Previously I interviewed Baagii, one of my closest community counterparts, but a couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interview her husband. Byamba is a super friendly guy who invites me to play volleyball with his friends and family. He also happens to be a monk! I thought it would be interesting to pick his brain about Mongolian Buddhism, so without further ado.
*All questions and answers were translated on the spot by the wonderful Baagii and written down in paragraph form by me*
- What is your full name? What does it mean?
Byambadorj. This is a Tibetan name, but it means protector.
- You are a monk, correct? What do you do as a monk?
I learn more about Buddhism and help others understand Buddhism. I help others and save others from their sufferings. I teach the citizens who come to see me about Buddhism. I give an explanation when people come and ask about what is happening in their life by giving advice.
- As I recall, you switched from a yellow to a red monk when you met your wife. Is that true? How did you meet her? Why did you decide to switch? Why did you decide to switch?
I was in a Buddhist philosophy class. We were both students and met through our friends. Soon after, we started dating. Then I asked her to marry me and live together, so I had to switch to a red monk. Yellow sect monks cannot marry. Also, the schools that we study are different, and I thought the red type books would be more interesting. Red monks also help people faster, they’re closer to people, and it’s easier to help others.
- What is the difference between a red and yellow monk?
Red sects study the secret sutras (one of them Luujin, which means “give body to others” in Tibetan). By reading the sutras, the spirits that are stuck in between this life and their next life that try to negatively affect people will go away. How this works is a secret only red monks are taught because otherwise it will scare regular people, but I think there are books in English about it. Red monks are more generous and love not just humans, but the entire universe, even the souls that couldn’t navigate through the in-between world. Red monks are more protective. Yellow monks study more philosophy. Both sects read different sutras.
What some people don’t know is that Buddhism has four main sects: Nyingma (the red sect founded in the 8th century A.D. and usually found in Tibet and Mongolia), Kagyu (founded in the early 11th century and found in Tibet, India, and Mongolia), Sakya, (founded in 1073 A.D in many countries), Geleg (the yellow sect found in Tibet, China, Korea, Mongolia, European countries etc.) The Nyingma (ancient) school of Tibetan or Vajrayana Buddhism was founded in the 8th century by the great enlightened Indian tantric master Padmasambhava, “the second Buddha”. Its teachings about transmissions and lineage of enlightened masters have continued unbroken to this day. It is the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism mentioned above.
- Why did you decide to become a monk?
When I was 11, I decided to become a monk. I heard nice stories about famous monks; I thought it was interesting. I also used to live with my grandmother, and she told me stories about monks and the power of wise monks. It seemed magical to me.
- What is your favorite part of your job?
Every time when I see the results of helping people who suffer, when they get rid of their ailments, I am thankful. Also I’m always thankful that I helped people to go to the right direction.
- What are your goals and dreams for your future?
To become a more powerful monk and help more people. To become stronger, I must learn more about Buddhism, practice more, and mediate more. I want to bring my contribution to the development of the Nyingma, the ancient Buddhist sect in Mongolia. I chose this path without any hesitation in my childhood. I was good at my subjects, but I left my school and became a monk. And I’ve never regretted this. Now I think I did the right thing in my life and will continue my service in Buddhism with great happiness.