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Visiting Mongolian Monasteries & Temples

     Thanks to the democratic changes in 1990, freedom of religion was restored in Mongolia and there has been a phenomenal revival of Buddhism in the country, resulting in the construction of dozens of new monasteries, and the restoration of temples destroyed in the 1930s. The busy and popular Gandantegchilin Hiid (shortened to Gandan Khiid) in Ulaanbaatar, the magnificent Erdene Zuu Hiid, built on the ruins of the ancient capital of Karakorum, and the remote Amarbayasgalant Hiid near the Darkhan City are the biggest monasteries in Mongolia.

The best time to visit a monastery is in the morning around 10 am, when chanting and prayers are usually in progress. You may enter a temple during chanting but must not stand in front of the monks. Instead, go clockwise around the back. You can even go up to the altar, make a small cash offering, and then bow before the altar. However, it is advisable not to offer a torn or old bank note. If you want a blessing from a certain monk, then offer your money with two hands and bow down so that the monk is able to bless you by touching your head with his prayer book or hand.

When visiting a Buddhist temple refrain from talking loudly, pointing with an outstretched finger or laughing.
Some temples have wooden benches and believers can sit and enjoy the reading of sutras or other ceremonies. If there are not enough benches it is acceptable to stand near the door or gate.

You should never take photos of anything or anyone inside a temple, but you can do that outside of temple.
Feel free to turn the prayer wheels as the Mongolians do and note that each will have sutras both inside and outside - this message will influence your environment. Buddhists believe that virtue will be bestowed upon anyone who turns these prayer wheels.

At some temples you will be able to have your fortune told by an astrologist. Buddhism is rich with a variety of sutras and it is believed that they all have certain effect on your life. You can request a monk to read a certain sutra for a token fee. There are plenty of other sutras which will supposedly protect your health during travel, life, work and business. There are even sutras for children. These sutras can be read if your child behaves badly or when they have inferior marks at school.
Buddhist relate to objects like bells, vajra, drums, printed sutras and all these items are usually available for purchase outside monasteries like Gandan, Lamrin and Dashchoilin. After purchasing any sutras, vajra or drums, avoid keeping them in a dirty place and do not place them near shoes or socks. If they are kept nicely and reserved, then these items will protect you from bad luck, evil spirits and health problems.

If you want to purchase a gift then do not buy consecrated items, stick to pieces that do not have spiritual meaning.

Om Mani Padme Hum
(Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus)