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ARC Home > Projects > Asia projects :
Mongolia: Buddhists | Mongolia | Sacred Environmental Texts | Restoring Geser Sum | Mongolia report 2004 | A Brief History of Buddhism in Mongolia | Environmental protection | Key Meetings | Women in Buddhism | Key Mongolian Buddhist Figures | The Lord of Nature | Buddhists and Development | Traditional Mongolian Environmental Laws | Sacred Sites list | Places, creatures and ovoos | How to work with the Sangha | The lost sutras | A new thangka protecting nature

Mongolian Buddhists and Development

The nomadic way of life and the environment are threatened by mining in Mongolia. Photo from www.flickr.com/

The following information has been extracted from the Mongolian Buddhists Protecting Nature Handbook which can be downloaded in English and in Mongolian.

Any location in Mongolia designated for the development of a building, settlement, temple, burial site or nomadic camp was traditionally selected according to the special characteristics of the site. Besides fulfilling practical needs such as water and fuel, the site must be chosen in accordance with the instructions contained in Tibetan and Mongolian sutras. The sutras determine whether a site has “good” or “bad” properties. These characteristics relate mostly to the practicalities of setting up residence and refer to the quality of the soil, of the wood, of the flora, etc.

Although most companies carrying out land development projects today now generally choose the location for their development activities without referring to such religious texts, some 80 percent do nonetheless still consult monasteries to enquire about auspicious start dates for their projects and to request the monastery to conduct ceremonies around the laying of foundations or the launch of a new project. N. Batsaikhan at Dashchoilin Monastery believes that more and more mining companies have been consulting them recently because company profits are decreasing and because families in the area are perceived to be experiencing harm from pollution and other similar causes. When such ill fortune is diagnosed as the result of having angered the local spirit masters, appeasement ceremonies with offerings must be conducted.

From the Buddhist point of view, any form of development that affects the land is negative – especially mining – but the most important thing is that the land is later allowed to regenerate. This is the responsibility of the companies concerned. “When companies carry out mining for example they should then help the land to recover and give offerings and prayers to the related ovoo,” says N. Batsaikhan.

In summary, it is important when carrying out any form of development in Mongolia to bear in mind not only the environmental impacts but also ancient traditions, and also to avoid both destroying ovoos and developing areas that are considered sacred.

Where development is carried out, it is in accordance with present-day customs to ask monasteries to conduct ceremonies to mitigate damage. From a Buddhist perspective everything is interrelated: good company practice will bring profits and happiness, bad company practice will bring suffering. And according to the laws of karma, mitigating negative impacts on the surrounding environment and the life it sustains are the responsibilities of the company that created them.


Pages about Mongolian Environmental Wisdom, taken from the Handbook.

The Mongolian Lord of Nature.

Sacred texts, places and ovoos.

Sacred sites in Mongolia.

Traditional Environmental Law in Mongolia.

The work that the monks, in conjunction with ARC and the World Bank and others, are carrying out to rediscover the sutras about sacred land in Mongolia.

Do you want to support this?

For full contact and address details of Mongolian Buddhist Monasteries, please see page 57 of the Handbook. And for details of local Development, Environmental and Educational NGOs, please visit pages 58-59 of the Handbook.

Other links to Mongolian Buddhism and the Environment

Link here to access the news story about the launch of the Mongolian Buddhist Handbook.

Link here to download the Mongolian Buddhist Handbook in English. (Please note this file is 1.15MB)

Link here to download the Mongolian version of the Handbook.(A 2MB file.)

Link here to download the guide to the Mongolian Buddhists’ Eight Year Plan (this file is 4.13MB).

Link to Mongolian Case Studies.

And here on how to make contact with the Sangha.

To download the A3 poster of a new thangka about Buddhists protecting Nature, link here (5.61MB).

Brief History of Mongolian Buddhism.

Buddhism and the Environment.

Women in Buddhism in Mongolia.

Key Figures in Mongolian Buddhism.

Key Meetings in Mongolia.

Mongolian Buddhists and Development.

Mongolian Buddhists and Ecology.

Mongolian Buddhist Hunting Ban.

The Lost Sutras.


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