Buddhism in Mongolia


Buddhism in Mongolia is a branch of Tibetan Buddhism schools, the Gelug and Kagyu. However, the Mongolian Buddhism has its own unique qualities even though it is mainly derived from the Gelug and Kagyu lineage.

Buddhism in Mongolia was popularized in three different eras. The first one being the Khotan Buddhism, which was influenced by the Indian Emperor Ashoka, who captured the city of Khotan during his campaign. Khotan Buddhism slowly but surely spread to the east, along the Silk Road to the Gobi Desert. This was in the Third Century B.C and some evidences were linked to Modu Chanyu, the emperor of Xiongnu.

The second wave of Mongolian Buddhism began with Genghis Khan and his conquest. To the later stages of his life Genghis Khan was concerned about his mortality and sought help from the most prominent religious leaders/philosophers of Buddhism. That same admiration towards Buddhism carried on with his descendants as Kublai Khan, Genghis Khan’s grandson even reached out to Tibetan guru Chogyal Pakpa to create a distinctive type of Tibetan Buddhist script that was intended for use in his ruling territories.

The third and latest boom of Mongolian Buddhism was in 16th century. In 1570, Altan Khan of the Altan Urag brought the Dalai Lama school of Tibetan Buddhism to Mongolia and made it national religion of the country. Since then hundreds of other school of Buddhism were adopted by Mongolians over the centuries. Buddhism in Mongolia had its ups and downs and finally restored to its full power in 1990’s after the soviet influence and the restrictions on religion were banished.

Today the majority of the population identifies as Buddhists with over 50% and over 90% of the religious people subscribes to Buddhism. Everyday life in Mongolia has been deeply influenced by Buddhism, especially in the countryside it has become an inseparable part of the nomadic lifestyle of Mongolian family. There are 134 fully functioning monasteries and over 200 temples across the country.

Buddhism in Mongolia has seen everything from a blooming prosperity to a complete annihilation yet still remains as the dominant religion in Mongolia. Some locals believe Buddhism was brought in to control the population and to keep valiant Mongolian men at bay with its strict rules. Others praise Buddhism for its cultural and educational impact during the dark ages of Mongolian society. But one thing is sure, Buddhism played an important role in the history of Mongolia and nobody can deny it.

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