The Persistence and Transformation of Pre-Buddhist Religious Practices in Rural Bhutan

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Friday, October 15th, 2021

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Pathbreakers: New Postdoctoral Research on South Asia at U of T


The pre-Buddhist Bon has been looked down on by Buddhists for centuries, yet it continues to exist and to exert its influence on people’s everyday lives down to the present day. The ordinary villagers, including part-time lay Buddhist practitioners and educated people identify themselves as Buddhists, but they have no problem in propitiating the local Bon gods and deities, or having recourse to Bon rites after or prior to the Buddhist rituals and biomedical therapies. In this talk, I will present an overview of my book project which examines the persistence and transformation of the pre-Buddhist Bon religious practices in Buddhist Bhutan. It takes the relationship between great and little traditions as its starting point for the interplay of Buddhism and Bon underpinned by the local conception of two forms of religion: mundane or worldly god’s religion and supramundane or Buddha’s religion, discusses the mutual accommodation and syncretism between Buddhism and Bon, and offers new perspectives on the central distinguishing features of great and little traditions.

Kelzang Tashi is a Research Associate at the Centre for South Asian Studies, Asian Institute, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto and a Visiting Fellow at the Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).


Kelzang Tashi
Research Associate at the Centre for South Asian Studies

Christoph Emmrich
Director, Centre for South Asian Studies

Main Sponsor

Asian Institute


Centre for South Asian Studies

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