Gaden Relief Projects

Helping Mongolians preserve their unique culture.

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Mongolia Report
October 11, 2004

By Zasep Tulku Rinpoche

Hi everyone,

We had wonderful trip to Mongolia again.Traveling in Mongolia is much easier and safer then Tibet and China. This year three sangha members traveled to Mongolia with me: Andrew Wrotek and Sharon Gretzinger [from Canada and] Catherine from Australia. We arrived in Ulaan Baatar, the capital city of Mongolia, on August 21. Soon after our arrival in UB we saw our beloved Guru Deva Rinpoche and Zava Damdin Rinpoche, the heads of Amarbayasgalant Monastery and the Amar Mur Buddhist Centre in UB.

Young monks lined up to see Buddha's relics.

The relics of Lord Budddha arrived in UB few days before us. The United Nations sponsored the tour of Buddha's relics in Mongolia and a number of other countries like Chile and Brazil. Tibetan and Mongolian lamas, a Sri Lankan monk and a nun from Thailand led the tour. It was a very auspicious time because Buddha's relics traveled wherever we planned to travel in Mongolia. Thousands of people lined up from 9 am to 6 pm, including a 105 year-old lady and small children, at the National Theatre in UB ready to receive blessings from the relics of Lord Buddha. We traveled to Erdine Zuu, the ancient capital site of Ogdee Khan and Kublai Khan, and to the town of Kotansum towards the centre of the country and to Amarbayasgalant Monastery in the north. Thousands of people come to see the relics of Lord Buddha.

Rinpoche receiving blessings of Buddhas relics

The water project to drill a well at Amarbayasgalant was successful. The health of the monks has improved since they got clean water. The monastery is now planning to build a kitchen, dining room, and shower next year. The monks are grateful to Gaden Relief and Gaden Choling Buddhist Centre in Canada for the support. Gaden Relief donated $11,000 (US) for drilling the well at Amarbayasgalant. Sharon offered tooth brushes and sewing kits and Catherine offered English language and medicine books and sunglasses to the monks. I delivered some gore-tex and fleece jackets donated by Ben and Christine in Australia.

Rinpoche with young monks of Amarbayasgalant Monastery

Zava Damdin Rinpoche and the monks at Amarbayasgalant offered me a long life puja at the grand assembly hall with its one thousand statues of Lama Je Tsongkhapa. I accepted the long life puja. I felt it will be benefical for my life and if I live longer I could do more service for Buddha Dharma in Mongolia in the future. It was great honour and joy to receive this kind of offering.

With Zava Damdin Rinpoche and dog

Time at the monastery was over quickly and life is like a dream. It was hard for us to say good bye to gentle boy monks. The monks gave us mongolian blue scarves saying "RINPOCHE GALAY PEB" in Tibetan and running after our car. Some of us in tears. Sad to leave Amarbayasgalant.

When we got to UB our friend Gerlee said that Zava Damdin Rinpoche said we are going to Dundgobi (central Gobi) Monastery the following afternoon. We were all excited to travel to the Gobi monastery for a few days. We arrived at Delgeruun Choira Monastery at 9 pm after traveling by jeep for 6 hours on a dirt road with lots bumps and holes. It was a wonderful trip, and we got small taste of traveling in the Gobi Desert.

I was very inspired by Zava Damdin Rinpoche's dedication to rebuild the monastery of his previous incarnations. There were 900 monks at Delgerstog Choira Monastery before 1939. This monastery was one of the best monastery for debate and logic and philosophic studies in Mongolia. The previous Zava Damdin Rinpoche was a great Mahasiddha and scholar from the central Gobi. He wrote 16 volumes of commentaries of sutras and tantras and many sadhanas.

Zava Damdin Rinpoche raised funds to rebuild the Delgerstog Choira temple. The construction of the temple is underway. Rinpoche's brother, an artist and tangka painter, and three others are working seven days a week. They are committed to completing the main temple before snow comes to the Gobi. The tile roof for the Gobi temple arrived by train from Beijing day before we left Mongolia. Zava Damdin Rinpoche would like to build a kitchen, a shower, and put up ger yurts for retreat monks, nuns, and lay people.

We occasionally meet nomadic herders, and their camels came over to see us. We went for walks, watched the sunrise and sunset, and meditated here and there. Some local families and 80-year-old ladies came to receive blessings and they circumambulated around my yurt and Zava Rinpoche's yurt every morning.

Yurts at Delgeruun Choira Temple in the Gobi Desert

Delgerstog Choira temple is ideal place for people who would like to do meditation retreats, because life in the Gobi is very peaceful and there are no distractions except your own mind.

Camels in the Gobi Desert

Dolma is one of the nuns who remembered how the Russian and Mongolian Stalinist army destroyed Delgeruun Monastery in 1939. The soldiers took away most of the monks to labour camps as far as Siberia and Dolma never saw them again. Dolma remembered how some of the monks saved Dharma objects such as statues and books by putting them in pots and then loaded them on camels in the night and took them to the caves and buried them.

In 1991 when Mongolians were free again to worship and to rebuild monasteries, Dolma and some of her friends brought the Dharma objects back from the caves, and many of them are wonderfuly preserved. Dolma said she worked as a herder at the community collective farm for 40 years. Now Dolma is so happy to see that her monastery will be rebuilt and that the teachings of Lord Buddha and Lama Je Tsongkhpa will flourish once more in the Gobi Desert.

I would like to see the wish of Zava Damdin Rinpoche and Nun Dolma be fullfiled. Rebuilding Delgeruun Choira Gobi Monastery will be the next project for Gaden Relief.

Many blessings

Zasep Tulku Rinpoche