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Bon IV - Olmo Lungring

Updated on July 17, 2017

The Bon faith revolves around the yungdrung which according to popular myth originated from an ancient kingdom west of the Himalayas called Olmo Lungring. The myth further goes on to say that the inhabitants of Olmo Lungring were/are cosmic beings who descended from beyond the sky in pure spirit form i.e. are not visible to the naked eye and occupy human bodies.

They are referred to as enlightened beings or Vidyadharas (wisdom holders) and come under the auspice of Shiva. According to most sources Olmo Lungring is located at the foot of Mount Yungdrung. The knowledge that the Vidyadharas embody, in short, is knowledge that transcends the stars.

There are two possible variations as to the origins of the Vidyadharas and we’ll examine both of them. According to the first variation Vidyadharas are analogous to cosmic entities that reside in Indra’s court for example Gandharvas, Apsaras and Urvasis, to name a few, and they left their celestial kingdom to reside among mortals and occupy a body that is clothed in flesh and bones.

The second variation of the myth is that they arrived on earth in spirit form from another location, possibly another planet, and like the first variation, they inhabit human bodies.

Both variations present us with a problem in that we are left to speculate as to what happens to the soul that originally occupied the body or does the principal soul (the soul that the body is allocated to at birth) co-exist with the spirit form of the Vidyadharas? I would suspect so and this facet of the myth once again highlights the shamanic aspects of Bon. The principle of two souls co-existing in the same body is shamanic in substance.

The fortunate persons i.e. those who share their bodies with the Vidyadharas acquire the knowledge of the saintly beings and thereby not only have the ability to become shamans but they also have the propensity and tendency to become mystics. This adds a new dimension to Bon i.e. mysticism and it is somewhat safe to say that Bon is a multi-faceted religion.

Olmo Lungring is a kingdom that resembles Shambala in many aspects. A salient feature of both kingdoms is that they are hidden from the naked eye and these kingdoms are only visible to those who embody the qualities of dharma. A physical representation of dharma would be Yama, the God of Death, and most sources have him as dharma per se.

Another variant of the myth though similar in concept is that Olmo Lungring is a kingdom that is hidden by occult and it is only visible to a select few. According to both variants of the myth the kingdom is not visible to normal people i.e. those who try and see it with karmic vision but it does exist nonetheless.

In order to see the kingdom one must go through a rigorous process of mental conditioning and must abstain from indulging in any form of materialistic pleasures. The myth further goes on to say that if one were to stumble across this kingdom without first having acquired spiritual vision i.e. the ability to see celestial beings and other heavenly deities, one would stumble across a dry, windswept land, devoid of rivers, valleys or lush fertile pastures, surrounded by crass dunes or barren monoliths. The land would be inhabited only by impoverished nomadic tribes who live in dirty squalid encampments.

Because most people are not gifted with spiritual vision they will only be able to perceive Olmo Lungring as a dry wasteland inhabited by sporadic nomadic occupants. The only place that I can think of that would fit that description west of the Himalayas is the Thar Desert.

Legend has it that Olmo Lungring occupies one-third of the known world. The kingdom is described as an eight petal lotus that sits beneath a sky that resembles a dharma wheel (these descriptions may be purely metaphoric) and right in the center is the triangle shaped Mount Yungdrung.

At the base of the mountain there are four springs that flow into four sacred rivers that run concurrently in four different directions. Each spring bursts forth from four different rocks, each shaped like a different animal.

The river Nara flows from a lion shaped rock and continues towards the east. The river Pakshu flows from a horse shaped rock and continues towards the north. The river Kyim-shang flows from a peacock shaped rock and surges to the west and the river Sindhu flows from an elephant shaped rock and journeys to the south.

The fourth river gives us more clues as to the location of Olmo Lungring because of the similarities in the name to the Sindh province in Pakistan which coincidentally borders the Thar Desert to the east.

Olmo Lungring is also the birthplace of Toenpa Sherab who was the son of the King of Thogar (Thodkar) a principality towards the northwest of Kashmir and that gives us a bit more information as to the whereabouts of Olmo Lungring.

© 2016 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward

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