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PPR Research Seminar

Date: 2 March 2011 Time: 4.00-6.00 pm

Venue: Bowland North SR10

Geoffrey Samuel

Revisiting the Problem of Bon Identity: Bon Priests and Ritual Practitioners in the Himalayas

Bon studies in the West took off in the 1960s through the work of David Snellgrove, Samten Karmay and Per Kvaerne, and by now has become a significant sub-field within Tibetan studies. Its central focus has been on the community of lay people and religious practitioners which today identifies itself as Bon-po, and on the monasteries, lamas, religious practices and texts associated with it (g.Yung drung Bon), and to a lesser degree on pre- or non-Buddhist elements of early societies on the Tibetan plateau, particularly Zhang-zhung. Meanwhile, anthropologists working among Buddhist communities in the Himalayas (Tamang, Khumbo, Bhutan) have described a substantial range of religious practices and practitioners termed Bon, Lha Bon, etc, with little apparent connection to the practices and identity of the contemporary Bon-po community among the Tibetans. These studies, which focus on relationships to local deities, have been largely ignored by scholars of Bon religion. In this paper, I survey these practices, and ask how they relate them to the other senses in which Bon is used within Tibetan societies, and what implications they have for Bon studies as a whole.

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Organising departments and research centres: Politics, Philosophy and Religion PPR

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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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