Baatar (AsiaNews) - His Eminence the ninth Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa, Dorjee Chang
Jampel Namdrol Choekyi Gyaltsen, the much beloved spiritual head of the Jonang
tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and the spiritual leader of Mongolia, passed away
yesterday. He was 80 and had spent 57 years in exile because of Soviet
domination of Mongolia, and later Chinese rule in Tibet.
government-in-exile, the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa Lama expressed their sorrow
at the passing of the religious leader, well known for his ideas and his battle
on behalf of Mongolia.
As a mark of
respect, the offices of the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala (seat
of the Tibetan government-in-exile) remained closed today following the prayer
service for his speedy reincarnation.
Born in 1932 in
Trontsikhang, northern part of Lhasa, Dorjee (pictured) was recognised as the reincarnation of the eighth Khalkha
by Reting Rinpoche, the regent at that time.
Buddhism by the fifth Dalai Lama, the title literally means 'Lord of the refuge
of Khalkha', Mongolia's largest district. Since then, the post has entailed the
task of protecting the country and promoting its religious development, even if
the recognitions occurred in Tibet.
founding of the Soviet Union, every form of religious activity was banned in
Mongolia. The late Khalkha's predecessor went to Lhasa to join the Dalai Lama
and the Panchen Lama.
left Ulaan Baatar whilst the poor were put in a forced labour camp. Still, the
late Khalkha was able to visit briefly Mongolia in 1942, during the Second
After his return
to Tibet, he chose the path of meditation, keeping in touch with the faithful who
had survived Stalin's purges.
When Mao came to
power and Tibet was occupied, he was forced to move again, to India this time.
With the Soviet
Union collapsing, the Khalkha was able to return to Mongolia in 1989. Since then,
he has actively been involved in the country's religious renaissance.
In 1997, the late
Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa was enthroned as the spiritual head of the Jonang
tradition, one of the tree expressions of Tibetan Buddhism.
Thanks to his
work, 24 per cent of Mongolia's 2.7 million people are Buddhist.
The wounds of Stalinist
rule are still visible and most Mongolians are agnostic despite centuries of
Buddhist tradition and Christian influence.
government continues to discourage religious activities and has imposed
restrictions and regulations on existing religions.
about 1 per cent of the population.