The Bon Canon Project


Bon09During the last 50 years, many Bon religious texts and centers of spiritual learning in Tibet have been compromised. Bon Shen Ling has been instrumental in helping Menri Monastery in Dolanji, India (the center of Bon), to assemble, transcribe, digitize and then translate into English, ancient religious texts. These texts have been spirited out of Tibet, often at great human cost. And through this project, we honor those who have worked and continue to work so diligently to preserve this culture. Since the assimilation of Tibet into the Chinese nation, religious freedom has been curtailed and texts are often destroyed or lost. Over many years, refugees and scholars have made a concerted and determined effort to obtain lost texts and take them to Menri for safe keeping. Under the direct supervision of HH Lungtok Tenpai Nyima, BSL has undertaken the task of printing a transcribed version of the Bön Canon. The Canon is painstakingly being put back together, and missing dialog retrieved with the help of scholars and the Abbott. The Canon now consists of approximately 180 books. Once the Canon is complete, an initial printing of fifty (50) books will begin. This initial printing will be distributed to monasteries and other sites for safe keeping. Future projects include translation to English, digital tagging for ease of research, and further printings for scholars and institutions.

 

Background

Bon is the one of the oldest religions on the earth and founded by Ton Pa Shenrab Mi Wo Che, based on the Sutra renunciation teaching, Tantra transformation practice and Dzogchen self-liberation teaching. These three teachings were taught by Tonpa Shenrab primarily in Zhang Zhung, Tibet, and surrounding kingdoms. After his passing, his most distinguished disciple, Venerable Mucho Dhemdruk and 12 other students collected and compiled his teachings into 180 books called in Zhang Zhung, Ku Yik, and Tibetan, Gyal Wei Ka Rin Po Che.

In the Bon tradition, these collected books are not referred to as Kha Gyur because Kha means “words of founder” and gyur means “added by disciple afterwards”. The Bon Canon exclusively contains Tonpa Shenrab’s words, with nothing amended by his students. This characteristic distinguishes the Canon from other religious texts.

Bon04The Bon Canon was brought from many regions of Tibet into Tibetan Bon monasteries where Lamas developed indexes over many years. One of these indexes was written by His Holiness of the Bon, the 23rd Abbot of Menri. This version became the official index of the canon. During the time of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, only one set of the Bon Canon remained in the Nyak Rong region of Dhomed province. It was safeguarded by 12 people, and among these 12 people, 8 relinquished their lives to preserve the secrecy of where the Canon was hidden. After the Cultural Revolution, the remaining 4 people took the books out of the cave where they were hidden, and handed them over to Lama Mongye Lhasay Rinpoche, but this set is not based on the official index of the 23rd Abbot. It was also severely damaged by rain and exposure in the cave during the Cultural Revolution.

After twenty years, three printings of the whole set were published by a group of Bon practitioners, but the printing was of poor quality due to inferior printing techniques.  After several years, Lama Mongye Lhasay Rinpoche re-published this surviving Canon with improved printing techniques.  Many universities in Europe and the U.S. have copies of these books  A few years ago, the 33rd Menri Abbot of Bon asked the Bon Foundation in the U.S. to make and distribute scanned CD sets of the Kanjur from this version. These are now available through the Bon Foundation.  Recently, the 33rd Menri Abbot asked Chongtul Rinpoche to oversee the publication of a new version based on the official indexed version of the 23rd Menri Abbot. The project will include publishing an indexed pecha-style book, a searchable digital format, and creating a website. Ultimately, there will be translations into different languages.  This official version will be computerized word by word from the official index of the 23rd Abbot of Menri, and will include newly discovered texts previously thought to be lost.

 

Key Differences:

a. High Quality Legibility b. Searchable Digital Index c. Based on the Official Index of the 23rd Menri Abbot d. Inclusion of Newly Discovered Texts, Previously Thought to be Lost