On another day Bakula Rinpoche invited Lama Zopa Rinpoche to the embassy, where he met Bakula Rinpoche’s secretary Sonam Wangchuk; Sonam has been with Bakula Rinpoche for more than 20 years. Bakula Rinpoche told Rinpoche about the history of Mongolia. He explained that Joseph Stalin, the former Soviet leader, forcibly took over Mongolia in 1937, and before that, one in every five males was a Buddhist monk. All together there were more than 100,000 monks.
Communism, however, said this was a weakness, that this one in every five males was a waste of a life and was causing society to degenerate. So Stalin began to destroy all the monasteries. He rounded up 1,000 high lamas and monks and beheaded them, leaving their heads in public for display. He destroyed thousands of monasteries. He killed all of the intelligent monks and left the not-so-smart ones alive.
Almost all the monks were killed or forced to marry, although a few were left alive to give the world the impression that everything was okay. From that time on under Communist rule you could only be a monk by government appointment. The monks would go to the monastery during the day and go home to their families at night. Being a monk was a nine-to-five job. If any of the monks did survive, they lived monks’ lives in secret and gave the appearance of having a family. Otherwise, all the monks were just monks by name.
One lady of about 22 grew up under Communist rule until she was 12. Her father was a veterinarian and her mother a doctor, and part of their responsibilities as doctors was to lecture subordinates and patients about certain things. One of them was to tell people that Buddhism was old, ancient, a superstitious poison – they lectured people about that during their workdays. On television they often showed monks, but always portrayed as the bad guy who was stupid and carried out sexual activities. They put Buddhism down in every way.
When she was 7 her mother was diagnosed with cancer and she privately told her daughter she thought she would die. She wanted to prepare her daughter to handle her death well enough so she could continue with her own life. She explained Buddhist teachings privately to her daughter, in complete confidence. At the same time her mother was lecturing others officially about how wrong it was. This was the first time she’d heard of Buddhism and it stuck in her mind.
When democracy took over many of her friends began to watch CNN, follow American culture and get a lot of input from Christians. She’s had to hide the fact that she’s Buddhist because of the propaganda. Many Christian Mongolians feel embarrassed to acknowledge that their father or relative was a monk or lama.
She also mentioned that under Communism everything was done by the state, so materially people were okay; mentally, however, it was difficult because of constant propaganda and forcing people to think in certain ways. Now, everyone feels more relaxed and happier, but, for example, there are young kids on the streets, usually orphans. In the winters it’s minus 30 or 50 and they still live on the street. They sleep under the ground on water pipes that the Soviets put there for heating — it’s quite a hard life. With capitalism, it is now physically very hard but easier mentally.Tags: bakula rinpoche, mongolia