The Rituals


Importance of these rituals

In selecting the rituals that will form the content of this website we have given priority to those that are performed rarely, if ever, in a monastic setting but belong rather to the repertoire of village lamas. The specialist with whom we have mainly worked is Lama Tshultrim of Lubrak, in Mustang, and he is the main officiant in the two ceremonies that currently feature on this site. Lamas such as Tshultrim generally have a network of patrons for whom they perform rituals either annually or – as in the case of those documented here – on irregular occasions when the need arises. As a general rule, a householder lama is succeeded by his eldest son, who is often trained by his father and who will inherit his network of patrons and the religious services he performs for them.

This centuries-old tradition is under threat from demographic changes that are taking place in the high Himalayan regions such as Mustang and Dolpo. Many members of the younger generation have left Nepal to work abroad, and this includes the sons and heirs of most of the householder lamas in the area, Bonpo and Buddhist alike. In certain cases the sons have not emigrated to the west but have become monks in India, and apart from the fact that, insofar as they are monks, they will not be able to perpetuate their priestly lineage, have little inclination to return to their villages to assume the roles and duties of married lamas. There is a very real possibility that the entire repertoire of rituals as they are performed by specialists such as Lama Tshultrim will disappear within a few years. 

A major consideration in our selection of the rituals that are to be presented here is the wish to preserve, through as thorough a documentation as possible, an important facet of the Bon religion that is, at the same time, a unique part of the cultural heritage of Nepal that is likely to be lost for ever. 

Main components: Performance, Text, Objects, People

List of rituals by type, place, or alphabetically