Buddhism in Mongolian – Turkic states

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Turkic states in the territory of Mongolia

Buddhism in Mongolia (6th to 8th century)

From: Buddhism in Mongolia (Historical Survey), Ulaanbaatar 1981
By: Section of Studies of Gandantegchenlin Monastery

The Turkic state was formed on the territory of the Mongolia after the Lou-Lans. Tabo, the Khan of Turkic state (573-581), accepted Buddhism, built Buddhist temples (samgharama) and sent an envoy to the Chi Dynasty, asking for such sutras as “Vimalakirti nirdesa”, “Nirvana sutra”, “Avatamsaka sutra” and “Sarva-stivada vinaya”. Liu Shihching of the Chi Dynasty, who knew 4 languages, translated the “Nirvana sutra” into the Turkic language by the decree of the sovereign to be sent to the Tabo Khan. Jinagupta, a monk of Jandhara, who visited the Turkic state on the way from China to India, and Tabo, were received by the Khan with great respect. Jinagupta, together with his 11 friends from the Chi Dynasty, lived in the Turkic state for a short time and translated sutras. In 575, 10 monks of the Chi Dynasty, made a journey to the Central Asian countries where they collected 260 Sanskrit books. On the way back, they stayed in the Turkic state because the Chi Dynasty had collapsed. In 581, Tabo Khan died, and since then the influence of Buddhism in the Turkic state was greatly reduced. Bileg Khan of the Turkic state (716-734) intended to build Buddhist and Shaman monasteries, but the work was stopped on the advice of Tonyukyuk – the consultant. At the early stage of the Turkic state, Buddhism spread to some extent.

At the time of the Uighur state (8 -9 Centuries), which succeeded the Turkic state, the Uighurs, starting from 763 till the 10th century, or in other words until the time they moved to Kanchow, believed in Manichaeism. So, from the middle of the Turkic domination to the time of decline of the Uighur state (9th century), Buddhism failed to win support from the state and its spread nearly stopped. Thus it is correct to say that Buddhism declined in Mongolia between the first period beginning from the time of the Huns and the second period beginning from the time of Chinghis Khan. This conclusion is drawn by Sh. Damdin (1867-1937) a leading Mongolian Buddhist.

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