January - June 2017
We spoke with Rinpoche about Bön, its place in the West, and his upcoming visit to Esalen.
The Tibetan Bön tradition pre-dates Buddhism by thousands of years. What is Bön, and how does it differ from subsequent branches of Buddhism?
Bön is Tibet’s oldest spiritual tradition, tracing back more than 17,000 years. Buddhism was introduced in Tibet around the 7th century AD, so the Bön tradition was already well established, rich, and rooted in Tibetan civilization.
There is a Buddha of Bön, Lord Tonpa Shenrap, and a Bön canon. In the Bön tradition, there are The Nine Ways of Bön. The ninth and highest way is The Way of the Great Perfection, or dzogchen. As far as spiritual liberation is concerned, Bön and Buddhism both have the same essence, but as far as the lineage, transmission, method, and literature, each has its own different and rich traditions.
You’ve dedicated part of your life to teaching Bön in the West. Why?
I did not originally plan to come to the West and teach dharma. I originally came here more than 25 years ago out of curiosity to learn more about the different cultures and traditions here. Once I arrived, many of my friends said, “Please teach us your tradition.” I began to teach different topics, and I realized how much hunger for deep spiritual traditions there is in the West, and how much need is here.
I feel in a way I have learned more than I have taught. It is a very long process to learn to communicate this knowledge, and because of that it is very challenging to be a teacher in the West.
Your Esalen workshop introduces the Nine Breathings of Purification and the Tsa Lung Practice. Can you share more about these practices?
I feel my workshop Awakening the Sacred Body is very timely and important in today’s world because everybody seems disconnected with their body, and their mind is caught up with so many different things in life, and too busy. Awakening the Sacred Body is bringing back the awareness of the body, awareness of the channels, awareness of the chakras. These channels and chakras are the path through which the subtle energy and subtle wind (prana) moves. These forces influence our consciousness and awareness.
In order to awaken our deep self, our inner awareness, it is important to be able to work with these channels and chakras and work with the subtle winds. That is the subject of my workshop. The Nine Breathings of Purification is a very important practice to open three of the core channels. When we open these three channels, we are opening our body to a higher awareness, to awaken our self.
See Awakening the Sacred Body June 2 - 4, 2017