The Tibetans call themselves Bod-pa, which means "people living in the Bod region." It is believed that the name Bod is derived from the name Bon, an animist religion followed by many of the Tibetans prior to the advent of Buddhism. Worshippers of the Bon religion held that everything in the world has a soul.
Professional believers held various kinds of sacrificial activities. In the 7th century when Buddhism spread into Tubo, it collided with the Bon religion in both theory and organization. The Bon religion, formerly very primitive, finally grew in terms of theory and organization. The Garma Monastery is 120 km away from Chamdo, standing on the upper reaches of the Zhaqu River. Going to the monastery one has to pass through a place called Let. Legend has it that on the slope of Let there was a monastery of the Bon religion that housed a Bon master, who ordered his servant monks to guard the road and let no outsider pass. One day, a hungry dog came and the servant monk let it pass, as it was an animal. The master panicked on hearing the news and left the monastery thereafter. The hungry dog was an incarnation of Master Garmaba Duisum Qenba, who built the Garma Monastery here.
This signified the creation of the Garma Gagyu Sect of Tibetan Buddhism in this part of the world. Statistics show in 1991 there were 55 monasteries in Chamdo Prefecture, including 31 in Dengqen, nine in Zogan, six in Gyamda, five in Lholung, three in Baxoi and one in Chamdo Town. In Chamdo Prefecture today, there are still people who worship the Bon religion. It has 94 monasteries, Zezhol Monastery being the largest. In fact, the Zezhol Monastery is also the largest of its kind in Tibet in terms of size and number of Bon followers. It is kept intact. Located in Joren Township 45 km from the county seat, it is today known for its perfect system in the study of open and secret schools. It has 110 monks.
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