In the Tibetan language, the word “Lama” is a compound of the words “La” and “Ma”. The word “La” in Tibetan is spelled bla. This word refers to something that is higher, in position and/or in virtue and spirituality and generally refers to someone who has taken on the responsibility of guiding others. This is also the term that is used for the equivalent of “soul” in English, although the meanings are slightly different. The word “Ma” means mother. Therefore, “Lama” refers to someone that is higher in spiritual development who guides followers.
According to the Yungdrung Bön, sometime before the 2nd Tibetan king, the letters of the Tibetan alphabet were created from the letters of the ancient Zhang Zhung alphabet. Yung Drung Bön was the state religion of the ancient country of Zhang Zhung and the texts were written in this language. However, due to great persecution in the 7th century, the texts had to be hidden in order to protect them from being forever destroyed. During this time, the Zhang Zhung language almost became extinct. However, there were a few Bön lamas who passed on their knowledge of this language. As the scriptures were being copied into the Tibetan language, many of them preserved their titles and the first few lines of texts in the old language of Zhang Zhung. This can be seen in the scriptures today.
Calligraphy of the Bön syllable OM in the Zhang Zhung script as drawn by Geshe Chaphur Lhundrup of Gyalshen Institute. If you would like to purchase a calligraphy of this, or another syllable, contact Gyalshen.org.
HE Menri Lopon Rinpoche, head teacher of Menri Monastery, is nearing completion of an Encyclopedia of Bon Religion.
Lopon Rinpoche’s new encyclopedia contains more than twelve thousand different entries, which include a comprehensive set of articles and definitions used in the Yungdrung Bon religion and by Bonpo practitioners. Even the largest reference works currently available in Tibetan or English do not include most of the information that will be available in this new work. Entries include:
- Tibetan and Zhang Zhung words and terminology specific to the Bon religion
- Biographies of Bonpo scholars and practitioners, both historical and contemporary
- Descriptions of significant places in Bon history
- Descriptions of Bon religious symbols, images and objects
- Names and descriptions of Bon deities
Scholars of Tibetan culture regularly have problems understanding the language in texts of the Yungdrung Bon religion because such texts use words that are often different, or have different meanings, than the terminology used by Tibetan Buddhists.
A work of this scope on this subject has never been published before. The Encyclopedia is in the Tibetan language, but after initial publication, Lopon Rinpoche hopes to have it translated into English.
We have begun collecting donations to help with translating and publishing this book in English. Any amount would be a great help and greatly appreciated.
Donations can be sent to Khyungdzong Wodsel Ling at the following address or use the PayPal button below (please put “encyclopedia” in the memo box):
1977 N. New Hampshire Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(This article originally appeared at http://kwling.org/projects/encyclopedia-of-bon/)