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Lamaism of Mongolia 1

The Imposition of Lamaism

As a result of the factors mentioned above, by the sixteenth-century Shamanism had declined to the point that it could no longer satisfy the demand and needs of Mongolian society. It was unable to prevent internal conflicts and rebuild national solidarity. Therefore, Tumed’s Altan Haan |1577| and Halha’s Abutay Sayn Haan |1587|, turned to Lamaism |which had emerged as a Buddhist sent at the beginning of the fifteenth century| in their attempts to re-establish stability, because it seemed more refined than Shamanism.

     Consequently, Lamaism has declared the official religions of the Mongolian state. There are a number of extant written sources concerning the policies and conflicts of the Southern and Western Mongolian Haans, kings, and lama-priests against the Shamans of those localities. 

     According to other published works and my own research, the Mongolian government and Lamaist bodies of that period implemented a variety of measures intended to wipe out Mongolian Shamanism. For example, Tumed’s Altan Haan passed a law in 1578 that banned Shamanist ideological propaganda and traditional rituals. Shamanist ceremonies, including burial-services that involved the burning of animal meat, were forbidden by this law. In contrast, Buddhist annual and monthly fasting was strictly enforced. Laws protected the inviolable rights of Lamaist officials as officers of the state according to their rank and position respectively. The four main ranks of Lama priests became exempt from military and fiscal dues. Lavish gifts were given to incoming Lamas according to special codes. For example, a Lama should receive at least an unlearned one no less than twenty and even aa servant or coachmen should be given at least ten. Moreover, images and appurtenances of Ongons were burned down and replaced with idols for Mahagal-Burhan. These were to be worshipped with sacrifices of the three kinds of animal flesh |mutton, beef, and horse|. and kinds of milk products. Households were forbidden to carry out Shamanist worship at home. Culprits were to pay a fine in horses related to the number of offenses. These laws, on the one hand, gave Lamaism legal, political and economic privileges, while on the other they persecuted Shamans and severely restricted the practice of their customs. 

     Thanks mainly to the investment, assistance, support of the Ming Dynasty, many Lamaist monasteries were built and many Buddhist texts were published in Beijing to be sent to Mongolia Ching Dynasties to spread the Red and Yellow Buddhist sects in Mongolia was primarily in order to undermine the heroic warrior traditions of the Mongols. Encouraging Lamaism or Yellow Buddhism in Mongolia subverted the Mongols traditional values. In this regard, the distinguished scholar Roy Chapman Andrews wrote, “There were several contributory causes of the decay of the Mongol race, but the primal factor was the introduction of Lamaism. Before this they were shamanists, worshipping the spirits of Nature… in rocks, trees, and mountains.” 

     Until the 1940s, there were a total of approximately 941 Buddhist monasteries, about seventy percent of which were not established until the nineteenth century. 

     The Manchurian Emperors instigated a number of aggressive and brutal measures against Shamanism during the seventeenth century, including the humiliation of Oirad’s official Neji |1557-1653| and Zaya Bandid Namhayjamts |1575-1662|. The teaching of Maydar Hutagt, sent to Mongolia for the intensification of Lamaism, spread in Mongolia. Shamans were killed, murdered or burnt with dog droppings and subjected to many fines paid in livestock. Between the 1860s and 1904, there were three mass burnings at campfires around Horchin, at which it said, “The ones who have real powers will emerge unscathed, but the remainders shall die”.

     With the exception of a similar event during the nineteenth century in Besud Yost Zasagt Hoshuu of Zasagt Han aimag, Outer Mongolia did not experience such violet oppression because the officials and lamas there employed alternative policies t combat Shamanism. As D.Mansan noted, lamas of this time were much more tolerant in their treatment of Shamanism; changing and improving its invocative chants, which were then used for Lamaist rituals too. Several methods were employed to this end, of which the following are the most important:

     Firstly, large sections of shaman belief concerning the worship of Heaven, Earth, Water, and Ancestral Spirits were taken, improved, adopted by Lamaism for the Ovoo |cairn|, fire praying and rituals using incense for purification. As a result, Lamaist texts were written offering prayers to water and earth spirits and incense burnt on the highest mountains and at other sacred sites. For instance, Lovon lama Dashzeveg quoted Agvaandandar’s Sun Bum. Numerous sources make it clear that both a Lama and Shaman conducted thanksgiving worship to an Ovoo or Ongon together, and that sometimes a Lama would make the offerings alone. For example, during the national celebration of the proclamation of Mongolia’s Independence from Manchurian occupation, a worship was conducted to a Lama and a Shaman led the worship according to the scripture of Dalha Burhan and the mountain was renamed Laishlhundeg, Moreover, in 1922, Lama Gonchig Tsorje and Shaman Chagdar worshipped the Ongon of the mountain together. This Ongon, “Ivediin Aav” |The father of Ived|, was placed there in 1829.

     Secondly, major attempts were made to propagate the Lamaist ideology through the children and relatives of a Shaman. Several tricks were employed, including teaching that their Shaman was the reincarnation of a deceased great Lama. In the nineteenth century, according to Manchurian legislation, two of Ermeelj zayran’s five sons |Ermeelj was the grandson of the famous Huular Shaman Jotog Zayran|, Jamba and Saimdan, were sent to a monastery for their lamaist training. Samdan graduated from an Astrological Datsan |collage| in Outer Mongolia’s capital city, Ih Huree. Afterward, he was proclaimed “Reincarnation of white Dari-Eh” and instructed to return to his home province because of paternal uncles |Gogaa, Horgalj, Jurmalday, Tavit, Buvd and Sharalday|, his brothers |Machir, Yanjiv and Shorhog|, and many other relatives were Shamans. Thereafter, Ermeelj’s Samdan Zurhaych or zodiacal astrologer, also known as the “Teacher Lama of Tengger River”, endeavored to promote Lamaism in this remote locality. After his death, a Burhan or idol was created to honor him and he was worshipped in local Gamdannamjiliin and Choinhorrabjalin monasteries.

     S.Sharav, the only son of Sunchig Udgan |1836-1861|, was sent to an art school. In the 1890s he was declared to be a living Burhan, so any Burhan’s figure or idol painted by him could be worshipped without the need for consecration. The major works of Sunchigiin Sharav are now stored in the Mongolian Museum of Fine arts and they are commonly known as “The works of Darhad Sharav”, Apart from Burhan figures, he painted many other pictures such as “The Lama of Tenggis”, “The Lus and savdag of Shishged Valley”, “Local Savdag” and so on. Moreover, he trained a whole generation of artists from his native province.

     Thirdly, the sacred original Spirit of the Shamans began to be reincarnated or declared by the Lamas to have joined Lamaism. consequently, a Lama carried out its invocations on behalf of a Burhan and names and attributes were altered to fit into Lamaist practice. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Choir Lama of Rashaant monastery, Mergen Zasagt Hohsuu |og Halha’s Sayn Noyon Han Aimag| affected an extreme example of this. He merged the Ongon “Dayan Deerh”, which had been worshipped since the nineteenth century with the Ongons of his mother “Aguyn Tsagaan Eej” sons, “Bartganchig Har Tengger” into one site. He elaborated the invocations, made vows to the Dayan Deerh Sahil |amulet|, and established the Shaman Prayer Center of Outer Mongolia in Dayan Deerh Monastery in 1864.


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