The original title of this article from 2point6billion.com was a little misleading- the Bogd Khan isn’t the Dalai Lama of Mongolia, the Dalai Lama himself is the Dalai Lama of Mongolia. The Bogd Khan, rather, is the highest Tibetan Buddhist lama in the traditionally Tibetan Buddhist country of Mongolia. They have functioned as political and spiritual leaders of Mongolia in the past, and the long break in their lineage, caused by Soviet-era politics, is finally over:
Mongolia has confirmed the ninth Bogd Jebttsundamba Khutughtus in a ceremony at the Gandantegchinlin Monastery in Ulaanbaatar.
Mongolia’s Bogd Khans date back to the 1600s, when the first Bogd, the renowned artist monk Zanabazar, was recognized as such by the then-Panchen Lama and Dalai Lama of Tibet. Zanabazar remains a highly regarded figure in Mongolia, with an entire museum dedicated to his works. He was a superb craftsman, creating many priceless bronze carvings of Buddhas, and also invented (taking the form of written Uyghur script as the base) the first version of modern Mongolian written language – much of which is still in use today.
The Bogd Khans operated as defacto kings of Mongolia as well as the most senior cleric up until 1924, when the eighth Bogd Khan passed away. By then, Mongolia had become under the control of the Soviet Union, who promptly banned any further reincarnations of the lineage.
However, in 1936, the Tibetan regent Reting Rinpoche, acting during the gap between reincarnations of Dalai Lama’s in Tibet, recognized a four-year-old boy, Jampal Namdol Choiji Jantsan as the reincarnation of the eight Bogd, near to Lhasa. Due the complicated political situation at the time, his discovery was kept a secret, although the boy was educated as a Monk in the Potala Palace. When the current Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959, the boy travelled with him and has been based with him in Dharamsala ever since.
However, with the withdrawal of Russian troops from Mongolia in 1987, and the emergence of a democratic Mongolia, the political tide began to turn in favor of the return of the Bogd Khan to Mongolia. After agreements to separate politics from religion (unlike the situation in China), the Bogd Khan was able to travel to Mongolia for the first time in 1999, and eventually obtained Mongolian citizenship last year. He is now permanently based in the Gandantegchinlin Monastery in Ulaanbaatar, with a new center of Buddhism and a new Palace having been under construction for the past two years. The Bogd Khans official duties are to act as the spiritual head of Mongolian Buddhism and to continue with the preservation and revival of Mongolian customs and traditions.
The ceremony to reinstall the Bogd Khan as the ninth incumbent was carried out last month, and he was presented with the ancient and traditional golden seal of religion and confirmation papers. Although now aged 79, his return marks the end of an 87-year-old gap of Bogd Khans residing in Mongolia, and the new Bogd Khan has already suggested his reincarnation will be discovered in the country.
The enthronement of the ninth Bogd Khan is in direct contradiction to the position taken by China towards the Dalai Lama, who the Communist Party regard as “splittist” and do not manage to be able to separate as being the spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism from involvement in political affairs.
It seems likely that Tibetan Buddhist clergy will continue to try and restore their influence in Mongolia, both as a religion and to potentially recover an historically important ally in the region.