Introduction to New Bön
Long ago I researched and studied the teachings of Kundrol Jatson Nyingpo and Terton Dechen Lingpa. I was very interested in the New Bön tradition. Now I am making an effort to spread these teachings around the world to benefit many in these modern times.
What is New Bön? The word ‘new bon’ is a name such as ‘new kadam pa’ or ‘new tantra'. Principally, it is similar to Yungdrung bon, but has some different ideas, sadhanas, rituals, etc. One source specifies that its origins go back to the 8th century; whereas, an earlier source states that its origins could go back earlier than that. Buddha Tonpa Shenrab said that all of Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings must be part of Yungdrung Bon.
New Bon is a tradition which has non-sectarian (rimé) ideas, inseparable meanings between Bön and Cho(Indian Buddhism), and a spacious, wider mind. But similar to Old Bön, the teachings are from Buddha Tonpa Shenrab and include sutrayana, tantrayana, and Dzoghcen. The New Bön practitioner follows the type of tantra of Dranpa Yabse Sum which comes from Gyerpung Drenpa Namkha, Tsewang Rigzin and Guru Rinpoche.
When scholars and adepts compared the many teachings by the great master Drenpa Namkha of Tibet and Vairotsana to those of ancient Bön and Indian Buddhism, they discovered inseparable meaning, unified teachings and included them in the treasure. Drenpa Namkha of Tibet was a Bön master who later became a monk under Indian Buddhism and brought 25 disciples into the Nyingma Tradition. He was a great translator in Tibetan Buddhist history. Vairotsana learned the Bön teachings as a young boy from many Bön masters such as Tsangshen Khenpa, Drenpa Namkha and became a renowned scholar himself. Later, during the establishment of Indian Buddhism in Tibet, he was one of the seven monks ordained by Shantarakshita. His translations include many teachings, including Bön texts. Later he was sent to tsawa rong by the king and spread Bön teachings there.
Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava, became the supreme master for all because he was beyond partiality of lineage or traditions. According to Kundrol Jatson Nayingpo and Terton Dechen Lingpa’s teachings, Guru Rinpoche manifested the power of a deity. Those same scriptures predicted that many New Bön Tertons and masters would appear in human to spread his dharma.
Shardza Rinpoche followed 40 teachers that included 34 teachers from New Bön and, therefore, spread much of New Bön to his students.
In short, New Bön practices include sutra, tantra, mahamudra, madhyamaka, dzoghcen, hinayana and mahayana—all inseparable practices to ancient Bön and Indian Buddhism; like milk in the water, they are inseparable spiritual paths. I would say the tradition is very convenient in this modern era and important for everyone. In Kunsang Gar programs, there are many teachings of Drenpa Namkha and Tsewang Rigzin. We will continue to develop programs related to the New Bön Tradition from time to time.
—by Geshe Dangsong Namgya