The Mongol Influence On World Religions

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The Mongol Influence on World Religions

The Mongol Influence on World Religions


Mongolia has long been a land of varied religions? and Genghis Khan set a tradition of great religious tolerance. Mongolia religion was horrifically repressed during the communist era? but since the 1990s there has been a spiritual revival in the Mongolia. About 85% of Mongolians practice some form of Buddhism? Shamanism is practiced by a handful of ethnic minorities? and the 5% of muslim Mongolians are from Kazakh tribes in the west. Christianity now holds about 10% of the country? with foreign missionaries of various denominations all vying for influence over the Mongolian people's beliefs.


Shamanism is one of mankind's earliest religious practices? and was a widely followed religion in Mongolia. The term 'Shamanism' covers a very broad range of practices? often still undertaken by indiginous groups across Asia? Africa and the Americas. But essentially? the Shaman (religious practicioner) acts as an intermediary between the physical world and the spirit world. He enters a trance? or altered state of consciousness? by performing a seance. He can then make contact with the spirits? while witnesses will see him convulsing? talking in mystic languages? and howling like a wild beast. Spirits are often closely associated with ancestry? and the natural features. It is widely believed that Genghis Khan practiced Tengriism? a religion of northern Mongolia and Siberia which combines many elements of Shamanism with a worship of ones ancestors and 'Tengri'? the lord of the blue sky. There are records of Genghis climbing significant mountains in his home region of Khenti to spend days in prayer to the spirits of the mountain and those of his ancestors.

Shamanism was the dominant Mongolia religion during the great Mongol empire (i.e. 11th & 12th Century) but? over the centuries since? Shamanism and Tengriism have largely given way to Tibetan Buddhism. To speed this decline? the remaining Shamanistic practitioners (numbering only in the hundreds by the 1920s) were ruthlessly persecuted by the Communist regime. The Tsataan (or 'Reindeer') people near Lake Khovsgol now represent one of the few peoples still practising these ancient rituals. Jasper Becker's fantastic book? The Lost Country provides an account of these rituals being performed by the Tsaatan in the early 1990s; at the time these people were struggling to recount these old traditions after half a century of communist repression of Mongolia religion? but since then there have been concerted efforts to revive these ancient practices.

Religion in Mongolia under the Khans of the Mongol empire

During the time of Genghis Khan? the most common Mongolia religion was Shamanism. As stated? Genghis Khan was very likely a follower of Shamanism/Tengriism? but by the 11th century virtually every religion -from Buddhism? to Islam? to Christianity- had representative followers on the Mongolian steppe. Most empires up to the middle ages and beyond were based on a common religious identity. In a radical (and quite modern!) departure from this tradition? Genghis Khan based his empire on allegiance? not religion? and decreed universal religious freedom ...
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