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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - July 11, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta Wednesday, Jwlv 11, Itra THE UTHMID01 HMAID 31 Unwelcome past Concluded from Page 25 they were not hesitant to make other arrangements, to the point of keeping concubines in the lamaseries. In consequence, disease rates soared, with one medical missionary in the early decadet of this century report- ing that 90 per cent of ail men and women he had treated had, or had gonorrhea. had, syphilis or Campaign Against such a background, the communists could have been excused for kuncbim immediate caopaign to an the country of the wretched burden of lamaism. But caution dicta- ted otherwise; at least in the early yean, any outright as- sault on the lamaseries would probably have met with stiff resistance from the populace at large, still under the lamas' spell. So for many years a more subtle policy prevailed, com- bining apparent toleration with real strangulation, achieved by the simple expedient of requir- ing all would-be lamas to gradu- ate first from middle schools all students were force-fed a .diet of anti-lamaist propaganda. It was not until 1938, when reason bad finally begun to prevail among the people, that a decisive move against the lamaseries was finally made. Seizing upon allegations of a pro-Japanese plot itnong the lamaseries, who were accused of building tip large and illegal arms caches for a co-ordinated uprising, the authorities order- ed widespread closing of the lamaseries and the confiscation of their vast estates. It was the end of the road for lamaism as a force in Mongolian national life. To be sure, the principal lam- asery in Ulan Bator still func- tions, and Js a staple on every tourist's itinerary. But the au- thorities purposes in tolerating its existence are clear, and have nothing to do with respect for lamaism in itself; rather, It owes its survival to the re- gime's desire to memorialize the enfeebling quality of the re- ligion, to demonstrate the new society's adherence to the free- dom of religion guarantee that is written into the constitution, and to promote friendly rela- tions with Buddhist countries elsewhere in Asia. Service Visitors are normally con- ducted to the lamasery on Sun- day mornings, when an extend- ed version of the daily service is laid oa for their edification. After a snort drive to the top of a slope that rises in the west- ern reaches of the city, visitors enter into a wide courtyard, passing beneath a gilded arch before arriving at the temple itself, a one-storey structure in ochre and gold with the fluted roof and ornate eaves char- acteristic of UK architecture of tbeManchus. Above, doves flutter among the eaves; below, just outside the entrance to the temple it- self, eldedy believers prostrate themselves on wooden benches set eat for the purpose. To one side, other elderly worshippers waft up and down a row of gi- ant prayer wheels, each draped with loose strips of paper in- scribed with the names of de- parted loved ones. Periodically, they pause to spin a wheel, then stand back, their hands clasped in prayer and their eyes raised to heaven. Elsewhere in the courtyard, small children play tag, their laughter pealing out among the low pavilions that surround the Here and there, an _ lama wanders from one pavilion to another, a splendid sight with his saffron robe, his bronzed and wrinkled face, and Us shaven bead. When spoken to they are friendly, but not once in more than an hour does a visitor see any one of them stopping to talk to the worship- pers as a minister of another church might and nor would the worshippers expect them to. for a lamasery has no con- gregation in the sense that Christians understand it only devout outsiders who come to tiie ancient rites as spectators. Inside the temple itself, per- haps a dozen lamas sit facing each other in two fines, then- legs crossed Buddha-style atop silk-cushioned benches. All are old. at least 60, but whOe one or two are gaunt, cadaverous-look- ing fellows, most are rotund- high cheeked, golden-skinned Friar Tucks, following their leader in ancient Tibetan chants, fingering their beads and tinkling miniature silver bells cupped in their palms. Habit Now and then, one of them will thrust his hand beneath his robe, producing a tiny jade snuff bottle, from wWch be wOl e-oly a pinch of snuff to each ncslfil. Apparently a habit handed down to the lamas by Mancnus, the snuff-taking may be a means of relief from the stifling odor of mutton fat that hangs heavy in the temple, as it does wherever Mongolians, world's greatest mutton eaters, congregate; evidently, ie incense burners along the walls of the temple are insuffi- cient by themselves to do the job. Off behind the benches, other venerable lamas busy them- selves beating on drums decor- ated with gilded dragons, acca- sionally breaking away to sound a gong or engage in some other, more mysterious rite, such as lifting a feather out of a teapot and waving it reverent- ly in the air. Other Mongoli- ans, apparently non-believers, stand by the entrance goggling, scarcely stifling their amuse- ment at the strangeness of a ritual that was part of daily life for most of their fathers and grandfathers. Photographs are forbidden, but an irreverent guide sug- gests that a few surreptitious shots can probably be taken with a camera held at waist level. At first, it works like a charm, even when one of the cross-legged lamas spots tbt ruse; to him, it is a grand joke, eagerly communicated to Ms neighbor, and by him in turn to the Chief Lama, who, considering it not joke at all, dispatches one of his subordra- atesto put at stop to it. Where- upon the guide, vastly amus- ed, calls for a hasty retreat into the open air. Once outside, we are joined by a hawk-beaked lama who, constituting himself our guide, invites us to visit the ceremon- ial yurt where the lamas re- ceive their honored guests. The yurt, a circular, tent-like struc- ture made of felt covered with canvas, is the prevailing form of accommodation in Mongolia; but none a visitor sees else- where can compare with the magnificence of this, the lama- sery's pride and joy a yurt that reminds a visitor of noth- ing so much as the grand tents that medieval kings used to have pitched for their accom- modation at jousting tourna- ments. Refinements Set in a courtyard of tts own, with access barred by two pad- locked gates, the yurt is white tricked out in blue. Within, its walls are lined with red satin embroidered with gold. Along the walls, as in the temple it- self, are an array of display cases jammed full of smal Buddha figures and the like made of a butter-like substance and painted over in garish col- ors. Before the display cases are tables bearing trays stack- ed high with offerings, some- times tablets of butter or sug- ar, otherwise pieces of breac or Russian candies. Again like the temple, the yurt has its satin-cushionet benches, its gewgaws, its drums and its gongs; but there are refinements, such as neon strip-lighting, and a Russian- made hotplate, apparently to warm the bowls of kumiss, or fermented mare's milk, that are sometimes served to visit- ors in winter. Even more in- congruous, in this tradition- bound mffieu, are the glass- topped tables that stand around the perimeter of the yurt, dec- orated with tabteux of socialist Mongolia, from the Russian- built Ulan Bator railway sta- tion to the Russian-bull meat-processing plant in the suburbs. Helping himself to a Russian candy and inviting us to do the same, our self-appointed guide launches into his briefing Though be does not say so, it appears that this, dealing with foreign visitors, is his specia function, for his dress a rei silk robe with gold trim, and hand tooled Mongolian boots with turaed-uo toes is of the kind normally reserved fo ceremonial occasions. Certaii ly, he bears himself with aplomb, showing no sign of dis- comfort even at the unkindest questions. Jamba, for so he has intro duced himself, tefls us that be is the son of a herdsman, aix joined the lamasery at the age of 7. Now 50, be is one of 130 lamas in the lamasery, most ly refugees from other lamaser ies that have been closed down, like aH the, lanias, be receives a monthly salary of 320 Tugriks (about paid out on an nual budget of 3-miilion Tugriks (slightly less than Si-million all of it, so Jamba insists, con- tributed by "believers Attached to the lamasery t a seminary, training young Mongolians for the priesthood. At present, the seminary has about 140 students, all aged be- tween 20 and 25 and aft volun- teers. This, says Jamba, w5D guarantee the survival of the priesthood, tut about the sur- vival of the faith among tiie people he is not so sure: "You may have noticed some young peopte bere this morning. May- be they are believers; maybe not In any case, it is not our business.' 'DISCONTINUED FABRICS' SALE Watch for many unodveN tised Fabrics en Thursday, Friday and Sat- urday. Limited stock. COTTON PRINTS STRETCH TERRY -45" wide. -Washable. SPECIAL, YARD 97 -45" wide. -Washable. SPECIAL, YARD L49 -45" wide. -Washable. SPECIAL, YARD 1.96 PERMA PRESS COTTON -45" wide. -Washable- SPECIAL, YARD PLAIN AND STRIPES DOUBLE KNITS -60" wide. -Washable. SPECIAL, YARD 2.22 PRINTED CREPE -45" wide. -Washable. SPECIAL, YARD 1.49 POLYESTER WARP -45" wide. -Washable. 1.96 SINGLE KNITS DOUBLE KNITS -60" cotton. -Washable. SPECIAL, YARD BROADCLOTH SPECIAL, YARD L96 -60" wide. and prints. SPECIAL, YARD 1.96 -45" wide perma press. colon. -Washable. SPECIAL, YARD SINGLE KNITS -60" wide. colors only SPECIAL, YARD 2.44 PRINTED JERSEY -60" wide. -Washable SPECIAL, YARD 2.22 45" BATISTE and plain. press. SPECIAL, YARD 1.22 PRINTED SHEERS -45" wide. -Washable. quantity lasts. SPECIAL, YARD 1.86 REMNANTS ASSORTED PRICE Located in Zellers Shopping C entre on Mayor Magrath Drive. Open Daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday and F riday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m Telephone 328-8171. ;