Sanchirov V.P. Tibet and Oyirads
// Izvestiya Kalmykii, 19.11.2004.

mon | rus

Religious and cultural contacts of Kalmyk people with Tibet have an age-long history. Already in the XIII century during the times of conquering crusades of Chinngis-Khaan and his sons Mongols and Oyirads (or Western Mongols), got acquainted with Buddhism. However, this world religion did not become widespread among them up until the last third of the XVI century; before it was preserved just among the close circle of nomadic elite. The masses remained faithful to the traditional religion of their ancestors � shamanism.

Gelug-pa, the second conversion of Mongols into Buddhism

In the second half of the XVI century, revival of the cultural life of Mongols and Oyirads, which was related to the final victory of feudal relations in the country, is notable. Aspiration to restore political unity needed ideological support. Nomadic rulers again turned to Tibet and its ideology. In the last third of the XVI century the so-called "second conversion of Mongols into Buddhism" took place. It was officially arranged at the Kukunor gathering of the South-Mongolian khans with Altan-khan Tumet as a leader. At it relationship principles between Mongolian secular arm and Buddhist centre were formed and legalized.

At that time, Altan-khan granted to the leader of the "yellow-hat" sect (Gelug-pa school) of Tibetan Buddhism, Sodnam-Jamtso, who was spreading Buddhism among Mongols, the title of Dalai-Lama ("the Great Lama"). That was supposed to testify the depth and endlessness of his teaching, wisdom, and holiness, comparable only to the ocean. Gelug-pa sect represented reformed and centralized Buddhist Church and was formed in the beginning of the XV century by the outstanding reformer and thinker Tsongkapa (1357-1419). Tsongkapa chose Lhasa as his place of being. There in 1409 he formed first monastery of Gelug-pa sect called Galdan; he developed for it monastic regulations and introduced celibacy for lamas. He also established complex system of church hierarchy and introduced magnificent rituals. Tsongkapa�s reforms facilitated consolidation of the political position of the new sect and the growth in the number of its followers.

Soon after the death of the "founder of Lamaism" new highest unit was gradually formed in the upper lamaist hierarchy of the "yellow-hat" sect. According to the legend, Tsongkapa allegedly prophesied during his lifetime, that two of his prominent students will constantly reincarnate into two highest hierarchs of the Lamaist school. One of this reincarnations later received a title of Dalai-Lama, the other � Panchen-rimpoche (in Tibetan "the great treasure of the teaching"), or shortly Panchen Lama. First Dalai-Lamas were only successors of Tsongkapa in the leading position of Gelug-pa sect. After the death of the first one, the principle of "reincarnation" was formulated, i.e. rebirth of the dead leader of the sect into newly-born baby. This guaranteed succession of Gelug-pa sect�s administration that was consistent with celibacy.

Lamaist chief priests of the "yellow hat" sect start carrying the title of Dalai-Lama since the times of the third Dalai-Lama, Sodnam-Jamtso (1543-1588). Along with his title he also received from Altan-khan golden seal with the dragon image. This acknowledgement by the newly-converted Mongol khan that Dalai-Lama had the leading position in Tibetan Buddhist world had far-reaching consequences. From then on, Dalai-Lamas started to lay claims to their leading position not only in the religious affairs, but also in the matters of secular governance.

Famous Dalai-Lama V Agvan Lubsan-Jamtso (1617-1682) played prominent role in the establishment of theocracy in Tibet. Theocracy (from Greek "the rule of God") is "the form of government with which management of the state is performed mainly by priesthood and clergy, and the head of the church hierarchy has the ultimate religious and secular power". Worship of the source of power and the personality of Dalai-Lama, the embodiment of boddhisatva (the future Buddha) Avalokiteshvara, served as an ideological basis to the theocracy in Tibet and state-management was seen as one of his religiously-prophetic functions.

After Altan-khan Tumed, other Mongolian and Oyirad rulers start spreading Buddhism in their domains. Expansion of Buddhism among Oyirads is tied to the name of Torgout ruler Mergen-Temene, who in 1604 invited prominent missioner-preacher of Lamaism and official representative of Dalai-Lama, Tsagan Nomin-khan, for teachings of new religion.

In Mongolia, translation of Buddhist canonic works into Mongolian language restarted; old manuscripts and printed editions were searched for. Educated lamas start coming from Tibet to Mongolian and Oyirad pasturelands, while young Mongols and Oyirads, followers of the new religion, were studying in Tibet. Often, they were from noble families. Two persons from these Oyirad monks of noble origin should be mentioned. They were studying in Tibet and were known later in their motherland as the preachers of the "yellow religion". The eldest one is Neyji-Toyin (1557-1653), the son of the mentioned-above Torgout nobleman Mergen-Temene and Panchen-Lama's student, who became the first teacher of the new religion among Mongolian khanates. Another Oyirad monk is the famous enlightener and religious figure Zaya-Pandit Ogtorghuyn Dalai (1599-1662), the creator of the written language "Todo Bichig". After studying for over twenty years in Tibet and "achieving the limits of knowledge", Zaya Pandit enjoyed such a great prestige that he taught dogma on religious faculties of the largest Tibetan monasteries. His biographer Ratnabhadra said that when His Holiness Dalai-lama turned 19 years and Holiest Panchen-lama took his monks vow of geloung, Zaya-pandit was one of a dozen geloungs present at the ceremony. In 1639 taught by life experiences scientists, as an educated Lama he returns home to Züüngaria "in order to benefit religion, and human beings, speaking Mongolian, through the translation of the holy books".

With preaching mission Zaya-Pandit traveled all around Oyirad land from the Yellow river to Yaik and from Altai to Himalayas. Also twice in 1645 and 1655, he visited Volga Kalmyks, who in the middle of the XVII century finally accepted Russian citizenship. During it, he was trying to achieve not only missioner�s goals, but also political ones. As a representative of Dalai-Lama, Zaya-pandit was called upon to establish close contact between Tibet and Kalmyk rulers which converted to Buddhist in their old motherland, Züüngaria. They, however, continued to head for Lhasa in the bigger religion matters. Tibet continued to be religious and spiritual centre, in a way Tibetan was Vatican for Kalmyks, as well as Oyirads and Mongols.

Protectors of the "yellow religion"

Consolidation of their influence in Mongolia, and in Züüngaria, in particular, was a large victory for the "yellow hat" sect headed by Dalai-Lama. Its position in Tibet itself was, however, not so successful. In XIV - first half of XVII century feudal division and constant struggle for power between different religious sects (monasteries) and secular feudals prevailed there. All secular and spiritual feudals of Tibet gradually got sucked into internal fights, and their struggle for power took form of a religious warfare between "red hat" (Karma-pa) and "yellow hat" (Gelug-pa) sects of Tibetan Buddhism. By the 1730s position of the "yellow hat" sect had deteriorated extensively. It seemed like its downfall was inescapable.

In these conditions Dalai-Lama and Panchen-Lama in 1637 made a decision to send ambassadors to the rulers of Dorben-Oyirad (fours Oyirads) for help. With this mission, a monk by the name Garulozava left for Züüngaria. Upon his arrival he "reported to the khan and high officials that Tsan emperor and others have a desire to ruin yellow religion and that they hate yellow hatters and exert violence towards them�" Oyirad rulers happily received Dalai-Lama�s messenger and after discussion of the appeal for help from Lamaist hierarchs at their gathering � chuulgan � stated to send to Tibet united army of all Dorben-Oyirad. Khoshuut ruler Töru-Baikhu, known historically under the name of Güüshi-Khan (1582-1654), took command of the army. Rulers of all Oyirad ethno-political confederations took part in this military campaign of 1637: from Khoshuts came Güüshi-Khan and Duurgechi-noyon, from Eleuts (Züüngars) � Khara-Khula, Baatur-khuntaidji and Mergen-Daichin, from Torgouts - Mergen-Temene, Mergen-jinon(g), and Gombo-Ieldeng, from Hoyids - Sultan-tayji and Sumer-tayji, from Derbets - Dalai-tayji, Bumbu-Ieldeng and others. On the outskirts of Kukunor, the immediate threshold into Tibet, Oyirad army in the bloody battle destroyed the 30-thousand army of the "red hat" sect�s ally, important East-Mongolian feudal Tsogtu-taiji. Oyirad army had a following formation: Khoshuts in the centre, on the left flank were fighting the troops of Eleuts, which were called the "Züüngarin tsereg", or the army of the left wing, "Züüngar army". On the right flank stood the Torgout warriors, and in the rear guard were Derbets and Hoyids. As the Oyirad historical document "History of Kho-Orluk" says from that time Eleuts were referred to as "Züüngar".

Güüshi-khan and theocracy in Tibet

Güüshi-khan managed to establish his control in Kukunor, and there emerged new Oyirad khanate � Khoshut Khanate, that lasted until 1723. In 1637-1638 main part of his Khoshut subjects moved there from Züüngaria. Kukunor could serve as a good bridgehead for entering into inner regions of Tibet and establishing there a personal influence. In 1638, Güüshi-khan makes a personal pilgrimage to Tibet, to Dalai-Lama Agvan Lubsan Jamtso. Dalai-Lama V granted him a title of "Danzin-Choijal" ("Tsar of laws and the supporter of religion"). In his turn, Güüshi-Khan gave to the dignitaries of Dalai-lama�s retinue Mongolian titles of dalama, taiji, dayan etc. which Tibetan officials of high ranks carried up until the middle of the XX century.

During the following three years Oyirad armies defeated troops of Dalai-Lama�s opponents from the camp of the "red hat" sect and their secular allies. After that, Güüshi-khan established his power over all regions of Tibet and took "the high throne of Tibetan kings". However, beware of uprisings of Tibetans against foreign rulers, he, in 1642, passed on the supreme power over all of Tibet to Dalai-Lama V, Agvan Lubsan Jamtso. This step of the Oyirad ruler received enormous approval from the lamaist hierarchs. It was depicted in the visual art of Tibet. A large painting in one of the major temples in Lhasa portrays Güüshi-khan bended on his knees and passing on to Dalai-Lama and the Regent the symbols of secular power. In works of Tibetan authors, Güüshi-khan appears as a powerful protector and defender of the religion, who defeated and annihilated all enemies of Dalai-Lama, and "made the yellow religion shine like a sun".

Lhasa was officially announced the capital of the united Tibet, and the residence of Dalai-Lama and his government. The beginning of Dalai-Lama�s palace erection, Potala, outstanding monument of Tibetan architecture, also refers to these years.

Güüshi-khan died in 1654 at the age of 74. His victory over the enemies of the "yellow hat" sect had important consequences for the history of Tibet. It facilitated the unification, as well as the final establishment of theocracy in this country along with absolute prevalence of Gelug-pa school. This reflected on the political structure of Tibet. Dalai-Lamas started to head Tibetan government and they had supreme secular and religious authority. Dalai-Lama V became known in the history under the name of "the Great Fifth".

This was one the most memorable parts in the history of Tibetan-Oyirad relations.

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translated by Danara Dourdoussova

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