Mongolia | Diluv Khutagt | Narobanchin Khiid
The Diluv Khutagt, who transmigrated in the USA in 1965, wrote an autobiography about his years in Mongolia. The original manuscript, written in vertical Mongolian script, is in the Library of Congress in Washington, D. C.
This is an excerpt from his Autobiography:
In 1931 I left Outer Mongolia, my native land, as a religious and political exile. I had been one of those accused of counter-revolutionary plotting in a state trial, which was the beginning of the destruction of my religion in Outer Mongolia. The root of my religion, Mahayana Buddhism, is in Tibet. I am afraid that now that both the Dalai Lama and the Panchan Lama, the two greatest Incarnations of this religion in Tibet, are in the power of the Chinese Communists, my religion may be destroyed also in Tibet. What I shall now describe is the organization of my religion as it was in the past, in Outer Mongolia. Under the Manchu Dynasty, from 1644 to 1911, Outer Mongolia consisted of the four great Aimaks or tribal confederations of Khalkha and the northwestern region of Kobdo where most of the tribes are not Khalkhas but Western Mongols. Each Aimak was divided into Banners, and each Banner was under a hereditary ruling prince. Through the Banners and Aimaks Outer Mongolia managed its own internal affairs. The Manchu Emperor stationed only a few high officials in Outer Mongolia as supervisors.
Parallel to this secular structure of government there was the structure of religious organization, under what Westerners generally call Lama Buddhism.
Most Banners maintained a monastery supported by Banner funds and private contributions. In addition there were monasteries, such as my own monastery of Narobanchin, that had territory of their own, deeded to them in the past by a Banner or Banners. In such territory, the church was both a religious institution and a civil institution. The monastery conducted the administration and collected the taxes. Internally, therefore, the monastery had a monastic organization. Externally, it had a civil administrative organization. On the civil side its affairs, like those of a Banner, were coordinated at a higher level through the Aimak, and the Aimaks, in turn, were under the supervision though not the direct administration of the high Manchu officials.
The hierarchy of my religion consists of the Incarnations of saints who, because they have freed themselves of sin and material illusion. could have entered into Nirvana, but have elected to remain in the material world in order to help others who are struggling to free themselves of sin and material illusion. The human body of such an Incarnation is merely a temporary vehicle. When the vehicle is outworn the body dies. The Incarnation then reappears in a new vehicle.
The most revered Incarnations are those of the Dalai Lama and Panchan Lama of Tibet. The most revered Incarnation in Outer Mongolia was that of the Jebtsundamba Hutukhtu of Urga.
This hierarchy must not be thought of as one that was dominated by commands and orders, or by religious decree. In Mongolia we thought of Tibet as the land of our religion, and we revered the Dalai Lama and Panchan Lama as greatest of Incarnations; but our offerings and pilgrimages to them were of own free will and they neither levied a tribute upon us nor issued religious decrees.. Similarly in Mongolia the Jebtsundamba Hutukhtu was the most widely deeply revered; but he ruled only within his own domain; he did not regulate or control other monasteries, such as mine.
In 1911, however, when the Manchu dynasty fell, all men, both princes Incarnations, looked to the Jebtsundamba Hutukhtu because he combined the greatest authority in the land, spiritual and secular, and he therefore became head of the government, as Bogda Khaghan, Holy Emperor, until his death 1924 when the new government, Communist-controlled and pro-Russian, did permit his Reincarnation to be discovered.
Until the fall of the Manchu dynasty, there were fourteen higher Incarnations in Outer Mongolia who, in their successive embodiments, after being recognized and installed by the Church, had to be confirmed in their incumbency by Manchu Emperor. Of these I am one.
My successive incarnations are as follows:
One of the companions and disciples of Gotama Buddha was Mangala.
One of his later Incarnations was Dilowa [Tilopa], who was so named because in his worldly occupation he was a pounder of sesamum seed to make oil. Tila is the Sanskrit of "sesamum." One of his later Incarnations, in Tibet, was Milarapa.
The first Incarnation of Milarapa to appear in Mongolia was Dambadorji. In the Ordos region of Inner Mongolia there are two groups of mountains, the Great and Little Arjai. In the caves in the Little Arjai, Dambadorji built his first monastery, in the period of the reign of the Ming dynasty in China (1368-1643). This monastery was destroyed by Legden Khan of the Chahar Mongols, in the time of trouble when the Ming dynasty of the Chinese was falling and the Ch 'ing dynasty of the Manchus being set up.
The next Incarnation of Dambadorji was Erhe Bogda Lama, who built the monastery of Banchin Jo, also in the Ordos. In the K'ang Hsi period of the Manchu dynasty (1662-1722) my incarnation was recognized, under the designation of Dilowa Hutukhtu, by the Manchu Emperors. My present Incarnation is the fifth under this designation, and the third to appear in Outer Mongolia.
While I was in the Ordos, under the designation of Erhe Bogda Lama, Narobanchin was my disciple. Later he was reincarnated in Outer Mongolia, and built the Narobanchin monastery.
When in a later reincarnation I myself appeared in the same region of Outer Mongolia, the Narobanchin Hutukhtu invited me to share his monastery with him, and thus it has been ever since, and that is why I am the Dilowa Hutukhtu of Narobanchin monastery.
In my present incarnation, I was born at a place called Oigong Bag, on the south side of the mountain called Bayan Airak, in the Banner of Tushie Gung, in the Aimak of Jasaktu Khan, in the year of the Monkey, the ninth year of the Manchu Emperor Kuang Hsü (1884), on the eighth day of the tenth moon, in the hour of the Dragon, according to the twelve-hour division of the day, about sunrise.
The family into which I was born were poor sheep-herders, living in a round, felt-covered tent. They had already had a daughter of fourteen and a son aged ten. I remember that in the year after my birth, the family owned only twenty sheep, four cows, and two horses. As a child I played about my father's camp, until at the age of five I was recognized as the fifth Reincarnation of the Dilowa Hutukhtu.
I was recognized in my new Incarnation in the following manner. When my previous Incarnation expired, lama diviners determined the general direction in which the search for the new Incarnation was to be made, and monasteries in that area had prepared at that time a list of forty children born in circumstances that might be miraculous. I was included in this list because at the time of my birth people had seen strange emanations of light coming from my father's tent. I was recognized as the Reincarnation because in my childish play I had frequently made reference to places near the Narobanchin monastery—places which actually existed but to which neither my family nor any of their acquaintances had ever been; and because, when an emissary from the monastery visited me, I immediately recognized as my own a bowl which he carried—a bowl that had belonged to me in my previous Incarnation.
Shortly after I had been recognized, a delegation arrived to escort me to the monastery. My family went along with me, bringing with them all their animals and possessions. I was taken into the monastery immediately. My family took up residence near the monastery and visited me occasionally; but from the age of five I was cared for entirely by lamas and received my religious and administrative training from them. At the age of fifteen I began to take an active part in the administration of the monastery, and at the age of eighteen, according to the regulations of the Manchu code, I took over full powers.
The Narobanchin monastery is about one-hundred and fifty miles south of the city of Uliastai, in the Aimak of Sain Noyon Khan. It had been built during the Ch'ien Lung reign (1736-1796) for the Narobanchin Hutukhtu, and had been named after him and given official status by the Manchu Emperor. Later, land was donated by the Banner where the monastery was situated and by a neighboring Banner, and after a petition to the Emperor, the monastery and its lands were recognized as a separate territorial and civil jurisdiction, on the same level as the twenty-four Banners of Sain Noyon Khan Aimak. In this way, the Narobanchin became a civil as well as a religious figure and was required to make periodic vassalage trips to Peking like the Banner princes.
The territory was about fifty miles east and west, and twenty-five miles north and south. Its boundary was marked by stone cairns. It consisted of a series of low mountains in the northern portion which drained southward across flat open ground into the Zavkhan River, running along the southern border of the territory.
The people of this territory consisted of families attached to the Narobanchin Hutukhtu. Such families are termed "disciples." At the time that the Narobanchin territory was created, these families were resident on the lands granted to the temple and were allocated to the Narobanchin as his subjects. They were later joined by other families which were officially transferred from other Banners. All of these families owed to the Narobanchin Hutukhtu not only their former customary religious obligations, but also their newly acquired civil obligations. They had, in fact, severed all formal civil and family ties with the Banners from which they had come. In the years of my present Incarnation, the number of these families was about four hundred-a total population of about eighteen hundred persons. They were all Mongols, except for a few Chinese who had come into the area as small merchants or artisans and had married Mongol women and settled down to live the life of Mongol herdsmen. None of the subjects of the monastery were nobles.
These families lived almost entirely by herding sheep, cattle, horses, and camels. They lived in round felt-covered tents, in small camps which moved from place to place during the year, following the grass and water. A few camps engaged in rudimentary farming, but only as a sideline to herding. Camps were almost entirely self-sufficient, but exchanged labor with each other, and traded off their surplus wool, hides, and animals to Chinese and Russian merchants in return for tea, grain and a variety of manufactured items.
There were a few specialists among my people—carpenters, tanners, animal doctors, bone-setters, and midwives—but these people were herdsmen, too, and employed their other skills on the side. For highly-skilled work in stone, wood and metal we had to call on Chinese artisans.
Because the monastery was the center of a territorial jurisdiction, as well as being a religious center, it was required to maintain a separate civil administration. This civil administration was subject to a Manchu code which, like the code applying to Banners, regulated the territory's relation with the Aimak, but did not regulate the internal administration of the territory.
The civil and religious departments were kept separate in the normal course of affairs—the civil administration concerning itself with the territory and the people, and the religious administration concerning itself with the internal administration of the monastery and the lamas. The civil department had ultimate authority however. The officer in charge of the civil department was a lama, appointed to his civil office by the Aimak, who had the responsibility for the conduct of affairs both outside and inside the monastery. He had the authority to remove officials from high religious offices, to discipline lamas for civil offenses, and to control church finances.
The obligations of the people to the civil administration were annual taxes on livestock, which were paid almost entirely in kind, and the providing of obligatory feudal services such as animals and carts for the transport system. These obligations were codified, and were the same as those civil obligations required in the purely secular Banner administrations, except that in the monastic territory no one was subject to military conscription.
All families were listed on a central register, which showed the name of the family head, the number of his dependents, and the amount of the family's wealth in livestock. Since family groups owned their property as a joint fund, family property was the unit of taxation. Taxes were used to meet the demands of the Aimak and for repair of local civil buildings. Collections were generally disposed of as soon as possible, and the civil administration did not have its own treasury.
The civil administration was responsible for seeing that the taxable wealth of the community was not reduced through poor management, and would assign certain families to help other families which could not properly manage their own herds. Otherwise the civil administration did not regulate the technology or economies of the territory. It did not engage in conservation measures, or the assignment of pasturage rights, and did not attempt to regulate the trading activities of the population.
All families in the territory were assigned for administrative purposes to one or the other of two "halves"—the East and the West—which actually had nothing to do with territorial grouping, since the people of both halves were mixed together throughout the area. Each of these halves was under a leader (the daroga, "great chief"). The families in each of these major subdivisions were further grouped into twelve smaller units of about sixteen families each, and placed in the charge of twelve minor leaders. Both big and small leaders had very few routine duties. Their primary function was to report changes in family size and wealth status at the annual budget meeting, and they were held responsible if one of the families in their charge evaded taxes, or committed some other civil offense. This was the only kind of police force maintained in the territory. Cases of civil offense were tried and sentenced by the head of the civil administration personally.
Disputes between families or individuals over such things as property, inheritance, desertion, non-support, etc., were usually referred to the leaders, but the office of the head of the civil administration was the ultimate seat of authority. Ordinarily families handled all the arrangements of marriage, property, and family economics according to old Mongol custom, but there was no broad family organization or leadership which could settle disputes between individual families in such matters.
The religious obligations of the people consisted of contributions of goods and services to the monastery to provide for ceremonies, sacrifices, and the upkeep of the monastery buildings. These obligations were not codified but customary, and had grown up over a long period of time. Contributions were made by the people because they were devoted to the church and wished to acquire religious merit. The monastery treasury was the corporate property of the monastery. All regular contributions and all expenses for religious services and works were handled through this treasury.
In addition, many free-will contributions came into the monastery for such purposes as honoring a deceased relative or a particular lama. Some of these were made to the monastery treasury, some came to the Narobanchin or myself, and some went to other lama dignitaries. Contributions to the Narobanchin and myself went into our own private treasuries which however belonged to us not as ordinary individuals but as continuing Incarnations, and were therefore treated as institutional trust funds. Our wealth was used primarily to fulfill the social obligations of our status. We gave many animals to poor people, and in times of general hardship the wealth obligations of the people to the monastery would be assumed in part by the reserves of the monastery treasury and in part by the treasuries of the Narobanchin and myself. The treasury of the monastery, the treasuries of the Narobanchin and myself, and the wealth of our subjects were all mutually supporting, so that excessive demands were not made on anyone source. The treasury of the monastery and the treasuries of the Narobanchin and myself were managed and accounted for by a single lama official, appointed by a central committee of five high religious officials, and responsible not only to them but to the head of the civil administration.
Every family tried to send at least one son into the church to become a lama, and in the years of my present Incarnation there was a total of about three hundred lamas in the territory. No limit had ever been imposed on the number of lamas that the territory could contain, the original Manchu-assigned quota of forty lamas having designated only those lamas who would be exempt from military conscription.
Sons were usually sent to lama teachers in the monastery at the age of about six or seven, and had to remain in the monastery for a good part of their early youth studying if they were to become fully ordained lamas.
Lamas normally resided at the temple but, since their families often needed their help for herding, or for some emergency, they were permitted to return home for indefinite periods of time. It was more difficult for a lama to absent himself from the temple if he was holding an administrative post in the temple, or if a general assembly was in progress, but, if the family's need was sufficiently urgent, almost any lama could secure temporary release from temple obligations to return home. If a lama had duties which made it impossible for him to leave the temple, another lama was sent from the temple to the camp to replace him. Lamas from wealthy families tended to spend more time in the temple than lamas from poor families simply because the wealthier families usually had dependent helping families and could do without the services of one or two sons.
Provision was also made so that a lama could inherit family property and be listed officially as a family head; lamas could not marry, but a lama could be released honorably from the church in order to marry if his family affairs made it necessary.
While lamas were resident at the monastery they lived in fifteen courtyards arranged in rows on both sides of the main temple buildings. Here they slept in tents and ate food provided primarily by their own families, or by the families of their personal disciples, if they were famous lama teachers. They could own property, but any animals which they acquired were usually kept in the herds of their disciples' families.
The Narobanchin and I of course lived all year round at the monastery, and we had each our own private residence with winter and summer houses, storage buildings, guest-tents, and a household staff.
In the 1930's, as the Communist-controlled government in Outer Mongolia increased in power, this traditional organization of my religion was destroyed, chiefly by depriving monasteries of their territories and revenues. It has been many years since I have had direct news of my own monastery; but my personal property was expropriated before I left Mongolia in 1931, and I have heard that in Da Khüree, which Westerners call Urga, and which is now called Ulaan Bataar—a city which was once a city of monasteries—there is now only one monastery open for religious services.
Telo Tulku Rinpoche, the current Diluv Khutagt