Buddha’s Relic From India To Be Displayed in Mongolia
NEW DELHI, (IANS) – India has decided to display a relic of the Buddha in Mongolia from June 14 for a period of 11 days. The initiative was at the request of the Mongolian government earlier this year when they sought display of the Buddha’s relic in Mongolia.
The relics, which are kept in the national museum and have very special significance, are usually not taken out of the country. However, as a special gesture it was decided to send the relic of the Buddha to Mongolia.
Mongolia is a Buddhist nation with 53 percent of the population being Buddhists. Large number of Buddhist monks, who have been keen on higher learning in Buddhism, have traditionally been traveling to India for pursuing Buddhist studies in different institutions. These individuals have formed the bulwark of Buddhist diplomacy between India and Mongolia. One of the most prominent Rinpoches from India who has also contributed significantly towards spread of Buddhism in Mongolia is Bakula Rinpoche, who was posted as the Ambassador of India to Mongolia from 1990 to 2000.
These were crucial years when the communist party’s hold on the state had come to an end in the Soviet Union with fallout effect on Mongolia too. As the country became free and people were keen to learn about different religions, Bakula Rinpoche’s presence in Mongolia was timely. He became so popular in Mongolia that large number of people visited him from different parts of the country to take his blessings. Bakula Rinpoche is revered in Mongolia till this day and his impressions would remain etched in the minds of the Buddhists of Mongolia for years to come.
The relic of Buddha being taken to Mongolia will be placed at the Gandan Monastery and would be visited by people from across the country.
Another deep association that Mongolia has with Tibetan Buddhism is the fact that the title of ‘Dalai’ held by the Dalai Lama was given by the Mongol King Altan Khan. In 1578, Altan Khan, a Mongol military leader with ambitions to unite the Mongols and to emulate the career of Genghis Khan, invited the 3rd Dalai Lama, the head of the rising Gelug lineage to Mongolia. They formed an alliance that gave Altan Khan legitimacy and religious sanction for his imperial pretensions and that provided the Buddhist school with protection and patronage. Altan Khan recognized Sonam Gyatso Lama as a reincarnation of Phagpha Lama and gave the Tibetan leader the title of ‘Dalai Lama’, which his successors still hold.
To strengthen the hold of Altan Khan and add value to his rule, the 3rd Dalai Lama in return recognized Altan Khan as a reincarnation of Kublai Khan, who was regarded as the most powerful of the Khans. This recognition added strength to Altan Khan’s position and authority significantly. Thus, the connection between the Dalai Lama lineage and Mongolia also remains strong and deep rooted.
The presence of the relic of Buddha in Mongolia on an auspicious day as the Buddha Purnima which is celebrated in Mongolia and several parts of the world on June 14, is a significant feature as this would tend to make this year’s Buddha Purnima celebrations in Mongolia very special. The relic is considered equivalent to the presence of the Buddha and hence the relevance of the relic.
Significantly, with its long border with Mongolia, China has also been involved in the Buddhist circuit in Mongolia and has been trying to create a niche for itself among the Buddhists in Mongolia. Chinese influence in the Mongolian Buddhism circuit is visible though not as prominently. At the same time, being the land of the Buddha, India has a natural attraction for Buddhists from across the world.