In ancient times the Greeks and Romans often related to the same deities but would call them by different names — e.g., the Greeks would refer to the messenger of the Gods as “Hermes” and the Romans would refer to him as “Mercury.” A similar situation exists between Yungdrung Bön and general Buddhism. If we take for example, the great Bön Teacher Sherab Mawei-Seng-ghe, the Buddhist equivalent is Manjushri. Represented iconographically, they are practically identical.
Even amongst general Buddhist schools, this anomaly is in evidence — e.g., where Indian Buddhists might refer to Manjushri, Tibetan Buddhists might refer to Jampei-yang (Jam-yang for short). Similarly all schools anticipate the coming of the future Buddha — Tonpa Chi-med Jam-dhen — or Buddha Maitreya — as he is more commonly known.
Central to the Yungdrung Bön belief system is the notion of Samsara, or cyclic existence, whereby sentient beings go through a succession of re-births within the various modes or realms of existence. The type of birth which one takes within Samsara is believed to be determined by the karma, which one has accumulated over previous lifetimes.
The ultimate aim of all sentient beings is considered to be to achieve Sang-gye (Enlightenment), thus liberating themselves permanently from the suffering of Samsara, with a view to helping others do the same.
Q: What then does such an ancient, esoteric spiritual tradition have to offer in these modern times?
Through time immemorial, mankind has engaged in the pursuit of happiness, but happiness is an elusive concept. How often does one achieve the goal, which is believed will provide happiness, only to find such happiness disappear shortly afterwards? This may be because people tend to define happiness in a very limiting way and thus spend much of their lives chasing after illusions of happiness — a bit like the mirage of the oasis in the desert which disappears when the spot is eventually reached — thus the thirst for happiness is never fully quenched.