Excerpt from “On Zhang Zhung and Bon” by Christopher I. Beckwith, Professor of Tibetan Studies at Indiana University
The Bon sect is certainly different from, for example, the Rnying ma (Nyingma) sect, or the Sa skya (Sakya) sect—which are markedly different from each other—but that should hardly be a reason for saying it is ‘non-Buddhist’. Zen Buddhism is
radically different from Theravada Buddhism, both of which are in turn markedly different from Tantric Buddhism. Every known national form of Buddhism practiced today embodies innovative elements that are particular to it, and indeed, the same statement may be made about every major world religion.
It is important to note that although the Bonpos are generally represented as heterodox, Tibetan literature does not say Bon is ‘non-Buddhist’ and is thus to be distinguished from the other Tibetan religious sects, which are, by contrast, ‘Buddhist’, as so many claim. Bonpos are accused by other Buddhists of violating Buddhist strictures against killing animals, among other things, but such accusations are to be expected in sectarian polemics…
In conclusion, the fact that Bon is different from other Tibetan Buddhist traditions is one of the things that makes it so interesting, but the idea that it was ever anything but a Buddhist religious tradition which arose in the phyi
dar (chidar) period seems not to be supportable.
(Chidar is the period of later spread of Buddhism from India into Tibet around the 11th century. – Krisadawan)