Delgeruun Choira Monastery in the Gobi Desert
By Matthew Richards Gaden Relief’s Mongolia Project helped in the reconstruction of the Delgeruun Choira* Monastery in the “Gobi” or desert province of Dundgovi in southern Mongolia. Delgeruun Choira is the traditional seat of Zava Damdin Rinpoche, a lineage of lamas whose stature was almost as great as the Bodg Khans of Mongolia. The previous incarnation was a famed scholar, yogi, healer and mahasiddha who wrote 16 volumes on commentaries to Buddhist Sutras and Tantras and many ritual texts also. Before the Stalinist Red Terror gripped Mongolia in an iron fist, there were 900 monks studying with this Rinpoche at Delgeruun. The monastery was a famous place of logic, debate and meditation. It was a veritable spiritual heart of this desert province; the center of village life for a population whose faith and devotion more than made up for its simplicity and challenging desert life-style. The Gobi’s landscape of unique ecosystems and local shamanic power places frames the site of Delgeruun and still awes today’s visitors. Under Communist rule, the monastery was completely destroyed in 1939.
Gaden Relief’s spiritual director, Zasep Rinpoche, and the current Zava Damdin Rinpoche made the long journey to Delgeruun Choira in the summer of 2004. These two lamas share a special, close connection – both have an interest in making the Buddhadharma flourish in Mongolia and both would like to see the restoration of this famed, albeit modest, monastery in the Gobi province.
The purpose of the visit was to see the beginning phases of reconstruction. The local villagers and nomadic people are very excited about the prospect of once more having their sacred place of prayer and pilgrimage. Zasep Rinpoche met locals who remember, at the height of the Stalinist purges, Communist forces sweeping into the Gobi and looting the temple’s precious artifacts and destroying the complex. Delgeruun’s hundreds of monks were rounded up, arrested and “disappeared” – never to be seen alive again. The night after this tragedy, locals risked everything to creep back to the ruins to salvage what they could for posterity. They were able to collect a small amount of temple items and personal effects of the previous Zava Damdin Rinpoche, who had died a few years earlier. These they carefully preserved in large cooking pots that they buried in the sand of a nearby cave. When the newly recognized and enthroned Zava Damdin Rinpoche made his first visit to Delgeruun Choira monastery a few years ago, weeping villagers and nomads joyously presented him with these priceless antiques as a welcoming gift – their precious lama had finally returned home! With these kinds of stories flowing from local people’s lips, it’s easy to see why the lamas want to restore Delgeruun to its former glory as an active center of Buddhist wisdom, arts, counseling and healing in this region.
Some of the foundational construction has recently been accomplished. At present, the interior of the building is painted and re-furbished. Zava Damdin Rinpoche ordered, from Beijing, some beautiful traditional Manchu tiles that now proudly make up the roof. It is Zava Rinpoche’s dream to make Delgeruun a modern facility with sanitary conveniences for both the monastic community as well as the sojourning visitors. There are plans for proper plumbing and electricity, showers, toilets, solar panels and a collection of gers or yurts serving for quarters.
Gaden Relief’s Mongolia Project is looking to raise approximately $10,000-12,000 U.S. (12K-14K CDN) to cover these costs by the summer of 2005 so the construction can continue in the good weather before its evitable halt during the Gobi’s notorious winter. Further details and information regarding the funding needs as well as the progress on the temple will be updated on our website as it becomes available. Please give – this project is one that will not only add to the flowering of Buddhism in Mongolia but it will also be a gift to the local Gobi community giving them back that spiritual dimension to their community that they’ve missed for so long. For an update on the reconstruction work at Delgeruun Choira, please see article Rebuilding Delgeruun Choira Temple page. The summer of 2004 marked the completion of Mongolia Project’s Amarbayasgalant Well Project. This project was both swift and inspiring. Zasep Rinpoche found that the health of the sangha (community of monks) there improved almost immediately with its installation and that the monks are planning further infrastructure work around it, such as the construction of a heated hut to keep the pipes warm as well as showers and a new kitchen. See the report and pictures of Amarbayasgalant’s well. For more information about Gaden Relief’s Mongolia Project, please visit our Mongolia Project page or contact project coordinator Matthew Richards. *Previously transliterated as “Delgertsog Choir”. The current spelling is derived directly from the Mongolian literation.
More Information on the Delgeruun Choira Monastery Project
By Matthew Richards Gaden Relief's Mongolia Project is reporting success with the rebuilding of Delgeruun Choira Temple in Dundgovi Province. The renovations are progressing remarkably fast and with good craftmanship. The temple's head lama, Zava Damdin Rinpoche, has...