The Art and Culture of BÖN
Thankas and Mandalas
Essential Keys of Knowledge and Wisdom

Bön — the Eternal Tradition ( Yungdrung Bön) of Central Asia & Tibet, constitutes the indigenous religion existing prior to the introduction of Buddhism. Originating from India, the spiritual founder of the Bönpo is Tönpa Shenrab, a quasi-mythical figure.

In preview of the permanent exhibition of 10 bönpo paintings (thankas) kept in Musée National des Arts Asiatiques Guimet (Paris), the association SPHERIC, with the vocation to promote and preserve the Arts and Culture of international minorities (, presents a CDRom entitled Art and Culture of BÖN containing theses iconographical pieces of art commented by Prof. Per Kvaerne, tibetologist and Ph.D. (University of Oslo), who is well published on the Bön tradition.

These paintings dating from the 18th century according to their style, have been offered to Musée Guimet in 1947 by Countess d'Ollone in memory of her husband ' s mission in China and Tibet between 1906 and 1909. The set consists of 10 thankas depicting the main sequences of the perfect life of the founder of BÖN, Tönpa Shenrab Miwoche, his 12 Deeds and the 9 Ways, teachings that he propagated during his entire life.

Thanks to one painting-mandala which is used for the Home interface, hanging on the wall in the entrance of the bönpo Triten Norbutse Monastery in Katmandu (Nepal), the traveler enters Olmolungring, the ancient realm which includes the palaces where Tönpa Shenrab lived many thousands of years ago. The circular lap is trodden anticlockwise in the traditional bönpo way.

The founder was born in the South of the Nine Staged Svastika mountain, in the palace including the first thanka divided in order to facilitate the layout of the sketches and the commentaries. The Deed of Birth is announced as the first Deed, " Lhang Lhang ! I came as the Saving Master to purify all beings from their ignorance and their suffering !" (thanka 1). The 'spontaneous Chant' of Bon Karma, Great Perfection practitioner, introduces each Deed with a stanza of this poem of thanks written to the founder of the YUNGDRUNG BÖN France association and author of the Preface in the CDRom.

Tönpa Shenrab as a child had the vocation to teach from an early age ; first, he transmitted his gift of the Arts (thanka 2) then focused on the 9 Ways' teachings (thanka 2 and 3) entitled the Sutras, Tantras and Supreme Way, the Great perfection, pinnacle of the Nine Staged Svastika mountain. This Supreme Way is purposely illustrated by the 11th thanka entitled 'The Combination of the Four Wheels' Dzogchen (Great Perfection) teaching that allows any yogi to overcome the cycle of samsara and nirvana in one life. It is commented by prof. Samten G. Karmay educated in a bönpo monastery and since 1989 Director of Research in the French Center of Scientific Research in Paris ; in 1995, he was elected President of the International Association of Tibetan Studies in the 7th Congress of Graz, Austria.

All life long, Tönpa Shenrab also taught about the mandalas as the 360 goddesses' mandala and Jamma's mandala until the Deed of Liberation (thanka 12). Among his pupils we find high profiles like King Halaratsa, elephant and jewel thief, Prince Khrichi, great hunter who fell sick after his numerous bloody killings, the wealthy and nasty King Guver, the jealous and disturbed Queen Gulimati. Each of them made offerings before being instructed, that's still the tradition.

Some disciples realize the BÖN Body or Rainbow Body in listening or in seeing the Teacher (section 5 thanka 1 ; sections 7, 10, 12 thanka 11). That is the result of karma, the natural law of past lives and deeds. One sketch after another builds this rich epic tale that is so close to what one lives nowadays. The Master travels a lot to teach the doctrine. He is celebrated and greeted in many parts of his realm ; he teaches, prepares the rituals and always goes back to his palaces in Olmolungring.

In the monasteries of the BÖN tradition, the dances are part of a ritual, once performed in private and now for a different audience. In their multicolored silk costumes, the monks (dancers and musicians) perform the masked dances, the healing chants that all appreciate in the 15 min. video included in this CDRom.

The tibetan terms are explained in a glossary. Following the message of Yongdzin Lopön Tenzin Namdak's Foreword: " need to waste these unique and rare teachings and this precious life!" Further, this rainbow CDRom offers to the first generations of the multimedia era, the mirror-like link standing for the real liberation, the one of an Enlightened Being in action who uses the 12 keys of the virtuous Deeds. "If one becomes aware of one's true nature, then the deep goal of one's incarnation is realized. One will strive to help the numerous suffering sentient beings ; the inner palaces will blissfully arise in one's body."

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