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Gandantegchenlin Khiid

Mongolian Gandan Monastery

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Tibetan name: dga’-ldan theg-chen gling English name: Gandantegchenlin Monastery, Gandan monastery Mongolian translation of the name:


The Western part of the old capital, Ikh Khьree, was called Baruun Khьree, and this is where the special monastic schools were established to train lamas mainly in Buddhist philosophy, the most recent at the beginning of the 20th century. According to Oyuunbilig (Tььkh soyol, p. 251), the first temple in this area was called Yellow temple (Shar sьm) being a philosophical temple built in 1809. This data refers to the establishment of philosophical schools in the area at Gandan. Later, other temples were also built in this area. The 5th jewtsьndamba khutagt had the Gandantegchenlin monastery complex built on Dalkh Hill (Dalkhiin denj) in 1838. This became the centre of Buddhist learning in Mongolia with around 2,000 lamas and numerous eminent Buddhist scholars graduated from its Buddhist Institutes. According to Banzragch (p. 15), its territory was 371Ч348 ald (1 ald=1.6 m) – around 1,200sq ms. Jьgder's painting represents its extension, imposant temple buildings and the surrounding yurt-quarters (aimags) in the year of 1913. Before 1938 the Tsogchin temple, Didipowran and the palaces, which later held the relics of the jewtsьndamba khutagts, were located in the first courtyard, whilst education institutes or monastic schools (datsan, Tib. grwa-tshang) were situated within the outer fence each within their own wooden fenced area. The monastic schools of Dashchoimbel, Gьngaachoilin, Badma yogo and Lamrim datsan were established to educate lamas in Buddhist philosophic studies and Tantric studies. In the 1910's the Janraiseg temple (for details see entry Rinchen 913) and Idgaachoinzinlin datsan were founded here as well. As was customary in the monastic cities in Mongolia not only in Ikh Khьree but also in the countryside, the aimags were situated in a south facing U shape, around the central 61 section of Gandan following the principle of khьree deg i.e. the arrangement of the aimag dwellings and temples around the main assembly hall and the main monastic institutions. The lamas lived in aimags according to their home territory, thus lamas from the same administrative region lived in the same aimag, which usually took its name from the region or for the ranked lama or noble for whom the aimag was founded. According to Pьrew, 22 aimags (Shьteenii, Dondowlin, Jadariin, Dьinkhoriin, Tsetsen toinii, Anduu nariin, Dashdandarlin, Jasiin, Nomchiin, Sangain, Zoogoin, Dugariin, Choinkhorlin, Mergen khambiin, Biz’yaagiin, Khььkhen noyonii, Erkhem toinii, Ekh daginiin, Wangain, Khuwilgaanii, Bargiin, Цrlььdiin aimag) where the lamas lived, were situated around the central temples of Gandan and its monastic schools. All the aimag were inside their own fenced-off area although they were of different sizes, with different number of lamas in each. In fact, the aimag names were the same as the first 22 aimags in Zььn Khьree with the lamas who lived in them, belonging to one of the Zььn Khьree aimags. Lack of space in Zььn Khьree had led them to set up ‘branches’ in Gandan. In Gandan, these ‘branch’ aimags had no temples. The lamas went every day to Zььn Khьree to their aimag temple or to one of the monastic schools, if they belonged to one. Residences of high-ranking lamas and nobles were also situated in Gandan. According to Pьrew (Mongoliin uls tцriin tцw, p. 55., Pьrew, Mongol tцriin golomt, p. 18.), to the west of the Gandan main gate there was the fenced-off residence of Dilow khutagt Jamsranjaw (1884-1965) and Manzshir khutagt Tserendorj (?-1926), while on the north-west side of Gandan there was the residence of Sereenen otoch (Doctor Sereenen), the Bogd khaan’s doctor. There were strict monastic rules for the lamas who lived in Baruun Khьree: women were not allowed to enter the territory nor were laymen or merchants not even to pray or pay homage in the temples. The exception was the 15th of the first summer month when devotees and laypeople could enter the Gandan district to enter the temples and datsans to worship and pray. This is a festival day of Buddha, commemorating three events of his life at the same time: his birth; the day he reached enlightenment or became a Buddha; and the day when he died, his parinirvana. As it can be seen on Jьgder's painting there were several stupas in the north of the Gandan complex. The most imposing one was the Jarankhashar (Tib. bya-rung kha-shor) stupa (for details see entry NOT in Rinchen 960). In 1938, the government closed the monastery and the datsan buildings, mostly wooden constructions, were burnt and the artifacts destroyed or taken away. However, the stone buildings in the first courtyard and the temple building of Janraiseg (Tib. spyan-rasgzigs, Skr. Avalokiteshvara) survived. According to Pьrew (Mongol tцriin golomt, p. 73.), the stupas of the 5th, 7th and 8th jewtsьndamba khutagts were destroyed in 1938. The relics, however, were saved and placed in the stupa built for Abbot Gombojaw, which was erected in the north-west corner of the court, next to Zuugiin sьm (Tib. jo-bo, Buddha Temple). Among the many thousand lamas who once belonged to the monastic schools of Gandan monastery some who survived the purges, became lamas again after the democratic change in 1990. Our main data provider, Dashtseren lama of Zььn Khьree Dashchoilin monastery (born 1921) had studied in Idgaachoinzinlin datsan as well as P. Luwsandanzan (born 1921) lama of Zььn Khьree Dashchoilin monastery. Gonchig lama (born 1917), the main disciplinary master (ikh gesgьi) in the present Dashoimbel datsan, once belonged to the old Dashchoimbel datsan together with Choisьren lama (born 1916 in the year of dragon) of Dashchoinkhorlin monastery in Zuunmod and S. Dagwa (born 1910) teaching master (gergen, Tib. dge-rgan) of Manba datsan. Ts. Tserenpuntsog (born 1914 in the year of tiger) lama of Dashchoinkhorlin monastery in Zuunmod once studied in Gьngaachoilin datsan. Ts. Dorj (1901-2007), lama of Dashchoinkhorlin monastery, Zuunmod, belonged to Jьd datsan. 62 These old lamas were all interviewed and provided data on their datsans.

Tsogchin temple named Gandantegchenlin

Tibetan name: tshogs chen, dga’-ldan theg-chen gling English name: Great Assembly Hall, Gandantegchenlin temple

The main temple or the great assembly hall (Tsogchin) was called Bat Tsagaan referring to the style of the building (‘massive white’). It was, and still is, a low square shaped building with a gilded golden roof. According to Oyuunbilig (p. 251.), the Tsogchin temple was built in 1839. According to Sereeter (pp. 75-76.), the main tutelary deity of Gandantegchenlin was Ochirwaan' (Tib. phyag-na rdo-rje / phyag-rdor, Skr. Vajrapani) and its main protector was Gombo (Tib. mgon-po, ‘protector’, epithet of Skr. Mahakala). According to Dashtseren lama, daily chanting was held here following the form set down by Цndцr Gegeen Zanabazar in 1654, which is based on texts used in Tashilhunpo (Dashlkhьmbe, Tib. bkra-shis lhun-po) Monastery in Tibet, although he made some changes and special rules to suit Mongolian discipline. The great treasury (Ikh san) financed the economic affairs of the monastery. Thus there were no jas, financial units, belonging to the temple. From 1925, the Tsogchin jas and the three philosophical monastic schools financed their own operations. The temple ceased religious activities in 1938 after which it functioned as a stable for horses for a few years. Gandan monastery was partly reopened in 1944 and daily ceremonies were held in this temple once again.

5-r bogdiin shariliin sьm

(English name: Relics temple of the 5th bogd)

This temple was built in 1840-41. After his death, the relics of the 5th jewtsьndamba khutagt were placed here inside a stupa. The building is made of earth and bricks and the roof is covered with green ceramic tiles with the top decorations being gilded in gold. In 1938 the stupa containing the relics of the jewtsьndamba khutagt was completely destroyed. The temple was reopened in 1944. It was renovated in 1986. The present name of the temple is Ochirdariin sьm (Vajradhara temple) and is still used for Gandan’s daily chanting.

7-r bogdiin shariliin sьm

(English name: Relics temple of the 7th bogd)

The temple was built in 1869 to house the relics of the 7th jewtsьndamba khutagt. It is made of earth and bricks and covered by green ceramic roof. Likewise, the building is made of earth and bricks and the roof is covered with green ceramic tiles with the top decorations being gilded in gold. In 1945 and 1946, shortly after the two temples were reopened, a connecting corridor was built between Ochirdariin sьm and this temple. Balins (Tib. gtor-ma, sacrificial cake, a kind of offering) and other offerings were prepared here. In 1986 the temple was renovated. The present name of the temple is Zuugiin sьm (Buddha temple) and is used currently for conduct readings requested by individuals.

Didinpovran/Didanpowran/Didan lawiran

(Tibetan name: bde-stong pho-brang, bde-stong bla-brang, English name: Palace of the Blissfull Emptiness)

The two-storey palace made of earth and brick was built in 1838/1840 as the winter palace of the 5th jewtsьndamba khutagt. The 13th Dalai Lama, Thub-bstan rgya-mtsho (1876- 1933) lived here in 1904/5 having fled from the invading British force led by Francis 63 Younghusband. The building still stands in front of Ochirdariin sьm and is used for reciting texts requested by individuals.

8-r bogdiin shariliin sьm

(English name: Relics temple of the 8th bogd)

This temple is not shown on Jьgder's painting as it was only built in 1925 (or 1926) to house the relics of the Bogd khaan, the 8th jewtsьndamba khutagt. According to Dariimaa (p. 109.), when the Bogd died on the 17th of the first summer month in 1924, Luwsan, the famous sculptor of Namdollin aimag, made a gilded statue (gьndaa, Tib. sku-’dra) of him and put his relics in a golden stupa in this temple. However, according to Geleta (Forbбth, p. 214.), the embalmed and gilded body of the Bogd khaan could be seen in the late 1920s in the Choijin lamiin sьm (Rinchen 915) behind glass. A photograph showing this mummy is published in Forbath’s book. In 1938 the relics of the jewtsьndamba khutagt were completely destroyed. Currently this temple is being used as Gandan monastery’s library.

Philosophical monastic schools

(tsanid datsan or choir, Tib. mtshan-nyid grwa-tshang, chos-grwa) The curriculum of the three monastic philosophical schools at Gandan covered the five principal fields of Buddhist philosophy, namely Pramana (namdel, Tib. rnam-’grel, commentary (on valid cognition, logic)), Paramita (bilig baramid, Tib. shes-rab-kyi pha-roltu phyin-pa, transcendent knowledge), Madhyamaka (tцw ьzel, Tib. dbu-ma, middle way), Abhidharma (ilt nom, Tib. mngon-pa, metaphysics) and Vinaya (Tib. ‘dul-ba, monastic discipline). The schools were the places in Ikh Khьree where lamas were trained in philosophy, and where they practiced their knowledge in debate (nom khayaltsakh, Tib. rtsodlan). The curriculum of the philosophical schools is divided into classes (zindaa, Tib. ‘dzingrwa) and different ranks can be obtained according to the number of classes successfully finished. Those who completed their study of the Pramana and Paramitas successfully could obtain the degree of gewsh (Tib. dge-bshes, ‘virtuous friend’, high academic degree) taking domiin damjaa. Those who successfully completed their study of all five fields obtained the highest academic rank, the degree of gawj (Tib. dka’-bcu, ‘ten hardships’). Talented lamas could also visit monasteries in Tibet where they could study for and obtain the rank doorombo/dooramba (Tib. rdo-rams-pa), rawjambaa (Tib. rab ‘byams-pa), and lkhaaramba (Tib. lha-rams-pa, the highest philosophical degree that could only be gained in Lhasa, once a year during the Lunar New Year). The curriculum in each of the three monastic schools was based on the philosophical handbooks or manuals (igchaa, Tib. yig-cha) written by different eminent scholars from famous Tibetan monastic universities. Thus, Dashchoimbel datsan follows the same philosophical texts as of Gomang monastic school (Goman datsan, Tib. sgo-mang grwatshang) in Drepung monastery (Breiwen/Bereewen, Tib. ‘bras-spungs), while Gьngaachoilin monastic school follows the same texts of Losel Ling monastic school (Losalin datsan, Tib. blo-gsal-gling grwa-tshang) in Drepung monastery, and Idgaachoinzinlin follows the system of Sera Jey monastic school (Ser je datsan, Tib. se-ra byes grwa-tshang) monastic school of Sera monastery. The heads of the monastic schools bear the title of shunlaiw (Tib. gzhung lugs-pa/ gzhung las-pa). According to Soninbayar (pp. 66-67.) before the domiin damjaa exam in the three philosophical monastic schools, the lamas who studied in the dom classes were appointed to participate in the given feasts from the 4 great feasts and the 3 small feasts. The four great feasts were the following: Lyankh dom which was held on the 4th of the last summer month, on the feastival day when Buddha turned the wheel of Dharma; the ‘Dom of the 22nd day’ (22- 64 nii dom) which was held on 22nd of the last autumn month; the Dom of the 25th (25-nii dom) which was celebrated on the annual commemoration day of Tsongkhapa (zuliin 25-n), and Jьshii dom (Tib. bcu bzhi ston-mo), which was held on the 14th of the middle winter month. The three small feasts were held on the 19th, 20th and 21st of the middle winter month in Gьngaachoilin datsan, and on the 18th, 19th and 20th of the middle winter month in Dashchoimbel datsan. In the Gandan philosophical monastic schools the exams were taken till 1938. As the monastic schools concentrate on training their students, the daily chanting in each datsan (Sharjin, Tib. shar byung) and some of the rituals held in them are drawn from the philosophical tradition of the school.





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