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August 23, 2006


Can't say I approve of that picture!!!

Here is the updated, final version:

Although Dalai Lam is wise, he should not make such a mistake like this one - "Barbarian"
He described Tibet and Mongolian people as "barbarian" prior to the spread of the Buddhist religion and endorsed combining traditional learning with modern education.-

From my point of view, as a Mongolian- He can not compare Tibet and Mongolia in every way.
Mongols created largest Empire on Earth- simple barbarians could not achieve that. Tibet was conquered by small army of Mongol prince Godan. "Prior to the spread of the Buddhist religion" Mongols achieved in government, protected free trade. religion, militarywise even more than Tibetans, adopted Uigur script as their own, built efficient Mongol Ortuu royal post system, Mongols enabled the world cultural exchange, connected East and West creating "Pax Mongolica" for more than century and more and more.
Politically He is making fatal mistake. Dalai Lama should not drug down Mongolia down to level of Tibet which is Chinese province now.
Are Mongolians just celebrating 800 years of Barbarian Mongol State?

This typical response of any Mongolian to Dalai's message. Check out Mongolian blogs regarding the topic

Dear Konchog you write it that way it feels like beeing there in person! Thankes!

For Bat Khaan: Everyone is intituled to an opinion but no one can question Dalai lama's love and compassion for Mongolia. I agree that word barbarian is offensive but here in Europe in normal to people say that there own nations were barbaric or pagan before conversion to christianity! Same in islamic world! That's the way things work no need to make big fuss about it. Besides if you think that barbarians can't be succesful militarywise or govermentwise you probably never heard about communists or nazis.

Bat Khaan: poor choice of words, I agree (or poor translation - he could have meant it in a religious sense as described above by Vedran). However, I sincerely doubt that he meant to diminish the Mongol heritage - visiting the country on its 800th anniversary! That would be neither tactful not productive (as you have rightly pointed out).

But keep in mind that the Buddhist metrics of worth are different from the conventional ones. The reasons you sighted in order to prove that Mongols were not "barbaric" prior to Buddhism are the conventional ones. Buddhism concentrates on the inner spiritual development including (but not limited to) good ethics, compassion, wisdom, etc.

I am not currently in Mongolia (but thanks to Gonchig lam's kind efforts I'm thoroughly enjoying the events). I hope this version of the story has been limited to the western press only.

You made it to mongolnet news site. It was part of the google alerts for Mongolia.

Vedran: congratulations, you left DODR's 1000th comment!

Bat Khaan: I didn't see HH's address at Gandan, but I checked with a friend this morning who said he made the "barbarian" comment as a shared joke (ie that's the misperception both our countries have to deal with) and was laughing when he said it. Please don't take CNN as gospel and get unnecessarily freaked out! As Bolor says, HH is not exactly known for his tactless and insulting behavior.

In fact, I heard that in another talk with all the Mongolian abbots, he recalled his childhood in Amdo, in an area which is basically Mongol, and said he feels half-Mongol himself. He's been gracious and generous and the Mongol people seem to be loving his visit. This morning he gives a special talk to Mongol youth at the Wrestling Palace. I'm skipping that, but I'll report from the afternoon teaching/White Tara blessing at the stadium this afternoon.

Vedran:- Anyone can question Dalai Lama. Sure He is humane, he will be questioned by future generation of Tibetans for failing of Tibet. Btw, nobody will agree with your comment-Communist are Barbarian.
Bolor:- Had not we Mongolians have enough of these-"Buddhist metrics of worth- as you say". You should read more history of Mongolia- fight between Oirad Turbaikh and Tsogt taiji, Zuungar and Khalkh Mongol struggle, Qing-Manchu encouragment of Lamaism in Mongolia, rotten state of Mongolian Theocracy in beginning of XX century.

I agree with you that Dalai Lama visit gives Mongolia a free advertising. I am also for Free Tibet cause. I respect my grandma being Buddhist. But i am very aware that Lamaist Buddhism should be contained into individual level, not state/mass level.
Why thousands of Mongolian youths and boys supposed to be buddhist monk instead of educating themselves in Modern Sciences, marrying, having children.
Buddhism not out vehicle for future our development in economy and politics.

Buddhism is not Mongol identity
Dalai Lama is not head of Mongolian spirituality.
Our language, Our Culture, Independance, Our land, Free Spirit, Chinggis Khaan, Our defaince against China and Russia is
Mongol Identity

"Our defiance against China and Russia is Mongol Identity"

What is that? Dayar Mongol!?

I bet anyone $100 that Gongor doesn't live in Mongolia.

For Gongor: Perhaps someone from those 90-100 million people murdered world wide by communists would agree with me, maybe some of thousands monk's shot also? Hm, oh yeah they don't get to say anything because they were to "rotten" to be alowed to live. They just were not compatible with "development in economy and politics" they just were not enough into "modern sciences". I strongly advise more of those history books you mentiond! Other things you wrote are clearly your personal opinion and should not be stated as facts.

Gongor: well, nothing but a hearty joke after all :)

You may have heard of a quote “the barbarian is the one who believes in barbary”. That said, I would never characterize pre-Buddhism Mongols as "barbarians" in a pejorative sense of the word. IIRC, this sort of depiction was limited to pre-revisionist Western press and the Han Chinese (more in a "foreigner" sense - funnily enough each and every "barbarian" that has conquered them became "Chinese" he-he-he). Today, no serious historian could overlook the many cultural and technological achievements some of which you have mentioned above. So, we agree here.

Perhaps “Buddhist metrics of worth” was not a good choice of words on my part :) I was just trying to find a plausible explanation (now redundant) as to why DL might have said that.

Now you seem to argue that Buddhism had been harmful to Mongols and you sight some historical events and interpretations (quite familiar to me, believe it or not). Still, you need to establish a causative link which you haven’t done (but pre-supposed).

I haven’t said DL’s visit gives Mongolia a free advertising opportunity. IMHO, it is beneficial on many other levels.

“…contained at the level of an individual” – inherently, Buddhism focuses on the inner development through reflection and meditation. In this, one might appreciate an environment conducive to study (i.e. no NKDV commissars about to crack your skull). And nothing more.

“…instead of educating themselves in Modern Sciences…” – even CNN might have mentioned that DL has stressed modern education.

“…development in economy and politics.” – not an end in itself. In fact, the modern western lifestyle has many drawbacks.

“Buddhism is not Mongol identity” – was part of it for four centuries… including many of YOUR ancestors no doubt. Now, I suppose they were still Mongol right? Or you’re expelling them? ;)

Hey Luke - kudos to your website! Very nice work, helping fill an important void. Thanks!

bolor-Those lamaist 4 centuries were indeed disgrace to descendants of Chinggis.Hope we, Mongolians will not repeat that again. Under the Eternal Blue Sky

Bat Khaan: 2 questions:

a) in your mind, what would be the IDEAL (but technically feasible) state of our country in say 20 years time

b) how a potential (god forbid :)) revival of Buddhism affects the progress towards that state.

Make sure your reasoning makes use of relevant facts, examples and analogies. Some cursory understanding of Buddhism might come in handy as well. Thanks.

All religion should be in balance. None of them should have absolute influence over Mongolian politics.
I could write more, but i don't feel like this blog is suitable place

Sorry to interrupt: every nation on this planet have predominant religion with most of its people doing everything to preserve it! I't no one's mission to change that. Freedom of faith is completly different thing and I think it is in your constitution. Buddhism is definitly Mongolia's "brand" and has great potencial for the future! History of buddhism would be unthinkable without Mongol nation and that is what should be told to the world. This is the way for people from every corner of the earth to learn about Mongolia it's religion and history, visit it and "spread the word". Perhaps someday is will be normal for buddhists (and not only them) from whole world to make pilgrimage to sacret sites allover Mongolia! Think about the profit and promotion that could bring to Mongol people! Gengish Khaan surely evocates pride for every Mongol but think how proud Mongol people would be when they would see that people of every race and nation from every continent consider Mongolia as place of pilgrimage, spiritual restoration and learning. Only buddhism can do that.

Bat Khaan - no one here advocates Buddhism in politics. In fact, Buddhism philisophy itself explicitly rejects lust for power or prestige.

Secondly, I'm sure everyone here agrees that a secular and democratic form of government is the way to go. Add freedom of religion here (as part of broader human rights). Such form requires an informed and involved public, a condition that we currently satisfy IMHO.

And lastly, tell me one thing: why is this forum inappropriate for voicing what could be some of YOUR OWN original and constructive ideas on the future that we can shape BUT is appropriate for arrogance and unfounded (yet) criticism?

You seem like a good bloke who doesn't mind some reading. I think it would be useful for you to humble down and pick up an introductory book on Buddhism and learn a bit about the subject. At least in the future you'll know what you're unleashing your wrath at. Cheers mate.

Hey Vedran - that'd be so cool... (yes, the eye-popping mountains of $$$$ included :) ). Seriously, you plan to visit sometime? BTW where you from (if not a secret) ?

You say:- "no one here advocates Buddhism in politics". No need to advocate, whoever influences people can influence politics of the country. So any religous influence should be limited in political level. Lamaist themselves know that very well.

I read some on Buddhism. That is why i did not become Buddhist. I did not want to pretend to be buddist, i wanted to lead worldy life.
- You say "Buddhism philisophy itself explicitly rejects lust for power or prestige." LOL. Then why so called buddhist in Mongolia, all the time show up everywhere with President and politicions. This is soft approch to politics. Why Gandan tegchinlen monastery is so prestigous place for poor monks who likes hang on around it. There are whole system of hierarchy in Mongolia and among exile buddhist Tibetans. It is prestigous to be on top of this hierarchy. After all, it is prestigous to tell people what to think and do. There are lots of contradiction between what lamas tell people and how they themselves leading life.

Bolor you say-"And lastly, tell me one thing: why is this forum inappropriate for voicing what could be some of YOUR OWN original and constructive ideas on the future that we can shape BUT is appropriate for arrogance and unfounded (yet) criticism?"

I felt it is inappropriate to violate the harmony of this yellow-mellow buddhist blog environment by my " arrogance and unfounded (yet) criticism-as you say"

I did not intend to be arrogant and put un-founded criticism. Sorry for that. If you don't see foundation of the criticism, i can not help. Only i'll suggest you should read history of our people, if you have time read about Tibetans too.

Lamaism in Mongolia needs serious reformation.

You say "History of buddhism would be unthinkable without Mongol nation, or sacred sites, piligrimage to Mongolia", ok i think we better stop here. We don't need that. But you guys, buddhist from outside should really make an afford to change mentality of so called buddhist Mongolians blind supertitious worship. Very few Mongolians do know very essense of Buddhism. Majority of them are just imitating each others. That is sad, harmful and dangerious for society.
Also Mongolians should stop going to those Buddhist sites in China and Tibet.

Dear Bat Khaan it's not that yellow-mellow as it might look at first sight. Almost everything on this world needs serious reformation! What do you expect? Perfection? Utopia? Ain't gonna happend! Problems you described are not specific for lamaism but are common in this world. You say "Majority of them are just imitating each others"- allmost evreybody is imitating someone else. You should see some of the behavior people have adopted in my country... talkin about harmful and dangerous. And you mentiond "a whole system of hierarchy" Can you name one system (religious, social or whatever) that functions without hierarchy? Since you are not buddhist yourself I don't think it's up to you to decide what buddhists need or wich places they should or should not visit for pilgrimige. I belive that time of such restrictions is gonne for good, at least in Mongolia.

And to Bolor: I'm from northern Croatia. Here's one curiosity: this summer I visited legendary fortress Kalnik. It's legendary because hungaryan king Bela 4th had found refuge there during Mongol invasion in 1230-s. Only for short time because Batu Khaan found him so he had to flee further south to the Adriatic see. Here were some of the hardest battles in whole Mongol campaigne in Europe until 1242. when Batu Khaan retreeted from Europe to south Russian steppes.

It seems to me that there is a lot of misunderstanding going on in this thread. I do not pretend to understand myself, I know very little about Mongolia, that is why I read this blog. Yet, I think that critics, like Bat Khaan's, must be interpreted in the context of the growing Christianity in Mongolia, and failing to make this clear will contribute further to the misunderstanding. Are you a Christian, Bat Khaan?

The reason that makes me suspect this is that after about 70 years of Communist ruling over the country, one cannot blame today monks for the past power abuse, and doing so reminds me of the critics of the Evangelical propaganda against Catholics, which fails to recognise that they are themselves a sprout of Catholicism and, thus, have to answer to the same critics of past abuse, just as Catholics have to. (otherwise, you loose the Christian inheritance on historical grounds --- history is often rejected in favour of theology, prefering faith over facts).

If I understand correctly, on one side, some urban Mongolian youth converts to certain strains of Christianity and sintonizes on the sound of the urgent call to welcome the Kingdom of Heaven, here and now, which is translated socially into a call for a revolution, henceforth a condemnation of lamaism, assimilated to the Sadduceans (and the Phariseans, why not).

By the way, the use of the term `lamaism' is in itself meaningful: this term was introduced by Westerners, by mistake, when puzzled by the theocratic Tibetan state. So this term, nowadays no more in use, neither in anthropology nor in buddhist studies, is pregnant.

If I am still correct, this Christian context of conquest founds an enemy in a Buddhist revival (Communism is no more an enemy), especially if monks court politicians, in a reminder of Bad Old Times.

Christianity is also probably associated to modernity in many Mongolian youngsters (failing to see that it is actually deculturization by Americanization). But it is a Christianity without the memory of the uncountable deads, the innumerable cultures forever destroyed in the name of God. We know this in the West, we know the horrible crimes that happened because of Christianity, since Antiquity. But in Asia, they do not know, or if they know, these crimes are not considered theirs, and Christianity is presented as white as snow. Not surprisingly, this is done mainly by Protestants that precisely consider themselves as impeccable, without the taints of the Catholic sins (wrongly, as I said, due to mere European historical grounds, which are ignored in Asia).

On the other hand, Western buddhists do not know the abuse of the buddhist clerics along history in Asia. Then they are surprised to see monks grabbing robes in anti-anti-war protests etc. But this is nothing... So, as long as this is not acknowledged by Western buddhists, the misunderstanding will linger. Western buddhists must accept the errors of the past buddhists too, and be aware these crimes are not repeated.

As a Frenchman, I also feel uncomfortable when a President of a modern country, during official duty, is partial to one religion. I even feel uncomfortable when Chirac goes to mass during his duty time. So I understand Bat Khaan on this point.

There seems to be an unsettled issue: since Mongolia is not officially a Buddhist country, the President and the government must be neutral. If the country laws support human rights, then religious freedom must be allowed, and so Christian (and Mormons, for what matters) missionaries. I know Konchog lama disagrees slightly, and I am also concerned, as a Buddhist, of the consequences of allowing missions "without control", but, as Westerners, we must be consistent with our own values: in the West, we allow Buddhist teachers to move in freely: this is how we met the Dharma. Otherwise, our own values will be used against us. This is what happened in a previous English colony, called nowadays USA. And in French and Spanish colonies. Very efficient in terms of... revolution.

So something else must be tried. What about understanding each others?

Bat Khaan - "I read some on Buddhism. That is why i did not become Buddhist. I did not want to pretend to be buddist, i wanted to lead worldy life. " Hey but this is a great example of one of your UNFOUNDED criticisms. The CAUSATIVE link is omitted as usual (you did not tell us WHY it did not suit you after careful examination.

"Then why so called buddhist in Mongolia, all the time show up everywhere with President and politicions" - Good question & TIMELY I must add. Which side is chasing which? Politicians the monks or the monks the politicians? You seem to know an awful lot about politics - surely you know about photo-ops and other tactics politicians use to influence the public. What is the solution? Forbid politicians from being seem with monks?

"There are lots of contradiction between what lamas tell people and how they themselves leading life" - The preceeding post deals with this issue. Read it.

"I felt it is inappropriate to violate the harmony of this yellow-mellow buddhist blog environment by my " arrogance and unfounded (yet) criticism-as you say"" - Bat Khaan, but your answers to my 2 questions (still pending) would not have been so. I meant your ORIGINAL comments.

"I did not intend to be arrogant and put un-founded criticism. Sorry for that" - accepted. Now we just have to clarify the rest of the misunderstanding.

"If you don't see foundation of the criticism, i can not help" - In proper debate, the writer advances a thesis and supports it with reasoning and examples. The burden of proof relies on the writer. If you cannot help, you shouldn't criticize.

Vedran - beautiful beaches, aren't they? And fast developing... How's the real estate market doing over there?

Yeah, and the battle of Moha... another one of Subedei's masterpieces... Before Bat Khaan corrects you, I might say that the army didn't really retreat under pressure.

Christian - great points. Though I doubt Bat Khaan is Christian... I'd say more of a casual supporter of boo (shamanism).

Thank you, boys, for having a serious discussion relatively free of personal attacks. I have some thoughts on the subjects, but need to keep up on the Dalai Lama reportage (remarkably time-consuming!). I'm very interested in how religion/spirituality is playing a role in Mongols' search for post-independence self-identity.

Bat Khaan -- all are welcome here, and passionate interchange is encouraged. The only house rule is that folks should stick to the subject(s) under discussion, while maintaining a respectful tone toward one another. If things degenerate into personal insults, then I have to intervene. OK? Now, carry on!

Bolor-Beutiful beaches indeed (if you like beaches and sea). Just too crowded for my taste. Better up here in the north with forrests and mountain slopes. Fast development? Not for regular, small people- as in most transition countrys. He, he I'm not exactly into real estate market but I know that bunch of rich Europeans is buying houses and apartments. Mostly on shore. They just want our land but they are not letting us into the EU, as our government would say.
BTW history of Mongol invasion on this parts is not that popular with enough more recent invasions from much closer neighbours but I managed to find some interesting books on this subject.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Mongolia Bird List: "L" = Lifer

  • Amur Falcon -- L
  • Arctic (Hoary) Redpoll -- L
  • Arctic Warbler -- L
  • Asian Brown Flycatcher -- L
  • Asian Dowitcher -- L
  • Asian Short-toed Lark -- L
  • Azure Tit -- L
  • Bank Swallow
  • Bar-headed Goose -- L
  • Barn Swallow
  • Bean Goose -- L
  • Black Grouse -- L
  • Black Stork -- L
  • Black Woodpecker -- L
  • Black-billed Magpie
  • Black-eared Kite -- L
  • Black-headed Gull -- L
  • Black-tailed Godwit -- L
  • Black-winged Stilt
  • Blyth's Pipit -- L
  • Bohemian Waxwing -- L
  • Booted Eagle -- L
  • Brown Shrike -- L
  • Carrion Crow
  • Chinese Penduline Tit -- L
  • Chukar -- L
  • Cinereous Vulture
  • Citrine Wagtail -- L
  • Coal Tit
  • Common Cuckoo
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Common Greenshank -- L
  • Common Kestrel
  • Common Merganser
  • Common Pochard -- L
  • Common Raven
  • Common Redpoll
  • Common Redshank -- L
  • Common Rosefinch -- L
  • Common Sandpiper
  • Common Shelduck -- L
  • Common Snipe -- L
  • Common Starling
  • Common Swift
  • Common Tern
  • Crested Lark -- L
  • Curlew Sandpiper -- L
  • Dark-throated Thrush -- L
  • Daurian Jackdaw -- L
  • Daurian Partridge -- L
  • Daurian Redstart -- L
  • Demoiselle Crane -- L
  • Desert Warbler -- L
  • Desert Wheatear -- L
  • Dusky Thrush -- L
  • Dusky Warbler -- L
  • Eared Grebe
  • Eurasian Bullfinch -- L
  • Eurasian Coot -- L
  • Eurasian Curlew -- L
  • Eurasian Griffon
  • Eurasian Hobby
  • Eurasian Jay
  • Eurasian Nutcracker -- L
  • Eurasian Nuthatch -- L
  • Eurasian Skylark
  • Eurasian Sparrowhawk
  • Eurasian Spoonbill -- L
  • Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker -- L
  • Eurasian Tree Sparrow
  • Eurasian Treecreeper -- L
  • Eurasian Wigeon -- L
  • Eurasian Wryneck -- L
  • Eyebrowed Thrush -- L
  • Falcated Duck -- L
  • Fork-tailed Swift -- L
  • Gadwall
  • Garganey -- L
  • Godlewski's Bunting -- L
  • Goldcrest -- L
  • Golden Eagle
  • Gray Heron
  • Gray Wagtail -- L
  • Great Cormorant
  • Great Crested Grebe
  • Great Gray Shrike -- L
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker
  • Great Tit
  • Greater Short-toed Lark -- L
  • Greater Spotted Eagle -- L
  • Green Sandpiper -- L
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Greenish Warbler -- L
  • Hawfinch -- L
  • Hazel Grouse -- L
  • Hen/Northern Harrier
  • Herring Gull
  • Hill Pigeon -- L
  • Hoopoe
  • Horned Grebe
  • Horned Lark
  • House Sparrow
  • Isabelline Shrike -- L
  • Isabelline Wheatear -- L
  • Kentish (Snowy) Plover -- L
  • Lesser Spotted Woodpecker -- L
  • Lesser Whitethroat -- L
  • Little Bunting -- L
  • Little Owl -- L
  • Little Ringed Plover
  • Long-tailed Rosefinch
  • Long-tailed Tit
  • Long-toed Stint -- L
  • Mallard
  • Marsh Sandpiper
  • Meadow Bunting -- L
  • Mew Gull -- L
  • Mongolian Finch -- L
  • Mongolian Ground-jay -- L
  • Mongolian Lark -- L
  • Northern Lapwing -- L
  • Northern Pintail
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Northern Wheatear
  • Olive-backed Pipit -- L
  • Oriental Plover -- L
  • Oriental Reed Warbler -- L
  • Oriental Turtle Dove
  • Pacific Golden-plover -- L
  • Paddyfield Warbler -- L
  • Pallas' Reed Bunting -- L
  • Pallas's Leaf Warbler -- L
  • Pallas's Sandgrouse -- L
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Pied Avocet -- L
  • Pied Wheatear -- L
  • Pine Bunting -- L
  • Pine Grosbeak -- L
  • Pintail Snipe -- L
  • Red (Common) Crossbill
  • Red-billed Chough -- L
  • Red-crested Pochard -- L
  • Red-flanked Bluetail -- L
  • Red-necked Grebe
  • Red-throated Flycatcher -- L
  • Richard's Pipit -- L
  • Rock Dove
  • Rock Sparrow -- L
  • Rook -- L
  • Ruddy Shelduck -- L
  • Ruddy Turnstone
  • Ruff -- L
  • Rufous-tailed Robin -- L
  • Saker Falcon -- L
  • Scaly Thrush -- L
  • Sharp-tailed Sandpiper -- L
  • Siberian Accentor -- L
  • Siberian Rubythroat -- L
  • Smew -- L
  • Spotted Flycatcher -- L
  • Spotted Redshank -- L
  • Steppe Eagle -- L
  • Swan Goose -- L
  • Temminck's Stint -- L
  • Thick-billed Warbler -- L
  • Tree Pipit -- L
  • Tufted Duck -- L
  • Twite -- L
  • Upland Buzzard -- L
  • Ural Owl -- L
  • Water Pipit -- L
  • White Wagtail
  • White-cheeked Starling -- L
  • White-naped Crane -- L
  • White-winged (Two-barred) Crossbill -- L
  • White-winged Scoter
  • White-winged Tern -- L
  • Whooper Swan -- L
  • Willow Tit -- L
  • Wood Sandpiper -- L
  • Yellow-billed Grosbeak -- L
  • Yellow-browed (Inornate) Warbler -- L