Bon is the oldest spiritual tradition of Tibet. Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth Dalai Lama, has recently recognized the Bon tradition as the fifth principal spiritual school of Tibet, along with the Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu, and Gelug schools of Buddhism, despite the long historical competition of influences between the Bon tradition and Buddhism in Tibet.
The syllable -po or -pa is appended to a noun in Tibetan to designate a person who is from that place or performs that action; "Bonpo" thus means a follower of the Bon tradition, "Nyingmapa" a follower of the Nyingma tradition, and so on. (The feminine parallels are -mo and -ma, but these are not generally appended to the names of the Tibetan religious traditions.)
Often described as the shamanistic and animistic tradition of the Himalayas prior to Buddhism's rise to prominence in the 7th century, more recent research and disclosures have demonstrated that both the religion and the Bonpo are significantly more rich and textured culturally than was initially thought by pioneering Western scholars.