Buddhism and Shamanism
Under Genghis Kahn (1161-1227) there was religious freedom for Mongolians. A Christian diplomat from Mongolia sent
to Europe by Genghis Kahn was surprised to find that only one religion was tolerated in each of the European countries.
Genghis Kahn was a follower of Shamanism, while several of his sons married Christians. Five hundred years ago the
government of Mongolia decided that making Buddhism the official religion would serve to unite the country, although
religious freedom exists today in Mongolia. Prior to Stalin there were 700 to 900 monasteries in Mongolia. All but a
couple of the monasteries were destroyed by the Communists, and the monks were slaughtered in the purge of
Today, Buddhism and Shamanism coexist in Mongolia, while the full assortment of Christian missionaries proselytize the
Mongolians, often using free English classes and welfare to recruit Mongolians. This creates some ill filling as the
Buddhists do not have the same material resources to match the Christians. The few remaining temples in Mongolia are
not on a par with those found in other Asian countries.
The temple below is the main temple in Ulaanbaatar. It is a rather strange temple. When you walk in, there is a 6 story
tall gold Buddha that encompasses most of the room. It is impressive and totally beyond photographing because of the
Naturally, every temple had its prayer wheels.
The temple below is over two hundred years old and is one of only two locations in all of Mongolia where temples
survived the Stalanist destruction.
Above, inside the temple.
Below, note lady at alter in shorts and heels praying while monks chant.
Above, left, a monk blows the conch shell for a call to prayers.
Above right, a tree with an unusual amount of limbs for a Tamarack. So, in Mongolia, it becomes a sacred tree. It is
draped with silk scarves. Jackie and our guide circled it three times for good luck and our driver left gifts of money on
Below, Jackie and guide circle this mound of stones three times and say prayers for good travel.
Towards the end of the trip, we reached paved highway and put on our shoulder belts, unlike our guide and driver. I
commented to the guide that in the US, Christians pray for safe travel. In Mongolia they stop and say prayers at the
mounds of stones. I say no prayers and my odds are the same as those who pray. However, shoulder belts have been
proven to reduce fatalities by 65%, so I thought that would work better than prayer. For the next couple hours our
guide, but not our driver, used her harness belt. Obviously, my comment about shoulder belts being superior to prayer
had little effect as she continued the rest of the trip without the shoulder harness..
Left, the driver and
guide circle the
sacred spot three
times, say prayers,
and leave candy and
This may have been the most
unique temple we saw on the
trip. It was up a steep hill out in
the middle of nowhere.