Three weeks before leaving for Ulaanbaatar Mongolia for the 10th Annual Sakyadhita Conference, I stayed in the woods for three days on a spiritual vision quest. One night I heard a horse riding by my tent but in the morning, to my surprise, I did not see any hoof prints. The next night the horse appeared again but with a man riding it. I reached up to be pulled onto the horse. Just as I took his hand I woke up with one arm hanging in the air.
Weeks later my partner and I arrived, after 13 hours on a plane, to Ulaanbaatar the capital of Mongolia. We were greeted with smiles and draped in blue Tibetan Buddhist prayer scarves. We had made it to the other side of the world. And we had made it to Mongolia where the horse was significant to the Mongolian physical and spiritual existence. So, in essence I had arrived to Mongolia long before I took the plane flight. I had arrived in my dreams of horses.
I would say Mongolia is as magical and as mysterious as my having arrived before traveling there. The ancient mystical Tibetan Buddhism once practiced there by many is in the dusty corners of the ancient temples we visited. The old shamanistic practice of Tibet is very much a part of the Buddhism that was outlawed when the Communist took over the land. However, with the arrival of hundreds of Buddhist nuns and lay Buddhist women from many traditions for the conference, one could see that we represented a new possibility of the old dharma returning to the now aged descendants of former Buddhist practitioners. Many of the Mongolian women at the conference stated that they learned the dharma from their parents and grandparents. In essence, this is how they lived by the indigenous roots of Buddha’s teachings, when there was still a sense of spirit and the ability of the practice to heal through chants, mantras, and ancient Buddhist medicine.
I met a young Mongolian woman at the conference who came to me after I made a presentation. Her interpreter said that she wanted to talk with me because she knew I had been through a lot of discrimination in my country and yet I thrived and continued to practice. She wanted me to help her rebuild a temple she inherited from her grandfather. She had been given to her grandfather at a young age and raised in the temple. I do not know her name because the language is impossible for a westerner to grasp immediately. Every time she came to me I would begin to have tears as she told me how her people were suffering in the cold roads of Mongolian. In my mind I would say, “she looks like she’s Native American,” and I began to feel that legacy of genocide in my sadness as she talked to me. She asked about how to practice with suffering, what can she do to encourage the people who were cold in the streets to practice the dharma. I could only say, “Feed them soup. Make more soup than for yourself.” Then I asked, “Do you practice?” She shook her head no and smiled. Well, I didn’t need to say anymore.
I will be making my way back to that magical land with the magical people because I did not have enough time to sit with them, to go where the shamans live, to talk with the Buddhist nuns who practiced shamanism. I want to eat more of their delicious yogurt and cheese made from mare’s milk. I want to walk the brown barren land with gers (yurts) and shanty houses and look into the eyes of the sweet bundled up children.
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