It is found that Buddhism in Mongolia has its individual characteristics. According to Joohan Elverskog, unlike many other Asian communities, the Mongols have not had a continuous tradition of Buddhism as a lived tradition. 9 Today Mongols as well as other post-social states try to revive their religious traditions that were disrupted by socialists. It is found that many contemporary Mongols ignore their Buddhist traditions and prefer converting to other religions, such as Christianity and Islam. The experts in religious issues state that there is a tension between national’ or ethnic’ Buddhisms and modern,
- Guek-Cheng Pang, Mongolia. (New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2010): 84-85.
transnational forms of the Dharma.10 One can find the phenomenon of existence of the two Buddhisms in Mongolia. It is assumed that one of Buddhisms is associated with Asian immigrants who try to retain their ethnic and national identities through religion, while, the other type of Buddhism is focused on the modern transnational form of Buddhism which appeals to western converts. 11 Today in Mongolia, there are many Buddhist missionaries that represent the modern, transnational type of Buddhism, and there are also the local Buddhists who want to re-create a local Buddhist community. According to Joohan Elverskog, today the national Buddhism’ is winning out over the modernizing transnational groups.12 It is clear that the major goal of the local Buddhists is to support and legitimate their independent community and state.
VARIOUS METHODS OF BUDDHISM PRACTICE IN MONGOLIA
Traditionally, in Mongolia, Tibetan Buddhist Lamaism was the predominant religion.Â It has always played as significant role in the life of Mongols. It is not a secret that there are many different methods of Buddhism practice in Mongolia. One of them is the program Buddhism in Mongolia. It is found that the program Buddhism in Mongolia is aimed at reviving and promoting the common cultural and religious heritage shared by Tibet and Mongolia over many centuries.13 Tibet Foundation established this program in 1993 with the major goal to help the Mongolian people to revive their Buddhist traditions.
In addition, the Tibet Foundation developed a number of projects which include the training
- Johan Elverskog. Buddhism in Contemporary Mongolia. Contemporary Buddhism, 7, no.4 (2010): 29.
- Ibid., 30
- Ibid., 40.
- Buddhism in Mongolia. Tibet Foundation, http://www.tibet-foundation.org/page/bim (accessed October 25, 2012).
of Mongolian children and adolescents in Buddhist monastic institutes in India, publishing different types of Buddhist literature in Mongolian language and special Buddhist textbooks for schools, providing support in preservation of Buddhist arts and, of course, developing the awareness of Mongolian culture in other countries.
Besides, the Federation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition, a nonprofit Buddhist organization, was specially designed to attract more and more people to follow Buddhism. This organization uses a Western approach to win converts which is focused on the implementation of learning methods, such as comprehensive study programs, special training programs, practice materials, etc. This group has opened a number of schools for young people in monasteries and at the organization’s centers in Ulan Bator.Â There are several centers of the FPMT in Mongolia, including Dolma Ling Nunnery, Enlightening Mind, Ganden Do Ngag Shedrup Ling in Ulan Bator and Golden Light Sutra Center in Darkhan. One of the effective programs developed by the FPMT in Mongolia is the Children Development Program. The major goal of this program is not only to restore a lost religious Buddhist culture, but also to foster the development of moral values and self-esteem in children.14
As the Constitution of Mongolia guarantees the right to freedom of religion, many people try to follow the established religious traditions. Under the Article 8 of the Law on the Relationship between the state and monastery found in the Constitution of Mongolia, religious education can be given in schools and at home.15
- The Federation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition. Official Site. 2012, http://www.fpmt.org/education/programs.html , (accessed October 26, 2012).
- Irving Epstein, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Children’s Issues Worldwide. (Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008): 279-301.
As a rule, religious teachers hold responsibility for teaching the major disciplines to the students. The Constitution of Mongolia gives all people an opportunity to choose a religion to follow. In Mongolia, it is strictly forbidden to impose a religion on a citizen or curtail his/her religious freedom. As the Constitution of Mongolia provides for the freedom of religion, the government makes everything possible to support this right in practice. Buddhism is closely connected with the country’s traditions and customs, and almost all ethnic Mongolians (93% of the population), practice some form of Buddhism.16 The dominant religion is Lamaist Buddhism, or Tibetan Buddhism. It is found that the interest in Buddhism and its practice has grown since the1990s, the end of social control over religion in the country. There are many schools that teach and train Buddhism in Mongolia. There are now about 200 registered places of worship of the Buddha, which include Buddhist temples and monasteries.Â Due to the Federation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition, Â Mongolian Buddhists get financial support, and the appropriate literature to spread Buddhism in Mongolia. In addition, this organization regularly sends qualified Buddhist teachers to Mongolian schools. In the Buddhist centers across the country, children are taught how to mediate and study the major principles of Buddhism. Buddhist organizations in Mongolia are directed to restore Buddhist teachings, monasteries in order to distribute knowledge about Buddhism and teach young monks.
In addition, Buddhism in Mongolia is promoted through numerous public festivals and traditional religious events and rituals, including the Maitreya Festival, Tsam, etc. The Maitreya festival is an important event in the calendar of Buddhism, specially designed to
- Irving Epstein, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Children’s Issues Worldwide. (Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008): 290-312.
restore the teachings of the Buddha. Tsam is another important event and another example of Mongolian creativity in religious issues.17 It is found that this festival was brought from India and is based on Buddhist traditions and rituals. In Mongolia, this religious event is very popular among the followers of Buddhism and it includes the elements of witchcraft, the pagan traditions, colorful costumes and masks. The main peculiarity of this Buddhist festival is the use of Mongolian masks that are made by Buddhist monks. These masks are painted in bold colors and made according to the oldest canons of religious applied art, depicting the main Buddhist deities.
In addition, the statistical data shows that there are now about 3,000 students in Mongolia who are training to become monks and to practice Buddhism in their country. Â It is found that much of the financial support for the rebuilding of monasteries, meanwhile, has come from Taiwan and other Buddhist countries in Asia18. One of the well-known Buddhist monasteries, the Dayan Derkh monastery, was reconstructed and financed by the Tributary Fund, a not-for-profit organization in Montana. This organization has the major goal to enlist Buddhist leaders in Mongolia in order to protect the taimen, the largest salmon in the world, which swims in the Uur River below the monastery.19 Today the majority of the lamas in Mongolia are involved in nature protection. Â The other well-known monastery is Gandan monastery, the center of Mongolian Buddhist practices, located not far from Ulan Bator. Today the population of monks includes several hundred Buddhist monks. On weekdays and holidays, many people come to Gandan monastery from all parts of Mongolia.
- Don Rubin, World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre: Asia/ Pacific. (New York: Routledge, 1998): 387.
- Stefan Lovgren, Buddhist Revival, Transitions Online. March 17, 2008, http://web.ebscohost.com Â (accessed October 26, 2012).
It is found that many newcomers are the so-called hidden lamas who had to return to ordinary life because of the political regime in the country, when practically all Buddhist monasteries were closed, and the majority of young monks had been ordained in secret.20 However, the existing monasteries in Mongolia did not meet the demands for the Buddhist places of worship, and the government of Mongolia decided to organize new monasteries. Mongolian Council set certain standards for monastic life and many young people, including men and women became monks, although the authorities were undecided whether to grant women full monastic ordination.21Â