.[78] He was the son of the first utgan who came from the Shosholok[79] clan and was initiated and instructed by White-Headed Eagle. One of the legends tells how the knowledge of Bө Murgel came to Earth:

“To help people overcome the diseases unleashed by the Black Tengeri, the White Tengeri sent an Eagle down to earth. When he came down from the Sky he saw a woman sleeping under a tree and entered into sexual union with her so her spiritual vision was opened and she became able to ‘see’ the spirits and the gods. The Eagle taught her various techniques of Bө Murgel and in this way she received utkha from the Eagle and became the first Utgan. She bore him a son who became the first bө, and so it was that utkha was passed on.”[80] 

The word ‘utkha’ is derived from the Turkic root ‘ut’ meaning ‘fire’ or ‘hearth’, and the Bө Murgel myths say that the White-Headed Eagle who taught the first utgan, who also begot his son, brought fire to Earth. ‘Utkha,’ then, could be translated as ‘spark of spiritual fire.’ Since the root ‘ut’ also forms the first part of the word ‘utgan,’ a priestess of Bө Murgel, and since the doctrine of Bө Murgel was initially taught to an utgan, we can conclude that the ancient utgan priestesses were the initial holders of utkha, knowledge of Bө Murgel, and presided over rituals involving fire.

This role changed over time as matriarchy gave way to patriarchy, and in modern Bө Murgel only a specially initiated utgan is allowed to invoke the fire deities from heaven and lead rituals dedicated to them. Since the first utgan passed her knowledge onto her son, we can assume that it was normal practice to pass utkha from females to males in the ancient history of Bө Murgel. However, as the religion developed, this changed, with male bө lineages becoming more dominant and mother-to-son transmission becoming undesirable. We must remember this point when discussing Wu ‘shamanesses’ of the Chu kingdom (841-233 BC) of ancient China.  


The Bө Murgel initiation process is known as shanar.[81] Through this process, an uninitiated Bө is transformed into an “authorised bѳ”.

In the Bө Murgel of Buryatia, this original system is very complex and is divided into nine stages. In the Mongolian Bө religion, a twelve-stage initiation system is used, with an exceptional thirteenth-stage initiation rite performed very occasionally for a truly exceptional bө who is then given the title Gege’en Zaarin[82] where ‘gege’en’ means ‘Enlightened.’

Such a bө appears very rarely. It is hard to be completely sure how these systems correspond since opinion differs among the bө themselves. Suffice to say that these systems are parallel and are based on different structures; although  Buryatian system has fewer stages, it doesn’t mean that it is somehow incomplete.

While the initiation system of Buryatian Bө Murgel is structured according to the nine branches of the World Tree[83] and the nine spheres of the Universe, the Mongolian system is based on the twelve horns of the Sacred Deer.[84] Some Buryatian bө speak of a thirteenth level of initiation that is probably parallel to the Mongolian Gege’en Zaarin. This suggests that both initiation systems were used in Buryatia in the past.[85]

Bön of the Deer

Since we have just mentioned the Bө Murgel initiation system connected with the twelve-branched antlers of the Sacred Deer, I’d like to say a few words about the cult of the Sky Deer and its various forms in the various traditions of Prehistoric Bön of Eurasia. Traces of the cult of the Sky Deer can be clearly seen throughout Eurasia, particularly in Siberia, Central Asia, Tibet, Russia, Lapland and Karelia. The mystical deer is also one of the spirit guides for the medicine men of North and Central America.

Archaeologists have discovered many sculptures and ornaments depicting deer or various aspects of its worship in these regions.

Deer images were sacred to the Scythians and Hunnu (Xiongnu) and were used in religious ceremonies. The original culture is known simply as the Deer Stones culture and has been dated to the first millennium BC. The peoples of this culture erected memorial stelae covered with carvings that included images of the sky, warriors tattooed with deer images, weapons, clothing and various tools. The upper part symbolises the dimension of the sky and is carved with circles and sometimes faces, representing the sun, the moon and the gods that inhabit the Sky.

Figure 9. Deer stones in various locations in Great Steppe – public domain images.

The lower band of the Deer stones represents the earth and is carved with images of weapons, tools and sometimes human figures. The middle band stands for the intermediate space between heaven and earth and is carved with images of sacred deer flying towards the sky, their heads bent back so that their highly stylised antlers touch their backs. The images of the deer are oriented eastwards and upwards, clearly showing that they are flying towards the dimension of the Sky. Indeed, there is much evidence to suggest that the sacred deer was associated with the sun in prehistoric times. Here, however, the deer is clearly flying between the Middle and the Upper Worlds acting as a messenger between man and the gods.

This is my interpretation, based on my experience with Bө Murgel and Tibetan Bön.

Sun Deer 

Among all the deer cults, the white deer holds a special place. In Chinese myths, it appears as a messenger of the Celestial Emperor,[86] and we find echoes of this cult in Japan’s native Shinto religion. For example, the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami[87] sometimes appears as a white deer carrying the sun disc resting on the crown of a tree.[88] Paper prayer ribbons – omikuji[89] – are attached to the tree’s branches. Echoes of this image can be found in Siberian mythology, for example, among the Tungus-Evenki, where the Lady of the Upper World is a solar deity in the form of a female deer or elk.[90]

Deer, particularly white deer, are sacred animals in Shinto because of their association with certain kami (神), gods and spirits. The Deer god, Amenokakuno-kami,[91] was sent as a messenger by the Sun goddess Amaterasu to Takemikatsuchi-No-Okami,[92] a highly revered god of thunder, peace and military courage of the influential Fujiwara clan.[93]

Figure 10. From left to right: 1. Sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami as a sacred white reindeer, fragment of a painting by Kano Eino Genroku; 2. God Takemikatsuchi-no-okami riding White Deer. Muromachi period (c. 14-15), presumably from Kasuga-Taisha shrine, Nara, Japan; 3. Visitors tying omikuji on shrubby branches in Kasuga-Taisha shrine, Nara, Japan; 4. (Above) Sun Deer of Tagarskaya Culture, South Siberia, (10th and 3rd C. BC); 5. (Below) Buryats tying zalaa ribbons at an obo’o ritual site near Kurumkan, Barguzin, Buryatia. Images 1-4: public domain. Image 5: Photo by Dmitry Ermakov.

Furthermore, the omikuji paper ribbons tied to the tree (which most likely symbolises the World Tree) find their counterpart in Siberia and in particular in the Lake Baikal region, where the Buryat tie colourful ribbons called zalaa[94] to trees and bushes around sacred power places such as healing springs, rocks and forests, as well as near other sacred objects such as the shrine of a powerful lama or local deity.

Bө and Sorcerer from the cave of Trois Freres in France, Bө & Bönpo priest of the Bön of the Deer 

Many cultures have traditions related to deer antlers and, indeed, the ancient Buryats venerated them. When a deer had been killed, the head and antlers were severed, placed on a bench beside the hearth and the ritual of praying to the deer’s antlers was performed, with all the inhabitants touching the deer’s head to receive a blessing. A deer head was considered erdeni,[95] a holy or magical object capable of conferring hulde,[96] a universal power of prosperity and well-being parallel to the Bönpo concept of chya-yang.[97]

Even today, bө priests of Buryatian Bө Murgel wear maihabshi[98] ritual crowns with deer antlers (see Figure 11 below). These crowns have practical applications but they are also a symbol, showing that bө priest has internalised the power of the Sky and, with magical abilities equal to those of celestial beings, has the ability to invoke and bestow hulde and to travel swiftly in the Three Worlds (i.e. as fast as a Sky Deer). This antlered crown also gives us a clue as to when the tradition of wearing such head gear might have appeared, namely in the Upper Palaeolithic (40,000-11,000 BC) when reindeer were becoming important to humans.

A further clue to the timing is this extraordinary dancing figure of the sorcerer wearing a headdress of deer antlers and bear paws over his hands. (Figure 11, centre-left). Discovered in the French Pyrenees in the cave of Trois Frêres, this fascinating rock painting has been dated to around 13,000-14,000 BC. Some see a beak in the painting, giving this image a bird-like characteristic too, reminiscent of the images of flying deer stones we saw earlier.

                Most of these features are found in the ritual dress of Siberian shamans, including the Buryatian bө, and symbolise the bө’s magical powers, their mastery of different energies on different levels of the universe, and their ability to travel to the Three Worlds. What are these parallel features in the costume of the Buryatian bө? They are: maihabshi crown made of deer antler symbolising the power of the sky deer; malgai-hat,[99] made of bear fur worn under the crown, symbolising the power of the Bear, the lord of the taiga; dalabshi[100] – winged shoulder garment symbolising the power of the

Sacred Еagle, the bearer of fire and mystical knowledge. Interestingly, the bө drum is often referred to as the ‘deer.’

Figure 11. Left: Buryatian bө with a deer antler crown. Computer graphics by Dmitry Ermakov based on a drawing by Richard Williamson based on the image on the back cover of the book by B. D. Bazarov, The Mysteries of Shamanism. Centre-left: ‘Sorcerer’ from Trois Frêres cave, France, rock carving, (13,000-14,000 BC) – public domain image. Centre-right: Image of a ‘shaman’ on a bronze perm-yugra plate (8-9 c. AD) – line drawing by the author based on the photo @ The object is 92х6 mm, labelled ‘A winged man-moose standing on a lizard,’ found in Komi Republic, RF, stored in the State History Museum. Right: a Bönpo priest practising the Bön of the Deer. Computer graphics by Dmitry Ermakov based on a drawing by Richard Williamson which is based on an original illustration in the manuscript Zermig, preserved in Berlin, Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz zu Berlin, Orientabteilung, reprinted in Helmut Hoffman, Quellen zur Geschichte der Tibetischen Bon-Religion, (Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur, Wiesenbaden: FranzSteiner Verlag, 1950).

The parallels between the ritual clothing of the bө and the image of the sorcerer from the Trois Frêres cave clearly demonstrate the extreme antiquity of the Buryatian Bө Murgel.

The centre-right image above is a drawing of a medieval perm-yugra bronze plate from the Ural Mountains on which we again see a very similar type of costume: a moose-head crown, wings, the beak of a bird and, possibly, bear paws. 

Today, Domai Bön probably cannot be found anywhere in its pure form, but some of its cultural and ritual elements live on in other types of Bön, including hlapa and pawo traditions and the Causal Vehicles of Yungdrung Bön, taught by Tönpa Shenrab where it is particularly evident through traces of the Pan-Eurasian cult of the Sky Deer, in the ritual traditions of the Shepa Chinyi,[101] The  Twelve Sciences, and in particular in Dingshe Shawa,[102] The Bön of the Flying Deer.

On the right image above, you can see a Bönpo priest, a practitioner of The Bön of the Flying Deer. The image is based on the original illustration in the Zermig[103] manuscript in the Berlin State Library. The Bönpo wears a deer crown, in his left hand he holds a shang bell – a symbol of sound – and in his right hand, a bird feather, presumably used for performing purification rites with lustral water.

All this seems to demonstrate the continuity and consistency of the ancient Deer Cult in Eurasia up until today.

Differences between Bө Murgel and Yungdrung Bön 

Now briefly on the differences between Bө Murgel and Yungdrung Bön.

A very important point of difference between the two traditions is the ultimate goal of the practice. The end result of Yungdrung Bön is freedom from further reincarnation, from the suffering of samsara,[104] going beyond any dualistic view to liberation in the Natural State[105] of one’s own mind which is the basis of everything and is the ultimate Buddha.[106]

A bө priest, on the other hand, can never become Huhe Münhe Tengeri – the Eternal Blue Sky – which is the ultimate source of existence according to the Bө Murgel religion. The highest realisation that a bө or utgan can attain is to become one of the long-living Tengeriin gods who reside in the high Heavens located in the domain of the Eternal Blue Sky. This means that the ultimate goal of Bө Murgel is never outside samsara. This is very, very far from the ultimate realisation of the Yungdrung Bön.

As the teachings of the Buddhas, both Shakyamuni and Tönpa Shenrab, entered a specific cultural and religious environment at a specific time and place, certain existing cultural notions, outward religious forms, methods and terminology were adopted in order to facilitate understanding. Why? Because people cannot relate to something that is explained in terms and categories completely beyond their experience. Therefore, certain aspects of ‘native’ systems were used and transformed by the Buddhas to convey the main purpose of their teachings; this is a general pattern seen throughout the history of religion.

Similarities between some external aspects of Yungdrung Bön and Buddhism in general and those of the ‘shamanic’ systems may, at first glance, lead us to assume that they are also linked on a deeper, more spiritual level, but when we look more carefully into their origins and views, we discover that these traditions are fundamentally different in terms of their view, path and ultimate goal.

Possible vectors via which Yungrung Bön and Prehistoric Bön could have spread in Central and Inner Asia, the Tibetan Plateau and Southern Siberia

Before going any further, let us take a quick look at how the two main types of Bön – Prehistoric Bön and Yungdrung Bön – could have spread across the Tibetan plateau and beyond.

The map on the left (Figure 12) shows how Yungdrung Bön may have spread from the Tagzig region in the Pamirs into Zhang Zhung, Sumpa,[107] India, China, the Great Steppe and southern Siberia. Thus, as far as the Tibetan Plateau is concerned, we can say that the nucleus of Yungdrung Bön was in western Zhang Zhung (marked in a lighter shader) in the region around Mount Kailash while Prehistoric Bön had its nucleus in eastern Zhang Zhung and Sumpa, although both types of Bön were present throughout the Tibetan Plateau at different time periods.

                The map in the centre shows the possible routes along which various traditions of Prehistoric Bön may have spread with migratory peoples or along trade routes in both directions between the Tibetan Plateau, the Great Steppe and southern Siberia.

Figure 12. Possible vectors along which Yungdrung Bön and Prehistoric Bön may have spread. Left: Possible routes by which Yungdrung Bön spread to the East from Central Asia. Centre: Possible routes of spread of Prehistoric Bön. Right: Lighter white arrows show the spread of the Bön of the Deer cult.  Computer graphics by Benoit Pinchera and Dmitry Ermakov.

It would seem clear, therefore, that some strains of Tibetan Bön – and the cult of the Sky Deer in particular – are directly related to the general culture and religion of Eurasia and did not necessarily originate on the Tibetan plateau itself. The rough map on the right is an attempt to visualise how these strains, related to Domai Bön and the causal vehicles of Yungdrung Bön, particularly Bön of the Deer, may have entered and left Tibet as a result of cross-distribution and practice methods from multiple sources.

Connections between various types of Bön and pre-Taoist and Taoist religions of China

Now let’s discuss connections between various types of Bön religions and the pre-Taoist and Taoist religions of China.

First, let’s look at connections between Bө Murgel and spiritual traditions of ancient China. Towards the end of the second and the beginning of the first millennium BCE, there was a huge wave of migration from the northern side of the Yellow River in northern China and the modern Amdo area in Tibet across the Gobi Desert into southern Siberia, including the Baikal region: these migrants were proto-Hunnu of Mongoloid and Mongoloid-European racial types.

According to Chinese historical tradition, Chunwei, [108] son of Jie,[109] the last king of the Xia dynasty, is considered the progenitor of the Hunnu. Xia was said to be founded by a legendary hero Yu[110] who was born in 2205 B.C. The dynasty was interrupted in 1766 (64) B.C. due to the conquest by Shang.[111] After the fall of Xia, Chunwei took his family and some of his people to the northern steppe, where his descendants mixed with peoples of the Xianyun[112] and Hünyü[113] tribes, some of whom were of European type while others were already mixed with Mongoloids and were probably some tribes of the Zhun[114] and Di[115] nations. This ethnogenesis caused the emergence of the Hu,[116] proto-Hunnu, who invaded Southern Siberia.[117]

These peoples gradually conquered Southern Siberia around 1200 BC. Although the proto-Hunnu subjugated the tribes living around Lake Baikal, there was a period of intense ethnogenesis as the migrants mingled with the native population, exchanging cultural and religious beliefs and traditions. It was this exchange that later gave rise to the Hunnu nation as it is known in history.

This rich multicultural environment with its many belief systems was also a fertile ground in which the early development of the Bө Murgel religion took root. Over the two thousand years from the end of the third millennium BC to the formation of the Hunnu Empire in the third century BC, Bө Murgel beliefs and rituals gradually emerged, and we can trace many elements of modern Bө Murgel to this period.

Figure 13. Buryatian toli brass mirrors. Photo by Dmitry Ermakov.

One example is the jade and bronze mirrors produced by the Glazkovskaya culture. These mirrors still play a vital role for Burytian and Mongolian bө and utgan today. And this is reflected in the Mongolian-Buryatian name for one of Bө Murgel’s most important symbols – has tamga[118] or swastika – which literally means ‘jade stamp.’ This name may have arisen before or the time of the Jade Route (around the second millennium B.C.), a trade artery linking the Glazkovskaya culture of southern Siberia, which included Lake Baikal, and the Shang Empire in China via intermediate tribes. The Chinese imported precious discs, semi-discs, rings and mirrors made of white and green jade from Siberia. All this clearly shows that from the 3rd millennium BC there was a lively exchange of cultural and spiritual ideas and ritual objects between Bө Murgel practitioners of proto-Mongol tribes of the Great Steppe and Southern Siberia and pre-Taoist and ancient Taoist religions of China.

Bear transformation techniques in Bө Murgel and the pre-Taoist religion of China

The sorcerers or ‘shamans’ of ancient China were called Wu.[119] They were magicians, healers and exorcists. The first records of the Wu appear during the Shang dynasty during the period of trade, cultural and religious exchange between Siberia and China along the Jade Route, as just mentioned. In those times, the word wu referred to practitioners of both sexes. These priests have certain similarities with Buryatian Bө in terms of ritual objects and methods of magic.

Let’s take a look at one example. As we have already seen above (Figure 14), the bө ritual dress includes a malgai hat made of bear fur. This is not just an ornament, but a symbol that the bө can transform into a bear. In the past, the favourite technique of the powerful bө and utgan of some tribes favoured the technique of transforming their soul into a bear and then travelling in that guise to perform magical actions.

The technique of transforming oneself into a bear for the purpose of performing magical actions is also found in other traditions and cultures of Eurasia. As we have seen, this is clearly illustrated by the images of the sorcerer of the Trois Frêres cave in France and also the perm-yugra ‘shaman,’ both of whom wear bear paws as an element of their appearance (Figure 11). But we also find this technique in ancient China among the Wu priests. 

This is clearly illustrated by legends about ancient Chinese sages who are traditionally regarded by the Chinese as both mythological and historical figures. One version of the legend about the Great Yu,[120] who overcame the great flood, is of particular interest:

Yu was an ancient pre-Taoist Wu priest who was miraculously born from the body of his father Gun,[121] killed on the orders of King Shun’[122] for failing in his task to stop the flood. His corpse lay on the mountain slope for three years, and all the while Yü was inside the dead body of his father. After the three years had passed, Gun’s corpse resurrected itself and became a brown bear. Cutting open his belly, he pulled out Yü, who immediately became a bear. In the course of his life Yü periodically changed his appearance; sometimes he was like a man, sometimes like a bear. He had the scraping walk of a bear which was imitated by the priests of ancient China a thousand years later who donned bearskins and growled to imitate him while performing rituals.

Yü is famous not only for stopping the Great Flood but also for opening the way for magical flight to the stars and the Plough constellation in particular where he received instruction from the spirits of heaven. There are still Taoist texts detailing the scheme of his magical steps in the sequence which leads to the dimension of the Sky, some of which most likely served as the base for some martial arts techniques. Yu had the capacity to communicate with and transform into various wild animals, and performed many other magical tasks.[123]

Figure 14. Left: Buryatian bѳ. Centre: Steps of Yu.  Public domain image. Right: Han dynasty depiction of Yu from the Wu Liang shrine. Public domain image.

Yü’s story and deeds chime with those of Buryatian bө. Even if Yü was not a true historical figure as the Chinese tradition claims, he must nevertheless represent a general or collective image of ancient priests who, like the ancient bө, were magicians, healers, clairvoyants, soothsayers and diviners, as well as kings and military leaders.

Figure 15. Stages of development of ideogram ‘wu’. Public domain, modified.

Now, if we look closely at the stages in the development of the ‘wu’ ideogram, we can see that it initially consisted of two hands holding an offering upwards to the mountains and sky gods, indicating that the primary function of the Wu priests and priestesses was as intermediaries between the spiritual world and the world of humans. Gradually, the ideogram developed into a more abstract hieroglyphic that is in use today.

It is also worth noting the phonetic similarity of the self-name Wu with Bө and Bön. (The consonant ‘b’ in dialects of many languages is often interchangeable with consonant ‘v’ as in the word ‘vajra’, for example, which is also pronounced as ‘bajra’). This, combined with the number of correspondences in magical techniques and functions between all three types of priests is yet another clue suggesting that they may represent different branches of the same proto-religion and that these three names may be related to each other.

Symbolism of the swastika in Taoism, Bө Murgel and Bön

Since we have just discussed the Great Yu and his magical yubu[124] steps to the constellation Ursa Major, the Big Dipper, let’s talk a little about the symbolism of the swastika, which in Taoism is connected to this constellation. Ursa Major is called Beidou[125] and literally means the ‘Ladle of the North.’ It is sometimes likened to a chariot.

The constellation is seen as the throne of Shangdi,[126] the ‘supreme deity’ of ancient Chinese religion from the Shang dynasty right up to later Taoism, in which the Ladle of the North indicates the correct orientation for performing meditation or rituals, traced by through the apparent movement of its ‘handle’ during the year.

Its seventh star is called Tianguan[127], Heavenly Official or the Celestial Pass, and so the Northern Dipper opens the way to the sky in both meditation and ritual. The Northern Dipper revolves around the North Star, Beiji,[128] one of the brightest stars in the northern hemisphere and is located at the tail end of the constellation Ursa Minor or Little Dipper.

The Little Dipper and the Big Dipper, also called the Big Chariot, revolve around the North star and if observed in the four phases of the four seasons, they trace a counterclockwise swastika 卍 or wan,[129] symbolising the myriad things of creation.

In Buryatian Bө Murgel, the Ursa Major is known as a group of Seven Elders, Dolon Ubged.[130] In the past, one member of each family would sprinkle milk to the Seven Elders because they can either help or hinder depending on whether they are propitiated or not. This constellation is also very important in the Vedic Aryan religion where it is called Saptarishi – Seven Rishis (seven sages), Sons of Brahma. This ancient cult is still alive in modern Hinduism even though this constellation is barely visible from northern India. The Saptarishi Mandala is depicted as a swastika.

In many cultures, the swastika is considered as a solar symbol that traces the rotation of the sun clockwise in a daily cycle or counterclockwise along the ecliptic orbit in an annual cycle. Furthermore, most objects in our solar system, including the sun, planets and asteroids, all rotate counterclockwise. Both versions of the swastika are present in various traditions of Prehistoric Bön and Mixed Bön.

Figure 16. Swastika in Taoism, Yungdrung Bön and Bѳ Mugel. All images public domain except Mongolian and Yungdrung Bön swastikas in the upper right corner which are digital graphics by Dmitry Ermakov.

In Bө Murgel, the swastika is called has tamga, ‘jade stamp’ with some rotating counterclockwise while others rotate clockwise.

Anti-clockwise swastikas are very common motifs in cave art and Deer stones in Mongolia, Inner Mongolia and Amdo in Tibet, and have generally been dated to the first millennia BC. Some swastikas depicted on rocks in Mongolia have horse heads.

The Bönpo swastika – called drungmu[131] in the language of Zhang Zhung language and yungdrung[132] in Tibetan – turns counterclockwise. In Yungdrung Bön it represents the ultimate and indestructible Buddha Nature beyond time and space. On another level, it represents the sacred ritual direction leading to spiritual realisation. Although the traditional Yungdrung Bön texts do not comment on the reason for this counterclockwise movement, which is called yekor[133] in Tibetan-literally ‘turning to the right,’ this counterclockwise movement of the Bönpo swastika may have originally been related to the ecliptic orbit of the sun or the rotation of the Ursa Major around the North Star, as we have just seen, and in this case, it would have represented the sacred direction of movement for some branches of the Prehistoric Bön of Eurasia which were dominant in the time and place when Tönpa Shenrab Miwo manifested. Like many other symbols, concepts and rituals of Prehistoric Bön, it would then have been infused with a new layer of meaning by this Central Asian Buddha to reflect his revolutionary doctrine.

In Yungdrung Bön, the swastika is rich in symbolism. Literally, ‘yungdrung’ means ‘unborn and unceasing.’ Here, its primary meaning is the immutable and indestructible state, the nature of mind or the fundamental ground of all existence. The four branches and the centre also represent the four directions and the centre. The five sections are painted in different colours representing the five purified elements and each section is also inscribed with one of the five heroic syllables: Yang, Ram, Khang, Srum, Om. Once, when Tönpa Shenrab Miwo was away from his palace, the demon Chyabpa Lagring[134] managed to sneak in and burn the collection of books containing the doctrines Tönpa Shenrab had taught previously. The Buddha’s followers were distraught, but when Tönpa Shenrab Miwo returned, he emanated these heroic syllables and projected them onto the ashes. Thus, all the scriptures were miraculously restored. The yungdrung is also a kind of mandala of the Five Buddha Families[135], a representation of the universe in its pure spiritual dimension. The great mandala of 1,000 Buddhas of Yungdrung Bön includes 200 yungdrung-swastikas, each representing the body, voice, mind, qualities and activities of the five Buddhas manifested in the ten directions.

The Juthig Divination of Zhang Zhung, the ‘Rope Writing’ of ancient China and Inca of Peru

Figure 17. Top left: Yongdzin Lopön Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche demonstrates Juthig divination. Top right: Juthig ropes tied in a ‘crane knot’. Below: a page from the Juthig divination manual with pictures of various string combinations. Photos by Carol Ermakova.

A clear example of an even older connection between Bön and Chinese culture is the Zhang Zhung’s Juthig[136] cord divination. It uses six special cords and is extremely complex, much more complex in terms of preparing the materials, execution and interpretation of the result than even I-Ching, [137] The Book of Change. When thrown, the cords form several knots that are interpreted with the help of a manual. Throwing can result in virtually countless combinations. The 360 main types of knots can form 10,000 combinations. Furthermore, taking into account whether the cords turn left or right, up or down, the pattern of the ornaments on the small cords and other considerations, the combinations become innumerable.

Figure 18. Left: ‘This administrative quipu, which consists of three different quipus attached along the primary cord, was used to record statistical information, such as taxes, census data, and storehouse inventories. Administrative quipus are characterized by pendant cords with tiers of knots separated by spaces that indicate decimal values.’ Brooklyn Museum, New York, Gift of Ernest Erickson, 70.177.69 Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (Generic). From: Encyclopædia Britannica @  Accessed: 7 June 2024. Right: Sketch of a Quipucamayoc from El primer nueva corónica y buen gobierno (The First New Chronicle and Good Government), a chronicle of Inca history by the indigenous Inca historian Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala (ca. 1535–1616). El primer nueva corónica y buen gobierno (1936 facsimile edition, ISBN 978-0872208414), p. 360. Public domain.

The pre-Columbian Inca culture of South America had a Quipu ‘writing’ system based on knots in ropes. We also know that a similar writing system existed in prehistoric China:

“Let the people to tie knots in ropes and use them instead of script” wrote Lao Tzu[138] in the Dao De Jing.[139]

Lao Tzu, who lived at the beginning of the seventh century B.C.,[140] advised a return to the simplicity of ancient times, probably referring to the time before 7000 BC when the Jiahu[141] script and later hieroglyphic writing had not yet been invented and the accumulation of ‘knowledge’ had not yet begun. In this context, ‘knowledge’ is the opposite of wisdom and refers to the creation and transmission of artificial habit, cultural limitations and the idea of ‘progress,’ which Lao Tzu considered to be a great evil, an obstacle to man’s connection to our original nature.

The existence of similar writing systems among the Inca and prehistoric Chinese as well as the Juthig divination of Zhang Zhung shows that this type of ‘writing’ was already in use among the Asian people when they migrated to the Americas over the Bering Land Bridge anywhere between 70,000 and 11,000 years ago. The reason this system is found in South America and not North America is because it arrived with the previous wave of migrants who continued south until they arrived in Peru. It is reasonable to suggest, therefore, that the origins of Bönpo Juthig divination lie in remote antiquity or in the time of the first migrations over the Bering Land Bridge and that it most likely developed from the ‘rope writing’ that was in use in the Zhang Zhung and ancient China and was similar to the Quipu system of the Inca of Peru.

Yungrung Bön in China: links with Taoism

There are two main types of Taoism in China. Tao Chiao or ‘Taoist Sect’[142] refers to Taoist streams that use rituals and magic such as, for example, T’ien-shih Tao,[143]  The Way of Heavenly Masters, and those seeking immortality, while Tao Chia,[144] ‘Taoist School,’ designates the schools of philosophical Taoism based on the writings of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu.[145]

Many Taoist scholars such as, for example, the great alchemist Ge Xuan (Ko Hsuan)[146] believed that the roots of Taoism lay to the west of China. They believed that the original source of this religion was the Queen-Mother of the West, the goddess Xiwangmu,[147] who resides on Mount Kunlun[148] of the Tien Shan[149] mountain range.

Figure 19. Goddess Xiwangmu, half-woman, half-tiger-leopard. Pictorial tiles from Sichuan. Field Museum of National History, Chicago. Taken from: Jean M. James, ‘An Iconographic Study of Xiwangmu during the Han Dynasty’, Artibus Asiae, Vol. 55, No. 1/2 (1995), pp. 17-41.

Descriptions of Kunlun Mountain in old Taoist texts chime with Bönpo descriptions of Mount Yungdrung Gutseg[150] in Olmo Lungring, Tönpa Shenrab’s birthplace. Both mountains have nine steps or levels and are reflections of the world mountain on the physical plane. This indicates a common cultural source.

If the source of the Taoist teachings was indeed in Tien Shan, which bordered Tagzig, the Central Asian country where Yungdrung Bön was spread, then many of the ideas and practices of the early magical and ritual Taoism of Tao Chiao (道教) and later of the T’ien-shih Tao (師道) school of Taoism, The Way of the Heavenly Masters, is most probably related to the Causal Bön. 

It is also interesting to note that initially, the goddess Xiwangmu was depicted in the form of a tigress or half-tiger/half-woman with a leopard tail (Figure 21). This also resonates with the land of Tagzig, which in one of the traditional spellings literally means ‘tiger-leopard’ in Tibetan.[151]

It was Kongtse Thrülgyi Gyalpo who introduced the astrology of the five elements,[153] the twelve-year cycle[154] and the cycle of nine mewa[155] and eight parkha (pakua[156] in Chinese) to China from which further Chinese astrological and divination systems developed.

The four medical texts, the Bumzhi,[157] reached China through Prince Chebu Trishe,[158] one of Tönpa Shenrab’s sons, and were disseminated there.

Figure 20. Mucho Demdrug. Image courtesy of Drubdra Khenpo Tsultrim Tenzin / Sgrub grwa Mkhan po Tshul khrims bstan ‘dzin / སྒྲུབ་གྲྭ་མཁན་པོ་ཚུལ་ཁྲིམས་བསྟན་འཛིན།

The highest teachings, the Bön of Fruit, also reached China. Tantric Bön was brought to China by the Chinese Bönpo master Gyabön Zingwa Thuchen[162] and many Chinese Bönpos attained high realisations in various places in China. For example:

“The Ma-rgyud  phyag-mchod[163] says:

                                In the colourful cave on Mount Nyi-dbar mdangs-len[164] of China,

                                Brighfly glowing ruddy-faced Zing-ba mThu-chen (dwells).


                                In the water-garden of

                                Excellent Mount Tse-mang[165] of China

                                A Chinese yogini named Dod-de[166] (dwells).

Furthermore, some histories tell us that nine Mon-bon attained the Enlightenment simultaneously in Gong-bu dmar-ru[167] in China.”[168]

The Dzogchen teachings of Zhang Zhung Nyengyu were brought to China by master Gyabön Salwa Wöchen[169] who received this cycle from Sumpai Awadong,[170] a student of Rasang Trineko,[171] who was the Tibetan King Tagri Nyenzig’s[172] personal Bönpo teacher.[173]

In short, Yungdrung Bön spread to China as early as the time of Shenrab Miwo and over the millennia, all levels of its teachings were preached there. The Tagzig name ‘gyer’, which was translated into Tibetan as ‘bön,’ was translated into Chinese as ‘tao’, a term already used by the priests of the ancient Chinese spiritual traditions.

Over the centuries, Yungdrung Bön methods and ideas penetrated many streams of Chinese Taoism, both Tao chiao (道教) and Tao chia (道家). 

This is clear not only from their philosophy of emptiness and their rituals, but in some cases also from their sky-blue ritual dress. The school of T’ien-Shih Tao, The Way of Heavenly Masters, is a prominent example. The great Bönpo scholar and master of the last century, Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen,[174] clearly states that the T’ien-Shih Tao school is a kind of Bön and calls its hereditary leaders ‘Namgyi Bönpo,’ Bönpo of Heaven:

“The preceptor of This-tsang[175] and his son, was the Bon-po of China, Chang-thang Thas-sri,[176] which means in Chinese the Bon-po of Heaven (gnam-gyi Bon-po)[177].*

*Professor R. A. Stein has suggested to that Chang-thang Thas-sri is a Tibetan transcription of the Chinese Chang t’ien-shih 張天帥.[178] Chang is the family name and t’ien-shih is a title meaning ‘Master of Heaven’. He was a hereditary chief of the Chinese Taoists.”[179]

Another sign that Yungdrung Bön influenced the culture and religion of China is the widespread use by both Taoists and Chinese Buddhists of the Bönpo swastika or yungdrung that turns counterclockwise or, as the Bönpos themselves say – ‘yekor’ (g.yas skor), ‘to the right.’

Bönpo origins of trigrams and astrological science 

One of the most important books in Chinese culture is I-Ching, The Book of Change. Most systems of Chinese philosophy, astrology and divination originate directly or indirectly from it. It serves as a common basis for both Taoism and Confucianism as the philosophies of Lao Tzu and Confucius are derived from the study and practice of the teachings and ideas contained in this book.

According to Chinese tradition, the trigrams were discovered by Fu Hsi,[180] the ancestor of Chinese civilisation, some time before 3000 BC. The trigrams pakua were revealed to Fu Hsi on the shell of a turtle in the Yellow River. Fu HsI then combined the trigrams into hexagrams, and on this basis he wrote the I-Ching. This is the Chinese version of the origin of the trigrams.

However, according to Bönpo sources, the origin of the trigrams, or parkha in Tibetan, lies in the Bön tradition.  I quote Professor Thubten Phuntsog:[181]

“The origin of the trigrams or parka is linked to the ancient culture of the Bon, the pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet. Nowadays, astrological calculations based on the parka are common practice in all the new schools of Tibetan Buddhism, such as the Gelug, the Sakya and the Kagyu as well as in the ancient Nyingma school. Modifying their terminology to suit the Buddhist frame of thought and language, these schools also adopted many rituals of the pre- Buddhist Bon culture But despite such wide and conscious appropriation from the Bon culture, there was a time in Tibetan history when the culture and the followers of Bon were widely persecuted by the Buddhists mainly for political reasons. Since most of the Tibetans were fond of Bon rituals and often took recourse to them, the newly introduced Buddhist culture had no choice but to assimilate them in some way. In this process of assimilation, unwilling to acknowledge the Bon origin of elemental astrology and other rites, they considered the elements of astrology and rites resembling those found in the Indian culture to have been imported from India, while those resembling the Chinese culture to have been imported from China.

However, many astrological and ritual features were unique to Tibet and were not found in either China or India. For this reason they acknowledged them to have originated from or been systematized by a historical figure called Kong tse ‘phrul gyi rgyal po whom the Buddhists, later on, considered to be a manifestation of Manjusri, the boddhisattva who represents wisdom. Since Kong tse ‘phrul gyi rgyal po was born 600 years before the Buddha, it was difficult for them to call him a Buddhist, so they did not say that he was a Buddhist nor admitted he was a Bönpo.

During the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries some Tibetan scholars began to claim that the parka came from China. In the 18th century Lcang skya rol pa’i rdo rje,[182] and the Mongolian scholar Thu’u bkvan cho kyi nyi ma[183] and other scholars, mistakenly identified Kong tse ‘phrul gyi rgyal po with Confucius, saying that they were one and the same person. However, many reasons prove beyond any shade of doubt that Kong tse ‘phrul gyi rgyal po and Confucius were two different people. (This topic was more fully discussed during Prof. Thubten Phuntsog’s conference at Merigar on January 17th, 1998.) […] information concerning the mythological origin of the trigrams as well as the mew or numbers can only be found in the Bon texts; one does one does not find similar explanation in the astrological treatises of China or other countries. In fact, when Chinese astrological experts are asked about the origin of the parka or trigrams they do not have a very clear explanation and sometimes refer to a particular race of people called Yi who lived on the border between China and who were originally Tibetans with customs and beliefs closely linked to the Bon culture.”[184]

The Bönpo texts contain so-called origin myths[185] for each trigram, each mewa-number and each animal of the twelve-year animal cycle. This is mainly explained in the First Way of Bön, Chashen Thegpa, in the astrology and ritual sections in particular.

The main owners of the universe are the sabdag[186] earth gods who are symbolically depicted on an astrological chart called the Kabtse[187] (Figure 23). This astrological chart is used to calculate important astrological conjunctions when the human energy system is particularly susceptible to the energy of these and other non-human beings, thus magnifying the disturbances or benefits they can cause.

The Owner of the Universe is represented as a large turtle with concentric circles on the back of its shell. The inner circle contains nine coloured squares with the numbers one to nine and represents the Nine Owners of the Mewa, the nine powerful sabdag and their relationship to the five elements. The next circle has eight parkha diagrams arranged in the four cardinal directions and four intermediate directions, representing the Eight Parkha Earth Deities, each of which also has a helper and a destroyer.

The next circle represents the Twelve Lo or Owners of the Twelve-year Cycle: mouse, elephant, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, eagle-chyung,[188] dog and boar.  And the outer circle represents 60-year cycle. This system is explained in the text Lodzö Chunyi,[189] The Treasure of the Twelve-Year Cycle. In fact, each year has not just one owner but many. There is a king, queen, servants, messengers, etc. who appear human apart from their heads, which are in line with the respective animal of the year they own.

Figure 23. Top left: Fu Hsi. Public domain image from Bottom left: The eight bagua trigrams, sequence of the previous sky. Public domain image. Top right: The eight Parkha, Four Directions and the Centre. Drawing from Mkhas grub Lung rtogs rgya mtsho, ’Bras rtsis bden don snying po / མཁས་གྲུབ་ལུང་རྟོགས་རྒྱ་མཚོ། འབྲས་རྩིས་བདེན་དོན་སྙིང་པོ། Bon Dialectic School, Menri Monastery, Dolanji, 2005. Courtesy of Khenpo Tenpa Yungdrung. (Mkhan po Bstan pa g.yung drung / མཁན་པོ་བསྟན་པ་གཡུང་དྲུང་།). Centre right: The eight Parkha of the Bönpo astrological system. Drawing by Dmitry Ermakov. Bottom right: Bönpo Kabtse diagram. Drawing by Yongdzin Lopön Tenzin Namdak. Reproduced and modified with permission from Oxford University Press. (David Snellgrove, The Nine Ways of Bön, London: Oxford University Press, 1967).

The outer circle on the turtle’s shell shows the cycle of sixty years[190] which is derived from the relationship between the Owners’ cycle of twelve years and the five elements. For example, if we are talking about the Year of the Fire Horse, the Owners of that year have red bodies similar to human bodies and red horse heads, as red corresponds to the element, fire.

Later, many astrological, divination and geomantic systems developed in China, the Far East and elsewhere in Asia from this original Bönpo system taught by Tönpa Shenrab Miwo. Some of the best known are the Chinese I-Ching and the geomantic Feng Shui[191] system which are based on the Bönpo teachings brought from Central Asia to China by the Chinese King Gya Kongtse Thrülgyi Gyalpo, a direct disciple of Tönpa Shenrab Miwo.

Besides the Sabdag Owners of the turtle diagram, there are Owners of the Four Directions and the Centre:

“The Guardians of the east are a red tiger and a glinting-blue raven;

The Guardian of the south is a dragon with a red crest;

The Guardian of the north is a tortoise with a yellow shell;

The Guardian of the west is a red bird with red feathers;

The Guardians of the centre are the Tenma[192] Earth Goddess who holds a precious vessel,

and the Earth God Tsangtsang Khorwa[193] who holds a golden wheel.”[194]

Creation Models in Taoism, Bön and Bө Murgel

Now, by way of conclusion, it seems logical to look into how the origins and functioning of the Universe and the beings therein are understood and explained in Taoism, Bön and Bө Murgel.

Creation Model in Taoism

In Taoism, the cosmos is said to have two primary aspects: Yin[195] – the passive principle, a symbol of earth, femininity, darkness, passivity and absorption; and Yang[196] – the active principle, a symbol of heaven, masculinity, light, activity and penetration. Both Yin and Yang emerge from Wuchi,[197] limitless emptiness, and unite in Taiji,[198] the Great Absolute or Supreme Source, the ultimate source and moving force behind all reality. The interdependent interaction of Yin-Yang (as one increases the other decreases) is a description of the actual process of the universe and everything in it. When in harmony, the two are depicted as the swirling light and dark halves of a circle. These concepts first appeared in the I-Ching.

Yin-Yan develops into five phases, wuxing,[199] or five elements: metal, wood, water, fire and earth, and it is these concepts that lend substance to the characteristic Chinese belief in a cyclical theory of generation[200] and destruction[201] as well as an interdependence between the natural world and the human dimension.

Figure 22. Creation Models in Taoism, Bön and Bө Murgel.

Creation Models in Bön

In Bön, the genesis of the universe and the beings therein proceeds from empty space. There are many origin myths that describe this process[202] and their explanations differ, sometimes quite substantially. Here is а version according to Sipai Dzöphug,[203] Treasury of the Origin of Existence:

Empty space contained latent traces of five elements from the previous cycle of existence that were distilled by Trigyal Khugpa,[204] the progenitor of Ye,[205] the positive dimension. He released them by sounding HA and a spinning wheel of light appeared. This spinning gave rise to heat, and thus the fire element was formed.

The contrast between the coldness of the winds and the heat of the fire gave rise to a condensation that became dew, the water element. This in turn was agitated by the winds causing particles of matter, the earth element, to spread far and wide. Travelling through space, these particles condensed and coalesced forming the earth and mountains.

From the essence of the created elements, two cosmic eggs appeared: a cuboid egg of light and a pyramidal egg of darkness.

The egg of light hatched from the power of its own energy. From the rays of light shining upwards, 360 Torse[206] divinities of light manifest and spread throughout space. From the light and rays shining downwards, 10,000 Dase[207] deities appeared, with 100,000 horses. From the heart of the egg emerged a man of white light with seven turquoise tresses, Sipa Sangpo Bumtri,[208] an emanation of the Trigyal Khugpa. He became the King of the World of Existence[209] and father of the hla,[210] gods of the sky.

Meanwhile, Kalpa Mebum Nagpo,[211] the ancestor of Ngam,[212] the negative dimension of darkness, ignorance and evil, burst the egg of darkness in the realm of darkness. From the black light that spread the darkness upwards, ignorance and pollution were produced. The black rays shining downwards produced mental torpor, madness and pollution of various kinds. From the heart of the egg appeared a man of black light with three large braids, Münpa Zerden Nagpo.[213] He became the King of the World of Non-existence[214] and the father of the Düd,[215] demons of the sky.

The dew and rain produced by the water element became oceans. The wind blew through their waters and a bubble appeared on their surface containing an egg of blue light within it. The egg burst from its own inherent power and a turquoise blue woman with her hair in seven braids emerged.

Sangpo Bumtri, the King of Existence, named her Chucham Gyalmo.[216] From their union were born nine brothers and nine sisters. Through the force of their desire, each of the nine brothers caused a female partner to appear and each of the nine sisters caused a male partner to appear, thus the eighteen ancestral couples were formed, and their descendants are the various races of gods and humans. Sangpo Bumtri and Chucham Gyalmo also produced a myriad of wild animals and birds.

Münpa Zerden, the King of Non-existence, created a consort, Tongzham Nagmo,[217] Queen of Darkness, out of his own shadow. They mated, and eight brothers and eight sisters were born to them. The eight brothers created eight female consorts while the eight sisters created eight male consorts and thus the sixteen ancestral pairs of demons were formed.

This model comes from Causal Bön and is based on the cultural matrix of Prehistoric Bön.

We find different cosmological models in the higher teachings of Yungdrung Bön. In the highest vehicle of Yungdrung Bön, Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, it is said that all existence manifests from the Nature of one’s own mind, which is the Base of Everything[218] for each sentient being.

According to this model, from the natural state of an individual sounds, lights and rays appear. If the individual does not follow these with the mind, then they manifest as various Buddha mandalas, and this leads to liberation, to nirvana.

If, however, the mind follows these visions, they begin to condense, becoming the subtle elements that further condense, ultimately leading to rebirth in samsara; finally, the body and the perceived universe appear from the five gross elements, and one is trapped in physical reality.

Creation Model in Bѳ Murgel

In Bө Murgel, the origins of the universe lie in the Sky and are somewhat similar to the model found in Causal Bön which we have just examined. According to Bө Murgel, the Source and Ruler of existence and the beings therein is Huhe Münhe Tengeri – Eternal Blue Sky. Here is the Bө Murgel model of creation:

Before the beginning of time, before the inhabitants of the sky, the Tengeri, were born, there was only an eternal blue sky, pure potential. There was no light, no sun, no moon, no air, nothing; emptiness. In this darkness and emptiness there suddenly arose unique Ehe Yehe Burkhan,[219] the Great Mother Goddess, blazing with light. Mighty and powerful, there was none equal to her. In this total darkness, she was utterly alone. She travelled upwards, yet there was nothing but space, boundless and immeasurable.

She travelled downwards, yet there was nothing but the deepest depth. She experienced all she could in that primordial space and realised that she was the sole being manifest in it.  A great sadness came over her, but this then gave way to a raging anger and Ehe Yehe Burkhan proclaimed: ‘I will put a limit to this limitless space! I will create a beginning for this beginningless time! I possess extraordinary power and might! Everything is in my power, everything is in my hands! There is nothing I cannot do! All being is in my thoughts!’

And so she went into the darkness and travelled through it trying to measure its depths. Then she decided to create sky and earth.

For this purpose, she formed a duck that dived into the deepest depths of the primordial ocean and when it returned it had some clay in its beak. Overjoyed, Ehe Yehe Burkhan took this clay and shaped the earth’s surface. But in the interminable darkness, this earth began to float away. To prevent it, Ehe Yehe Burkhan caught a wondrous four-legged turtle and placed the earth on its back. Thus the world is said to be supported by the turtle’s four legs.

Ehe Yehe Burkhan pressed her palm onto the earth’s surface and the marks from the lines on her palm became streams, rivers and watercourses flowing into the boundless ocean. Soon the whole earth was covered with flowering plants and trees, and it was truly beautiful to behold. Delighted by all this beauty, Ehe Yehe Burkhan fell asleep on a particular mountain. However, she was troubled by the thought that there was no one to enjoy or benefit from all this beauty all around.

No sooner had this thought arisen in her mind, myriads of birds, animals and fish appeared and swiftly spread all over the land. And all were very happy, living and playing together. So the Great Mother Goddess created the sun and moon to mark the difference between day and night and provide warmth and light for the animals. Ehe Yehe Burkhan saw that they lived in pairs and produced offspring and the desire arose in her mind to have children of her own, and so she gave birth to a daughter, Ehe Sagaan Burkhan.[220] Ehe Sagaan Burkhan gave birth to two daughters, Manzan Gurma To’odei[221] and Mais Hara To’odei.[222]

Manzan Gurma To’odei became the grandmother of the White Tengeriin of the Sky and Mais Hara To’odei became the grandmother of the Black Tengeriin of the Sky. Manzan Gurma To’odei had nine white sons and nine white daughters. They were ancestors of the White Tengeriin of the sky. The white Tengeriin then created human populations.[223]

As we can see, there are many differences between the creation models of Taoism, Bön and Bө Murgel, but there are also many similarities; in particular, in each of the three traditions, the primordial source of existence is emptiness. However, we should not take this similarity too far – although Taoism, Bön and Bө Murgel all acknowledge emptiness, their understanding of it differs considerably.

But that is a topic for another discussion. So, I will stop here.


Printed books and journals

Bhikku Satori Bhante, Shintoismo (Milano: Rizzoli Editore, 1982).

Suzanne B. Cahill, Transcendence and Divine Passion: The Queen Mother of the West in Medieval China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993).

Dmitry Ermakov, Bѳ and Bön: Ancient Shamanic Traditions of Siberia and Tibet in their Relation to the Teachings of a Central Asian Buddha (Kathmandu: Vajra Publications, 2008).  

Holmes Welch, Taoism. The Parting of the Way (Rev. ed. Boston: Beacon, 1966). 

Trans. Elio Guarisco, ‘Introduction to Tibetan Astrology from a lecture by Professor Thubten Phuntsog.’ First part of a weekend seminar at Merigar, 21–22 February 1998. The Mirror, No. 120, January, February 2013.  Reprinted from issue 44. 

Helmut Hoffman, Quellen zur Geschichte der Tibetischen Bon-Religion, (Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur, Wiesenbaden: FranzSteiner Verlag, 1950).

Jean M. James, ‘An Iconographic Study of Xiwangmu during the Han Dynasty’, Artibus Asiae, Vol. 55, No. 1/2 (1995), pp. 17-41.

Samten G. Karmay, The Treasury of Good Sayings (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited, 1972). 

______. The Little Luminous Boy: The oral tradition from the land of Zhangzhung depicted on two Tibetan paintings (Bangkok: Orchid Press, 1998).

Per Kvaerne. ‘A Chronological Table of the Bon Po: The Bstan Rcis of Nima Bstan ’Jin’, Acta Orientalia, XXXIII, Apud Ejnar Munksgaard, Havinae, (1981), pp. 203-248.

Yongs ‘dzin Slob dpon Bstan ‘dzin rnam dag Rin po che. Mdo yi don’gar log rtag zhugs pa sel byed.  In Sman ri’i yong ‘dzin slob dpon bstan ‘dzin rnam dag rin po che’i gsung ‘bum. Pod bcu gnyis pa. Rig gzhung dpyad brjod skor. / སྨན་རིའི་ཡོངས་འཛིན་སློབ་དཔོན་བསྟན་འཛིན་རྣམ་དག་རིན་པོ་ཆེའི་གསུང་འབུམ། པོད་བཅུ་གཉིས་པ། རིག་གཞུང་དཔྱད་བརྗོད་སྐོར། མདོ་ཡི་དོན་འགར་ལོག་རྟག་ཞུགས་པ་སེལ་བྱེད།

Yongdzin Lopön Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche. Trnscr. & ed. Carol Ermakova and Dmitry Ermakov. The Nine Ways of Bön: A Compilation of teachings in France, Volume I, Bön of Fruit (Blou: Shenten Dargye Ling, 2006).

Mkhas grub Lung rtogs rgya mtsho, ’Bras rtsis bden don snying po, Bon Dialectic School, Menri Monastery, Dolanji, 2005. མཁས་གྲུབ་ལུང་རྟོགས་རྒྱ་མཚོ། འབྲས་རྩིས་བདེན་དོན་སྙིང་པོ།

J. P. Mallory, V. H. Mair, The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West (London: Thames & Hudson, 2000).

Dagkar Namgyal Nyima, Zhang-zhung — Tibetan — English Contextual Dictionary (Bonn: 2003), p. 16.

Charles Ramble. The Aya: fragments of an unknown Tibetan priesthood. In B. Kellner, H. Krasser, H. Lasic, M.T. Much and H. Tauscher (eds) Pramanakirthi. Papers Dedicated to Ernst Steinkellner on the Occasion of his 70th Birthday. Part 2. Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde, 681–718.

David Snellgrove, The Nine Ways of Bön (London: Oxford University Press, 1967).

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, The Richard Wilhelm Edition (London: Penguin Arkana, 1989).

Tr. Watson, Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996).

Борис Рыбаков, Язычество древних славян (Москва: София-Гелиос, 2002).

Ева Вонг, Даосизм, (Moskva: Fair-Press, 2001) [tr. Y. Bushueva from Eva Wong, The Shambhala Guide to Taoism (Boston & London: Shambhala, 1997).]

Л. Н. Гумилев, История народа хунну: В 2 кн. (Москва: АСТ, 2002).

М. Е. Ермаков, Магия Китая (СПб.: Азбука-классика; Петербургское востоковедение, 2003).

Юань Кэ, Мифы древнего Kитая (Москва: Наука, 1987).

Web resources

‘Possible evidence for care and treatment in the Tyrolean Iceman.’ Zink A. et al.

“Genetic testing reveals awkward truth about Xinjiang’s famous mummies” (AFP), Khaleej Times online,

Badrinaryan Badrinaryan, Gulf of Cambay: Cradle of Ancient Civilization, Archaeology online,

Jan Romgard. Ed. Victor H. Mair. Questions of Ancient Human Settlements in Xinjiang and the Early Silk Road Trade, with an Overview of the Silk Road Research Institutions and Scholars in Beijing, Gansu, and Xinjiang, Sino-Platonic Papers, Number 185, November, 2008 @


[1] Chin. 沙弥.

[2] Chin. 匈奴.

[3] Chin. 鮮卑.

[4] Chin. 柔然.

[5], accessed 02.06.2024.

[6] J. P. Mallory, V. H. Mair, The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West, (London: Thames & Hudson, 2000);“Genetic testing reveals awkward truth about Xinjiang’s famous mummies” (AFP), Khaleej Times online,

 l37.xml&section=todaysfeatures, accessed 02.06.2024.

[7] ‘Possible evidence for care and treatment in the Tyrolean Iceman.’ Zink A. et al., accessed 02.06.2024.

[8] Badrinaryan Badrinaryan, Gulf of Cambay: Cradle of Ancient Civilization, Archaeology online,, accessed, 02.06.2024.

[9] Tib. thun mong kyi dngos grub / ཐུན་མོང་ཀྱི་དངོས་གྲུབ།

[10] Tib. g.yung drung bon / གཡུང་དྲུང་བོན།

[11] Tibetan terms in italics in the main text are given in Wylie transcription.

[12] Tib. Bru sha / བྲུ་ཤ།

[13] Tib. gdod ma’i bon / གདོད་མའི་བོན།

[14] Tib. Ston pa Gshen rab Mi bo che / སྟོན་པ་གཤེན་རབ་མི་བོ་ཆེ།

[15] Tib. bon snying ma / བོན་སྙིང་མ།

[16] Zzng. Mu ra ta han / མུ་ར་ཏ་ཧན།

[17] Tib. ‘Ol mo lung ring / འོལ་མོ་ལུང་རིང་།

[18] Tib. rtag gzigs, stag gzigs, stag gzig / རྟག་གཟིགས། སྟག་གཟིགས། སྟག་གཟིག

[19] Tib. Ti se, Te tse / ཏི་སེ། ཏེ་ཙེ།

[20] Tib. bon gsar ma / བོན་གསར་མ།

[21] Tib. Khri Srong lde’u btsan / ཁྲི་སྲོང་ལྡེའུ་བཙན།

[22] Tib. lha chos / ལྷ་ཆོས།

[23] Tib. lha pa, dpa‘ bo / ལྷ་པ། དཔའ་བོ།

[24] Tib. Slob dpon Btsan ‘dzin rnam dag Rin poche / སློབ་དཔོན་བསྟན་འཛིན་རྣམ་དག་རིན་པོ་ཆེ།

[25] In 783/784 AD according to S. G. Karmay, The Treasury of Good Sayings, (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited, 1972), footnote 2, pp. 94-95. This book contains a translation of several chapters from Tib. Legs bshad mdzod / ལེགས་བཤད་མཛོད by Tib. Shar rdza Bkra shis rgyal mtshan / ཤར་རྫ་བཀྲ་ཤིས་རྒྱལ་མཚན།

[26] Tib. Dmu khri btsan po / དམུ་ཁྲི་བཙན་པོ།

[27] Tib. Bstan rtsis / བསྟན་རྩིས། by Tib. Sman ri Mkhan chen Nyi ma bstan ‘dzin / སྨན་རི་མཁན་ཆེན་ཉི་མ་བསྟན་འཛིན།

[28] Tib. Bla ma Ra Sangs Khrin ne khod / བླ་མ་ར་སངས་ཁྲིན་ནེ་ཁོད།

[29] Tib. Stag ri gnyan gzigs / སྟག་རི་གཉན་གཟིགས།

[30] Tib. gdon bon, bdud bon, ‘dur bon, srid bon, btsan bon / གདོན་བོན། བདུད་བོན། འདུར་བོན། སྲིད་བོན། བཙན་བོན།

[31] Tib. Mi bon Lha bon Rgyal bon Thod dkar / མི་བོན་ལྷ་བོན་རྒྱལ་བོན་ཐོད་དཀར།

[32] Tib. Mi phyi Lha phyi Yo phyi Rgyal bzhed ma / མི་ཕྱི་ལྷ་ཕྱི་ཡོ་ཕྱི་རྒྱལ་བཞེད་མ།

[33] Tib. Bar po so brgyad / བར་པོ་སོ་བརྒྱད།

[34] According to Yongdzin Lopön Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche. Mdo yi don’gar log rtag zhugs  pa sel byed.  In Sman ri’i yong ‘dzin slob dpon bstan ‘dzin rnam dag rin po che’i gsung ‘bum. Pod bcu gnyis pa. Rig gzhung dpyad brjod skor. / སྨན་རིའི་ཡོངས་འཛིན་སློབ་དཔོན་བསྟན་འཛིན་རྣམ་དག་རིན་པོ་ཆེའི་གསུང་འབུམ། པོད་བཅུ་གཉིས་པ། རིག་གཞུང་དཔྱད་བརྗོད་སྐོར། མདོ་ཡི་དོན་འགར་ལོག་རྟག་ཞུགས་པ་སེལ་བྱེད།

[35] Tib. gshen lo / གཤེན་ལོ།

[36] Tib. mya ngan las ‘das pa / མྱ་ངན་ལས་འདས་པ།, Skt. parinirvāṇa.

[37] Tib. rdzogs chen / རྫོགས་ཆེན།

[38] Tib. Chos rgyal Nam mkha’i nor bu / ཆོས་རྒྱལ་ནམ་མཁའ་ནོར་བུ། (1938-2018).

[39] Chin. 夏朝.

[40] Tib. Nya chen Li shu stag ring / ཉ་ཆེན་ལི་ཤུ་སྟག་རིང་།

[41] Tib. Mkhan po Bstan pa g.yung drung / མཁན་པོ་བསྟན་པ་གཡུང་དྲུང་།

[42] Tib. Khri brtan nor bu rtse / ཁྲི་བརྟན་ནོར་བུ་རྩེ།

[43] Tib. mdo / མདོ།

[44] Tib. rgyud, gsang sngags / རྒྱུད། གསང་སྔགས།

[45] Tib. Theg pa rim dgu’i bon / ཐེག་པ་རིམ་དགུའི་བོན།

[46] Tib. rgyu’i bon / རྒྱུའི་བོན།

[47] Tib. ‘bras bu’i bon / འབྲས་བུའི་བོན།

[48] Tib. gtor ma / གཏོར་མ།

[49] Tib. phyva gshen theg pa, Snang gshen theg pa, ‘Phrul gshen theg pa, Srid ghen theg pa / ཕྱྭ་གཤེན་ཐེག་པ། སྣང་གཤེན་ཐེག་པ། འཕྲུལ་གཤེན་ཐེག་པ། སྲིད་གྷེན་ཐེག་པ།

[50] Tib. Dge bsnyen theg pa, Drang srong theg pa, A dkar theg pa, Ye gshen theg pa, Bla med theg pa / དགེ་བསྙེན་ཐེག་པ། དྲང་སྲོང་ཐེག་པ། ཨ་དཀར་ཐེག་པ། ཡེ་གཤེན་ཐེག་པ། This classification is according to the Southern Terma System (Tib. Lho gter lugs / ལྷོ་གཏེར་ལུགས།)

[51] Tib. Bla chen Dran pa nam mkha’ / བླ་ཆེན་དྲན་པ་ནམ་མཁའ།

[52] Tib. Ba gor Bai ro tsa na / བ་གོར་བཻ་རོ་ཙ་ན།

[53] Tib. Rgya gar bon skor / རྒྱ་གར་བོན་སྐོར།

[54] Tib. Theg rim / ཐེག་རིམ།

[55] Tib. Bru sha skad / བྲུ་ཤ་སྐད།

[56] Tib. Bka’ ‘gyur / བཀའ་འགྱུར།

[57] Tib. Bka’ brten / བཀའ་བརྟེན།

[58] Tib. Pad+ma ‘byung gnas / པདྨ་འབྱུང་གནས།

[59] Tib. Pad ma mthong grol / པད་མ་མཐོང་གྲོལ།

[60] Tib. Gyer spungs Dran pa Nam mkha’ / གྱེར་སྤུངས་དྲན་པ་ནམ་མཁའ།

[61] Tib. Khams / ཁམས།

[62] Tib. yi dam / ཡི་དམ།

[63] Verbal communication, 18th March 2017, Kathmandu, Nepal.

[64] Tib. Ma-pang g.yu-tsho / མ་པང་གཡུ་མཚོ།

[65] Tib. a ya bon po, arya bon po / ཨ་ཡ་བོན་པོ། ཨརྱ་བོན་པོ། See Charles Ramble, ‘The Aya: fragments of an unknown Tibetan priesthood,’ in B. Kellner, H. Krasser, H. Lasic, M.T. Much and H. Tauscher (eds) Pramanakirtih. Papers Dedicated to Ernst Steinkellner on the Occasion of his 70th Birthday. Part 2. Wien: Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde, 681–718.

[66] See: Dagkar Namgyal Nyima,Zhang-zhung — Tibetan — English Contextual Dictionary (Bonn: 2003), p. 16.

[67] Tib. gshang / གཤང་།

[68] Tib. sgra bla / སྒྲ་བླ།

[69] Tib. Wer ma Nyi nya / ཝེར་མ་ཉི་ཉ།

[70] Tib. ཨཱོཾ་མ་ཏྲི་མུ་ཡེ་སལེ་འདུ།

[71] Bur. бѳѳ мүргэл, бѳѳ шажан. I chose to use only one <ѳ> in my Anglicised transcription of <Bѳ> and <bѳ> but the word is pronounced with a low double <o’o> sound.

[72] Bur. бѳѳ, утган (одигон).

[73] Bur. Хүхэ Мүнхе Тэнгэри.

[74] Bur. тэнгэри (singular), тэнгэриин (plural).

[75] Dmitry Ermakov, Bѳ and Bön: Ancient Shamanic Traditions of Siberia and Tibet in their Relation to the Teachings of a Central Asian Buddha, (Kathmandu: Vajra Publications, 2008), pp. 744-745.

[76] Bur. онгон даралга.

[77] Bur. утха.

[78] Bur. Мэргэн-Хара / Бохоли-Харя; Бүхүмэй – ‘Perfect bѳ.’

[79] Bur. Шошоолок. According to another version she was from the Khamnigan-Ezhi clan (Bur. Хамниган Эжи).

[80] Ibid. p. 312.

[81] Bur. шанар.

[82] Bur. гэгээн заарин.

[83] Bur. Сэргэ.

[84] Bur. халиун.

[85] For an in-depth study of the initiation process in Bѳ Murgel, see Ibid. pp. 325-335.

[86] Юань Кэ, Мифы древнего Kитая (Москва: Наука, 1987), p. 241.

[87] Jpn. 天照 天照.

[88] Bhikku Satori Bhante, Shintoismo (Milano: Rizzoli Editore, 1982), pp. 11; 54–55.

[89] Jpn. 御御籤.

[90] Борис Рыбаков, Язычество древних славян (Москва: София-Гелиос, 2002), pp. 58–59.

[91] Jpn. 天迦久神.

[92] Jpn. 武甕槌大 武甕槌大.

[93] Jpn. 藤原氏.

[94] Bur. залаа.

[95] Bur. эрдэни.

[96] Bur. Һүльдэ.

[97] Tib. phywa g.yang / ཕྱྭ་གཡང་།

[98] Bur. майхабши.

[99] Bur. малгай.

[100] Bur. далабши.

[101] Tib. Shes pa bcu gnyis / ཤེས་པ་བཅུ་གཉིས།

[102] Tib. Lding shes sha ba / ལྡིང་ཤེས་ཤ་བ།

[103] Tib. ‘Dus pa rin po che’i rgyud gzer mig / འདུས་པ་རིན་པོ་ཆེའི་རྒྱུད་གཟེར་མིག།

[104] Tib. ‘khor ba / འཁོར་བ།

[105] Tib. gnas lugs, sems nyid / གནས་ལུགས། སེམས་ཉིད།

[106] Tib. mngon sangs rgays / མངོན་སངས་རྒྱས།

[107] Tib. Sum pa / སུམ་པ།

[108] Chin. 淳維.

[109] Chin. 桀.

[110] Chin. 大禹.

[111] Chin. 商朝.

[112] Chin. 獫狁.

[113] Chin.  獯鬻.

[114] Chin. 戎.

[115] Chin.  北狄.

[116] Chin. 胡.

[117] See Гумилев Л. Н. История народа хунну: В 2 кн. М.: АСТ, 2002.

[118] Bur. хас тамга.

[119] Chin. 巫.

[120] Chin. 大禹. Born around 2205 BC according to Tr. Watson, ‘Outline of Early Chinese History,’ Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), p. x.

[121] Chin. 鯀.

[122] Chin. 舜.

[123] Based on Ева Вонг, Даосизм, (Moskva: Fair-Press, 2001) [tr. Y. Bushueva from Eva Wong, The Shambhala Guide to Taoism (Boston & London: Shambhala, 1997).], pp.19–29.

[124] Chin. 禹步.

[125] Chin. 北斗.

[126] Chin. 上帝.

[127] Chin. 天關.

[128] Chin. 北极.

[129] Chin. 萬.

[130] Bur. Долоон убгэд.

[131] Zzng. drung mu / དྲུང་མུ།

[132] Tib. g.yung drung / གཡུང་དྲུང།

[133] Tib. g.yas skor / གཡས་སྐོར།

[134] Tib. Bdud Khyab pa lag ring / བདུད་ཁྱབ་པ་ལག་རིང་།

[135] Tib. rigs lnga / རིགས་ལྔ།

[136] Tib. ju thig / ཇུ་ཐིག

[137] Chin. 易經.

[138] Chin. 老子.

[139] Chin. 道德經. Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, The Richard Wilhelm Edition, (London: Penguin Arkana, 1989), Te 80, p. 64.

[140] Ibid. p. 1.

[141] Chin. 賈湖契刻符號.

[142] Chin. 道教.

[143] Chin. 師道.

[144] Chin. 道家.

[145] Chin. 莊子.

[146] Chin. 葛玄 (164-244 AD).

[147] Chin. 西王母.

[148] Chin. 崑崙.

[149] Chin. 天山.

[150] Tib. G.yung drung dgu brtsegs / གཡུང་དྲུང་དགུ་བརྩེགས།

[151] Tib. stag gzigs / སྟག་གཟིགས།

[152] Tib. Rgya Kong rtse ‘Phrul gyi rgyal po / རྒྱ་ཀོང་རྩེ་འཕྲུལ་གྱི་རྒྱལ་པོ།

[153] Tib. ‘byung lnga / འབྱུང་ལྔ།

[154] Connected with the cycle Treasury of the Twelve Years, Tib. Lo mdzod bcu nyis /

[155] Tib. sme ba dgu / སྨེ་བ་དགུ།

[156] Chin. 八卦.

[157] Tib. ‘Bum bzhi / འབུམ་བཞི།

[158] Tib. Dpyad bu khri shes / དཔྱད་བུ་ཁྲི་ཤེས།

[159] Tib. ‘dzam gling mkhas pa’i rgyan drug / འཛམ་གླིང་མཁས་པའི་རྒྱན་དྲུག Literally ‘Six Scholars, Ornaments of the World’.  I. e. 6016 BC onwards according to traditional Bönpo chronology.

[160] Tib. Mu cho ldem drug / མུ་ཆོ་ལྡེམ་དྲུག

[161] Tib. Legs tang rmang po / ལེགས་ཏང་རྨང་པོ།

[162] Tib. Rgya bon Zing ba mthu chen / རྒྱ་བོན་ཟིང་བ་མཐུ་ཆེན།

[163] Tib. མ་རྒྱུད་ཕྱག་མཆོད།

[164] Tib. ཉི་དབར་མདངས་ལེན།

[165] Tib. ཙེ་མང་།

[166] Tib. དོད་དེ།

[167] Tib. གོང་བུ་དམར་རུ།

[168] S. G. Karmay, The Treasury of Good Sayings, p. 25.

[169] Tib. Rgya bon Gsal ba ‘od chen / རྒྱ་བོན་གསལ་བ་འོད་ཆེན།

[170] Tib. Sum pa’i bon po A ba ldong / སུམ་པའི་བོན་པོ་ཨ་བ་ལྡོང་།

[171] Tib. Ra sangs Khri ne khod / ར་སངས་ཁྲིན་ནེ་ཁོད།

[172] Tib. Stag ri gnyan gzigs / སྟག་རི་གཉན་གཟིགས།. He lived in 6-7th century AD.

[173] Tib. sku gshen / སྐུ་གཤེན།

[174] Tib. Shar rdza Bkra shis rgyal mtshan / ཤར་རྫ་བཀྲ་ཤིས་རྒྱལ་མཚན།, (1859–1933).

[175] Tib. ཐིས་ཙང་།

[176] Tib. ཆང་ཐང་ཐས་སྲི།

[177] Tib. གནམ་གྱི་བོན་པོ།

[178] Chen Yang pointed out that this is an unusual and possibly erroneous spelling for this title which is normally spelled as Chin. 張天師.

[179] S.G. Karmay, Treasury of Good Sayings, p. 116.

[180] Chin. 伏羲, (2953–2838 BC) according to Ермаков М. Е. Магия Китая. (СПб.: Азбука-классика; Петербургское востоковедение, 2003).

[181] Tib. ཐུབ་བསྟན་ཕུན་ཚོགས།

[182] Tib. ལྕང་སྐྱ་རོལ་པའི་རྡོ་རྗེ།

[183] Tib. ཐུའུ་བཀྭན་བློ་བཟང་ཆོས་ཀྱི་ཉི་མ།

[184].‘Introduction to Tibetan Astrology from a lecture by Professor Thubten Phuntsog.’ First part of a weekend seminar at Merigar, 21–22 February 1998. Translated by Elio Guarisco. The Mirror, No. 120, January, February 2013. Reprinted from issue 44.

[185] Tib. smrang / སྨྲང་།

[186] Tib. sa bdag / ས་བདག

[187] Tib. gab rtse / གབ་རྩེ།

[188] Tib. khyung / ཁྱུང་།

[189] Tib. Lo mdzod bcu gnyis / ལོ་མཛོད་བཅུ་གཉིས།

[190] Tib. sme phreng / སྨེ་ཕྲེང་།

[191] Chin. 風水.

[192] Tib. Rten ma / རྟེན་མ།

[193] Tib. Gtsang gtsang ‘khor ba / གཙང་གཙང་འཁོར་བ།

[194] Yongdzin Lopön Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche. Trnscr. & ed. Carol Ermakova and Dmitry Ermakov. The Nine Ways of Bön: A Compilation of teachings in France, Volume I, Bön of Fruit (Blou: Shenten Dargye Ling, 2006) p. 146.

[195] Chin. 陰.

[196] Chin. 陽.

[197] Chin. 无极.

[198] Chin. 太極.

[199] Chin. 五行.

[200] Chin. 生.

[201] Chin. 克.

[202] Tib. srid pa’i grol phug / སྲིད་པའི་གྲོལ་ཕུག

[203] Tib. Srid pa’i mdzod phug / སྲིད་པའི་མཛོད་ཕུག

[204] Tib. Khri rgyal khug pa / ཁྲི་རྒྱལ་ཁུག་པ།

[205] Tib. Ye / ཡེ།

[206] Tib. ‘thor gsas / འཐོར་གསས།

[207] Tib. mda’ gsas / མདའ་གསས།

[208] Tib. Srid pa Sangs po ‘bum khri / སངས་པོ་འབུམ་ཁྲི།

[209] Tib. Yod khams srid pa’i rgyal po / ཡོད་ཁམས་སྲིད་པའི་རྒྱལ་པོ།

[210] Tib. lha / ལྷ།

[211] Tib. Bskal pa Med ‘bum nag po / བསྐལ་པ་མེད་འབུམ་ནག་པོ།

[212] Tib. Ngam / ངམ།

[213] Tib. Mun pa zer ldan nag po / མུན་པ་ཟེར་ལྡན་ནག་པོ།

[214] Tib. Med khams stong pa’i rgyal po / མེད་ཁམས་སྟོང་པའི་རྒྱལ་པོ།

[215] Tib. bdud / བདུད།

[216] Tib. Chu lcam rgyal mo / ཆུ་ལྕམ་རྒྱལ་མོ།

[217] Tib. Stong zhams nag mo / སྟོང་ཞམས་ནག་མོ།

[218] Tib. kung zhi / ཀུན་གཞི།

[219] Bur. Эхэ Ехэ Бурхан.

[220] Bur. Эхэ Сагаан Бурхан.

[221] Bur. Манзан Гурма Тѳѳдэй.

[222] Bur. Маис Хара Тѳѳдэй.

[223] According to the Kudarinsky myth.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This page is under copyright so you cannot copy content