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Bön (Tib. བོན་, Wyl. bon) — the ancient indigenous religion of Tibet. Although the term “Bön" is often used to refer to the pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet as David Snellgrove explains, this is historically misleading:

"The bon were just one class of priests among others, whose practices and beliefs are covered by the general term of lha-chos, which may be translated perhaps as ‘sacred conventions’. The term bön, as referring to a whole set of religious practices, would seem to have come into use at a later stage in deliberate opposition to the new use of chö which now had the meaning of Sanskrit dharma limited specifically to the religion of Shakyamuni. Thus there is probably no such thing as pre-Buddhist Bön...."[1]

According to Snellgrove, “Bön” was not a label for an organized religion before the introduction of Buddhism and it now refers to a system of beliefs and practices that have been influenced by Buddhism.


  1. David L. Snellgrove, Four Lamas of Dolpo (Oxford: Cassirer, 1967), 20.

Further Reading

  • The Tradition of Everlasting Bön: Five Key Texts on Scripture, Tantra, and the Great Perfection, The Library of Tibetan Classics, translated by Marc des Jardins (Boston: Wisdom, 2023)
  • Bon: The Magic Word—The Indigenous Religion of Tibet, edited by Samten G. Karmay and Jeff Watt, Philip Wilson Publishers, December 2007.
  • Tulku Thondup, Hidden Teachings of Tibet (Boston: Wisdom, reprint edition 1997), 'Appendix 1: Bon Rituals in Ter Teachings'.
  • Snellgrove, David L. Four Lamas of Dolpo. Oxford: Cassirer, 1967.

External Links