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The reincarnation of Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa Rinpoche of Mongolia presenting traditional offerings to the Dalai Lama on March 8, 2023. Source: Choejor

The Dalai Lama Recognizes the New Head of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia

March 29, 2023: The Dalai Lama introduced the new head of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia during a teaching to a gathering of 5,000 Buddhists and 600 Mongolians in Dharamsala, India on March 8, 2023. He gestured to a small boy sitting next to him and told the crowd, “we have the reincarnation of Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa Rinpoché of Mongolia with us today.”

The boy introduced by the Dalai Lama is a US-born 8-year-old Mongolian boy named Aguidai. The father is a mathematics professor at the National University of Mongolia, and the mother is the chairman and CEO of a large business related to construction and mining. The boy’s predecessors were closely connected to the Chakrasamvara Krishnacharya tradition mentioned by the Dalai Lama during the ceremony.

The Jebtsundamba Khutuktu is Mongolia’s spiritual leader. The title of Jebtsundamba was first awarded by the Fifth Dalai Lama. The authority to identify the Jebtsundamba Khutuktu currently rests with the Dalai Lama. The boy, if confirmed and enthroned, will become the 10th Jebtsundamba Khutughtu (also spelled as Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa Rinpoché). The 9th Jebtsundamba died in 2012. The Dalai Lama during a visit to Mongolia in Nov 2016 had announced that the 10th Jebtsundamba Khutughtu had been reborn in Mongolia and identified.

The Jebtsundamba Khutuktu are the spiritual heads of the Gelug lineage of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia. Buddhism is the largest and official religion of Mongolia practiced by 53% of Mongolia’s population. Population of Mongolia is around 3.4 million. 17% of Southern Mongolia’s (aka Inner Mongolia) total population of 24 million, or 4.1 million, are Mongolians.

The 10th Jebtsundamba will still have to be formally enthroned by the Mongolian clergy.

The Dalai Lama’s announcement of the 10th Jebtsundamba Khutughtu is an important development for Mongolian Buddhists and Mongolia. The Mongolian government has mostly adopted a hands off approach to its relations with the Jebtsundamba Khutuktu. How the government responds to the reincarnation remains to be seen as Mongolia will also have to possibly deal with pressure and interference from Beijing. China’s State Administration of Religious Affairs, in a blatant act of trampling on the religious freedom rights of the Tibetan people, issued “Order No. 5” on “management measures for the reincarnation of living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism” in January 2007. The “order” requires official registration and Chinese government approval of all reincarnation of Buddhist lamas.