L. Bělka INSTITUTION OF MONGOLIAN (KHALKHA) JIBZUNDAMBA KHUTUGTU: RELIGION AND POLITICS ON THE THRESHOLD OF THE 21ST CENTURY1
Mark Juergensmeyer in his book of 1993 entitled «The New Cold War?» (with a question mark and subtitle «Religious Nationalism Confronts Secular State»)2 asks whether Buddhism and democracy can exist side by side in Outer Mongolia, as both of them will certainly experience their revival3. More than ten years have passed since the publication of the book, the above mentioned decade is a history, and thus we may attempt to seek an answer to Juergensmeyer’s question. One of the key related issues is the role and position of the traditional institution of the Mongolian (Khalkha) Bogda (Holy One) or Bogda Gegen (Holy Brilliance or Holy Incarnate Lama, i. e. the supreme repre-
1 This work was supported by the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic, project No. 401/08/0762 (2008–2010): «Deities of Tibetan Religions: Approach of the Academic Studies of Religions». 2 Juergensmeyer M. The New Cold War? Religious Nationalism Confronts Secular State. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. 3 About the revival see e. g.: Siklos B. Mongolian Buddhism: A Defensive Account // Mongolia Today / Ed. by Sh. Akiner. London: Kegan Paul, 1991. P. 155–182.
sentative of local Buddhist community (Sanskr. sangha)1. His title is also known as Jibzundamba Khutugtu (Jebdzundamba, Tib. rje btsun dam pa, Jebtsundamba, JetsunDampa); in Inner Mongolia Bogda Gegen is called the Aru Bogda (Northern Holy One)2. In the ХХth century, this institution underwent fundamental changes, which had not been caused by the inner dynamics of the Sangha, but had been caused by external influences and were politically motivated. The case of the institution of Jibzundamba Khutugtu is a model example of political intervention into the development of a religious structure, intervention into a system that had been developing for centuries. This intervention that in the first third of the ХХth century came mainly from abroad was so intense and radical that it almost resulted in the extinction of the religious institution of Jibzundamba Khutugtus. This did not happen in the end; the Ninth Jibzundamba Khutugtu does exist; however, he does not occupy his original position within the Mongolian Sangha. The present head of the Sangha is the Mongolian Bandido Khambo Lamas, i. e. the representative of the monastic community, who as a rule is loyal to the regime in power. The Mongolian Bandido Khambo Lama is installed to his office by election, contrary to the institution of Jibzundamba Khutugtus, who were found as incarnations, tulku (Tib. sprul sku, Sanskr. nirmanakaya). The position of the Ninth Jibzundamba Khutugtu is not accepted unambiguously and is not recognized by everyone as the highest Mongolian Buddhist hierarch. However, it is possible to come across the following opinion: «In contemporary world His Holiness the Jibzundamba Khutugtu is the second most important teacher of Dharma after His Holiness the Dalai Lama…»3. Mongolian society went through such transformation in the ХХth century as never before and it must be said that the changes most affected the political and religious domain. Although revolutionary changes in the beginning of the 1990s removed immediate power of the regime based on scientific atheism ideology of the Soviet type, it is not possible to return to traditional institutions like Jibzundamba Khutugtu and theocracy, at least not in the nearest future. Religious life cannot be restored in its original form and we cannot think that the 60 years’ interruption is a mere pause on the way. Radical changes in Mongolian religion already affected the Eighth Jibzundamba Khutugtu, the last theocratic ruler of Khalkha Ngawang Lobzang Chökyi Nyima (Tib., ngag dbang blo bzang chos kyi nyi ma, 1870–1924). In the summer of 1921
the Mongolian People’s Party, supported by the Bolshevik Russia, won the election and on the 25th July of the same year the «permanent people’s government of independent Mongolia» was established, yet it did not dare to overthrow the theocratic ruler. The result was that the Eighth Jibzundamba Khutugtu formally remained the head of the Mongolian state and Buddhist Sangha till his death in May 1924. Only then did the constitutional monarchy «de iure»1 turn into a Communist dictatorship «de facto». After the Eighth Jibzundamba Khutugtu’s death, the issue of his successor nonetheless arose. Because his status was that of an «identified reincarnation», the procedure of finding a successor was subject to the traditional rules which, in general, were connected with the participation of the state government in the identification of the new theocratic ruler. Nonetheless, the Communist power structures rejected these rules. A resolution of the Mongolian People’s Party officially forbade Mongolian Buddhists to search and recognize the new Ninth Jibzundamba Khutugtu. Yet strangely enough, this political act – whose intention was to eliminate the power of Mongolia’s theocratic rulers – was based on a religious idea. It is remarkable that a pronounced atheistic and purely political solution of the religious matter was based on recognition of a Buddhist myth as a truth: «The Jibzundamba Khutugtus have deserved extremely well of our Mongol religion and state, and when it came to the Eighth Incarnation he freed Mongolia from Chinese oppression and laid the foundation for it to become a state, cherishing and protecting it, and finally demonstrated the impermanence of this transitory world and passed away. And as there is a tradition that after the Eighth Incarnation he will not be reincarnated again, but thereafter will be reborn as the Great General Hanamand in the realm of Shambhala, there is no question of installing the subsequent Ninth Incarnation»2.
The idea of Mongolian Bolsheviks of the XXth century to interrupt, or better to terminate the continual lineage of the highest Mongolian hierarchs did not come true. Because of extraordinary political sensitivity of the whole matter of recognizing and enthroning the Ninth Jibzundamba Khutugtu, Lhasa decided to keep this issue in secret, which happened for the first time in the history of Tibetan Buddhism. Thus, it seemed that the outwardly proclaimed aim – to end the existence of Jibzundamba Khutugtus – was reached. Tibetan Buddhist administration led the world believe it for almost seventy years. Even if this fact – that the lineage of Jibzundamba Khutugtus was not interrupted – had been made public at the end of the 1920s and beginning of the 1930s, for political reasons it would not have been possible to enthrone the Ninth Jibzundamba Khutugtu in Urga (today’s Ulaanbaatar) at that time. The whole country was under the political influence of the Soviet Union, the capital was renamed, religious structures were collapsing and Buddhism became enemy number one for Bolsheviks in the same way as it was in the neighboring Soviet Buryatia and Mongolia. In this situation it was not only impossible to transport the Ninth Jibzundamba Khutugtu from Central Tibet to Mongolia, but it also became apparent that
1 See e. g.: Skrynnikova T. D. Rol Chzhebtszun-damba-khutukty v tserkovnoi organizatsii mongol’skogo lamaizma XVII v. [The Jibzundamba Khutugtu’s Role in the Church Organization of Mongolian Lamaism in 18th Century] // Buddizm i srednevekovaia kul’tura narodov Tsentral’noi Azii / Pod red. X. Gerasimovoi [Buddhism and the Middle Ages Culture of Central Asia Nations]. Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1980. P. 18–32 (in Russian); see also: Skrynnikova T. D. Lamaistskaia tserkov’ i gosudarstvo. Vneshnaya Mongolia XVI – nach. XX v. [Lamaist Church and the Government. Outer Mongolia XVIth – Beginning of the ХХth Centuries]. Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1988 (in Russian); a detailed overview of the Jibzundamba Khutugtus see e. g.: Atwood Ch. P. Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire. Facts on File. New York, 2004. P. 267–275. 2 Atwood Ch. P. Op. cit. P. 267; see also: the Ninth The Jibzundamba Khutugtu’s personal site: http://www.jetsundhampa.com/ 3 Zhambalova S., Urbanayeva I. Ego Svyateishestvo Bogdo Gegen Deviatyi Khalkha Dzhebzun Damba Rimpoche. [His Holiness Bogdo Gegen the Ninth Jibzundamba Khutugtu Rimpoche]. UlanUde: Zelenaya Tara, 2005 (in Russian). P. 6.
Siklos B. Mongolian Buddhism. P. 171. Bawden Ch. The Modern History of Mongolia. London & New York: Kegan Paul International, 1989. Р. 262–263.
it would have been appropriate and secure not to publicize the whole issue of Jibzundamba Khutugtu. According to Franz Michael, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama Thubten Gyatso (Tib. thub bstan rgya mtsho, 1876–1933) states in his testament that the «finding of the Great Lama of Urga was forbidden»1, but he does not provide any particular instruction on how to proceed in this situation. It is well-known from literature that the Ninth Mongolian Jibzundamba Khutugtu from Khalkha, high representative of the Gelugpa order, Jampal Chokyi Gyaltshan (Tib. ’jam dpal chos skyi rgyal mtshan) was born near Lhasa in 19322 and when he was four years old, he was recognized reincarnation of Taranatha from the lineage of Mongolian (Khalkha) Jibzundamba Khutugtus. Due to the abovementioned circumstances, when Mongolian revolutionary regime officially cancelled this institution and forbade seeking his next incarnation, the new hierarch was not officially introduced into his post after the decision of Lhasa administration. From the age of seven he studied philosophy, ritual and meditation in Gomang datsang school (Tib. sgo mang grwa) of Drepung Monastery (Tib. ’bras spungs). One of his teachers was, apart from other monks, Geshe Thubten Nyima (Tib. thub bstan nyi ma) from Buryatia. Jampal Chokyi Gyaltshan finished his studies obtaining the title of lharampa (Tib. lha ram pa). From the age of twenty-one he meditated in seclusion for four years. In 1959, he fled to India together with the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, where he lived and worked until 1991. In this year, he went to Mongolia, together with the Dalai Lama, to perform the ritual of donating clothes. Some Buddhists understood his visit as the second coming of Jibzundamba Khutugtu to Mongolia, while others insisted that the head of Mongolian Buddhists remains Bandito Khambo Lama from Ulaanbaatar. Thus, the position of the Ninth Jibzundamba Khutugtu is not accepted unequivocally by Mongolian and Buryat Buddhists, and he is not unanimously recognized as the head of Mongolian Buddhists. Since the beginning of the 1990, he traveled a lot, and visited USA and Europe. His seat remains in Namgyal Monastery in Indian Dharamsala3. For a long time he was not able, or allowed to visit Mongolia and this was for two reasons. The first one was, and probably still is, political and economic pressure on part of China, which is not interested in strengthening the position of Tibetan exile community in neighboring territories. The other reason followed from the internal situation in Mongolia both in the political and religious area. The fall of the former regime in the beginning of the 1990s did mean a positive change for people but on the other hand it brought about a lot of problems, which resulted in repeated 1
Michael F. Rule by Incarnation: Tibetan Buddhism and Its Role in Society and State. Boulder: Westview, 1982. P. 173. 2 This year of born states Fabian Sanders (see: Sanders F. The Life and Lineage of the Ninth Khalkha Jetsun Dampa Khutukhtu of Urga // Central Asian Journal. No 45/2. 2001. P. 293); other sources state an earlier year of born – 1925, see e. g.: Zhambalova S., Urbanayeva I. Op. cit. P. 4. 3 For details see: Hertzog S. A Buddhist in Mongolia // http://www.mol.mn/dharma/index.html/ (30. 11. 1999); see also: Anonymus. The Ninth Khalkha Jetsun Dampa // http://www.indiana.edu/ ~mongsoc/ mong/jetsun.htm (10. 11. 1999); see also Erffa W. von. Uncompromising Tibet: Tradition – Religion – Politics. New Delhi, 2001. P. 126. 312
switching of governments on the opposite end of the range of political parties, political instability and crises. The present Mongolian Sangha was affected with these problems as well; we can speak of a certain schism and crisis in the community. From time to time, a request appeared at various popular gatherings and demonstrations for the Ninth Jibzundamba Khutugtu to return to Mongolia and to assume his position; however, this was found impossible. None of contemporary Mongolian politicians can concede to the return of the Ninth Jibzundamba Khutugtu to the traditional form of government. In the course of the history of Mongolia, Jibzundamba Khutugtu was almost an unlimited ruler and owner of the country and this state cannot be restored for historical reasons. There is another, religious complication. Since the end of World War II, Mongolia has had a different institution of the head of ecclesiastical structure, Bandido Khambo Lama. The Ninth Jibzundamba Khutugtu is moreover a Tibetan living in exile, who in fact has nothing in common with Mongolia. All these problems are dealt with by Fabian Sanders, who cites his interview with the Nitnh Jibzundamba Khutugtu: «For his part the Ninth Jibzundamba Khutugtu is a meek man in his late sixties and has no political interest whatsoever, his only wish is to be able help in the teaching and preservation of the Buddhist Dharma in its most pure, traditional and correct form . He also lays no claim of properties, palaces or items that belonged to his predecessor, and is of the firm opinion that the conditions of the world have changed dramatically during his “absence”. As such he maintains that it would be unrealistic, anachronistic and dangerous to try to revive the past»1.
What is going to happen with the institution of the Dalai Lama after the death of his contemporary fourteenth rebirth (Tenzin Gyatsho, Tib. bstan ‘dzin rgya mtsho) is a delicate topic but not closed to public discussion. It is related to the political urgency of the situation, which increases with time, and it is also related to the fact that Tibetans and those in exile in particular, are more open when issues of death are concerned. In the history of Tibet, this would be the first time that the search for next rebirth of the Dalai Lama is organized from abroad. The previous Thirteenth Dalai Lama was twice in exile (first in 1904–1905 in Urga, Inner Mongolia, and for the second time in 1910–1912 in Darjeeling, Sikkim), but that was for a short period and thus the new exile habitus originated in the latter half of last century. Tibetan exile does not conceal that everything is prepared for the search. According to the tradition and to the existing Tibetan constitution a three-member regent committee will be elected, which will be at the head of the exile political system. Its most important task will be to organize the search and recognizing of the new rebirth of the Dalai Lama. However, there is one complication – the Chinese religious policy that more or less intensely and strictly regulates Tibetan Buddhism in the territory of the People’s Republic of China. There are legitimate fears that the search for the new Dalai Lama may turn into a similar affair as was in the case of the Panchen Lama. The Ninth Jibzundamba Khutugtu is now an old man and his return to Ulaanbaatar as the head of the Mongolian Sangha and as the theocratic ruler of the country is com1
Sanders F. Op. cit. P. 302. 313
pletely inconceivable. It is not his wish as far as political ambitions are concerned, either. He himself says in this context that his political role has ceased to exist and it would be an anachronism to try to restore it: «My mission is only religious, not political»1. What is going to happen next? It is probable that the future will be in certain respect similar or at least interconnected with the future of the institution of the Dalai Lama. However, there is one difference – Outer Mongolia unlike Inner Mongolia is not part of the People’s Republic of China and so the position of the Dalai Lama (and Dharamsala in northern India, the seat of exile government and Dalai Lama’s residence) and Jibzundamba Khutugtu (and Ulaanbaatar) is different from the point of Beijing and Lhasa. The thing is that China is a superpower, which gradually strengthens its influence in the region of Inner Asia, which is the territory of other Buddhist countries and regions such as Buryatia, Mongolia and Amdo. This means that religious and political officials in Ulaanbaatar cannot ignore this fact. If it was Lhasa, namely the Dalai Lama that has always approved the recognized reincarnations of Jibzundamba Khutugtus, it will be important whether this tradition will be maintained or come to its end or whether it will transform in any manner. If everything remains as it is, then it is important who will search for and approve the new Tenth Jibzundamba Khutugtu. It is a matter of the future and probably of a near future; however because the matter is so much complicated, it is not possible to predict anything now. The problem of succession, i.e. who is going to be the fifteenth Dalai Lama, is growing more acute with time. In this context information appeared, which in case it is confirmed and comes true, may mean a revolutionary breakthrough in the system of existing Tibetan Buddhism, particularly in one area – organization of the search for the supreme «theocratic ruler». The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatsho, has repeatedly pointed to the fact that he may be the last Dalai Lama. This declaration may not be a big surprise as such; hints of this attitude may be found also with his predecessor, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso, in 1932. Besides this statement, which is revolutionary enough, another declaration was issued, which would completely change the existing rules for the determination of new Dalai Lamas. The Fourteenth Dalai Lama in his statement of 2007 said that he would determine his successor directly and at present. Sensu stricto this means that he will identify his new Bodhisattva rebirth before his death. No further details of his new rebirth have been made public yet. What are the reasons for this new decision? The reasons are apparently not to be found in the religious domain, rather than on the political level. It is a religious decisions ensuing from the political situation2. The risk that the situation concerning the Eleventh Panchen Lama would repeat, when the Chinese government did not 1
Quoted from: Ibid. P. 303. The Fourteenth Dalai Lama responded to the «Management Measures for the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism», approved by the People's Republic of China’s State Administration of Religious Affairs on 13 July 2007 which took effect from 1st September 2007. These measures were designed to further strengthen the interference of Chinese authorities in the proces of identification of new tulkus. For an analysis of this document see: Slobodník M. Alter Wein in neue Schläuche. Die Verwaltungsmaßnahmen für die Reinkarnation Lebender Buddhas des tibetischen Buddhismus // China heute. 2007. No. 26/6. P. 226–229. 2
acknowledge and later even imprisoned a Tibetan boy (recognized as the rebirth of the Eleventh Panchen Lama) on the one hand and with the help of loyal Tibetans enthroned their rebirth on the other hand is alarming enough. The Fourteenth Dalai Lama took the above-mentioned step in order to prevent such situation. He disarms Beijing by introducing this issue ahead of time, in other words he himself says that he will decide upon his successor, his future rebirth himself and in no case he will give the Chinese government a chance to interfere with the process. On the other hand the Fourteenth Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Exile Government have has no means to avoid China’s installation of the next Dalai Lama. And again – interpreted sensu stricto – the Dalai Lama has always decided on his rebirth as Bodhisattva himself, as the place, time and circumstances of the birth are in his powers according to the Tibetan Buddhism and in this sense it is him who decides on his successor. Another thing is that the search and recognition of this reborn individual are in the competency of the search committee, which commenced their activity only after a Dalai Lama’s death and from this point he could not exert ad direct influence upon them and could not be involved in their activity. This measure, consisting in excluding the search committee from the process of determination of the Dalai Lama’s successor is understandable in the light of recent events concerning the Eleventh Panchen Lama, however it does not say anything about the nature of the change, which is a totally unprecedented intervention into the Tibetan tradition. The truth is that recent events are not in fact too surprising. The original, long-term and intentional policy of isolation of the Tibetan state was first disrupted at the beginning of the 20th century, when the Thirteenth Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatsho left twice for exile and started reforms of social, political and most of all religious nature. Tibetan Buddhism underwent truly radical changes only after the Chinese occupation of the territory of Tibet in the beginning of the 1950s, particularly after 1959. In this year, the unsuccessful anti-Chinese uprising was carried out, which was followed by the exodus of approximately 100,000 Tibetans to India (part of them was the highest clergy). Part of the refugees (again often high Lamas) did not stay in Asia and continued to the USA, Europe and Australia. As a result of the unexpected and new presence of Lamas in other countries Buddhism ceased to be the «mysterious and inaccessible Himalayan religion» and became a more or less common (although still exotic and minority) part of the contemporary religious scene of Western civilization. The original ethnic religion thus has spread worldwide thanks to opening of Tibetan Buddhism to the world and great popularity of the Dalai Lama. The current Dalai Lama’s statement is a continuation of the trend, which reflects not only favorable acceptance of this religion in the prevailing Jewish and Christian environment of the West, but is also a clear response to the Chinese government policy towards Tibetan Buddhism in the last fifty years. This policy transforms and oscillates from harsh and brutal reprisals of the so-called Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) to tolerance, when religion serves as a showcase of the regime arranged for the West1. 1 For an analysis of Chinese religious policy towards Tibetan Buddhism see: Slobodník M. Mao a Buddha: náboženská politika voči tibetskému buddhizmu v Číne. [Mao and Buddha: China’s Religious Policy towards Tibetan Buddhiusm]. Bratislava: Chronos, 2007.
This is what reminds of the government policy towards religion in the tsarist Russia, then the USSR and todayâ€™s Russian Federation. Globalization has affected also Tibetan Buddhism and the situation is rather ambiguous. On the one hand there is approval of and support for the Dalai Lamaâ€™s efforts aiming at the real autonomy of Tibet within China (however, it is not a separatist movement, as Beijing claims); on the other hand there is the real policy of the Western world towards the ever growing and strengthening China. The increasing economic and related political power of the PRC leads the Western world into a dilemma that is hard to solve. It is true that each countryâ€™s response is a little bit different, but overall attitude of the West towards the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism is positive. We will have to wait, whether this attitude will change as substantially as the situation is changing in the diaspora.
1 This work was supported by the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic, project No. 401/08/0762 (2008–2010): «Deities of Tibetan Religions: App...
Published on Jan 12, 2012
1 This work was supported by the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic, project No. 401/08/0762 (2008–2010): «Deities of Tibetan Religions: App...