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Bouddhisme en Mongolie

         The Buddha Gautama Sakyamuni was born in 563 BCE in an India of yore, very different from that of today; son of a prince of the Shakya lineage, his birth was announced to his mother by a strange dream, which the great Brahman sages interpreted as a sign from heaven. Queen Maya would bring into the world a child bearing the marks of the great men; he would become either a universal monarch, or one of the greatest spiritual masters the earth had ever worn.

        Siddhartha was an unusual child , manifesting both brilliant intelligence and gentle melancholy. His father married him young at Yashodhara, with whom he had a son, Rahula, and tried to preserve him from the sufferings of this world. Nothing was done; the young prince discovered, in turn, the existence of old age, sickness, and death. He finally met a hermit and wise monk fleeing the suffering of men, which made him leave his easy life at the age of 29.

        After many attempts to follow the teachings of different masters and six years of superhuman asceticism, it was by meditating under a sacred tree while observing his soul that he found the path of enlightenment . After the defeat of Mâra, the god who dominates desires, he walks through the four stages of meditation which represent the fruit of his meditations, the Four Noble Truths.

 

        After much hesitation, he decided to share this experience and set in motion the Wheel of the Fa by preaching and dispensing his teachings . He will thus continue to the limit of his strength, and will by the same token designate one of the fundamental duties of Buddhism: to give the law.

During his wanderings, he converted more and more of the faithful, and eventually settled in the hermitage of Crâvastî with the Sangha, Buddhist community, founding there the first monastery. It was from there that his disciples went forth to bear the teachings, and that thousands of believers or ordinary curious came daily to see the Buddha and hear his sermons. He himself will continue to pace the roads of India, carrying the Doctrine wherever they lead to as many people as possible. It will be so until his last day, dying of old age at the age of 80, and surrounded by innumerable believers.

A religion apart

          Buddhism is a difficult religion to tackle for us; the notion of gods is very different, making it a philosophy for certain, the numerous schools and the complex pantheon.

          To try a simple approach, one must first understand that there are no separate separations between heaven and earth, life and death, sacred and human. All is one, in a single cycle.

         The Gelong Pa school or the Yellow Bonnet Sect, which is the majority in both Tibet and Mongolia, believes that everyone can become Buddha (the concept of the Great Vehicle): Salvation is in each of us and the way of awakening is accessible to everyone. At work therefore …

        The key concept of this religion is the search for Nirvana, or Awakening , which leads the meditator out of the circle of existences, Samsara, to which all forms of life are attached.

        This awakening consists of an absence of its own existence called Shunyata. To achieve this, the Buddha delivered the fundamental teaching of the 4 Noble Truths, the fruit of his meditation: the truth of suffering, its origin linked to desire, the key to its cessation and the path that leads to it.

        Far from ignorance, desire and hatred, you can escape the perpetual cycle of reincarnations, conditioned by Karma, the law of universal causality. All acts bearing fruit, beware: six worlds (the Hells, the Hungry, the animal kingdom, the humans, the jealous Gods and the Living Gods in all felicity) are only waiting for you, rewarding or sanctioning your acts of this life .

Buddhism in Mongolia 

         Buddhism, although visible in the Mongolian landscape since the Turkish period (551-74 AD), became a state religion only in 1260 during the reign of Kubilai Khan , and only concerned the aristocratic spheres of country.

         Altan Khan and the 1570s were to speak of a real presence and impact of this religion , supported by a policy of intense proselytizing, waves of conversion and a real witch-hunting of shamans and their places of worship.

        In 1578, Altan met Sonam Gyatso, spiritual leader of Tibet with whom he was at war; this hierarch and Buddhist monk converts him, and is awarded by the khan the title of 3rd Dalai Lama, or Ocean of Wisdom. These two former masters will be posthumous. Here begins a great love story …

        Indeed, the 4th Dalai Lama will be Mongolian and, with the exception of the first two, the entire Bogdo Gegeen lineage will be Tibetan. Even today, this deep attachment between the two nations is being measured: the Dalai Lama has come here not less than four times during the last ten years , and it is more than surprising to see the welcome he has received each time booked.

         Moreover, the Tibetan community is mobilizing to overcome the current problem of reviving religion in Mongolia: following the seventy years of communist rule, most of the middle and high-ranking lamas were purged;  are able to read the Tibetan texts. Peoples like Tibet, Nepal, India and other Western countries set up exchanges between lamas and professors of theology.

         Although sharing the same sect of the Yellow Hats, Mongolia has nevertheless its own guide in the person of Bogdo Gegeen, and since 1635 . Zanabazar will be the first of the eight spiritual and political leaders of the country. On the death of the 8th, Bogd Khan, in 1924, the Soviet regime forbade any reincarnation. Nogi: a 9th Bogdo Gegeen was secretly discovered and found refuge in Tibet in the 60s. He currently lives in Dharamsala, close to the present Dalai Lama, after a short visit to Mongolia in 1999. 

Zanabazar

 

         The first Bogdo Gegeen, spiritual and political leader of Mongolia , is equivalent to the Dalai Lama here. It is said to be an emanation of Manjusri, “he who is noble and sweet”, boddhisattva incarnating prajna (intelligence).

         Born in 1635 in Shireet Tsagaan Nuur , he was proclaimed a saint at the age of four by his grandfather Gombodorj, and is believed to be the reincarnation of the Tibetan scholar Târanâtha, a renowned historiographer and philosopher, a writer of the famous History of Indian Buddhism – 1575 to 1634; he will be given more than 14 previous lives, going back to one of the disciples of Sakyamuni.

        He went to Tibet at the age of seven to study with the Dalai and Panchen Lamas, both incarnations of Avalokitesvara, boddhisattva of compassion. Upon his return, he will undertake the construction of many monasteries and extend the Buddhist religion to all classes of the people.

        He is one of the master figures of the culture of this country , at the origin of a very prodigious artistic production (sculptures of the 5 Buddhas of the meditation, of 21 Taras). His art is an innovation from the combination of traditional religious art and Mongolian beauty canons, imbued with ideals of philosophy and compassion. In 1686, he created the Soyombo alphabet (own illumination, meaning that the Mongolian state exists by itself).

         His life takes place at a key moment in Mongolian history: the country is torn between Oirats and Khalkhas, the ethnic groups are waging war against each other. Too weak to face alone against the enemy, he asked the Manchu dynasty for help, with whom he shared the same religious convictions. He will thus bring the wolf back into the sheepfold, instituting the two centuries of foreign domination to come. He died in Peking in 1723.

The Bogd Khan

          Bogd Khan (born in 1869, died in 1924) is a much more controversial character, combining the greatness of a hero with a very human depravity. Although Tibetan, he showed a great nationalism towards Mongolia and worked in concert with the collapse of the Manchu grip with Sukhbaatar, the nationalist hero who allied himself with the Russians to counter the Manchus. The Soviets, after the successive deaths of the two heads of the Revolution (the Bogd Khan of syphillis, Sükhbaatar of food poisoning or more plausibly of poisoning), hastened to impose a communist regime which lasted almost 70 years.

 

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