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BUDDHISM & BON RELIGION
THE TRADITION OF REINCARNATION
“All that we are is the result of what we
have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we
~Hindu Prince Gautama
Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.
Tibetan people attribute their existence to the union of an
ogress (female ogre) and a monkey. One day a monkey ambled
into a cave in the Yarlung River valley and decided to do
something to attain immortality. Sometime later, an ogress
dropped by to visit and tried to tempt him with magic. She
whispered to the monkey: “Will you marry me?”
“No, I am a disciple of
Mother Buddha," he said woefully because she was quite
attractive. "I have been told to stay here in this cave and
meditate until I understand the great truths. If I marry
you, it will violate my religious discipline.”
The ogress persisted: “If
you don’t marry me, I will have no recourse except commit
suicide. You see, in my previous incarnation I was degraded
into a devil. If I live as a devil, you and I cannot be
together. I will be forced to marry a devil and give birth
to countless sons and grandsons. If that happens, our
beautiful and sacred plateau will be plunged into a world
filled with devils and thousands of people will be lost.
Please, you must marry me to avoid this disaster.”
Trapped in the dilemma and
bewildered, the monkey returned to Putuo Hill to seek
instruction from the Mother Buddha. She said: “This
auspicious sign is your destiny. It is a deed of great
kindness to marry her and reproduce offspring for the
plateau. As an enlightened Buddha, you should not hesitate
to conduct kind deeds. Hurry back and marry the ogress.”
They married and brought six
baby monkeys into the world. They each had different hobbies
and dispositions. Soon they wandered into the forest to look
for food. Three years later their father went looking for
them and found, not six, but five-hundred monkeys wandering
about. With so many mouths to feed, the fruits and berries
of the forest were difficult to find. Their father worried
for their survival and decided to go again to Mother Buddha
Mother Buddha took the seeds
of five types of grains from Xumi Mountain and distributed
them across the land. Crops sprung up in the vast land like
magic and the old father monkey was happy that his offspring
had sufficient food. For an unknown reasons, over time, the
tails of these monkeys shortened and they developed
languages to communicate with one another. Gradually they
came to look and act like human beings. So the ogress and
the monkey are the mother and father, the Adam and Eve of
the Tibetan people.
The story of the monkey and
the ogress is a popular Tibetan myth recorded in ancient
scriptures and on wall paintings in religious buildings.
There is a gorgeous painting of this myth on the second
floor of the Summer Palace of the Dalai Lama in Lhasa.
Tsetang translates as "the play place for monkeys" and
Tsetang Town is famous for the cave where the monkey lived,
near to Mt. Gangpo Ri.
“The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best
Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483
oldest spiritual tradition of Tibet is the Bon religion.
However, many Tibetans are not knowledgeable about Bon. Even
guides sometimes refuse to go into a Bon Monastery. Tibetan
Buddhism and Bon have been, in many cases, intertwined over
the ages. Traditions, rituals and even texts that originated
with the Bon religion are now accepted by Tibetans as part
of the Tibetan Buddhism belief. At the root of the Bon faith
are oaths, spells, incantations, talismans, drumming
sacrifices and rituals. Counteracting the effects of evil
spirits through magical practices was the chief
premise of the earliest form of Bon. Bon priests and their
rituals were extremely important in securing a successful
passage into the next world. Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth
Dalai Lama, has recognized the Bön tradition as the fifth
principal spiritual school of Tibet, along with the Nyingma,
Sakya, Kagyu, and Gelug schools of Buddhism. Bon is often
described as shamanistic and animistic and was practiced
throughout Tibet prior to the introduction of Buddhism in
the 7th century (during the term of Songtsen Gampo). Both
the religion and the Bönpo are significantly more rich and
textured culturally than was initially thought by pioneering
Western scholars. MORE ON BON
Buddhism in Tibet
died out in the Indian states around 1200 BC, as Hinduism
revived and various invasions destroyed Buddhist centers of
faith. Buddhist doctrines and scriptures, however, lived on
in Tibet, where Buddhism was promoted and supported by the
kings. The faith almost vanished with the end of the
monarchy in the ninth century. When it arose again, Tibet's
decentralized conditions allowed Buddhism to split into some
The following five sects became the most important:
Nyingmapa, the ancient sect, began around 750 AD with
Padmasambhava. It absorbed the Bon faith and produced the
Tibetan book of the dead.
Kahdampa Sect began with Atisha after 1050 AD. Its tradition
laid stress on the scriptures and discipline, and it formed
a link with India's sages.
Kagyupa Sect began around 1060 AD with the teachers of Marpa
and Milarepa. Most typically Tibetan, it stressed yoga as
the way to seek enlightenment.
Sakyupa Sect arose in 1073 AD at sakya monastery, which
later governed Tibet. It was worldly and practical and less
concerned with metaphysics.
The Gelugpa Sect or virtuous ones or yellow hats, began with
Tsong Khapa in 1407 AD. It absorbed Kahdampa Sect and
carried on Atisha's tradition. It dominated Tibet after the
17th century, leaving other sects to play a minor role.
“Do not believe in
anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in
anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do
not believe in anything simply because it is found written
in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely
on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe
in traditions because they have been handed down for many
generations. But after observation and analysis, when you
find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to
the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live
up to it.”
Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483
Buddhism derives from the confluence of Buddhism and yoga
which started to arrive in Tibet from India briefly around
the late eighth century and then more steadily from the
thirteenth century onwards. Indian Buddhism around that time
had incorporated both Hindu yogic and tantric practices
along with the classical teachings of the historical Buddha
who lived around 500 BC. It acknowledged
that there were two paths to enlightenment ( complete
transcendence of identification with the personal ego ). One
path was that taught in the sutras according to the
historical teachings. The heart of sutra practice was based
on morality, concentration, and wisdom ( not identifying
with the personal ego ). The other path, which has become
the cornerstone of Tibetan variations, was tantric. This
practice blended the sutra teachings with techniques adapted
from Hindu systems of yoga and tantra.
For a detailed discourse on
"The greatest achievement is selflessness.
The greatest worth is self-mastery.
The greatest quality is seeking to serve others.
The greatest precept is continual awareness.
The greatest medicine is the emptiness of everything.
The greatest action is not conforming with the worlds ways.
The greatest magic is transmuting the passions.
The greatest generosity is non-attachment.
The greatest goodness is a peaceful mind.
The greatest patience is humility.
The greatest effort is not concerned with results.
The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go.
The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances." Atisha.
A mandala is a
circular design, usually composed of dyed sand particles,
that is a visual representation of the Buddhist path from
its beginnings to complete enlightenment. Buddhists believe
that the mandala is a deity’s divine environment. The
construction of a mandala is a sacred ceremony for
Buddhists, and these ceremonies have been made available for
public viewing only in recent years.
For more detailed definitions
about Tibetan religious practices, tools, etc, click below
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