Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Buddhist Meditation Center in Mongolia

            So before we get to Buddhism in Mongolia, who decides to go for a run in Mongolia, when the sky is a little dark.  Yes despite being known at the land of the big blue sky, it does happen.  Now technically Mongolia is a desert since it gets less than ten inches a rain a year (9 inches if you are wondering), so I really shouldn’t have to worry about getting drenched on my run right…… Right…….. Yeah no, completely wrong.  I got drenched, I swear 2-3 of those 9 inches came down while I was running and it was the biggest rain storm I’ve seen since coming to Mongolia.  Oh and it gets better, the rain doesn’t come down at the start of my run, oh no that would be to nice.  It just has to start when I am 25 minutes out and about to turn around, so the whole way back in the pouring rain.  So yeah I kind of felt something like this.

Now on to the Buddhism

            So Buddhism, founded on the teaching of Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) in India, between 600 - 400 BC.  In a nutshell, Buddhism teaches that by following the Noble 8 fold path, one can reach enlightenment or Nirvana.  By reaching Nirvana one escapes the cycle of death and rebirth.

Warning Science Content

            At this point in time most astrophysicists, religion no withstanding, pretty much agree that the big bang theory pretty much explains the formation of the universe from a scientific standpoint.  The end of the universe is a little more diverse and things are still up in the air a bit.  Well what does all this have to do with Buddhism, nothing really besides an interesting observation.  In Buddhist mythology, the world doesn’t have a beginning or an ending, but is simply an endless cycle.  Well low and behold in the modern era, scientists have come up with the Big crunch/ Big bounce theory.  In this theory the current expansion of the universe would stop, and begin to shrink.  This shrinking would continue until all of the matter and energy in the universe would collapse into a singularity before exploding in another big bang.  Curious that this scientific theory has interesting implications for Buddhism.

Ok, Back to Buddhism

            Over the years Buddhism split into two main branches.  Mahayana, which is the larger of the two and spread to Eastern Asia.  Theravada, spread mainly into South East Asia.  There is also a third branch of Buddhism, Vajrayana, found mainly in Tibet, the Himalayas, and Mongolia, with smaller pockets in other Asian countries.  The Dali Lama is a central figure in Vajrayana Buddhism.  The main difference between Vajrayana and the other schools of Buddhism is that in Vajrayana, the practitioner wants to become Buddha.  While in other schools they wish to obtain Nirvana.

            Personally I call Vajrayana Buddhism creepy Buddhism because it has some of the oddest imagery, when compared to the temples I visited in other Asian countries.  Some of the statues made me feel like I was looking at props in a Tim Burton movie.

Meditation Center in Mongolia

            This particular Temple, Meditation center, or whatever else you can call it, is located a good two hour drive outside of Ulaanbaatar.  Getting a chance to see a new recently built meditation center, is very cool, and thanks to Buya (prob spelled that wrong) Mark, Kathleen, and one more whose name I forgot.  (In my defense I met them for the first time the day of the trip, and I was sleeping most of the drive).  However getting there was even more interesting.

The group

Stop 1

            A small Buddhist temple on the way out of the city, in hopes of having a good trip.

The city

            The road to get to the center was quite nice, and I got to see more of the lovely Mongolian countryside.  Things changed a bit once we left the road driving off road in a Prius.  Yes, you heard me, off-roading in a Prius.  I have a new appreciation for the toughness of the Prius, and prior to my living in Mongolia, I would have said they wouldn’t last very long at all.  We did have to stop and ask for directions a few times, follow a dirt path for a good 40 minutes, but we made it.

The Road

The Countryside (Courtesy of Mark)



Yep, we are out in the middle of nowhere.

Yes, that is snow on the ground in May.

The temple in the distance

Close up

Inside the Temple (Courtesy of Mark)
Three headed bat fish thing

That’s the spider monster in the corner


I do have one more for you.

Yes, they are doing exactly what you think they are doing, and yes the duck is doing it wrong.

PS- I have been doing some guest blogging recently about Thailand and I hope my Bangkok and Chang Mai posts will be up soon.