Tuesday, February 5, 2008

History : Revival of Buddhism after 1990

Democratic society: 1990-present

After the collapse of Soviet Union, a peaceful democratic revolution took place in Mongolia and Mongolians obtained the freedom of religion. By 1992, 92 new monasteries are newly opened in addition to Gandantegchenling Monastery, the only functioning monastery during the communist time. This number increased up to 143 as of 1997. This rapid increase was due to activity of Gandantegchenling Monastery, the Center of Mongolian Buddhists, the Association of Mongolian Believers and late Indian Ambassador Kushok Bakula Rinpoche. He was the Indian Ambassador to Mongolia between 1989 and 2000. As a result of increase of number of monasteries the number of monks is also increased. There were 2500 monks by 1998. In addition to training young monks at the Buddhist University,Gandantegchenling Monastery, the Center of Mongolian Buddhists have been sending number of monks to Buddhist institutions in India, particularly to Tibetan Budddhist institutions. Currently around 200 monks have been studying in Tibetan Buddhist institutions. As Mongolian Buddhism was much suffered during communist era and Mongolians nearly lost their Buddhist tradition, culture and practice for 70 years, there is large task for Mongolian Buddhists to revive Buddhism in Mongolia under many challenges such as financial restraint, lack of highly qualified Buddhist teachers and rapid growth of Christianity in Mongolia.

History: Buddhism during communist period

Communist period: 1921-1990

In 1921, Mongolian national revolution took place and eventually Mongolia had declared the establishment of Mongolian Peoples’ Republic in 1924. From 1924, Mongolia became a satellite state of the Soviet Union and persecution of Buddhism started, in particularly the horrible year of 1937. During the persecution many high reincarnated lamas and scholar monks were sent to prison and executed. All monasteries, except two or three monasteries, were destroyed and closed. Sacred Buddha statues and books were destroyed and burned. By 1944 there was no single functioning monastery left in Mongolia. In 1944, the government re-opened Gandantegchenling Monastery with seven monks. In 1970, the Buddhist University was established at Gandantegchenling Monastery for Buddhist training of young monks from Mongolia and Buryat Republic of Soviet Union. Gandantegchenling Monastery was only one functioning monastery during the communist time. In the communist era many Mongolians practiced Buddhism secretly.

The Third Spread

Third spread: 16th to early 20th century

After the collapse of Yuan Dynasty of Mongolia in 1368 the state support for Tibetan Buddhism declined. During the second half of the 16th century, with the support of Mongolian Khans, Buddhism was revived in Mongolia for the third time. Altan Khan of Tumed (1507-1589) played an important role for this revival. He invited Tibetan Lama, Sonam Gyatso (1542-1588) in Khukh khot city and bestowed on him the title of Vajradhara, the Dalai Lama. Abtai Sain Khan (1554-1588) met the Third Dalai Lama Sonam Gyatso in 1578 and later had established Erdene Zuu monastery in Mongolia between years of 1585-1586. Both Altan Khan and Abtai Sain Khan made Tibetan Buddhism as a state religion and prohibited the shamanism. Once again due to state support Buddhism flourished in Mongolia. Many Mongolian Buddhist scholars played a significant role in the further development of Buddhism in Mongolia such as Undur Gegeen Zanabazar (1635-1723), the First Jebtsundamba, the reincarnation of Tibetan famous historian Taranata (1575-1634), Zaya Pandid Luvsanprenlei (1642-1716), Zaya Pandid Namkhaijamts (1599-1662). By the time of early 17th century Buddhism was firmly established as a state religion in Mongolia. In 1640, the Law of Mongol-Oirad had declared Buddhism as a state religion. In the following centuries large Buddhist monasteries were established throughout Mongolia and number of monks constantly increased. In 1785, the number of monks in Mongolia was 70 thousand but in 1868 there were over 100 thousand monks only in Ikh Khuree city, at that time the capital city of Mongolia. During his visit to Mongolia in 1904, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso acknowledged that Mongolia was the center of Tibetan Buddhist world.

History: The Second Spread

Mongolian Empire: 13th –mid 14th century

During the Mongolian Empire, Buddhism was mainly practiced in the court of kings and later Buddhism was promoted as the state religion in Yuan Dynasty (1280-1368). Though some Tibetan and Mongolian historical sources inform that Chinggis Khaan (1162-1227) sent a letter to Tibetan Sakya Lama Sachen Gunga Nyingpo (1092-1158) and issued a decree on tax exemption for Tibetan Monasteries but that historical event is not commonly agreed. Whatever was the fact, the Chinggis Khaan and his successor kings were famous for their religious tolerance and support of Tibetan Buddhism. It is evidenced by Ugudei Khaan’s (1229-1241) decree to erect a magnificent stupa in Khar Khorum city, the capital city of Mongolia, and invitation from the Mongolian military general Godan, the son of Ugudei Khaan, to Tibetan Sakya Pandida Gunga Gyaltsan (1182-1251). Later Tibetan Karma Bakshi (1204-1283) was invited to the court of Munkh Khaan (1251-1258). The founder of Yuan Dynasty, Khubilai Khaan (1215-1294) promoted Tibetan Pagpa Lama Lodoi Gyaltsan to the post of state teacher in Shand city in 1264. From that time “patron and priest relation” between Mongolian kings and Tibetan lamas was established. The support of Buddhism by Mongolian great kings was due to Mongolian policy of effective and unified rule over their conquered countries, great tolerance for different religions and spiritual need of new religion replacing old age shaman belief and practice.

History : The Early Period

Early period of Buddhism in Mongolia: 3rd B.C. E to 13th century

According to historical sources of Mongolia, the Buddhism was introduced and spread throughout the history of successive Mongolian states starting as early as 3rd B.C.E. The earliest introduction of Buddhism was to the southwestern territories of Mongolian Hunnu (Xiongnu) state (3rd B.C.E-2nd B.C.E). In Hor chos 'byung (History of Buddhism in Mongolia) it is stated that “As it is prophesized by the Buddha in gLang ru’i mdo, Buddhism spread in Upper Hor country (present area of Qinghai, China) at the same time when Buddhism spread in Khotan after 100 years of the Buddha’s parinirvana. (4th century B.C.E)”. At that time 3 meter standing tall golden Buddha statue was the main object of sacrifice for inhabitants of southwestern Mongolian Hunnu state. Hor chos ‘byung informs that Buddhism was spread not only in southwestern part of Hunnu state but also in the present territory of Mongolia. The evidence of this is the Jowo Buddha temple in Bayanbalgad city, which was located in the northern bank of the present Selenge river in Mongolian Selenge aimag. At the time of Toba Wei state (386-581), the Buddhism was the state religion of Mongolia. A king of Joujan or Nirun state (402-555) proclaimed the Dharmapriya monk as a state teacher with the title of the purohita. In 572, the Toba King , a king of Tureg state of Mongolia (4th to 5th AD) had sent his state messenger to the Northern Qi state (550-577A.D) to bring Buddhist texts and scriptures such as Vimalakirtinirdeshasutra, Mahaparinirvanasutra and Sarvastivadavinaya.

During the Mongolian Uigar state (8th -9th century) both the Buddhism and the Manichaean religion were the primary religions of that time. Translation of Buddhist scriptures was active at that time.