Christoph Baumer. Bön— Tibet’s Ancient Religion. Transl. from German by Michael Kohn. Foreword by H. H. Lungtok Tenpa’I Nyima. Trumbull, Conn.: Weatherhill, 2002. Large size hardcover, 200 pages.
The Bön tradition of Tibet is still barely known in the West, and yet it historically preceded Buddhism, which has won a large Western following. The internationally known Swiss explorer, adventurer, and photographer Dr. Christoph Baumer has rendered a true yeoman service to this ancient tradition by making it accessible through text and image in this magnificent volume.
All too often, Bön is dismissed as mere animistic shamanism, which rightly was superseded by Tibet’s form of Buddhism. Yet, as Baumer’s convincingly shows, many features of Tibetan Buddhism ( Vajrayana) are borrowings from Bön. It is good to know that the long-standing feud between Buddhism and its predecessor tradition was at long last put aside when, in 1977, H. H. the Dalai Lama XIV formally recognized Bön as one of the spiritual traditions of Tibet.
The author, who holds degrees in philosophy, psychology, and the history of art is well qualified to guide the reader into the history, culture, and esoteric teachings of Bön. His presentation of the spiritual and religious world of Bön, with its many fascinating rituals and symbols as well as masterful practitioners and complex cosmology, is the finest introduction for the lay person of which I am aware. His commentary is articulate without being obscure as well as informed and informative, while his many superb photographs make Bön speak to the reader’s mind and heart directly.
Two thumbs up for this remarkable book.
Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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