Bon and Shamanism

The original Himalayan shamanic traditions is a different form of spirituality There is some sense of original form of spirituality

Some of them also have a dark side and some of them have more of a light side Throughout the Himalayan regions, even around the world, in the shamanic form there are forms of sacrificing things which is the dark side of it The other side is where there is really a genuine sense of respect to the nature, the natural elements and the spirits of the nature I recently visited Sikkim and in Sikkim there are the Lepcha people I think there are about 150,000 Lepcha people there

Some of the things that I encountered with them was a very interesting experience, I thought They were saying they don't have a temple They don't have a church, of course, or anything like that They have little shrines in individual homes They have rocks, feathers and some candles

These symbols of nature are a direct access for them to the spirit, to the great spirit – to the essence – to their great spirit Many other traditions have so many forms and images which represent things but with raw nature there is more of a direct access to the truth or something like that I thought it was really, really interesting It's true generally that we have so many forms which is like the door to the truth or to the essence but they are so minimal and so raw to the nature to access the truth and the spirits Some of these Himalayan forms of shamanism do not particularly talk about the ultimate liberation, or enlightenment or Buddhahood or something like that but they do feel like they are connecting more to the source, connecting to the great spirit, connecting to the deity

Through the connection to the nature and these great spirits, they feel like they are gaining a lot of healing powers to heal Their understanding of nature– They are very,very aware of plants: Which plants come when, what kind of elemental healing powers they have, when you should take them, when you shouldn't take them and so on They have incredible knowledge about that In the Bön tradition we have nine ways of Bön and the first four ways of Bön are called causal vehicles In those causal vehicles there is a lot of work of elements, spirits, healings, rituals and exorcism

There are many practices like that and some overlap with other shamanic traditions, there might be some similarities But in the Bön itself it doesn't call itself shamanism The word shamanism is not applied in the Bön tradition The work of the five elements in its most gross way, like the workings of the raw elements, is in the causal vehicles If you prefer you can call it similar to other shamanic work but again we don't call Bön as shamanism

Working with these same elements in their higher forms, more like a form of wind or chi or energy which is recognised in our body so then there is a higher level of practices which are more like in Tantrism In the Tantric tradition where through the movement, through the breathing, through the postures, through the gaze, you are connecting with certain elemental energies to bring into a certain state of mind or to influence our mind to bring into a certain state of mind in a higher form of meditation You are still practicing (with the) elements but in a different way Then in the highest form like in Dzogchen, you are still practicing with the elements in the most highest forms of the five elements in its form of light: white light, blue light, red light, green light, yellow light, they are referred to as the five pure lights These five pure lights are still the most essential forms of the five elements but they are totally linked with a state of awareness, a different state of awareness or the five wisdoms, it's called the five wisdoms

When you are practicing with the five wisdoms, in its highest form of awareness, then you're gaining a liberation of rainbow body So the use of the five elements either in its gross form or its energetic form or its highest form as light, all three are complementary They're linked to each other, an undeniable connection That's important because sometimes in Tibetan tradition it seems like people are less aware of that so those who are working with the raw elements think it is lower or less important or not important or even sometimes something bad When we are doing more energetic work or physical like yoga, or something like that, then it's only physical but it's not related with enhancing higher awareness or something like that

But the real, more complete understanding is to understand all of these three ways: the element in its form, the element in its energy and element in its pure form of light, they all complement each other As a human being you need to practice all of them together to have the best outcome or best result For spiritual development they need to work together That, I think, is a very unique approach in the Bön tradition I think that awareness is very, very strong and the practice of Chöd, like offering your body, the practice of soul retrieval, working with a spirit who might have stolen your soul, to retrieve that back or ransom offering or whatever outer forces are wanting something from you, giving them something that they want to be free from your soul energy, to come back, all of this knowledge is there but in the Bön tradition they don't particularly call it shamanism

In a way, in the Western world, sometimes shamanism is seen as a positive thing, sometimes it's seen as a negative thing I think it's important to see how or which way you look at it There are aspects of it that are very important and valuable Then there are aspects of it maybe which are not so important in trying to preserve As human beings we have kind of lost not knowing what the value of life is

We are confused between needs and wanting or what we want Our needs are very basic If the whole of human history and the whole of economic development and technological development is more based on our human needs, we probably would have less damage to the environment but we did not base things on our needs We went with our wanting, our greediness and we are really very much lost Our happiness, basic happiness, we seek in the material but that basic happiness is within ourself, within the connection to the nature

If you are genuinely connected to the nature, you feel so much liveliness and happiness If you are genuinely connected with your family, naturally there is so much happiness there If you genuinely connect with your own self, there is more of a genuine sense of happiness there Many basic human needs are more in connection to the nature among ourselves, to ourselves, rather than an accumulation of more material things Of course we are dependent on material things but we went too far

To the point that what we are trying to get, we lose much more In the end we lose much more than what we gain I'm not sure okay but I think the reason why there are many people who are wanting to practice today's shamanism, which some of them are more related with Indigenous traditions like Native American, South American, Mongolian, Tibetan and different places Maybe it's a very simple thing, basic What people want, what people really want, is the connection, the connection

They want to connect They've lost connection in their lives They've lost connection to themselves They've lost connection with their families They've lost connection

They've lost trust in the politics and in many, many things They've lost things, they're seeking connection In a way the simplest or easier or more familiar way, a place for connection is to nature Also, sometimes they want to connect with these spirits and they are also interested in something more than themselves What is that, more than themselves? So if they don't understand the Buddha, they don't understand enlightenment, they don't understand the five pure wisdoms then they still want to understand something, 'What is beyond me, ordinary me? How can I connect to something beyond just this, my ordinary suffering?' So they are seeking a connection

I think, maybe that is a simple answer, maybe it's too much– I'm answering in a too simplified way, I'm not sure but maybe that's one possibility