Buryat Mongolian Shamanism

Welcome to the Shamanism section of the Buryat Home Page. Buryat shamanism is renowned for its ancient traditions and legendary shamans through the works of Eliade, Czaplicka, Harva, Sanjeev, and others. Please check back here frequently as new things will be added. Also please visit the Circle of Tengerism webpage for information about Siberian and Mongolian shamanism . Buryat and Mongolian shamanism are essentially one and the same, the distinction of Mongol and Buryat comes late in history, for until the latter part of the 17th century present day Buryatia and adjacent Buryat Mongol regions were an integral part of the Mongolian Empire and had been since the time of Chinggis Khan.

Sacred Tree Customs and Oboos

The Pleiaded and other Star Lore

White Moon Ritual

Erecting a Prayer tree for World Peace

International Shamanism Conference, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, August 2-6, 1999

“Tenger, humans, fire and water, those are the elements. If we think about it, there is the vast arch of the sky, and the sun and moon, like Tenger’s eyes. If we look, the sun is fire, the moon is water. In 50 years’ time all of humanity will realize that clean air and pure water are the most important things in the world.”
Urgunge Onon

The thing most commonly associated with the Buryat-Mongolian culture from a Westerner’s standpoint is the tradition of shamanism. No book about shamanism fails to mention Buryat or Mongolian shamanism. It is without a doubt one of the oldest religious and cultural traditions in the world.
So why is shamanism so important to world culture? The simplest answer is that it espouses a view of the world that is vital to man’s survival in the future. Perhaps better than almost any other people, Buryats and Mongols have understood the importance of keeping the world in balance and to revere the air, waters, and land. From the traditional Buryat point of view, the world is not a dead place, but vibrantly alive with spirits and souls in every thing and in every place, also that all animals and plants have sentient souls much like ourselves.

For that reason respect for the spirits of nature and living things shaped a religion and life ethics that minimizes negative impact on the earth. For that reason also, for the many thousands of years that man has lived in Siberia there was minimal negative impact on the environment until the current time. This is a way of life which is radically different from that of European peoples, whose philosophy considers most of the world to be lacking sentience and useful only for exploitation.
This outlook is the root of all our environmental problems today, whether in Russia, the United States, or in other parts of the world where this essential connection to and respect for Mother Earth has been forgotten. Until humankind remembers this connection we will continue to endanger our own future. It is well known that pollution of the earth, air, and water is the biggest threat to human health today, and this will only become a progressively severe problem unless we take a different course.
Now these words should not be construed as being anti-technology, but a call for a re-considering of how it is used. Indeed, Mongols and Buryats have not traditionally been anti-technology. Rather, their traditional lifestyle adapted to technological change but yet still retained a balance with their own environment. There are three basic ideas in Buryat-Mongol shamanism that are very essential for the future lifestyle of all people:

1. Sustaining balance in the world
2. Reverence for the earth and living things
3. Personal Responsibility

The ideal for living in Mongolian-Buryat shamanism is best described by the word tegsh, which means being in balance. This implies doing things in moderation and also with consideration of the effects of one’s actions on others. For instance, one’s own personal power is directly related to one’s positive and negative actions, and although no human is capable of doing only positive actions, as long as the positive and negative are in balance with each other one can live in health, peace, and safety. When one’s actions are too negative one’s personal spiritual power will be depleted and one will be susceptible to disease and other dangers. In such cases a shaman would be called to restore balance. From a modern standpoint, the essential meaning of this is to live temperately and conscientiously; keeping negative and positive actions in balance.
Respect for the environment is the most essential for survival into the future. While not all people will share the traditional Buryat view of the spiritual dimension of nature, nevertheless a reverence for the air, rivers, earth, forests, and mountains will transform the current attitude towards the environment that is the root of all our current problems of pollution. Mother Earth and Father Sky have created us and nurtured us for millions of years and deserve our respect. This principle also blends with the idea of balance in that Buryats and Siberian people in general have always used the resources around them in a way that their resources will be renewed and there will not be permanent damage to the environment. This has been encoded in the language of respecting the forest, mountain, and animal spirits, but the underlying principle is very important. These people have traditionally believed that if these resources are taken without thanking the spirits for what they have given, they will not return again. In our own present world, we are challenged to use renewable resources, alternative energy sources, recycle, use appropriate technology, and otherwise apply the high technology which we are developing today in ways that we can develop a new lifestyle in the coming millennium which will approximate the balanced relationship with the environment that has been typical of Siberian cultures since the earliest recorded history.

Personal responsibility is the third important aspect of Buryat shamanist philosophy. This is often expressed in the Buryat expression “tenger medne.” The ultimate relationship every person has is with Father Heaven, no one stands in between, there are no holy books, no priests, and not even shamans come in between this basic relationship. This means that every person is responsible for one’s own actions, and Tenger sees all that is done and is the ultimate judge and shaper of destiny. This is the highest form of religion, the most free, and the most modern. Most people believe that there is a supernatural force, many have their own names for it, but ultimately the relationship between a man and the universe is very personal. This is the very reason why Chinggis Khan in his time tolerated all religions within the great Mongolian Empire. In the past and even now in the present time the divisions between religions have been the cause of war and suffering in many parts of the world. This transcendent view which was held by the “barbarian” Chinggis Khan is very useful for the future as our world becomes ever smaller and people must learn to live in brotherhood and peace. In writing this I have the sincere hope that people will read this with an open mind. At no time am I trying to create divisions among people by writing about the positive contributions of the Buryat people to history; rather I hope to help promote self-respect among Buryat people as well as make other people aware of the fact that Buryats have contributed a lot to history in different ways. In this modern age we have a dual challenge: at this time we have an information revolution in which information about cultures and history can be spread rapidly and Buryat culture and other cultures may be understood better than in the past. Secondly, our society is becoming global and cosmopolitan, and all nations must live together in peace while preserving those truly unique and valuable things that they individually have preserved from their own ancient traditions. This is true for Russia, the United States, and the world in general. Therefore I want to do my small part in helping to preserve and promote the unique traditions of the Buryat and Mongolian peoples for the future.

Beware of Impostors

It has come to the attention of the Golomt Center for Shamanic Studies and the Asian Shamans’ Association that a newly popular Russian cult, led by teachers called Shri Ganesha and Shri Jnan Avatar Muni, is now passing off its teachings as being Mongolian and Siberian shamanic teachings. They most certainly are not. Beware of so-called shamans offering teachings about Shambala and Belovodie (Olga Kharitidi is NOT part of this organization). Shambala and Belovodie are Tibetan Buddhist and Russian mystical teachings popularized by Nicholas Rerikh and have nothing to do with traditional Siberian shamanic teachings. This page is devoted to providing information about the ancient Mongolian culture and religion and our organization is dedicated to the preservation and revival of these traditions. We are NOT shamanic fundamentalists, we welcome the free communication and exploration of ideas; indeed the each person has their own path. We do however oppose the use of the names and symbols of our traditions in order to lend credence to a new belief and vision and oppose these new beliefs being called the “secret” teachings of Siberian shamans.