Tuesday, May 21, 2013


(Initially posted on 6/19/12)

Young Mongol Lamas
A friend of mine says, his son is studying  Buddhism in India and he is doing fine. Well, that's good to hear, but I started  to worry about his son and other young  "Lamas" who are sent there on a mission to become spiritual masters of Buddhism. (The term "Lama" originates from Tibetan language, meaning  "priest".)

Nowadays we say, Mongolia is now rich on "Nam"  and  "Lam". Nam means "party" (political party)  in Mongolian and "Lam" derives from "Lama" (Buddhist priest). Total of 21 political parties are registered officially today in Mongolia. Way too many for 1.8 mill. people who are eligible to vote.  One can expect much higher number  of Lamas but unfortunately  I could not find out how many Lamas we have today.
I heard that in earlier times when every family had "own" Lama, the total number of Lamas was very high compared to the whole population back then.  The capital city of Mongolia must have had alone 100 thousand Lamas practicing in many temples back in 1920s.

According to the "Lama rules" , they were not allowed to marry and that was one of the factor to hinder Mongolians to grow in numbers. Plus, the previous wars with its neighbors, China and Russia, and beyond, caused devastating loss in number of people. No wonder that in proper Mongolia live today not even 3 mill. people. (Yes, there are some more Mongols live in Buryatia- a Republic of Russian Federation, and in Southern Mongolia, aka "Inner Mongolia" - now a province of China.)
But  today's subject is  "Mongolian Lamas in India". Why I should worry about young Mongols going to India or Tibet to study Buddhism? The following story will explain why.  This story is  about a young Mongolian guy  who went through all this nightmare I want to share with our readers.

Our hero  was a normal country boy who became a "Lama" at a countryside temple at the age of 12 because his parents and relatives believed that he was the "born-again-soul" of the deceased Lamas who were his relatives and were shot to death by the communists around 1937.

He sure was a smart boy and  soon became one of the best young Lamas, fluent in Tibetan language.  In 2003, a high-ranked Lama visited  the region where our hero lived, and decided to allow 3 best Lamas to study further in India.

It was a delightful news for him  and his family. The only problem was the cost of $3000 which was way too much for a family of this level of living standard.  But they  managed somehow to  collect the amount,  by selling their animals and  by borrowing money, and some donation from  local  people helped too.
Finally, he headed to India, via South Korea, amazed and excited from all the never-seen-before things which were totally strange  and interesting to a boy who even never visited  the capital city of his own country.  He flew to Bombay, India, and drove to Bangalore  and then to a  village   called  Bylakuppe  where he and his other two lama-friends will  be living and study. 

Bylakuppe is home to two  of  several  Tibetan  settlements  which were established  on lands leased by the Indian government to accommodate  some of the Tibetan refugees who came to settle down in India after 1959.  Bylakuppe is located south of Kushalnagar town  and is 240 km   from Bangalore Airport.

A large educational monastic institution called Sera  is located here and that is where our hero  came  to study. The famous Sera monastery.  It looks like a big  university campus where thousands of students live and study. The monastery has two colleges and  three main temples, and the monks receive complete knowledge  in the teachings and practices of Buddhism.

Morning assembly session at Sera monastery, India
Debate exam
Sera is home to some 15 thousand monks from many countries like Mongolia, Japan, China, India, Korea, Tibet, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines and others. A total of  70 monks  were  from Mongolia when our hero arrived with his two friends.  Three new Mongol monks were  shown nice and warm  welcome but soon  an old "student" monk  from Mongolia approached  them  and whispered , "Stay away from these Tibetan monks" and disappeared  without any explanation.  A new world was waiting for him. Rice, rice and again rice.  Plus, flat bread similar  to pita bread and some spicy stuff. Tough challenge for someone whose main dish was meat.
Debating with other monks was exciting; sometimes it led to a fist fight.

Not all 15 thousand lamas study Buddhism at this place. Sera monastery has its own  lands where the lamas  plant vegetables and other stuff   to meet  their own food needs.  The majority of those lamas, except the 2000 lamas who really do the studying, would work on those  fields instead of  going to classroom.

A very warm and  "too friendly"  relationship existed between the old lamas and young ones. One evening a Mongol monk suddenly disappeared and his  fellow monks  from Mongolia started looking for him but without success.  A monk from Nepal told the Mongols that Tibetan monks have  kidnapped him.
They couldn't find their countryman and the next morning  he was found laying in his bed. When they asked where he was, he  just cried. They have seen some blood spots  on his bed sheets. Rumors going around about devils kidnapping young lamas.

Our hero noticed that his roommate has changed and looked sad. When he asked if he was homesick, his roommate replied that one of the old lamas has been giving him love letters. His roommate said he is  ashamed of what happened  and that the old lama  has touched him and rubbed his fingers.  Our hero couldn't believe it. The next day at school our hero watched that old lame who was bothering  his roommate and saw him starring at his friend all the time and that he wasn't wearing an underwear.  During the breaks between the lessons, the old lama would touch his friend's arms and rub his backs while other lamas were amusing  about what was happening.  The  friend of our hero  could not do anything to stop this, let alone  protest.

It was unbelievable for our hero that a man could fall in love with another man, especially a lama. For him it was a sin. He decided not to let the old lama to his room but it didn't help a lot. The old guy would come to their apartment anyway and beg to let him inside to see the young Mongol lama. This Tibetan lama would even cry when he was not allowed to go in.
Once again a rumor went  around that the Mongol lama, who was kidnapped earlier once,  has disappeared again.

The kidnapped young Mongol lama came back soon, but he wasn't crying. His compatriots heard a rumor that he was  kidnapped and raped by 10 Tibetan lamas.  They must have taken him by threatening with knives which they carry all the time and  gang raped him in a dark room.

When our hero asked a fellow Mongol lama if that was true, he was told that this has been a tradition since the development of Buddhism. There is one secret here, his fellow Mongol lama said, and that is the homosexual prostitution among the lamas.  It is hidden under the cover name of the "Relationship between the teacher-lama and student-lama". There are big lamas who would not spend a single night without a young lama in his bed.

After hearing all this, our hero was disgusted and from now on he was  curious  about   the world surrounding him instead of concentrating on studying.  He learned that most of the older lamas have "own" partners, young lamas, and that about 500 young lamas practice prostitution. Prostitute-lamas take anything as "payment", clothes, food or  few  rupees (Rupee is the official Indian currency) . He learned also that many  young Mongol lamas  became "partners".

One day lamas went to see the mighty Ganga river, a symbol  of faith and hope. But it was a disappointment because the  famous Ganga turned out to be the most dirtiest river of the world.  Ganga became a cemetery for deceased people (bodies are  just dumped  in the river) , an open laundry for  washing  clothes, an open pool to wash one's bodies, a place to baptize new-born  children,  and a pot where  all the sewage  go in.

After two years of all  these experiences and disappointment, our hero decided to go home. Enough is enough. His back travel route  was not without adventures. Without money, there was no choice but to cross the India-Nepal border on foot, and he successfully entered Nepal. But it wasn't easy to go to China from Nepal. He spent even some time in immigration prison because of a  visa problem when he was in Nepal.  He lost all hopes when he was in prison, but one day , to his surprise,  there was a visitor to see him.

A Mongolian journalist headed to Nepal  with his friends to make a documentary film and that is when they heard about our hero. They got  somehow the permission to visit our hero at the prison  where they found out what happened to  him. They told him to stay strong for a month and promised to help him. They kept their word and thank  the help from  Buyanbadrakh M., the journalist from NTV, and S.Otgonbaatar who  donated all the costs , our hero is back to Mongolia, safe and sound. I want to use this opportunity to thank those two guys for everything they did for this  poor boy.

He has no  desire to practice Buddhism anymore, after all this nightmare and wants  to lead  a normal life.
He wants to have a family and be a good father and husband.
Everything our hero had to experience was a big lesson for our young people and their parents who want to send their boys to other countries, like India and Tibet, and  hopefully it will stop the growing trend of becoming lamas.
I personally oppose the fact that too many boys becoming lamas and that way building an army of a non-productive class which is obviously  useless  to our country where we are short of manpower anyway. 

1 comment:

  1. Good story, well deserving of relaying. This problem does not only exist in the buddhist religion. No doubt there are genuine places of learning and dedicated, holy senior lamas. But people should be aware and be careful.
    Congratulations to his benefactors.