We are not what we do, but what we do does in many ways stem from what we are.
Bon is a Chinese religion, loosely. It’s ethnically Tibetan, but not confined to that region of China. Bon was the native shamanism, but more like the Kahuna tradition than the Native American, and is more concerned with personal state than the spirits in general. Bon’s concern was basically the same as the Kahuna path, bridging the selves and only indirectly communing with other spirits. More concerned with their spiritual citizenship, and letting the spirits see to themselves. This is why Tibetan Buddhism has such a seeming pantheon.
Any relation to Taoism? Yes, and the two traditions share stories, and because of Bon’s concern for the soul, it was sort of supplanted by Buddhism, but not really. It was sort of integrated, and has made a modern revival. Tibetan Buddhism never really severed its ties with Bon, but still is its own separate tradition.
Bon is not rigidly codified, and like Buddhist thought there have been many schools of it, but it’s not technically atheist. They do believe in the reality of the spirits, and much of Chinese symbolism in general has been connected to it, like the association of a dragon with the emperor. Bon has a monastic tradition, but more akin to the hermit shaman than the asceticism of Buddhism.
Wasn’t there a large sonic component to Bon? Oh indeed, mantras. Bon is very shamanistic. In a sense, Bon can be argued to not be “religious”. Mantras were a way to attune both the three selves, and to adjust to spirit influences. Everyone used them, and mantra practice stems from Bon.
The way of harmony in Bon is to cultivate the “heartmind”. The Chinese word for mind also means heart, and they are aware of how thinking affects people, but believe that the heartmind can allow a harmony and insight into the spiritual world, including your own spirits. Attracting the enlightened spirits, and their rituals were not so much worship as affirmation of the natural order, showing reverence and respect for the household Gods so the house would know peace. The Chinese practices regarding the spirits are of Bon origin, even the ritual dragon dance. Practitioners of Bon used to make masks, including the famous oni style of mask, and perform “plays” to reflect the tendency of the spirit world to balance the world. They being one place and not two, they were mirroring the peace they feel was the greater good.
Your thoughts are welcome. Be well friends.