The Door to Bön Forums Ngondro Forum General Reflections

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    I really don’t know if I can or should continue this course and if anyone has feedback, I’ll welcome it. If I’m understanding correctly, certain concepts, such as karma and the five poisons need to be fully accepted before continuing forward and benefitting from practices that follow.

    Context: My spiritual practice background is predominantly in what could roughly be described as West African shamanism. My interest in Bon arose when I learned about the 9 purifying breaths exercises and tsa lung, both which I found to be immensely beneficial, that’s why I’m here, those practices prompted me to seek more. But the teachings here on karma and in Buddhist teachings I’ve encountered…well, with all respect to the traditions, they just seem incorrect based on my shamanic experiences with other realms. Not all negative or painful experiences in this life are due to past actions in past lives or due to the churning of the poisons of our thoughts, behaviors, conditioned experiences or delusions.

    Some apparently negative or painful experiences are meant to serve as initiations to greater union with our higher purpose or with various other realms to which we are called to connect. In this way, these events arise from outside of us but in connection with energy within us. But the energy within us with which they are connecting is not necessarily connection driven by past actions, it may be energy from our ancestors or energy from a deity or nature spirit or something else. I’m saying that karma (cause and effect) isn’t just past and present driven, it’s also future driven by forces and energies not typically detected in this human realm by people who aren’t shamanic practitioners. Sometimes circumstances are put in place for us by Spirit in order for us to have the opportunity to rise to the next level—they’re initiations. Alternately, negative circumstances can be due to obstacles put in front of practitioners by actual negative entities who are trying to hold us back or destroy our progress and defeat our union with our highest purpose. I’m not saying the poisons discussed in this course don’t exist, they clearly do—I’m just saying there are more reasons for unhappiness, stuckness, obstacles etc., than just the poisons and past looking karma.

    I’m sitting here wondering if I can proceed and still benefit from learning new ways of experiencing or if these fundamental disagreements are too great a barrier. Or maybe what appear to me as disagreements aren’t truly disagreements because I don’t understand these teachings well enough yet.



    Disregard this post.

    Nick Tichawa

    Thank you for your thoughtful and interesting comments and questions… I’m going to give my perspective, but please recognize it as only that. I will send your question to Rinpoche, and we may get a response from him (it often takes some time).

    First, I don’t think you fully need to believe every aspect of Bön to let other aspects benefit you. Rinpoche has said many times that Bön can benefit anyone, including those that practice other religions/paths. As long as you are able to find benefit from the Bön teachings, you may use them (respectfully).

    The goal of Bön is to fully clear away all karma to manifest the positive qualities that are inherent in the perfect state of our Buddha-nature. This allows us to escape the suffering of Samsara and help other beings (including spirit beings) also escape suffering.

    Bön would say that all that happens, whether spiritually, mentally, physically, interpersonally, etc., arises from countless, unknowable causes and conditions (karma). By clearing away negative causes that lie within our minds, we clear away the potential for negative effects.

    Bön would agree with you that obstacles may be placed before us for benevolent or malevolent reasons by spirit-beings (when we’re discussing the relative nature of things). And you’re right in that suffering can often be beneficial or can lead to greater awakening. Often, our struggles do lead to deeper insight into the nature of reality, and a perfecting of our inner selves. I think Bön would agree with all that.

    In Bön’s Causal vehicles and in the path of Dho (Sutra), there are many practices dealing with energy, working with spirits of the land, and so on. This mutual exchange helps us by clearing our negative karma, increasing our positive merit, and leading to greater states of awakening. As with all Bön practices, it also brings benefit to the beings we are working with, whether it be a medical patient, a land spirit, or all sentient beings. When doing practice with other spirits, it is often talked about as “paying our karmic debts.”

    By overcoming obstacles, helping other sentient beings (including spirit entities), we are ultimately clearing away the causes that lead us (and others) into further suffering. Similarly, by clearing our poisonous emotions, we can better recognize our true self and be in a better position to benefit others.

    However! When discussing these things from the ultimate views of the paths of Tantra or Dzogchen, things somewhat change. Ultimately, all beings, physical and spiritual, including ourselves, do not exist inherently. So in the ultimate meditations of these paths, we enter into a state of non-duality, where any difference of inner and outer, self and other, subject and object, breaks down.

    From this perspective, the demon-caused obstacles outside us are no different than our own internal poisons. And the Lama outside us is no different than our own awakened, true self. The entire world we see, including the people and spirits we meet, and even our own thoughts or sense of self, are all just reflections arising from this inner state.

    This is why the poisons are discussed in such great detail, especially while training in the views of Tantra and Dzogchen. By cleaning our own internal landscape of the poisons, we remove all inner and outer obstacles to the ultimate goal of realizing our own true nature and to relieve the suffering of self and others.

    There is so much more that could be said here, but this is already getting long…

    I feel like there may be disagreements between Bön and your shamanic path, but they may also simply be different perspectives or lenses at looking at the same thing. Even within Bön itself are multiple paths and lenses for looking at the world.

    You may find it difficult to reconcile Bön and your shamanic path, but you may also find value in being able to see the world through additional lenses.

    Whether you choose to continue the course is up to you. Bön is for the benefit of all beings, so even if you can’t fully accept all aspects of its teaching, if you are still finding benefit, you are welcome! But if it is too great a mental barrier, that is absolutely okay too.

    I will post here again if I receive a response from Rinpoche.

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