This account is, to our knowledge, the first full biography in a Western language of what is
popularly called a Mongolian "living Buddha (Khubilghann)." Several such accounts have been in
preparation but as yet none have been published.
One objective of the authors is to preserve an account of a key historical figure, of certain
important institutions, and of a customary religious life style which was traditional in Mongolia
but which now has passed into history. The Kanjurwa khutughtu (high—ranking transformation or
reincarnate lama) was a leader in the world of Lamaist Buddhism in Inner Mongolia during the
critical period from the 1920s to the end of World War II in 1945. In a broad context the reader
must bear in mind that economically and politically Inner Mongolia was a sub-region of China, this
to the distress of the Mongols. Within this context the Kanjurwa’s life and experience span many
important events and movements: the establishment of the Republic of China with Inner Mongolia
subordinated to it as a special administrative region; increasing cultural change for the Mongols
with more external contacts; the period of warlords in China following World War I that also
greatly affected Mongolia, followed by the rise of the Nationalist Government at Nanking with its
nominal unification of China in the late 1920s and early 1930s; the rise of a modern Mongolian
class of intellectuals and a growing nationalistic consciousness, plus a decline in Buddhism with
modern trends of secularization; the occupation of Inner Mongolia by the Japanese from 1931 to
l945; the Chinese civil war to 1950 and the Communist takeover after World War Il. This account of
the Kanjurwa has observations on all of these various developments.
A chronology of the life of the Kanjurwa khutughtu has been attached including additional
related dates of important events. His predecessors extend back, to the 1600s, contemporary with
the K’ang—hsi Emperor (r.1662—1721). He was born in a Tibetan ethnic area in the Amdo region of
Kokonor, on the China frontier of Inner Asia in 1914. He was educated there as a young boy in the
Serku Monastery and traveled to Inner Mongolia in 1924 at the age of ten where he was installed as
the leading reincarnation, the head of Badghar Monastery located on the border between the
Ulanchab League and Timed Banner, not far from Hohhot (koke—khota). The narrative presents
observations regarding his life in a Mongolian "monastery and his many travels through various
parts of Inner Mongolia. Part of the Kanjurwa’s life and story focuses on the monastic educational
process, his experience through a series of initiations and studies, and his contact with
Certain strategic considerations are of concern in the account presented here. Inner Asia is still
one of the most obscure areas of study in the world. It is large, little—known, and includes the
strategic regions from Manchuria through Mongolia, Turkistan [Sinkiang), Afghanistan and Tibet.
Mongolia particularly is a focal point of Russian-China confrontation. In centuries past it was
the pivot of Asia—now it is a pawn in great power rivalry. The roots of contemporary problems are
to be found in earlier historical experience and in the traditional culture. One important aspect
of the area that requires attention is the biography of key leaders like the Kanjurwa.
Mongolia, like the other areas noted above, was long characterized as a "sacred" society, in that
secularization here has been a late trend and religion traditionally permeated all phases of
society and culture. From time to time Buddhist and Islamic societies experience a resurgence or
revitalization of religious forces. Thus some attention should be concentrated on the nature of
traditional religious institutions to more readily understand contemporary trends. For Mongolia
this means a study of Lamaist Buddhism and the key institution of the khubilghan, the reincarnate
lama. The Kanjurwa khutughtu of Inner Mongolia is useful as a model for understanding other such
figures who had a similar role.
The fate of Mongolian Buddhism that forms the background of this biography is of concern to any
person interested in the conflict between humanist as opposed to totalitarian systems. This
religion has shown high qualities in the realm of ideas and the spirit. The Kanjurwa’s biography
sheds some light on the humanistic and cultural life of a resilient people, the Mongols, who
deserve worldwide respect and admiration.
The Kanjurwa’s career is a type, a pattern, or case study typical in many ways for Khalkha (Outer
Mongolia] and Buriad Mongolia and to some degree for Tibet. In view of the complex pantheon of
reincarnations or transformations (khubilghons) in the world of Lamaist Buddhism, it may be useful
here to place the Kanjurwa in a general context. The cradle of this unique form of Buddhism, and
its unrivaled focal point, was of course Tibet and more especially Lhasa. There were uppermost the
famous Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama of Tibet; then, in the more limited sphere of Mongolian Lamaist
Buddhism, there was the Jebtsundamba khutughtu of Urga (now Ulan Bator] in Outer Mongolia. Below
him were many reincarnations, only a few of which can be mentioned. There was the high—ranking
Dilowa khutughtu who left Outer Mongolia as a refugee to Inner Mongolia in the 1930s and who
became an acquaintance of the Kanjurwa. There was also the Jangjia khutughtu, resident alternately
in Peking, Wu—t’ai shan and Dolonor, and a well—known rival of the Kanjurwa. These three were more
prominent than the Kanjurwa khutughtu. How- ever, during the crucial periods of this narrative all
of these important ecclesiastical figures were actually absent from Inner Mongolia, leaving only
the Kanjurwa-the Jebtsundamba departed this world in 1924, apparently without a successor; the
Dilowa left for Tibet in 1939; and the Jangjia went to south central China with the Chinese
nationalists for the duration of the war. Thus, the Kanjurwa was the highest—ranking grand lama of
khutughtu rank in Mongolia during much of the period of this narrative.
The high rank and official title of khutughtu was conferred on the Kanjurwa gegen (enlightened
lama master] by Peking only after the establishment of the Republic of China (1912). The Kanjurwa
was not one of the eight high lamas in Peking but was one of the thirteen preeminent
reincarnations at the monastic center of Dolonor where he spent much time. He attracted great
veneration in the Chakhar region of western Inner Mongolia and particularly in the Hulun-buir
region of northeastern Inner Mongolia. His home monastery of Badghar, better known to the Chinese
as Wu-tan-chao, was one of the most important monasteries in all of Inner Mongolia. It was a great
academic monastery that attracted many lama-monks in recognition of its scholarly distinction.
The unique biographical account related here was quite lengthy in the writing process, and the
authors should note a few items of interest the reader may wish to keep in mind. As translators,
interpreters, and editors, we have avoided personal judgments of the Kanjurwa’s biographical
account and we have avoided making a critique or analytical study of the information presented
here. Instead of making laudatory or critical comments we have tried to set forth sympathetically
a neutral record conveying the personal experiences and views of the Kangurwa gegen himself.
A note about the process of preparing the manuscript should be added. The main Mongolian language
interviews with the Kanjurwa gegen were taped at his monastic residence near Taipei in 1971-1972.
The interviews were then translated into English at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah,
including such explanatory insertions as seemed necessary to make the story understandable or to
place the Kanjurwa’s career in context. The rambling, unstructured interviews were reorganized and
edited to prepare the final manuscript, maintaining the first person style, though often writing
in the past tense due to what has happened to the religion since the occupation of Inner Mongolia
by the Chinese Communists and the revolution of Mao Tse—tung and his "Red Guards." The authors
realize that in the editing process, annotated translation becomes interpretation and have tried
to avoid distortion or bias that may stem from personal viewpoints. With great regret we note that
the passing of the Kanjurwa in 1978 cut short follow—up interviews that could have greatly
supplemented the information noted here. We hope his views have not been too greatly distorted
but, given the problems of language and the elusive nature of certain sensitive issues involved,
obviously ideal results are not possible. Some persons may have preferred a different presentation
of the material included in this work, but it is impossible to please in one approach the general
reader, the comparative religion specialist, and the social science behaviorist.
Regarding the monastic life discussed in the book, the reader should again bear in mind that this
work is not intended as a technical, precise presentation of the complex pantheon of Buddhist
deities, the intriguing art and symbolism, the important ceremonial and ritualistic aspects of the
religion, or the Buddhological philosophy involved. On these matters the specialists, and even the
general reader, must be patient. Persons who have especial interest in religion and wish to use
this work as a reference on technical matters regarding Lamaist Buddhism should remember that the
translator-editors make no claim to be authorities on all aspects concerned, and while
considerable care has been taken in the work, it is not intended for specialists looking for a
detailed analysis or presentation of the subject.
Another problem is posed by the technical terms of Lamaist Buddhism and such institutions as the
monastery, temple, or hermitage. A general consensus dictates the use of the term monastery rather
than temple as the primary religious institution concerned. In English this obscures or confuses
such corresponding Mongolian terms as sume, kuriye, keid, and juu, but even in Mongolian society
these are not carefully differentiated as to size or function, and are often used interchangeably.
This may create a little confusion for some, and the same is the case for such Chinese terms as
miao, ssu, and choo, commonly used as counterparts for the above Mongolian terms in Inner Mongolia
where Chinese influence has been so great.
In the narrative such terms as Lamaism are used instead of consistently using Buddhism, and
perhaps this usage would not please the Kanjurwa, but it is a long—standing, common practice in
discussing the unique form of Buddhism found in Tibet and Mongolia.
The romanized transcription of Mongolian terms from the old Mongolian orthography presents certain
problems and has been modified by some phonetic considerations. As there is really no standardized
form, sometimes the romanized version of a term used here favors the classical written Mongolian,
sometimes the modern spoken language. Most of the liturgical language of Mongolian Buddhism is
naturally borrowed from Tibet, but the terms are given here in the transcription or usage found in
Adjustments have been made in noting the age of the Kanjurwa at various points in his career, so
the traditional Mongolian custom of considering the subject as being one year old at birth has not
been followed; dates have been adjusted to correspond to Western conventions or usage. Care has
been taken in the dates and chronology noted, but at times it has been necessary to interpolate
from key dates in the Kanjurwa’s career and to correlate or check these against contemporary
events. Sechin Jagchid, co-author of the present work, has served as an important check on various
aspects of the Kanjurwa’s account. His father, Lobsanchoijur, was a lama until the age of
forty-two, but left the monastery as an only son to carry on the family line. He served as an
agent in Peking for the Thirteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet. Also, Jagchid’s own career as an official
in the Mongolian Government (Kalgan) was concurrent with the period concerned with the key time
span of the Kanjurwa’s own career. The authors solicit the assistance of knowledgeable readers in
making corrections of fact or interpretation.
We wish to express appreciation to those who have been especially helpful in preparing the
manuscript: Kerril Sue Rollins, departmental assistant; Marilyn Webb and Alison Rojas of the
Brigham Young University faculty support center; the Social Science Research Council and American
Council of Learned Societies for assistance to pursue research in Taiwan, China.
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