Buddhism in Mongnolia


Statue on side

General Information

Smith College, the Five College Buddhist Studies faculty, and the Manjushri Institute of Buddhist Studies invite you to attend a conference March 27–29, 2009 on Buddhism in Mongolia: Rebirth and Transformation. More than twenty specialists in history, religion, anthropology, and art from Mongolia, North America and Europe will share their current research and insights into Mongolian Buddhist art, history of Buddhism in Mongolia, and rebirth and transformation.

flagsWe see this as an important event. After more than a millenium of alternating relations of domination with China, Mongolia fell under Soviet communist control in the early 1920s and all Buddhist institutions in Russia and Mongolia were destroyed by the 1930s. Since the lost of Tibetan independence in 1951, not a single central Asian Buddhist country has enjoyed freedom of self–determination. In addition to great human suffering, the few remaining religious and cultural traditions and institutions have existed only under oppressive political conditions.

Mongolia is the first Central Asian Buddhist country to emerge from communist rule, but to re–establish their Buddhist traditions they have many obstacles to overcome. Not least is the loss of virtually all senior teachers and institutions. Nonetheless, following the break–up of the Soviet Union in 1990, Mongolian nationals have worked hard to restore Buddhist institutions, to provide educational opportunities to a new generation of teachers, and to consider what new forms Buddhist education must take under current global conditions.

These efforts are taking place quietly and without much attention from outside Mongolia. The Tibetan community in exile has been supportive, but their own situation limits the kinds of help they can provide. Relatively few western scholars view or study Mongolian Buddhist traditions as separate and distinct from Tibetan Buddhism. Mongolians themselves know little about the history of Mongolian Buddhism and earlier communist propaganda as well as recent Christian evangelizing continue to cast Mongolian Buddhism in a largely negative light.