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Text discovery casts doubt on Buddhist influence on Bon Ancient Bon Letter Treasure found
Translation from Tibetan by Menri Lopon Rinpoche
The pending publication of 30 newly discovered books of ancient Tibetan Bon text is anxiously awaited by Bon scholars worldwide. The texts that are at least 1,600 years old were collected by two scholars and teachers at Lentru Northwest University, Drug Thar and Losang Lhundup. The two worked together to collect the texts in Kansu State, Tang Teng District, from Tibetan families in the area. Over the last several decades many ancient texts have been published, but this is an especially rich find.
These are the oldest Bon texts ever discovered and they predate the arrival of Buddhism in Tibet from India. There are 31 different texts containing 560 chapters. The texts were kept by dozens of Tibetan families.
Many scholars and researches examined the texts and determined that they are authentic ancient Tibetan writings. The shapes of the Tibetan letters have Zhang Zhung characteristics that identify the texts as being from an ancient era. The subject of the texts include causal vehicles of Bon and describe the cultural life of ancient Zhang Zhung, including dress and social interaction.
The texts also contain information about Tibetan medical practices and religious instructions, including directions for offering incense on mountain tops. how to make offerings to mountain deities, divinations, astrology and rituals. The instructions are accompanied by ritual drawings. The fruit vehicle is also described. Scholars determined that the texts date from before the fifth and sixth centuries A.D., making this a very important ancient text. The news has stirred interest among scholars worldwide, especially those interested in Tibetan medicines.
Bon scholars who have indicated interest in the texts include reknowned Bon scholar Tong Kor Tsering Thar ; Palbar Dorje. Lecturer at Bejing University; and Chinese scholar Hrun Ben Rung. All three recognize the texts as artifacts of ancient Tibetan culture and that they authentically reflect customs, letters and religion of the time. They agree that the texts are important for Bon research. Researchers from the U.S., Japan, Germany, Italy and France among others are anxiously awaiting the publication of the texts, urging that it be published as soon as possible.
The value of the texts is immeasurable for researchers of the ancient Bon tradition. “Many Tibetan scholars thought that before the seventh century in Tibet, there were no Tibetan letters, no religion and no fruit vehicles,” said Menri Lopon Trinley Nyima, head instructor at the Menri Monestary in India. “Those scholars thought that to learn meditation and enlightenment practices Bonpos copied from Buddhism, especially the fruit vehicles. They believed Bonpo fruit vehicles only existed after the 10th century. Bonpos believed those things existed in Bon culture more than 16,000 years ago. Many scholars subscribe to the belief that Song Tsen Gampo, king of Tibet, brought Buddist scholarship to Tibet. The king was born in 617 A.D. He sent an emissary, Thunmi Sambota, to India to learn Buddhism. According to accepted histories, Sambota returned and established Tibetan letters.
By proving that Tibetan letters existed before the fifth and sixth centuries, the newly discovered texts disprove much of the accepted history of Tibet. The texts also show that the Bon religion independently developed a path to enlightenment called the fruit vehicle.”