Margery Cross of Jampa Ling in Country Cavan, Ireland, accompanied Panchen Otrul Rinpoche to Mongolia in July.
The woman was desperate. With two young children, she lived in the corridor of an old hostel, which she had to leave by September. They lived on the equivalent of $2 a day, which she made by selling cigarettes in the street. Very soon winter would come and temperatures drop to as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius.
How and where can we begin to report on a visit to Mongolia? The flight is long from Ireland. It takes travel on three planes before landing in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. Rinpoche is met and welcomed warmly by the abbots of the main monasteries and immediately taken to Lam-Rim Monastery for prayers and a reception. There is great happiness that he has returned yet again.
Driving through Ulaanbaatar one sees a veneer of affluence – big new jeeps, smart new buildings being built, but a closer look reveals a crumbing city; roads with no gutters, so that they become lakes in wet weather, potholes abounding as do manholes without covers. Weeds and graffiti are everywhere.
Rinpoche’s fourth visit starts. He travels to monasteries, both in Ulaanbaatar and the remote areas. He ordains monks, gives initiations, teaches people non-violence and love, how to say prayers and take refuge. His visits take him to prisons, hospitals and Mongolia’s only orphanage. He reaches out continually to children and everywhere they respond to his openness.
The people come to see Rinpoche and receive his blessing. He visits them in their apartments and gers, accepting all invitations and listening to their problems. The problems are huge and basic. A government lack of funds means that services are run-down or non-existent. Illiteracy, alcoholism, petty crime, street children, the homeless and jobless, are all on the increase. But it is the severe winter that underlines all these problems, for then it becomes a matter of survival.
The people are incredibly kind, generous with their hospitality, hardy and resilient. They delight in Rinpoche’s presence. One old man had tears running down his face, hands shaking with the joy of having a lama in his ger again. People produce old texts, hidden for generations, for Rinpoche’s scrutiny.
Traveling is hard and lengthy, there are few proper roads, but the delight of the people and the similarity to Tibet make it all worthwhile. The country is magnificent. It is vast, and its open plains, lush forests, mountains and lakes are unspoiled. Thirty-six varieties of wildflowers were counted on one trip. Wherever he goes, Rinpoche is invited back time and time again.
This year was very special, as Jetsün Dampa, the reincarnation of the last Bohd Khan who died in 1924, visited Mongolia for the first time. Rinpoche spent much time with him, visiting the monasteries and museums. They also discussed the current difficult social problems in Mongolia, both expressing their wish to help in whatever way they could.
Rinpoche has a great wish to be of service to the Mongolian people. His first teacher was a high Mongolian lama. Already Rinpoche has two monks working in Mongolia, teaching both in the monasteries and with lay people. But he also wants to address the basic problems that people bring to him; especially he wishes to help children.
In order to do this Rinpoche would like to establish a permanent base in Mongolia. Mongolia is a Buddhist country with close links to the Tibetan people. They help by allowing young Mongolians to train in their re-established monasteries in India.
Conditions permitting, Panchen Otrul Rinpoche will return to be with the people of Mongolia again next year.Tags: mongolia