Статья о поездке к перерождению Зеленой Тары в Монголии. Копирую с сайта UB Post (на англ.)
Searching for Green Tara
By Cooper Baltis
Translations by Tungalag Pilden
To say that the nationally recognized Green Tara reincarnation of Mongolia lives in the middle of nowhere is an understatement.
To find her, one must get to Khovd, a bustling city tucked between thick dollops of crumbling red mountains located 1,425 kilometers away from Ulaanbaatar. The sixty hour bus ride alone turns most people away. From Khovd, a local driver is needed to make the three to five hour drive to Durgon Soum. Along the road, children sell local watermelons and swat at mosquitoes flying in thick thirsty swarms. The paved road ends after Buyant Soum, a small predominately Kazakh settlement nestled in the shadow of Tsanbagarav Mountain.
On a bright August day still a bit damp from the previous day’s showers, an American shaman, two translators, and I left Khovd to meet Green Tara. What we discovered was unexpected, bizarre, and quite magical.
Our driver was a hefty Mongolian man with pouty lips like a fish. We later dubbed him Papa Fly due to his pink sweater vest, Navy Seal camo pajama pants, and smooth disposition. He knew his way around Durgon Soum but had never heard of the Green Tara or her monastery. After calling a friend from Durgon, he assured us that we would be safe in his hands and his tiny yellow car.
Two hours into our journey, we came upon a glistening lake. For the next hour, we hugged the side of the lake, driving through dried mud craters and narrowly avoiding sharp rocks. At one point Papa Fly stopped by an ovoo, a rock covered in tattered prayer flags and shattered vodka bottles with a large rod sticking out the top of it. He explained that the ovoo was dedicated to his brother, a deceased Mongolian shaman. He claimed his brother had developed the power to read a letter hidden in someone’s pocket and that he loved cigarettes, which he left in the nook of a rock before continuing on our way.
We broke away from the lake, slowly trudging our way up a steep muddy hill in his small yellow car. We approached another lake; an immense mirage-like body of water. Mountains in the distance appeared to jut out of the lake, giving the entire scene an otherworldly appearance. Occasionally, a falcon would fly by, or we would pass someone traveling on a motorcycle. We continued onward until we finally came upon a monastery sitting on a small hill overlooking a collection of ramshackle homes and scattered yurts. We had arrived at Green Tara’s monastery.
The front gates were locked and the entire place had a spiritually foreboding feeling. It looked abandoned, aside from a Mongolian woman exiting a yurt on her way to the outhouse. Papa Fly drove around the monastery until we found an opening in the fence. We parked, gathered our offerings – which included candy, watermelon, a Tibetan phurba (a knife for killing ghosts) and Green Tara incense I had picked up in Nepal – and squeezed our way through the gate. To our right sat an old Soviet truck missing a wheel. Opposite the truck was a small ragtag garden with a few struggling trees surrounding it was planted opposite the truck. The afternoon air had settled, and a slight breeze blew a few prayer flags dispersed sporadically throughout the complex. The woman who had gone to the outhouse emerged from the other side of the garden and waved us over to a trio of yurts.
We entered the yurt and found Megjin, the Green Tara of Mongolia, sitting on a bed surrounded by her family members. Across from her sat a large shirtless Mongolian man on the floor, his lower body covered in a blanket. One naked child chased another with a toy gun. Flies buzzed around the dry meat hanging from the ceiling. Another shirtless man sat near her on a stool. Everyone starred at us curiously as we entered the yurt except Green Tara, who seemed unimpressed.
Green Tara – wearing light green monk’s robes with golden lining, a thin string of prayer beads wrapped around her wrist, long silver earrings, a faded golden cap called a toortsog and knee-high Mongolian boots –watched silently as we took to stools near the front of the yurt. After explaining that we had journeyed a long way to meet her, she stood and left the ger.
We were told to sit on orange yurt stools and wait for her to call us. As we waited, Papa Fly appeared and sat on the floor next to the chubby shirtless man. After waiting for around fifteen minutes, we were hustled into a wooden room shaped like a yurt.
“Why have you come here?” Green Tara asked as we settled across the room from her. She sat on a felt mat against a faded blue wall. Her arm was resting on a chair with a bright orange seat and she looked tired.
On the table in front of her sat seven butter lamps and a bowl of burning incense. A large print out of an elaborate Buddhist alter had been tacked to the wall above the table. Above the table hung a fly strip with so many flies attached that it looked furry. Below the fly strip and flanking the table sat a rusted Chinese safe. Buddhist cymbals with dirty blue straps sat on top of the safe. The corners of the room had been stained black from years of incense burning. Paint was peeling from the ceiling and curd hung in perforated bags behind us.
What should one ask a Green Tara reincarnation? In Tibetan Buddhist mythology, green Tara is said to have spawned from Avalokitesvara’s tear drop. The legend goes that Avalokitesvara was so distraught after failing to enlighten all sentient beings that he shattered into a thousand pieces. The other Buddhas put him back to together and he shed two tears of appreciation; one of these tears became Green Tara. To put this into to a more modern context, the current reincarnation of Avalokitesvara goes by the name His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
A goddess and Bodhisattva of compassion, Green Tara worship stretches from the infinite steppe of Mongolia to the puttering rickshaws of Southeast Asia. Her scriptural origins can be traced back to the Prajnaparamita (Perfection of Wisdom) Sutra, translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in and around the second century. In China she is known as Guanyin, in Japan, Kanzeon, in Thailand, Kuan Im, and in Korea, Gwase-eum. While the name for Green Tara varies across Asia, she is generally considered the Mother of all Buddhas. If one follows Tibetan Buddhist lore or any Buddhist lore for that matter, to see the Green Tara reincarnation of Mongolia living in what appeared to be abject poverty was both curious and fascinating.
When the Mother of all Buddhas asked why we were visiting, we each went with logical answers. The translators were visiting to translate, the American shaman was visiting to receive a blessing, and I was visiting to interview her. I started by asking her about her birth.
Green Tara claims to have stayed in her mother’s womb for three years before finally being born. The timing had to be just right and the Russian inspired Buddhist purges had put quite a bit of pressure on her father, a former lama who had disguised himself as a layman. She was officially born in 1949 next to the Zavkham River before the sun could peek over the nearby mountains. She was named Megjim.
Difficulties plagued her childhood, which played out through her father and his transition from lama to herdsman. During the purges it was nearly impossible to show any affiliation with Buddhism. This also trickled into non-Buddhist Mongolian rituals such as throwing a cup full of milk into the sky. If people were caught sprinkling milk into the sky, they would be put under house arrest or fined heavily, something that Green Tara saw personally. It was illegal to burn certain types of incense in their homes and since most books on Buddhism were destroyed, it was very difficult for her to study anything related to the subject.
She was recognized as a Green Tara reincarnation at age eight. With all the religious pressure at the time, she hid the celebrated status for the next forty-three years. During that time, the Mongolian Mother of all Buddhas worked as a herder and as a house cleaner. Staying true to her name, she had ten children, eight of whom were boys. She raised her children and lived a simple life, never revealing too much about her identity. The youngest of her children is now a lama and lives at the monastery alongside her.
Things changed during the Mongolian transition to democracy in the early 1990s. Suddenly, Buddhism, or what was left of it, quickly revitalized. The monasteries that had been left by the Russians were re-opened and young monks took to the robes again. The transition didn’t change her work ethic but it did change what she worked towards. Green Tara took a piece of land in Durgon said to be haunted with evil spirits. She began methodically clearing the bad spirits out and eventually broke ground for a monastery.
In 2006, she was officially recognized by the Mongolian Government as a Green Tara reincarnation. The large enthronement ceremony was attended by politicians and foreigners, and the opening and closing ceremonies were led by lamas. It was something that would have been unheard of in the socialist times and a shining example of the Mongolian people regaining their traditions and values. During the same visit, Megjim gave a speech at the yearly Mongolian Women’s Conference. She spoke about what it is to be a mother and the coming changes in Mongolian religion.
It was interesting to see Green Tara, a woman who had lived such a simple life until being propelled into the Buddhist spotlight. She admitted several times that she hadn’t received an education, but at the same time one gets a sense that she knew precisely what was happening in the room at all times. This and her ability to talk on a variety of subjects, from Jesus to shamanism during our visit, convinced me that there was more to her than what was on the surface.
The recognition by the Mongolian Government came with an unexpected surprise. Suddenly, foreigners became very interested in the Green Tara of Mongolia. After the recognition, groups of foreigners from various countries began appearing at her monastery during the summer traveling months, asking for guidance and seeking knowledge. In 2011, she was flown to Switzerland to give a speech at a Buddhist conference.
She was as much surprised by the Westerners as they were by her. People showed up with their dogs, asking for blessings for their beloved pooches and saying that they wanted their dogs to have good rebirths by meeting her. This shocked her, as dogs are usually kept outside and while they may be a friend in Mongolia, they certainly weren’t man’s best friend. Surrounded by Buddhist scholars and lamas giving speeches on particular sutras or Rinpoches, Green Tara’s down-to-earth speech really hit home with the audience. She spoke of the importance of planting trees and how we must take care of the earth. Audience members came up to her after the speech with tears in their eyes, thanking her for talking about real life.
The daily tasks of a Green Tara seem to never end. For the last few years, she has been working on building a pipe from the nearby lake to funnel water up to the top of her hill. Once the pipe is complete, she plans to install an electric pump. She uses most of the donations to her monastery to fund the project. She hopes to use the water for her garden, which now includes cucumbers, tomatoes and onions. During the summer, she greets between fifteen and twenty separate groups of foreigners. She likes when foreigners visit and claims it inspires the locals to get more involved in their community.
After speaking for two hours, she asked if we would like a tour of the monastery. While the monastery might look semi-abandoned on the outside, the insides of the temples Green Tara has built were some of the most beautiful Buddhist paraphernalia and statues one could find in Mongolia. The first temple, a small building about the size of a kitchen, featured a jeweled horse and carriage with a statue of Green Tara holding the reins. A traditional Mongolian yurt to the left of the main building housed a few statues and was clearly used as a ritual center—as evident by the burnt-out butter lamps, thickly rolled mats, and cushions on the floor surrounding the alter. Concrete lions with yellow mouths sat in front of the main temple, which was the largest building in the complex, and sat at the apex of the hill surrounded by copper prayer wheels. Two golden deer had been installed on top of the door. Inside the temple were myriad Buddhist statues and religious hangings. A large drum hung in the center of the room and as we circumambulated the inside of the temple, Green Tara’s lama son tapped on the drum three times. The room smelt of dust and charred incense, of paper and dreams.
We were led back the wooden yurt to find Green Tara sitting in the same position we had left her. She spoke some about Shamanism, which she believed to be an offshoot of Buddhism and the future of Mongolia. Her travels to Europe had altered her vision for what Mongolia could become. According to Green Tara, Mongolia is at an important crossroads; it has the ability to develop sustainably, but must be prepared for the big changes that are coming to the country. After we received blessings, we thanked her and promised to visit again.
Returning to the yellow car, we found Papa Fly with his seat back and his hat over his eyes. We climbed into the car, each taking one last look at the monastery. As we pulled away from Green Tara’s Monastery, I thought about a joke she had made during our visit. She had asked how we had arrived and we told her that we had come by a small car. She smiled and said something along the lines of “The largest of journeys are made by the smallest of vehicles.” It dawned on me during our ride back to Khovd that this short phrase was, at its core, the ultimate Buddhist joke. It also summed up her life, her vision, and the things she had yet to accomplish. It illustrated Megjim’s wisdom in the most simple of ways, in the most complex of times for the blossoming country of endless blue sky.
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