Landscape 02: a social matrix for local reconstruction

The salvaging of timber building materials in early Winter for firewood from a 1960s Soviet-socialist built storage shed in Dundgovi Aimag, Mongolia 9 November 2011. Photograph: C.Pleteshner


From where do people who live in difficult circumstances (or in complex and complicated settings) draw inspiration to sustain the necessary perseverance[i] to make their way in life or to affect meaningful (and wholesome) social change through collaborative effort over time?

Whilst there may be ‘thematic’ similarities in our answers to this open-ended question, for each of us, the particular answer is likely to be different right? People, expectations and circumstances (and a flotilla of other influences) all play their differing roles. Any one articulation-summary of the past from the perspective of the present, by necessity, will also be limited by our notions of scope, audience and (public) appropriacy as well as the cultural and social valencies foregrounded in a particular multimodal work. This is irrespective of whether our stories for others are explicitly framed in such terms or not.[ii]


Living with seasonally inclement weather from one year to the next or relying on ‘family’ are examples of such a thematic similarity. Although, how individual people in Mongolia ‘live with’ the seasonal cycle or what their conception of ‘family’ could be, is a different and far more complex-distributed matter—just as it is in ‘the west.’

The above photograph for this post is no random selection. Rather, it is a sobering reminder of how some Mongolian people in Mongolia live with its harsh climate year round. As I write this post in February, the temperature in the Dundgovi (where the photograph was taken) is a windy –25°C. In Ulaanbaatar (UB) it is a smoky –30°C! The terra firma on which these people live and work is ‘home.’ Just ask anyone who lives in UB who has to negotiate their way through the chronically congested traffic on the roads to get from point A to point B. Then ask them what it is like to do so during the long winter: shorter days, smog and black ice.

Working with Seasons

This somewhat sobering weather-related introduction is my grounding and counterpoint to the vibrancy, depth, cultural richness and tech-savviness of what comes next. The Kalkha people in Mongolia with whom I share life, engage with such extreme seasonal weather and its fluctuations. At the same time they continue their important local social and cultural revitalisation work.

Whilst there is much socialising and conviviality during the comfortable Summer months (June to August), much of the planning, pre and post-production of all sorts of projects and events is conceptualised, refined or completed during the difficult winter months when locals tend to stay, for obvious reasons, indoors.

I remain in awe of not only their determination, but also their learned creativity in this regard.   Effective adopters of the latest technologies— the use of high-end camera drones for video photography is what I am thinking of here—their ongoing co-construction and local exploratory articulation of a particular stream of contemporary ‘Mongolian’ creativity-consciousness is flamboyant. Their output is syncretic. They take risks artistically to create new forms from traditional ‘materials’, rather than replicate what has been done and gone before.

The Primary Artistic Object for Consideration

Given that most of us have a predisposition towards ethnocentricism—evaluating another culture from the perspective of our own—some of you who are unfamiliar with post-soviet socialist contemporary Mongol [Gelugpa] [Buddhist] culture in Mongolia may have difficulty parsing the following Video: Baby Lion is Powerful in his Nature (Mong. АРСЛАНГИЙН ЗУЛЗАГА НЬ АГУУЛГАНДАА ХҮЧТЭЙ). It is a recent and local-to-Mongolia artistic collaboration between two high profile Khalkha Mongol people: Zava Damdin Bagsh and Khatanbaatar Lhagvasuren at the centre.[iii]

Resources for non-Expert Readers

This particular video is not easily categorised. It does not fit easily into one or another particular genre or form. [iv] What follows is some background information I have assembled that may help you appreciate and understand cross-culturally some of what is being depicted and narrated in the video you are about to see.

A  selection of historical, inter-cultural visual and complex orated narratives, as well as recognisable (to some) motifs and tropes are simultaneously at play. (If your are a higher-education student of contemporary mongol culture then your lecturer will explain this for you). However, if you are just an interested intelligent person, and  if you can get beyond ‘the Eurovision factor’, there is just so much you can learn about the reconstruction of contemporary Mongol Gelugpa Buddhism in Mongolia and other things from this vid!

For me to spell the nuances out for you here, word by word, comprehensively, would take not just an article posted to my blog, but the writing of an entire volume or PhD thesis. Maybe one of you would like to give this a go? Whatever the case, the following supplementary resources I have assembled may, however, offer particular details of interest, points of departure from which you could further investigate your particular interests in your own particular way. The open-access repositories of quality information on the internet are amazing, just as long as you know (i) how to ask the right questions; and (ii) then know where to look.

And so as a point of departure, the resources we have here are as follows: (i) a chronology of events (1635-2011). The historical date-fact summary in this summary are supplemented with (ii) additional specific information about the ‘actors’ (sociologically speaking) to emphasise the local-to-Mongolia aspect of the enterprise;  (iii) an English language translation of the original words of the spiritual song (or Doha) composed by Zava Damdin Bagsh (1976- ) that have been subsequently arranged and performed by Khatanbaatar Lhagvasuren; and (iv) an introduction to some of the key visual and other aspects of the actual video, Baby Lion is Powerful in his Nature  itself. (The link to the video on You Tube is at the bottom of this e-page.) To start with:

Chronology: a whirlpool summary of events impacting ‘local’ Mongol history (1635-2011) [v]

1635      The inaugural Jetsundamba Khutugtu (Zanabazaar), the spiritual head of the Gelugpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia is born

1644      The Qing (or Manchu) Dynasty is established in China, and remains in power until 1912

1723      Zanabaazar attains parinirvana (Skt. death of the body, and implies rebirth)

1724      The second Jetsundamba, also a descendant of Genghis Khan and the Mongol Borjigid[vi] ‘bone’ of nobility, is born

1758      The Manchu Qianlong emperor decrees that future incarnations of Jetsundamba Khutugtu will be identified not in Mongolia, from Mongol tribes, but in (ethnic) Tibet

1867      On 7 February 1867 (Year of the Rabbit), the Mongol hermit-scholar Lobsang Dayang Zava Damdin takes rebirth in Dartsagtin Tsagaan Khad of Delgertsogt Sum (Dundgovi Aimag) in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert and will spend his childhood at Tsahiurin Jas monastery

1910      The 16th incarnation, Lobsang Tenzin Gyatso Pal Sangpo Guru Deva Rinpoche is born in Khangin Hoshuu/Sum (Ordos Aimag), in what is now Inner Mongolia. Whilst his first incarnation’s name was “Dubchin,” each subsequent incarnation title was that of “Guru Deva.” His father was a descendant of the Borjigid Mongol tribe, and his mother of the Durvud

1911      Following the fall of the Qing Empire, Outer Mongolia declares political independence. The Bogd Khaan ‘Autonomous’ Period begins (1911-1921)

1917      The Russian Tsar is deposed in Petrograd (St Petersburg) following the February Revolution on Women’s Day,[vii] a provisional Russian republican government is formed

1921      The progressive onset of, what is now referred to as ‘the socialist era’ or ‘the socialist times’ in [Outer] Mongolia begins

1924      A Mongolian People’s Republic (MPR) is established

1924      The Eighth Jetsundamba Khutugtu attains parinirvana, and the MPR declares he is to be the last Jetsundamba to be appointed from a Mongol tribe

Late 1920s-1930s    The public practice of Buddhism in Mongolia is repressed by the Soviet socialists, lamas are purged, established Gelugpa monasteries cease to function and are either destroyed or used for other purposes. This includes Delgeruun Choira in Delgertsoght Sum, Dundgovi Aimag

1937      The Mongolian hermit-scholar Lobsang Dayang Zava Damdin passes away of his own accord in Küriye (present day Ulaanbaatar)

1939-45      World War 11. Soviet and Mongolian armed forces defeat the Japanese armed forces in eastern Mongolia. There is a build up of thousands of Soviet Russian soldiers in Mongolia and warfare machinery follows. Mongolia’s independence (from China) is the result of ‘Inner’ and ‘Outer’ Mongolia being separated—The Sino-Soviet Treaty of 1945

1945-85      The Cold War Era. Post-war modernization/development of Mongolia by the Soviets begins. Women in Mongolia begin to have increasing relations with people in other socialist nations through participation in conferences and organizations sponsored by the Russian communists

1950      Tibet is invaded by China

1958      Conflict between Han Chinese and ethnic Tibetans and Tibetan Buddhism on the Tibetan Plateau commences

Late 1960s      Due to Sino-Soviet tensions, Soviet military buildup escalates with the 39th Soviet Army Battalion deployed and stationed in Mongolia from 1967

1976      Lobsand Dayang Zava Damdin‘s reincarnation, Lobsang Darjaa (Zava Damdin Rinpoche) takes rebirth in Mongolia. Nyagai Dugarjav, Rinpoche’s father’s “bone” is of the Borjigid Mongol tribe. Lobsang Darjaa (and any subsequent male descendents) is also of the Borjigid.

The Cultural Revolution in China begins to subside

1987-1992       Withdrawal of Soviet armed forces and financial support from Mongolia. Given the harsh weather conditions, previously well-maintained infrastructure (urban soviet-style multi-story housing, roads, hospitals and schools) quickly begins to deteriorate

1990      On 30 May 1990, Lobsang Darjaa and his younger brother Lobsang Bilguun are taken by their father N.Dugarjav from state government schooling in Ulaanbaatar to the still remote Amarbayasgalant Monastery by train and on foot, where they are joined by a small group of other young boys also brought there by their fathers, and continue their Gelugpa Buddhist monastic training there. Prior to this the boys had been trained by their father and ‘uncles’ at home

1990      On 29 July 1990 the first multi-party democratic election in Mongolia is held

1991      The single party Moscow-based Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (CCCP or Soviet Union) formally collapses

1992       In July of 1992, Guru Deva Rinpoche returns to Mongolia from Nepal and begins rebuilding Amarbayasgalant Monastery

1996      Guru Deva Rinpoche sends Lobsang Darjaa to The Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies (IHTS) in Mont Pelerin, Switzerland from 18 April 1996. Guru Deva Rinpoche remains in Mongolia and pushes ahead with Gelugpa monastic reconstruction

1999      On 10 September 1999, Tamir Murun (later recognized as the 2nd incarnation of Mongolian Dandar Lhampa Rinpoche) is born in the songino hairhan duureg (district) of Ulaanbaatar. He takes rebirth into a Mongolian shopkeeper family of modest means

2000      On 18 April 2000, Lobsang Darjaa completes his Higher Buddhist Studies at IHTS, and is awarded the honor of being the top of his graduating debating class

Having graduated from IHTS, Lobsang Darjaa returns to Mongolia and Amarbaysgalant where reconstruction continues. He becomes Tsorj Lama, the person responsible for teaching all resident monks at Amarbaysgalant. Here, he begins to develop his reputation as a stern and exacting Teacher

2003      In Ulaanbaatar, on 2 June 2003, Lobsang Darjaa’s old clothes are taken away by his mother at the request of Guru Deva Rinpoche. The next day, Lobsang Darjaa is presented with new robes and takes up his duties as Zava Damdin Rinpoche the reincarnation of Lobsang Dayang Zava Damdin the Gobi poet/scholar

2004      Invited by Guru Deva Rinpoche, to Mongolia, the first internationally organized non-denominational Buddhist relics tour to visit Mongolia after socialism arrives. It is auspiced by the World Peace Foundation, a non-government organization affiliated with the United Nations Department of Public Information. Official ceremonies are held at The State Opera House in Ulaanbaatar, Amarbayasgalant Monastery and other rural/remote locations across Mongolia

2004      In early 2004, Lobsang Darjaa Zava Damdin Rinpoche relocates from Amarbaysgalant to Delgeruun Choira, his (previous incarnation’s) monastery in Dundgovi Aimag in the Gobi Desert. Rebuilding of the destroyed monastic precinct commences

2005      Delgeruun Choira and its first two temples were official opened 20-23 August 2005. Geshe Thubten Trinley and Kyabje Dagom Choktrul Rinpoche (Dagom Rinpoche) officiated over the proceedings

In September of 2005, Zava Damdin Rinpoche and other Delgeruun Choira Lamas travel across Dundgovi, South Govi and East Govi Aimags and their ‘community halls’ (previously socialist Houses of Culture) performing Gelugpa Buddhist blessing pujas and other rituals for local communities. This is the first time this has happened in the South Eastern region of Mongolia since the Russian communists withdrew from Mongolia in 1990

CP with Zava Damdin Bagsh on an educational field trip to the ruins of Khamaryn Khiid associated with the 19th Century Mongol mystic-poet Danzan Rabjaa (1803-1856). DornoGobi Aimag, Mongolia. It is so incredibly dry here. 23 September 2005. Photo courtesy of Rigdol lam

2007      T.Murun is recognized by Guru Deva Rinpoche (and the ethnic Tibetan assistant of the previous incarnation) as Dandar Lharampa RInpoche his official Mongolian passport name. Through local Mongolian Gelugpa replicating identification practices, the next and 3rd generation of Gelugpa reincarnate prelates of this local Mongolian lineage (after the cessation of Soviet socialism) publicly emerges

On 3 December 2007, Zava Damdin Rinpoche commences a solitary yidam contemplation retreat in his small ger-compound within the grounds of Delgeruun Choira. Here he would stay for the next 4 years. Reconstruction of buildings in the surrounding grounds continued

Construction of the third temple at Delgeruun Choira gets underway in  Dundgovi Aimag, Mongolia. 27 August 2008. Photograph: C.Pleteshner

2009       On 13 April 2009, there is a State Funeral and military cortege past Sukhbaatar (now Genghis Khan) Square and the Mongolian Parliament Building of Ulaanbaatar for Guru Deva Rinpoche who entered parinirvana, according to the Tibetan calendar, on 11th April 2009. Zava Damdin Rinpoche was not able to attend. He was still, as previously instructed by Guru Deva, in solitary retreat in his ger-hermitage at Delgeruun Choira in Dundgovi Aimag

2010      The young Mongolian Dandar Rinpoche is sent by Zava Damdin Rinpoche to the Gelugpa Shar Gaden Nampar Gyalway Ling Monastery University for Higher Buddhist Studies in Mundgod, South India to study.[viii]

2011      On 27 September Zava Damdin Rinpoche completes his solitary yidam mandatory retreat for senior Gelugpa clergy under the strict supervision of Lharampa Geshe Thubden Trinley who made the long journey from Switzerland to Delgeruun Choira, Delgertsoght Sum in preceding summers to check on the progress of his heart-disciple, and is escorted with much  fanfare from his small ger-compound. Zava Rinpoche returns to public life. He becomes the first Mongolian Gelugpa Lama to complete such a retreat after the cessation of Soviet socialism in 1990.

NOTE: At the time of writing (February 2017) I have yet to become aware of any other Mongol Gelugpa Buddhist prelate who has completed this mandatory long solitary retreat of contemplation and study since the cessation of the soviet socialist era.  And whilst reconstruction of Delgeruun Choira continues, my  chronology of events (for this post) ends here (cf. 2011). Next, some supplementary information about:

The Mongolian Rockstar who is centre stage in the video’s frame

Information about home country (cf. Mongolian  aimag and/or sum) still matters socially in Mongolia. It helps connect people with not only their birthplace but also with each other. Khatanbaatar Lhagvasuren (Mong. Лxагвасүрэн), or ‘Lhagvaa’) was born in Mongolia. His mother Demchigiin Dashtseren was born in Tsetsen Uul in Zavkhan Aimag in Western Mongolian, about 1000kms west from Ulanbaator. His father Khatanbaatar was born in Ikh-Tamir Sum (Mon. Их тамир) of Arkhangai Aimag, a relatively comfortable and short distance (in Mongolian terms) of 400 kms due West of Ulanbaator. The syncretic, authentic, hard rock, somewhat blue-sy rendition of the following spiritual song performed in the video was developed by Lhagvasuren, one of Mongolia’s most famous local rockstars today. And next:

An English language interpretation of the Mongolian words sung by Lhagvaa in the Song: an ‘authorised’ translation

A Song Born From The Confidence of Being So Loved by Father Gurus 

(Baby Lion is Powerful in his Nature)[ix]


by Zava Damdin Lama (1976- )

 On another day, I had a dream about my Bogd Father Gurus and my own Father. When I awoke, missing them all unbearably, I sang the following song to calm my own mind.

The Great Tantra roaring ever louder

Powerful White Ushniha,[x] my Father

Baby lion is powerful in his nature

Your Son will follow, without any fear

Owner of the spacious sky

King Garuda is my Father

Defiant Son has power in his wings

Your Son will flap gracefully, without confusion or failure

Thundering and shaking the Ten Directions

Grand Dragon, my Father

The strutting baby is powerful in his chest

I will follow you precisely, with wisdom

Any demon is smashed and thrown away

Astute powerful tiger, my Father

Tussling baby powerful in his throat

I will follow you, without quivering

Holding The Great Golden Sutra[xi]

Loving-kindness and compassion, my Father

I grow by your blessings and meditations

Your Son will follow, unwavering

Holding the Great Vajra

Profoundly merciful, my Father

I will grow up in my remote mountain

Your Son will follow you, with method and wisdom

Your Son, Luvsandarjaa

The above unedited transcript has been reprinted here with permission from the publisher. Zava Damdin Lama (1976- ). Green Wood Horse Year (2015). A Song Born From The Confidence of Being So Loved by Father Gurus (Baby Lion is Powerful in his Nature) in the The Great Nenchen (First Edition). Ulaanbaatar: Zava Damdin Scripture and Sutra Institute. English language translation by Catherine Pleteshner and Erdenetsogtyn Sodontogos. ISBN 9778-99962-4-344-8. pp75-77. For more information, see: Artscape 02: The Great Nenchen.

The Video


(Baby Lion is Powerful in his Nature)

The above introductory notes may raise more questions for some of you than they answer. So too may the following video, but that’s a good thing, right? Such is the nature of studying the complexities, the fluidity, the particulars (of the who, what and when) and the syncretic nature of post-soviet socialist social transformations in Mongolia today.

For me, in simple terms, the video is great entertainment with its brightly-coloured vestments, Gobi Desert setting and creative film-making and now the innovative use of flying high-end video camera-drones! The video also moves me emotionally. It is living history. I feel at one with this throng. I see a group of Mongol people (in front of the camera, as well as so many behind the scenes) reworking and now refashioning otherwise seemingly disparate elements into new creative and artistic forms: exploratory (in terms of syncretic composition) and more importantly, a seemingly meaningful and socially-engaged pursuit for them.

If, as western Media Studies scholars have pointed out, we now live in a pop culture world, then every piece of such art is now available to be parsed and politicised for its problematic elements. This video, like all art, will have it’s fans and detractors.

The matrix for reconstruction to which I referred in the title for this post—the cultural, social and political environment in which this particular reconstruction effort has emerged—involves these same artistic people. They are active agents in the challenging, powerful and energising rebuilding of ‘nativist’ Buddhist culture in Mongolia trope. Be in no doubt, these are Mongol people with an actual site, Delgeruun Choira, Delgertsogt Sum in Mongolia’s Dundgovi (Gobi) Aimag, in their mind’s eye. This is no false depiction. They are inter-connected (not disconnected) in terms of what they do.

The sources of inspiration for Zava Damdin Rinpoche depicted in the video are his primary Bogd Lineage Masters: Mongolian Guru Deva Rinpoche, his own much honoured and revered biological father Nyagai Dugarjav and his other spiritual mentors, the ethnic Tibetan Lharampa Geshe Thubten Trinley and Gonsar Tulku Rinpoche. In the video each is depicted above billowing and bubbling clouds (of suffering? or realisation?). I must ask Zava Damdin Bagsh what he had in mind here …

Clouds on the road from OrnoGobi to Dundgovi Aimag, Mongolia 24 September 2005. The weather is powerful here in Mongolia. Photo: C.Pleteshner

Other images in the video are digital replicas of original watercolour paintings born from the devotional-creativity of Zava Damdin Lama’s mind during his long solitary retreat. So too, the above song of realisation in its original form. The archival film footage of Zava Damdin Lama emerging for the first time from his ger after years in solitary retreat-contemplation is authentic. I was there at the time.

This particular video does not adopt a backward-looking ethos or prosthelytise a traditionalist argument even though it draws heavily on ‘traditional’ Buddhist symbols, motifs and tropes.  Nor does it advocate a replication of (an imagined) Mongol-Tibeto Gelugpa Buddhist past. I imagine that doing so would be counter-productive and therefore contrary to the boundary-challenging spirit of the community and its leadership today.

Link to Video: A Resource for the Study of Contemporary Mongolian Gelugpa Buddhism and its Reconstruction Baby Lion is Powerful in his Nature Published 4 December 2016. Retrieved: 6 February 2017.

Other Resources

For information about Delgeruun Choira’s reconstruction and architecture see Motif 03: Dragons dancing with Blue Wind.

To get a sense of the social life that inhabits Delgruun Choira’s now rebuilt infrastructure see Out and About: Celebrations in the Gobi and Out and About: Asia-Pacific intercultural meeting at Delgertsogt Mountain.

For more information about K.Lhagvasuren and the vibrant contemporary Mongolian music scene see: Creative Distanciation: Etude for Naro

For an english language translation of another beautiful poem, this time composed by Z.Tumenjargal, see Soundscape 02: My River Kharaa with Waves of Pearl


I would like to thank Zava Damdin Bagsh (1976 – ) for his ongoing investment in my education and development and Khatanbaatar Lhagvasuren for the information he so generously provided for this posting to my blog.


Bulag, Uradyn Erden. 1998. Nationalism and Hybridity in Mongolia, Oxford Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology. New York: Clarendon Press.


[i] The important topic of suffering comes to mind here. It is not unreasonable for us to assume that many people in Mongolia are anxious about the current economic state of the nation (cf. the escalating foreign debt burden of up to USD2.0 billion in the next 2 years. See: Retrieved: 6 February 2017). As the value of their currency plummets, amongst other things, the current situation is causing severe fiscal distress for many people, if not in real terms, in terms of anxiety related to the important question, ‘What next?’ Such instability is distressing don’t you think?

There is one more point on the topic on ‘suffering’ I think is relevant here. It is at the ‘western’ node of the east-west dyad across which I work.  It was the French philosopher-scientist Rene Descartes (1596-1650) who in the 16th Century relocated the human body from the sacred to the profane by separating it from the mind. This has had enormous ramifactions for western scientific methods and analyses. From that  juncture, the human body emerged as a discreet object of study in the emerging natural sciences. ‘The problems with this model seem well understood, and are best explained in a landmark paper on suffering in medicine written 30 years ago [cf. Cassel 1982. see below].

It points out, bodies cannot suffer, only persons can. A model with the body at the centre, focusing on the disease and how to get rid of it, fails to respond to the suffering of the person. Modern clinicians in this (western) model do not see suffering as it is.’ Source: Retrieved: 23 January 2017. See Cassel, Eric J. 1982 The Nature of Suffering and the Goals of Medicine (New England Journal of Medicine: 306, pp639-645) Retrieved 23 January 2017.

[ii] My own narration and presentations are no exception in this regard.

[iii] Many of the Mongol people you will see in the video, as well as the technical-production people behind the scenes, are also known to me. This educational post to my blog for english-language readers is my way of contributing to ‘the team.’

[iv] I found it quite difficult to allocate this particular creative work to any one of the categories within which posts to CPinMongolia are framed, an open-shell structure that hitherto has served me well. Is the video to be categorised as a soundscape, landscape, artscape or even a vignette? In the end, I chose ‘landscape’ as the category to which to pin this post. Why? Because without the reconstruction of a physical-temporal anchor (cf. Delgeruun Choira in the Gobi Desert) the rich visual, orated and imagined motifs and tropes, the archival footage and learned text composited for the video would not be grounded in ‘place.’ Instead of ‘disembedding’ (cf. Giddens), in sociological terms, the video can be seen as a local artistic expression of ‘re-embedding’ where social relations and cohesion are coalescing around a particular glocal socio-cultural node in news ways. In the contemporary post-soviet socialist Mongolian setting, the use of media and information and communication technologies are intimately tied up in such affairs.

[v] I completed this historical date-fact summary of events when I was a post-graduate student of Asian Studies: Cultural Anthropology at Victoria University (VU) in Australia in 2014. My participant-observation data, key informant interview data supplemented with information sought directly from Zava Damdin Bagsh (1976- ), my field journal notes as well as published scholarly literature were the information sources from which this particular summary of events emerged. NOTE: In keeping with ethical research and publishing practices, and the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, I would expect that anyone replicating such previously unpublished information (or the chronology as it is outlined here) under their own name to cite my work as the source.

In this context, I would like to acknowledge Mark Stevenson my academic supervisor at Victoria University (Melbourne) who introduced me to many ways of representing qualitative research data, including such a date-fact summary of events considered salient for interested readers, be they scholar-experts in Mongolian Cultural Studies and Inner Asia-related academic fields of historical investigation or not.

[vi] It is important to note that although I use such differentiating terminology when referring to some people, I do so whilst also acknowledging that ‘ethnographic categories’ and ‘ethnic labels’ are applied as a means of retrospectively ordering and controlling ethnic identity  within nationalist identity rebuilding discourses. For a discussion of the nuances of this important topic as they pertain to ‘Mongol’ people, see Bulag (1998).

[vii] See: [Retrieved 6 February 2017].

[viii] Whether the incumbent completed and graduated from the studies for which he had been  enrolled is at the time of writing unknown.

[ix] The poem, Echo of the Snow Land also pays homage to Bogd Father Gurus. (See: Zavaa Damdin Rinpoche Lobsang Darjaa. 2013. Echo of the Snow Land: a formal address in the form of a booklet (including original artwork) to all participating delegates at the 13th Seminar of the International Association of Tibetan Studies (IATS) in Ulaanbaatar 21-27 July 2013. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: Zava Damdin Scripture and Sutra Institute, Delgertsogt Mountain Mongolia. pp12-14).

‘Bogd’ (Mong.: Богд) is a reference to spiritual lineage masters of Mongol (father’s) ‘bone.’ (In Mongol Khalkha culture, ‘blood’ lineage streams are considered to flow through the biological mother). A Song Born from the Confidence of Being So Loved by Father Gurus explicitly embraces Zava Damdin Bagsh’s honoured biological father (Nyagai Dugarjav) within the category, ‘Father Guru.’

In English language commentaries associated with Tibetan Gelugpa Buddhist spiritual lama-masters, one often sees a differentiation between the two. Whilst not my field of expertise, I think it reasonable to suggest that this is a reflection of differing auspice-er context: with Tibetan Gelugpa monastic institutions foregrounding lineages of intra-sectorial lama-masters whilst ‘transmissions’ associated with the biological father, possibly considered more secular than spiritual in nature, are foregrounded in family history texts. In Zava Damdin Bagsh’s poetic narration we see no such demarcation.

[x] Zava Damdin Lama emphasizes that the correct rendering is ‘Ushniha’ (Skt.) rather than ‘Ushnisha’ as appears in other texts. In terms of outward appearances, such an attribute symbolizes the attainment of the yogi-practitioner of an unfaltering reliance on a Spiritual Guide. In Gelugpa Vajrayana Buddhist visualizations, the appearance of an Ushniha is generally in the form of a three-tiered and three dimensional knot on top of the head of a highly realized being (or Buddha) that is deep-blue in colour. However, the Mongolian Gelugpa Scholar-Poet Zava Damdin Lama, visualizes his own one-hundred year old Mongolian Father Guru, Guru Deva Rinpoche with a White Ushniha atop a luxurious head of white hair not dissimilar to that of a lion’s mane. [Source: Zava Damdin Lama]

[xi] This is a reference to the Teachings of the ‘Great Whispering Lineage.’

Landscape 02: a Social Matrix for Local Reconstruction was researched and written by Catherine Pleteshner.


In keeping with ethical scholarly research and publishing practices and the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, I anticipate that anyone replicating the photographs or translating into another language all or part of this article and submitting it for accreditation or other purpose under their own name, to acknowledge this URL and its author as the source. Not to do so, is contrary to the ethical principles of the Creative Commons license as it applies to the public domain.

end of transcript.

Refer to the INDEX for other articles that may be of interest.

© 2013-2024. CP in Mongolia. This post is licensed under the  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Documents linked from this page may be subject to other restrictions.  Posted: 6 February 2017. Last updated: 29 October 2017.