The condensed meaning of an explanation of the teachings of Yungdrung Bon
by Lopön Tenzin Namdak
(translated by John Reynolds, South Devon, May 1991. Published by: Bonpo Foundation, Kathmandu,
Nepal.The copyright is held by the publisher.)
Here, with reference to the Yungdrun gBon, we must first consier ist essence and then ist divisions. As for the essence of the teachings, having relied upon proper conduct and practive, there will areise qualities of a virtuous aspects and these will become the means for exhausting the obscurations which afflict the individual.
Second, with respect to the divisions of the teachings, there is first the subject matter or what is to be expressed, that is, the Yungdrung Bon which encompassed by the meaning; and second, ist expression, that is, the Yungdrung Bon which is encompassed by the words.
With respect to the frst ( the subject matter of Bon ), this may be divided into three as follows:
I. The path of Renunciation (spong lam),
II. The Path of Transformation (sgyur lam), and
III. The Path of Liberation (grol lam).
And with regard to what is expressed in words, there are two divisions; the Word itself (that is, the authoritative Word of the Buddha ), and that which relies upon the Word.
First, in terms of the Word (bka’), there are four divisions:
1. Sutra (mdo-sde )
2. Prajnaparamita (‘bum-sde ),
3. Tantra (rgyud-sde),and
4. Kosha (mdzod-sde),i.e., Dzogchen.
The Path of Renunciation
When we subdivide the the Path of Renunciation, we find here three ways or vehicles to enlightenment (theg-pa):
1. Theg-pa chung-ngu: The Lesser Way or Hinayana
2. Theg-pa ‘bring-po: The Intermediate Way and
3. Theg-pa chen-po: The greater Way of Mahayana
In terms of the Lesser Way, we have there the Base, the Path ad the Fruit to be considered. The Base derives from an understanding of the lack of emptiness of an independent self in persons. The path consists on one practicing according to rge threefold training of morality, meditation and wisdom. The Fruit is the attaining of the status of an Arhat.
Within the Intermediate Way, we also speak of the Base, the Path and the Fruit. As above, the base consists in the realization of the emptiness of an independent self in persons. And having systematically established oneself in this absence of a self in the phenomena of a subject, the Path consists of the threefold training of morality, meditation and wisdom, and practicing by means of the method of reversing the system of the twelve links of interdependent orgination. The Fruit is also the attaining the status of an Arhat.
Within the Greater Way of the Mahayana there are also two divisions:
A. Thugs-rje sems-dpa’i theg-pa: the Way of the Compassionate Bodhisattvas, and
B. gyung-drung sems-dpa’i spros med-pa’i theg-pa; the Way of the Bodhisattvas which is without conceptual elaborations.
First, withe regard to the system of the Compassionate Bodhisattvs (the Cittamatra system ), there are three considerations: the Base, The Path and the Fruit. The Base consists in understanding the emptiness of any independent existence or substance in external phenomena. Having established oneself in thi emptiness by means of realizing ist meaning, the Path consists of practicing the ten paramitas of generosity, morality, patience, diligence, meditation, strength, compassion, commitment, measn and wisdom.
The Fruit is attaining of thr perfect Buddhahood of the Trikava.
Within the system of the Great Vehicle of the Bodhisattvas which is without conceptual elaborations (the Madhyamaka system ) , there are also three considerations: the Base, the Path and the Fruit. The Base is systematically establishing oneself in the understanding that all phenomena lac any inherent nature. The Path consists in practicing the unsurpassed then paramitas and the four collections: generosity , friendly spreech, practicing according to the meaning, and teaching in harmony with the meaning according to the intellectual capacity of students. The Fruit is the realization of the perfext Buddhahood of the Trikaya.
The Path of Transformation
Second, within the Way of the Path of Transformation, there are four divisions:
1. Bye-ba gtsang spyod ye bon gyi theg-pa: the Way of Primordial Bon of pure conduct and ritual activity,
2. rNam-pa kun ldan mngon-shes kyi theg-pa: the Way of the clear Knowledge which knows all aspects,
3. dNgos bskyed thugs-rje rol-pa’i theg-pa: the Way of the manifestation of Compassion as actual visualisation and
4. Shin tu don ldan kun rdzogs kyi theg-pa: the Way wherein everything is perfect and very meaningful.
With regard to the first (the Kriya Tantra ) which emphasizes pure conduct, there are the Base, the Path and the Fruit to be considered. The Base is systematically establishing oneself in the natural state where on eremains in one’s own original condition without modification. S for the Path, by way of looking upon the Knwoledge Being (ye-shes-pa) among the three beings as manifesting in the manner of a Lord, one practices the ten paramitas, and so on. The Fruit is the realization of the Buddhahood of the Trikaya.
Second, with regard to ( the Charya Tantra ) posessing all aspects, there are also these three, the Base, the Path and the Fruit. First, as for the Base, one systematically establishes oneself in the natural state which remains in ist own original condition without modification. The Path consists of looking upon the Knowledge Being in the manner of a brother or a friend, and then practing by way of the ten paramitas, and so on. The Fruit is the realization of the Buddhahood of the Trikaya.
Third, with respect to (the Higher Tantra) where there is an actual visualisation process (bskyed-rim), there are the three considerations of the Base, the Path and the Fruit.
The Base is the systematically establishing oneself in the Absolute Truth which is the higher view wherein one remains in the natural state in one’s original condition without modification. The Path principally emphasizes the practice of the visualization process (bskey-rim); and by way of the two stages (bskyed-rim and rdzog-rim), one arrives at the Fruit which is the realization of the Buddhahood of the Trikaya.
Fourth , within the Way of (the Higher Tantra ) where everything is perfect and very meaningful, we also have the three considerations of the Base, the Path and the Fruit.
First, as for the Base, one systematically establishes oneself in the view of one’s own original condition without modification (i.e., the natural state ) wherein space and awareness are inseperable. The Path principally emphasizes the practice of the perfection proces (rdzog-rim); and by way of the two stages one arrives at the Fruit which is the realization of the Buddhahood of the Trikaya.
The Path of Liberation
Third, within Dzogchen which is the Path of Liberation, there are three divisions of the
1. The Semde or Mind series (sems-sde),
2. The Longde or Space series (klong-sde ), and
3. The Mannggde or Secret Instruction Series (man-ngag-sde ).
Furthermore, with respect to the condition of the natural state just as it is, there are three special dharmas or qualities: ist Essence which is emptiness, ist Nature which is clarity, and ist aspect which is compassionate Energy (thugs-rje ) which represents the non-duality of the first two. Since there exists these three wualities, by way of practicing intensively and systematically establishing oneself (in the natural state ), there originate these three methods of Semde, Longde and Manngagde.
According to the Manngagde, the Base is the unification of clarity and emptiness, the Path consists of the practice of Thekchod and of Thodgal, and the Fruit is the attaining of the Buddhahood of the Trilkaya.
The Cycle of Teaching
Furthermore, having considered the meaning above, we shall now look at the means for expounding this meaning and this consisted of the promulgation of three successive cycles of precepts by the victorious One and Perfect Buddha Shenrab Miwo Kunle Nampar Gyalwa; (1) At first he expounded the Nine Successive Ways (theg-pa rim dgu ), (2) in the midle he taught the Four Doors and the Treasury which is the fifth (sgo bzhi mdzod lnga), and (3) finally at the end he revealed the outer, the inner and the secret teachings (phyi nang gsang gsum).
In accordance with the meaning of the subject matter, he at first expounded the Relative Truth, in the middle he expounded the Two Truths equally and finally he expounded the absolute Truth. Correspondingly, these were expressed in words: At first he taught the Nine successive Ways, in the middle he taught the Four Doors and the Treasury as the
fifth, and at the end he taught the outer, inner and secret teachings.
The five Science
From among these three above,, at the very beginning he also thaught the sciences and the doctrines of bon. It was said that the first precepts he thaught are subsummed inder the five sciences (rig-gnas lnga ) and that the second among these first precepts are subsummed under the Nine Successive Ways (theg-pa rim dgu). As for the first of these
in brief, they are as follows :
1. outer science (phyi rig-pa)
2. inner science (nang rig-pa)
3. arts and crafts (bzo rig-pa)
4. medical science (gso rig-pa), and
5. linguistic science (sgra rig-ap)
The Nine Ways- the First Cycle
As for the Nine Successive Ways, after spreading of the teachings of the Gyalwa Shenrab Miwo in the country of Tibet, there occured the two earlier persecutions of Bon. Certain individuals who had previously attained both learning and realization made definitive divisions within the entire body of Bon teachings, including the categorizing of the rites, and thereafter they concealed these teachings as hidden treasures.
Subsequently, the system of Termas as which was extracted from Brig-mtshams mtha’ dkar in the south of Tibet and from spa-gro on Bhutan became knwon as the Southern Treasures (lho gter ). Those Termans which were extracted from Zang-zang lha dag and from Dwang-ra khyung rdzong in the north of Tibet became knwon as the Northern
Treasures (byang gter ). Finally, those teachings extracted as Terma texts from bSamyas and from Yer-pa’i brag in Central Tibet became known as the Central Treasures.
As for the names of the Nine Ways according to the system of the Southern Treasures, they are as follows:
1. Phywa gshen theg-pa. The Way of the Shen of Prediction,
2. sNang gshen theg-pa: The Way of the Shen of Visible Manifestation,
3. ‘Phrul gshen theg-pa: The Way of the Shen of Magical Power,
4. Srid gshen theg-pa: The Way of the Shen of Existence,
5. dGe-bsnyen theg-pa: The Way of the virtuous Lay practitioner,
6. Drang-srong theg-pa: The Way of the Sages,
7. A-dkar theg-pa: The Way of the white A,
8. Ye-gshen theg-pa: The Way of the primordial Shen, and
9. bLa-med theg-pa: the Unsurpassed Way (i.e., Dzogchen).
Second, as for the names of the Nine Ways according to thr Northern Treasures, such as the System of Zang-zang-ma:
1. Tho-tho, 2. SPyi-tho and 3. Yang-tho are three;
4. sNang-ldan, 5.Rang-ldan, and 6. BZhed-ldan are three and
5. Lha-rtse, 8. SNang-rtse , and 9. Yong.rtse are three
Third, as for the enumeration of the names of the Nine Ways according to the system of the Central Treasures:
1. Lha mi gzhan bsten gyi theg-pa: the Way of Gods and Men where one reies upon another,
2. 2. Rang rtogs gshen rabs kyi theg-pa: the Way of those who understand by themselves and of those who are the followers of Shenrab,
3. Thugs-rje sems-dpa’i theg-pa: the Way of the Compasionate Boddhisattvas, and
4. gYung-drung sems-pa’ spros med-pa’i theg-pa: the Way of the Boddhisattvas which is wothout any conceptual elaborations.
These four are known as the causal ways (rgyu’i theg-pa)
5. Bya-ba gtsang spyod ye bon byi theg-pa: the Way of the primordial Bon of pure conduct and ritual action,
6. rNam-pa kun-ldan mngon-shes kyi theg-pa: the Way of the Clear Knowledge which knows all aspects,
7. dNgos bskyed thugs-rje rol-pa’i theg-pa: the Way of the Manifestation of Compassion as actual visualization,
8. Shin to don-ldan kun rdzog kyi thog-pa: the Way wherein everything is perfect and very meaningful, and
9. Ye nas rdzog chen yong rtse bla-med kyi theg-pa: the unsurpassed Way of the highest peak which is the Primordial Great perfection.
These four above are known as the fruitional ways (‘bras-bu’i theg-pa ) of the Secret Mantras, and they are together with the ninth.
The Four Doors and the Treasury the Second Cycle
As for the intermediate cycle of precepts, they were exppounded as the Four Doors and
the Treasury as the fith:
1. Chab dkar drag-po sngags kyi bon: the Bon of the Fierce Mantras,
2. Chab nag srid-pa rgyud kyi bon: the Bon of wordly legends,
3. ‘Phan-yul rgyas-pa ‘bum gyi bon: the Bon of the extensive Prajnaparamita,
4. mTho thog spyi rgyug mdzod kyi bon: the Bon of the Treasury which is highest and
5. dPon-gas man-ngag lung gi bon: the Bon of the agamas and upadeshas of the Mantras.
The Final Cycle
As for the final cycle of presepts, they were expounded as three: the outer, the inner and the secret.
1. The outer is the Path of Renunciation, that is, the Pramana or philosophy series.
2. The inner is the Path of Transformation, that is, the Secret Mantras series, and
3. The secret is the Path of Liberation, that is to say, the Bon of the Great Perfection or Dzogchen.
The four Causal Ways
These four causal ways belong to the system of the Southern Treasures and they contain the folk customs of Tibet and an extraordinary educational system. These methods may be described as follows:
1. Within te Phywa gshen theg-pa, divination (mo), astrology (rtsis), ritual (gto) and medical diagnosis (sman dpyad) are expounded. Having relied upon divination, we can recognize the primary and secondary causes of benefit or harm with respect to fortune, long life and abundance. Performing the rituals may counteract various kinds of negative influences which cause harm. By means of diagnosis we can understand the primary and secondaty causes of illness, and in terms of benefit these man be healed by medicines.
2. In the sNang gshen the-pa, there is the invoking of the gods who grant protection and the expelling of demons who cause harm by way of rites such as summoning prosperity and good fortune for people, and also by rites for protecting the life force and for long life.
3. In the ‘phrul gshen theg-pa, there is the magical activity of suppressing, burning and expelling demons, evil spirits and wrong guides who cause harm to living beings and to the teachings.
4. In the Srid gshen theg-pa, one guided the deceased to a happy realm of rebirth and one prevents evil spritis from disturbing the deceased. One also engages in ritual methods to ensure good fortune and health for the living. These methods have become knwon throughout the country of Tibet and represent the folk customs of the Tibetan people.