April 2, 2007
Before the introduction of Buddhism, animistic worship, generally categorized as Bon in the Himalayas, was prevalent in Bhutan. The sun, moon, sky, and other natural elements were worshiped, and doctrine was transmitted orally from generation to generation. Bon, from a Tibetan word meaning invocation or recitation, has priests--bonpo--who perform exorcisms, burial rites, and divinations to tame threatening demons and to understand the wishes of the gods. Imported from Tibet and India, perhaps in the eighth century, Bon doctrine became so strongly reinvigorated by Buddhism that by the eleventh century it reasserted itself as an independent school apart from Buddhism. Conversely, Bon influenced popular Buddhism, infusing it with an appreciation for omens and demons felt to influence daily life profoundly. Bon established a canon of teachings and continued to be practiced in modern Bhutan.