Saturday, August 24, 2002

Well, Burkhan Khaldun was indeed a romp – great three days, but the next day I went to the Russian Embassy to get a visa for my trip to the Russian Altai and got abruptly shot down. The invitation from a well-known tourist agency in Moscow was declared "not valid." The official did not really even look at it; it was just a snap judgment. "Anyone could have made these documents on a computer in ten minutes," he said, and that was that. "Next person!" So that’s life: one day you are bumping your head on Orion and knocking askew the Big Dipper with your elbows and the next day you’re mired in the cloaca maxima of existence.

Now comes word that Russia will not issue the Dalai Lama a visa either, so his trip to Mongolia scheduled for September 4-9 looks like it will be cancelled. He cannot get here except through Russia. So I am not the only one who cannot get a Russian visa. The excuse the Russian government gave for not giving the Dalai Lama a visa was that it might offend the Chinese government. It’s a sad, sad day spectacle indeed to see the once mighty country of Russia shamelessly and spinelessly kowtowing to China like this.

Back to Burkhan Khaldun . . . It was very hot in the lower Kherlen valley around the confluence of Terelj Creek and the Kherlen where the ger of my friend Zevgee is located, but it could not have been nicer up in the mountains. (Zevgee is the character named Sampildendev in my Book). His Wife went along so he was on his best behavior. It did rain when we got to the top of the mountain but this always happens. It happened the last time I was there and Zevgee says it happens every time someone makes an offering to the mountain. The mountain, he says, "sanctified us." For more details and photos see Burkhan Khaldun.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Have just returned from a three-day romp to the top of Burkhan Khaldun Mountain in Khentii Aimag. Updates to follow . . .

Sunday, August 18, 2002

It has been an exceedingly busy week, which is why I haven’t posted for a few days. This past Wednesday I went with my friend Naraa to Gandan Monastery to met with a 90 year old monk named Lama Gombo. A relative of Naraa’s who is a monk at Gandan suggested that I met with this venerable personage. I had meant to question him about Zanabazar (b.1635), the first Bogd Gegen of Mongolia, whom I wrote about earlier and about whom I am still gathering materials. I soon discovered that Lama Gombo’s main interest was in fact the Kalachakra Doctrine and the Legend of Shambhala, subjects about which I am also gathering information. Lama Gombo was conducting a morning prayer service in one of the temples when we arrived but as soon as he was done we retired to a quiet room at the back of the temple and had an hour-long conversation. Lama Gombo turned out to be a fount of information on the Legend of Shambhala. I will have much more to say about my first and subsequent talks with him, but for the moment I will mention only the most interesting revelations. According to the traditional version of the Legend of Shambhala the 25th and last Kalkin King of Shambhala will be born in 2324 AD and lead the Final Battle against the so-called La Los, the enemies of Buddhism identified in various Shambhalic texts as the Moslems of Central Asia. Lama Gombo now asserts that a new timetable has been issued and that the Last King of Shambhala who will lead the Final Battle against the La Los (usually interpreted as Islam) will be born between 2012 and 2018. This is one interpretation of the prophecy. The other is that the Final Battle will actually begin between 2012 and 2018. In either case the unfolding of events has been accelerated. Most interestingly, the Bogd Gegens of Mongolia, according to Lama Gombo (and according to my understanding and subject to further clarification) will decide when the final battle actually begins. Also, the last Bodg Gegen will be incarnated as General Hanuman and actually lead the armies of Shambhala against the La Los.

This past Friday I again met with Lama Gombo at the Kalachakra Temple at Gandan Monastery and after the prayer service he talked with me for two hours, with the ever-patient Naraa again acting as translator. More on this later. He then asked me to photograph the 31 Kings of Shambhala which are displayed on thangkas in the temple. (See some samples of the thangkas Here) This is the only example of such thangkas that I have seen anywhere in my travels in Nepal, India, Tibet, and China. Lama Gombo wants to do a book describing all the kings and include his interpretation of the Legend of Shambhala. He also presented me a gift of a Tibetan-style loose-leaved book (written of course in Tibetan) which includes several ancient texts on Shambhala, including the 3rd Panchen Lama's "Guidebook to Shambhala" and a more recent although much more rare Shambhala text written by the Mongolian lama Agvaan Damdin who was killed at the age of eighty in 1938 by the communists. This book contain a description of the kingdom of Shambhala, and concludes with a small guidebook for reaching the fabled kingdom.

He told me much, much more but I must stop here. Today I must get ready for my trip to Burkhan Khaldun Mountain. I am leaving for the mountain early tomorrow morning. This is the mountain where Chingis Khan went to pray before he went into battle. I have been there before, actually, as described in my book, but I think it is time to go back. I want to be there on the Night of the Full Moon, August 21 . . .

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Someone just emailed me about my book, "Travels in Northern Mongolia". You can buy it Here
Have just received word from the estimable Ms. Thanh in France that she will not be coming to Mongolia. Says she can't get plane reservations. So anyhow now comes word that the Dalai Lama will be Mongolia September 5 - 9. I had planned to leave Ulaan Baatar on September 2, the day my 90 day visa expires but now I think I may try to have my visa extended and stay another week. Just after I found out about the Dalai Lama coming here I went shopping at the State Department Store and who should I bump into but a couple I had met last year at the month-long Lam Rim retreat at Kopan Monastery in Kathmandu. They had just arrived in Ulaan Baatar yesterday and are planning on staying for the Dalai Lama's visit. Since they came all this way to see the Dalai Lama it seems downright churlish that I, having been here for three months, should not stay a few more days and see him myself. Then I will have to move very quickly in order to be in Novosibirsk, Siberia, on September 8 so that I can begin my long-planned trip to Mt. Belukha in Kazakhstan. From Novosibirsk the plan is to cross the border to Kazakstan (I already got my Kazakhstan visa here in Ulaan Baatar) and then proceed by horses to the base of Mt. Belukha. Here I hope to find the source of the Katun River, which is the ultimate source of the Ob River, one of the ten longest river systems in the world. This is part of my quest to visit the Sources of the longest rivers in northern Asia. All I lack now is a Russian visa and I am working on that.

Sunday, August 11, 2002

Just got an email from Ms. Thanh in France who says she might be coming to Mongolia the first week of September. I last saw Ms. Thanh at Mt. Kailash (Photos) in Tibet in May. Hope to see her in Mongolia!

Saturday, August 10, 2002

The big news here is the recent celebration of the 840th anniversary of the birthday of Chingis (a.k.a. Genghis) Khan at Khodoo Aral which was attended by about 5000 people, 99% of them Mongolians. For photos see Khodoo Aral. In the morning I watched the shaman ceremony in honor of Chingis but left before the unexpected arrival by helicopter of notorious action movie hero Steven Seagal, who is apparently going to make a movie based on the life of Chingis. A few days later I went to Amarbayasgalant Monastery, where the body of Zanabazar, the first Bogd Gegen of Mongolia, was kept before it was destroyed by the communists in 1937. The monastery is currently being restored. For photos see Amarbayasgalant.
I am currently in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia. For more information see My Wanders.
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