The book contains the work of scholars esteemed in the field and in particular that of Tibetan-born scholar Samten G. Karmay, who has contributed a historical overview of Bon religion to the present volume. Jeff Watt, curator of the Rubin Museum of Art, does much in his essay to distinguish between Bon and Buddhist art, with which it is so often confused, and in doing so brings out its unique character. The other contributors look at specific topics within Bon, including its paintings, sacred geography and its foundation, in efforts to set its art and artefacts within their contexts. The purpose of this book is to enable the reader to appreciate the beauty of Bon art whilst, at the same time, gaining an understanding of the spirit of Bon from the time of its foundation through to the present day.
Bon: The Magic Word: The Indigenous Religion of Tibet, Samten G. Karmay and Jeff Watt, Rubin Museum of Art, Paperback, 2008, 232 Pages, $34.95
Samten G. Karmay is one of Tibet's foremost scholars. Karmay was born in Amdo Province and attended a local Bonpo monastery from the age of eight to fourteen. He then followed a three-year course of Dzogchen meditation at Kyangthang Monastery. At twenty he obtained the Geshey degree and took further studies at Drepung. In 1959 he and his family left Tibet and settled briefly in India. From 1961 to 1964 he was a visiting scholar at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, where he earned an MPhil for his thesis on Bon history and then his PhD for his thesis on the origin and development of Dzogchen in Tibetan Buddhist traditions. In 1980 he entered the National Centre of Scientific Research, Paris, where he became the director of research in history and anthropology. In 1996 he was elected president of the International Association of Tibetan Studies. He has written a number of books on Tibetan religions, including a book on the fifth Dalai Lama.
Jeff Watt is the senior curator at the Rubin Museum of Art and director of Himalayan Art Resource