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A Buddhist on a Christian on Buddhism PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 28 July 2008

Egil Lothe, President of Buddhist Federation of Norway 

I have lately drawn attention to viewpoints of Thomas Terry about a connection between Buddhism and the prevalence of corruption in Mongolian society1. His allegations on this point do not appear to be an accidental slip of the tongue. On the contrary they seem to be very much part of a general approach of praising the superiority of Christianity through ridiculing and belittling other religions. In the Mongolian context the main target of his denunciations is Buddhism, the traditional religion of the country.  

As President of Eagle TV Thomas Terry has been given a unique opportunity to promote his religious viewpoints in Mongolian society. His views on Buddhism are regularly published on his blog which figures prominently on the homepage of Eagle TV. As an evangelical Christian Thomas Terry also represents a religious movement which is being aggressively promoted in Mongolia. His viewpoints are assumedly also taken seriously by his Christian Mongolian followers and may even have some influence on the Mongolian public due to the lack of religious knowledge in Mongolia today. They therefore deserve to be seriously scrutinized.  

Thomas Terry certainly doesn’t make a secret of his attitude to Buddhism: 

    Certainly I'm no fan of Buddhism. The teachings of Buddhism cannot hold a candle to the life of Jesus Christ. As I've written previously, Christianity is superior to Buddhism ethically, historically, and factually.2 

As we see from the following statement, neither does he hesitate to attack head on the founders of other religions as morally debased individuals:    

    Consider some of the most respected figures in religious or political history. Moses is revered by the Jews as their lawgiver. Yet Moses was a murderer. Mohammad is honored by 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide as a prophet. Yet Mohammad was a pedophile, having sex with a child bride when she was just nine years of age. Buddha is revered by more than 300 million Buddhists. Yet Buddhism’s founder abandoned his family without warning to search for enlightenment.3 

Since he starts out as a crusader attacking Buddhism as inferior one would assume that Thomas Terry had done some serious studies of Buddhism, giving him the knowledge on which to base his allegations about the defects of this religion. Apparently this is not the case. In his statements in his blog he refers to two books comparing various religions with Christianity4. These books have little scholarly value being basically expositions by American evangelical Christians trying to prove the superiority of their own faith. Still this does not hold him back from passing a number of deeply derogatory judgments on Buddhism. I will look at a few of them. As there is limited space for a thorough discussion I will mainly point to passages from the Buddhist scriptures and traditional expositions of the doctrine stating the Buddhist position on the points raised by Thomas Terry. 

The Buddha

At first it should be realized that for Buddhists the Buddha is the Supreme Being born into this world for our sake, as expressed by these words about his birth:   

    The Bodhisatta, the foremost jewel, unequaled,

    has been born in Lumbini town in the Sakyan land

    for the good and happiness of the human world.5 

The perspective suggested by Thomas Terry’s statement above about a Buddha abandoning his family is therefore completely unacceptable to Buddhists. The monk Piyadassi Thera gives the traditional view about the Buddha’s leaving his wife in the royal palace: 

    … he (the Buddha) was overcome by a powerful urge to seek and win the Deathless, to strive for deliverance from old age, illness, misery, and death not only for himself but for all beings (including his wife and child) that suffer. It was his deep compassion that led him to the quest ending in enlightenment, in Buddhahood. It was compassion that now moved his heart towards the great renunciation and opened for him the doors of the golden cage of his home life. It was compassion that made his determination unshakeable even by the last parting glance at his beloved wife asleep with the baby in her arms.6 

According to tradition the Buddha returned to his palace after his enlightenment with his wife and son later joining his order as his disciples. In Buddhism love includes ones near ones but is not limited to them, as expressed by the following verse praising the Buddha:

    You were kind without being asked,

    you were loving without reason,

    you were a friend to the stranger

    and a kinsman to those without kin.7

Thomas Terry’s harsh remarks about the Buddha therefore go far beyond an objective assessment of the founder of Buddhism being more a character assassination which for that reason is highly repugnant to Buddhists.  

The Goal of Buddhism

This is a point were Thomas Terry is not too clear. He talks about “the ultimate eradication of the individual”, that “Buddha came that people might rid themselves of personal existence”, that “Buddhism promises only an arduous, lengthy road toward personal non-existence in a nebulous nirvana”. No wonder that he thinks that “Buddhism is a philosophy where the living hope for an eternal death.” His basic interest, however, does not seem to understand Buddhism, but rather to attempt to make Buddhism appear as unattractive as possible to his audience. The question, however, is whether what he says has anything to do with the teachings of Buddhism.  

First of all Buddhism never speaks about the highest state as death. On the contrary the achievement of nirvana is often described as the final victory over death as the following scriptural passages about the Buddha declares:

    Then I considered thus: Suppose that, being myself subject to birth, aging, sickness and death, to sorrow and defilement, I seek the unaging, unailing, deathless, sorrowless and undefiled state, the supreme security from bondage, Nirvana.8 

    "Homage to you, … who have won

    the hard victory, defeating the army of Death,

    (…)." Thus they pay homage, the devas,

    to one who has reached the heart's goal,

    for they see in him no means

    that would bring him under Death's sway. 9 

The question is then, what about the Buddhist teaching about the human person? What about the teaching about human beings not having an unchanging self nature, that Mr. Terry remarks might refer to? To this question the answer is that the descriptions of Buddhist schools of thought regarding human nature are very sophisticated, analysing the fact of change as well as continuity of human beings. The important thing to remember, however, is the emphasis on the fact (as Buddhism sees it) that we survive our physical death and continue our existence in a new form. As human life as well as other forms of existence only lasts for a limited time this phenomenon of repeated existence has happened innumerable times in the past and will be repeated again until we reach the supreme state of eternal perfection beyond birth and death which Buddhists refers to as nirvana. However, this state cannot, by its very nature, be described through ordinary reasoning. One becomes, like the Buddha: "Deep, boundless, hard to fathom, like the ocean."  

The perspective of Buddhism is very broad: happiness in this life, happiness in lives to come, and the supreme happiness of ultimate liberation. However, the point which Thomas Terry doesn’t seem to understand is that absolute reality, which Christians refer to as “God” or “heaven”, while other designations are used by Buddhists, is a topic that is particularly ill suited for diatribes against other religions. It is sad to see a person arguing for the superiority of his religion by issuing claims about another religion that are plainly untrue. 

Ethics of Buddhism 

Ethics is an area where Thomas Terry has a lot to say: 

    The whole idea of suffering, desire, and detachment in Buddhism has had an effect on Buddhist societies that most Buddhists themselves do not recognize. Buddhism not only fears suffering, but actually contributes to suffering. By emphasizing detachment and the elimination of desire, Buddhism puts an unnatural barrier on relationships that stifles the fullest possible expressions of mercy and sacrificial love. Certainly there is love in Buddhism, but not the kind of love that we see in the demonstration of Christ on the cross. That is Buddhism's greatest tragedy. The fullest possible expression of love cannot be experienced without suffering and sacrifice. Buddhism fails to understand this, and thus is a system that has an outward expression of love that is void of a truly impassioned heart.10 

Here again we see a rather muddled statement mixing allegations about the state of affairs in Buddhist societies (“unnatural barriers on relationship that stifles the fullest possible expressions of mercy and sacrificial love”) with theories about the causes for such a situation (“emphasizing detachment and the elimination of desire”). Again, the question is whether this description has anything to do with reality. As we all know, people, whatever their religious label, tend to ignore the ideals of their religions and do in fact often behave contrary to them. The general behavior of people in a society is therefore not a reliable source of knowledge about the ethics of a particular religion. Thomas Terry’s claim that Buddhism “contributes to suffering”, in the way he suggests, is therefore highly problematic. I think for instance that suggesting that Mongolians are “stifled” in regard to “expressions of mercy” compared to say, Russians or that Thais lack “sacrificial love” compared to, say Americans are highly risky statements that those thus characterized, with good reasons, would find very insulting.   

At this point I think is time to clear up some misunderstandings about Buddhism. Contrary to what some falsely claim, Buddhism does not go against what we may call “the pursuit of happiness”. Quite the contrary. Neither does it advice against seeking worldly happiness. What it does advice against is seeking worldly happiness at the expense of others. However, it also points out that there is a happiness higher that that dependent on worldly gains. The shift in focus involved in pursuing this higher happiness generally happen gradually as the individual matures in his understanding of life. There is thus nothing in Buddhism inhibiting the full expression of human emotions in relation to others.  

Then there is the claim that Buddhism fails to understand that “love cannot be experienced without suffering and sacrifice”. Again this is a false claim. Love as understood by Buddhism always implies a willingness of self sacrifice, as expressed by the following verse from the Buddhist scriptures: 

    Even as a mother protects with her life 
    Her child, her only child, 
    So with a boundless heart 
    Should one cherish all living beings.11 

The willingness to sacrifice ourselves for the benefit of others have to be cultivated little by little so we get to the state where we may actually do so when needed: 

    Our Guide instructs us to begin

    By giving food or other little charities,

    That later, step by step, the habit once acquired,

    We may be able to donate our very flesh.12 

Sadly, Thomas Terry goes on with claims that are as false as those already put forward: 

    In religious practices like Buddhism, self-denial is practiced as part of achieving enlightenment. In other words, a person denies self in order to gain something for himself. …. The model from the Bible is radically different, and far nobler. We deny ourselves in order to benefit other people and God’s kingdom.13 

I will not comment here upon his description about the teaching of the Bible. I have included it, though, as it is so typical of his rather childish rhetoric of praising his religion by belittling others. But again he is falsely accusing Buddhism. One of the earliest passages from the Buddhist scriptures recounts how the Buddha told his first sixty monk disciples, who had achieved enlightenment, and thus had nothing more to gain for themselves, to go out in the world to help others achieve the same goal as they had achieved:   

    Go forth, monks, for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the good, benefit, and happiness of gods and men.14

This principle has been upheld as fundamental in all traditions of Buddhism. A text often referred to by His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the Bodhicaryavatara which includes the following verse: 

    As long as space remains, 
    As long as sentient beings remain, 
    Until then, may I too remain 
    And dispel the miseries of the world.15 

A brief study of the Buddhist scriptures should make it abundantly clear that the allegation of Thomas Terry that a Buddhist only “denies self in order to gain something for himself” is utterly false and a grave misrepresentation of Buddhism.


Reasons given for the superiority of Christianity 

At this point it may be worth taking a closer look at some of the reasons put forward by Thomas Terry for the superiority of Christianity. One reason emphasised by him in relation to self-denial is the concept of obedience to God. Here16 he mentions Genesis 22: 1-13 where “God” says to Abraham:  

    Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you. … 

    When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice.17 

As the story goes “God” having tested Abraham’s obedience gave him a goat to kill instead. I think it is not only Buddhists that are horrified rather than impressed by this example of blind obedience going as far as being willing to kill one’s own son as an offering to an imagined “God”!. Unfortunately the Bible not only includes praiseworthy injunctions to love ones neighbour and so on but also some highly problematic stories such as 1 Samuel 15, 1-3 where “God” actually orders the Jews to carry out wholesale genocide as revenge on a neighbouring tribe : 

    Now listen to this message from the Lord! This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for opposing Israel when they came from Egypt. Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys.18  

How can a religion sink so abysmally low? I must confess that the answer eludes me. To a Buddhist these biblical passages should at least serve to remind us about the value of Buddhism where stories, such as those just referred to, would be totally unimaginable. They also suggest the need for critical examinations of all claims to represent absolute truth whether from Thomas Terry or any other religious fundamentalist. Or, as the Buddha says in the scriptures: 

    Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing, nor upon tradition, nor upon rumour, nor upon scripture, nor upon surmise, nor upon axiom, nor upon specious reasoning, nor upon bias toward a notion pondered over, nor upon another's seeming ability, nor upon the consideration 'The monk is our teacher.'

    When you yourselves know: 'These things are bad, blameable, censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,' abandon them... When you yourselves know: 'These things are good, blameless, praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,' enter on and abide in them.19  

However, Thomas Terry is right about one thing: “Glorifying God is unimportant and irrelevant to Buddhist”. He doesn’t stop with just saying that, though. Here he “lets the cat out of the bag”: 

    But biblically, to the extent that God is ignored or opposed, people must correspondingly suffer. … in ignoring God, Buddhists believe they can escape suffering, but this will only perpetuate it forever. … The very means to escape suffering (true faith in the biblical Christ) is rejected in favour of a self-salvation, which can only result in eternal suffering. (My emphasis) 20 

The idea that everyone, however good they may be as human beings, but rejecting “true faith in the biblical Christ” should be punished by “God” with “eternal suffering” in the hereafter is an appalling idea to say the least. However, the horrible callousness of this idea doesn’t seem to bother Thomas Terry as he shouts out these terrible treats to Mongolian Buddhist from the “God” he believes in. I think it is difficult to see this as anything else than religious hate speech! 

Thomas Terry bases his statements on passages from the Bible, such as Matthew 25:46 which says:

    And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.21

Thomas Terry also refers to Revelation 20:10-15 which says:

    Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. … And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.22

On this background Thomas Terry’s talk about a “God who expresses love for His creation” begins to sound rather hollow. What kind of love is there when those rejecting “true faith in the biblical Christ” are punished with “eternal suffering” as described above? How much is the hope to “exist forever with a loving God” worth to say a Mongolian Christian if the same “loving God” throws his Buddhist mother into “the lake of fire” to be “tormented day and night forever and ever” merely because she rejects “true faith in the biblical Christ”?. One is reminded by the contrast with Buddhism here:

    For the happiness which, though sublime,

    Cannot be shared with others,

    Pains rather than pleases

    Those like you, O Righteous One.23

The problem with Thomas Terry’s evangelical Christianity should be obvious to any discerning person: it is a message which condemns to “eternal suffering” in the hereafter everyone who doesn’t accept its particular offer of salvation. It is therefore a message of fear, intimidation, and intolerance. It is therefore a message that creates divisions and conflicts between human beings. It is therefore a message that teaches its followers to despise other religions. It is therefore a message that Mongolia really doesn’t need. To Buddhists such a message is a false and harmful delusion. As a European Buddhist I am pleased that my Christian friends in my own country have, by and large, thrown away the bigotry of religious fundamentalism. I therefore hope that my Mongolian friends will succeed in preventing their beautiful country from becoming a dumping ground for such destructive beliefs.

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Different Religions, Same Ethics? Comments on the Recent Religious Controversy in Mongolian Media PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 22 July 2008

 Ueli Minder, Director of the Golden Light Sutra Buddhist Center gives his view on the recent controversy of Christian and Buddhist supporters ventilating their opinion in the Mongolian media.

For a long time I thought I shouldn’t say something about what other foreigners working in Mongolia are doing. I have many friends here; friends with different religious backgrounds. And I’m respecting them for their work they do in Mongolia. I don’t have the slightest intention to put one religion above another, to praise one and to blame another. I’m here writing about the attitude I’m expecting from somebody claiming to be a religious person, especially if he has much power in voicing his ideas.

I’m concerned about the corruption in Mongolia (and in other countries too), and I would be very happy if people would see the negative effects of corruption; for themselves, for the country and for individuals. The only way to make them see this is by educating them about ethical behavior. All the religions are teaching ethical behavior; if people understand these teachings and apply them they will have harmony in their lives and they will contribute to the harmony in society.

Then I came across Mr. Lothe’s article in the UB POST and I did some small research about what the head of Eagle TV is writing about religions, and how much he cares about truth and mutual understanding – and I felt disturbed to see how he is trying to boast about his religion as being superior. Is this a way to solve the problems humanity is facing?

Human beings are human beings, and it’s great if they live in peace together. Peace is so much needed these days, and in order to achieve peace we have to learn how to respect each other.

This respect is especially needed when somebody has the power to voice his ideas like Thomas Terry, the director of Eagle TV. I have been looking for this respect in the writings of Mr. Terry – and I couldn’t find it. Unfortunately.

Mr. Terry is living in a country with a long Buddhist history and where a majority of the people consider themselves Buddhists. He wrote on March 10, 2008: “Certainly I'm no fan of Buddhism. The teachings of Buddhism cannot hold a candle to the life of Jesus Christ. As I've written previously, Christianity is superior to Buddhism ethically, historically, and factually.”

Where is the respect?

In a previous article about corruption he wrote:

“Mongolian society has primarily been informed by the worldviews of Atheism and Buddhism; but they don’t seem to be able to affect the kind of character in society that makes corruption a source of personal shame. If these worldviews actually had that ability, then one would expect with such a long history here that corruption’s acceptability would not be on the rise. The same is true in other nations primarily informed by these worldviews.“ Mr. Terry, December 15 2006

Egil Lothe from Norway made a comment about this in an article in the UB POST. It’s interesting how Mr. Terry reacts to this article - why isn’t he looking at what he himself wrote?

That would be a Christian attitude, wouldn’t it?

Then: Didn’t Mr. Terry realize that in Mongolian society information about Buddhism was completely banned during the Communist period; and that there was almost no information available about Buddhism after the change in 1990? Only after the year 2000 there have been a TV series, the first books on Buddhism were printed in Cyrillic and only at a few places some regular Buddhist teachings in Mongolian language were available.

Why doesn’t Mr. Terry write how since 1990 many Christian groups get lots of money from abroad to do their activities; how they have a TV Channel; how they are going from home to home, from ger to ger to convert people; how they have been building many churches (not with the money from Mongolians); how they are offering free English classes - mixed with teachings about Christianity.

Then he wrote: “…they (Atheism and Buddhism) don’t seem to be able to affect the kind of character in society that makes corruption a source of personal shame.”

Only one remark:

It’s true that no religion and philosophical system can prevent people from unethical behavior. Just think about all the Christian priests abusing young boys (this kind of behavior can be found in any religion, unfortunately). And think about all the corrupt and cruel dictators, presidents and prime ministers, claiming to be a follower of their religion – for example Mugabe, being a Catholic.

One may see the way Mr. Terry is manipulating facts in his other writings too; manipulating by stressing some facts and ignoring others Mr. Terry wrote on March 10. 2008: “Mongolia has gone from a single known Christian 15 years ago to more than 40,000 people who profess one form of Christianity or another. It has done this without state support, without a history of Christian adherence, and with being something new to the Mongolian heart and mind. Mongolian Christianity has gone from no churches 15 years ago to 400. Compare this to the resurgence of Mongolian Buddhism in the same period and the construction or restoration of only 52 temples—and some of those have received some government assistance because of their place in Mongolia's history.”

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Thomas Terry on Buddhism and corruption in Mongolia – an answer to his response PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 16 July 2008

By Egil Lothe, President of Buddhist Federation of Norway

My article “Buddhism – the cause of corruption in Mongolia?” published in UB Post and Mongolia Web drew attention to viewpoints on corruption in Mongolia expressed by Mr. Thomas Terry, the president of Eagle Channel in UB, on his homepage[1]. Judging from his emotional outburst in his comments to my article this seems to have caused him some embarrassment. The main point in my article was a discussion of his allegation that the prevalence of corruption in Mongolia can be explained by the influence of Atheism and Buddhism on the Mongolian people. This is how he expresses himself:

Mongolian society has primarily been informed by the worldviews of Atheism and Buddhism; but they don’t seem to be able to affect the kind of character in society that makes corruption a source of personal shame. If these worldviews actually had that ability, then one would expect with such a long history here that corruption’s acceptability would not be on the rise[2].

 In other words the prevalence of corruption in Mongolian society can be explained by a deficiency in the worldviews of Atheism and Buddhism that prevents Mongolians from perceiving corruption as morally offensive. Thomas Terry generally expresses himself clearly, and so also here where he elaborates on this point:

Corruption can only be solved when people make a personal decision that corruption is so morally offensive that they will not participate in it at any cost. When we view corruption as personally offensive and destructive to personal character, then we will take pains to avoid it and consistently condemn it in deeds as well as words instead of the situation we have now – excusing it and finally accepting it as so much of Mongolian society seems to have done. (my underlining).[3]

This reasoning clearly justifies in his thinking the title of his article: “Why do Mongolians view corruption as “acceptable”” He does not say “some Mongolians” but “Mongolians”. Presumably he excepts the 1,5% Christian Mongolians from this characterization but as far as the Atheist and Buddhist Mongolians are concerned (the great majority of Mongolians), is it precisely his arguments quoted above that target them as the objects of his characterization (underlined above). This is nothing but a vicious attack on the moral integrity of most of the Mongolian people. Thomas Terry’s attempt in his response to my article to claim that he has been falsely charged with attacking the Mongolian people[4] is therefore without any credibility whatsoever. I am in fact surprised by his cowardice when confronted with his insulting allegations regarding the Mongolian people. Rather than defending his statements that Atheist and Buddhist Mongolians are morally blind in relation to corruption due to the influence of the worldviews of Atheism and Buddhism, which thus facilitates corruption, he makes a pathetic attempt to avoid the condemnation of Atheist and Buddhist Mongolians (which he will surely receive once they read his article)[5] by making the ludicrous statement that my analysis of his article is a “misunderstanding”. However, strangely he also adds a new insult to his previous insults in his response to my article:


What I did do was make a social commentary on the historic influence of Atheism and Buddhism and ask why, if these worldviews are so constructive, hasn't their increasing influence and exercise here facilitated a dramatic drop in corruption instead of a dramatic rise?[6] (my underlining)


The derogatory insinuations expressed in this quotation and elsewhere above have not been supported by any evidence. On the contrary, as I have shown in my article, as far as Buddhism is concerned, its moral stand against corruption is crystal clear. I would therefore suggest that Thomas Terry pay more emphasis on speaking truthfully about Buddhism. Unfortunately the misrepresentation of Buddhism in his present article is not an isolated case, but only one of many others found in his writings[7] . In the present case I suggest that if Thomas Terry is not ready to stand up and defend his accusations against Atheist and Buddhist Mongolians he should have the moral courage to offer them an apology for his untrue and insulting statements.

Finally, regarding Eagle Television I would like to repeat that I do find it disturbing that a person, being as careless about truth concerning other religions, as Thomas Terry has proven himself to be, is allowed to operate a television channel in Mongolia. Presumably the channel will be sufficiently scrutinized in regard to this particular area. To the extent these attitudes of Thomas Terry are reflected in the editorial policies of his channel any renewed discussions about the future of Eagle Television are surely justified.



[2] ibid.

[3] ibid

[5] The article (as referred to in the previous note) has also been translated into Mongolian

[7] I will deal with these misrepresentations in a separate article.

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Buddhism – the cause of corruption in Mongolia? PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 14 July 2008

Egil Lothe, President of Buddhist Federation of Norway, explores the role of Buddhism in relation to corruption.Mongolia Web News is happy to provide a platform for the discussion but does not necessarily endorse the points discussed.


On December 15, 2006 [1] Thomas Terry, the president of Eagle Channel, an American  Christian TV channel in Mongolia,  wrote an article titled “Why do Mongolians view corruption as “acceptable”?” based on his readings of the USAID’s report, Mongolia: Trends in Corruption Attitudes. The basis for the claim implied in the title of his article seems to be his reference to the following statement in the report: “Respondents claiming that some corruption is acceptable increased from 14.3 percent to 19.5 percent”. What the one-fifth of the respondents meant by “some corruption” is not clearly stated. However deplorable a partial acceptance of corruption by one-fifth of the respondents is, the report actually suggests that Mongolians generally do not accept corruption, as 80% of Mongolians, according to the report, did not claim that “some corruption is acceptable”. Thus Thomas Terry’s allegation that Mongolians view corruption as acceptable is in fact not corroborated by the report he refers to. Still this does not stop Thomas Terry from explaining the prevalence of corruption in Mongolian society as the result of a flaw of character of the Mongolian people due to the influence of Buddhism and Atheism:


Mongolian society has primarily been informed by the worldviews of Atheism and Buddhism; but they don’t seem to be able to affect the kind of character in society that makes corruption a source of personal shame. If these worldviews actually had that ability, then one would expect with such a long history here that corruption’s acceptability would not be on the rise .  


Considering the deeply insulting nature of these allegations about the Mongolian people one would assume that Thomas Terry would point to strong empirical evidence proving a correlation between Buddhism and corruption, as well as a contrasting correlation between Christianity and freedom from corruption, as he claims in his article. Although Thomas Terry does not refer to any such evidence there are in fact international studies comparing countries as to their level of corruption. A study commonly referred to is the annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) by  Transparency International[2] which in 2007 rated Mongolia as number 99 among 179 countries studied. This meant that 98 countries were considered less corrupt than   to mention a few.   Mongolia and 80 countries equally or more corrupt that Mongolia. Do we here see a correlation between the religion of a country and the level of corruption in that country, and if so is it to the favour of Christianity and the disfavour of Buddhism? Mongolia, falling more or less in the middle range, is clearly not a useful example in this connection. But what about other countries? A first glance at the study may suggest a result that is negative from the Buddhist point of view: Myanmar, a Buddhist country, is found on the bottom of the list together with Somalia, a Muslim country. On the other end of the list one finds Denmark, Finnland and New Zealand, which are Christian countries (although strongly secular or “atheist”) as the three least corrupt countries. However, looking at the list in more detail one finds a more complex picture suggesting that religion may not after all be the decisive factor. For instance Singapore, where Buddhism is currently the largest religion, is the fourth least corrupt country in the world. The fact that Japan is less corrupt that the United States also suggests that there is in fact no such correlation as claimed by Thomas Terry. Actually, among the countries that are more corrupt than Mongolia there are a number of Christian countries such as Argentina, Guatemala, the Philippines and Russia


For Buddhists relevant guidelines to the problem of corruption is found in the teaching  of the Buddha which says that wealth should be gained in accordance with moral standards :    " One should acquire it only by legal means, not illegally; one should acquire it peacefully, without coercion or violence; one should acquire it honestly, not by trickery or deceit; and one should acquire it in ways which do not entail harm and suffering for others " [3]


Thomas Terry’s  allegations about Mongolia and Buddhism  are therefore without  factual  foundations .  However, it is deeply disturbing that a person expressing such untrue and deeply denigrating allegations is the president of an American television channel that has been allowed to operate in Mongolia for many years.  His attacks on Buddhist Mongolians is a very poor way of responding to the tolerance he has been shown in this country and should lead to renewed discussions about whether Mongolian media should be allowed to be controlled by foreigners.     



[3] See references from the Buddhist canonical scriptures: Anguttara Nikaya 4:62; Anguttara Nikaya 5:41; Anguttara Nikaya 8:54.

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Elbegdorj's letter and appeal to the international commnity PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 04 July 2008

Mongolia’s democracy is in jeopardy. Five people including four died of bullet wounds of AKA shot by the police aiming at them, more than 119 people wounded, 712 people were arrested and being tortured by the authority to give false statement. Now I am in danger of being arrested and being tortured.

Mongolia’s present authority MPRP – the former communist party is using the dictatorship countries’ method of stealing votes, giving alcohol to people to cause riot, not to stop the riot, then afterwards to arrest innocent people and to announce curfew and crack down opposition and democracy.

I request your help to Mongolia’s democracy and me. I request you to ask international media to cover the real story on this.

People those were discontent with the elections results demanded where their votes for democracy went from MPRP. They were saying that they didn’t elect the newly elected MPRP candidates. During this the authority was watching and sitting idle, and made the demonstrators angrier by its police acts and non acts. They clashed with police and attacked MPRP building. When the MPRP building and part of Central House of Culture were on fire, the authority was simply watching and sitting idle instead of sending fire brigades until after the fire finished. It was shown on several Mongolian TV channels live at that time. The authority didn’t do anything when violence began. After it was over, the authority declared state of emergency and robbed the people’s rights illegally as closing all TV channels except one controlled by MPRP people. Democratic Party of Mongolia considers that this state of emergency should be stopped. Mongolia shouldn’t go to one party, one television channel system.

The cases of declaring emergency after everything was over and then suffocated democracy and freedom of the people of the country occurred in many dictatorship countries. This method and technology have been fulfilled in Mongolia by its present authority. Discontent of many years of people boiled out. People protected their freedom. People wouldn’t come out when a chairman calls. That period is not anymore in Mongolia.

The authorities had time to talk with people in the afternoon. I sent requests to have talks to the President, Prime Minister and Speaker of the Parliament when the chaos began. But I met them after 4 hours. I intended to find the right way to solve the problem. But the authority humiliated the people by declaring state of emergency after the riot was already over.

In the beginning of demonstration in front of MPRP building the people were saying that their votes were robbed for 3 times in elections. Their rights were violated and they wanted to express this. But the authority answered like this. The authority was simply watching idle while buildings were on fire, violence erupted, and the police were shooting escaping people. The authority shouldn’t have declared state of emergency. During this time I went to Sukhbaatar square for four times. Nobody threw stones to me. They talked to me. I tried my best to pacify them. They were asking why the authority were not coming out as me. I requested and met with the authority of the country after 4 hours in the real emergency situation. But after the meeting as they humiliate, the state of emergency was declared. Armed forces machines are only used in war not against citizens. But it is inexcusable that the authority of Mongolia used fire arms against people instead of showing state iron face to corrupt bureaucrats, swindlers and those who robs the freedom of people.

All Mongolian TV channels, except National Public Television which is chaired and controlled by MPRP members, were closed and curfew has been in service in Ulaanbaatar since 12AM, July 2, 2008 for 4 days by the decree of Mongolia’s President who declared state of emergency. Mongolians are not getting enough information since all live TVs closed down for the present situation. Some people expressed their protest against this Sukhbaatar square on July 2nd. People are criticizing in the streets and in Mongolian websites that the closing of TV channels as the authority tries to brainwash Mongolians only showing what the authority wants to show.

What happened is this. There was the Parliamentary Elections on last Sunday June 29, 2008 in Mongolia. Most Mongolians, all Mongolian mass media and Democratic Party have plenty of evidence that there were elections irregularities totaling to influence the elections result for more than 30% of voted percentage to the candidates during the elections.

Around 3AM on June 30th, the first vote counting results came from elections units those counted votes from main boxes. By the result, 64 out of 76 seats at the Parliament were coming to Democratic Party candidates. At 3.30AM MPRP secretary general Yo.Otgonbayar made an announcement as MPRP is winning in the elections by preliminary results. The authority MPRP illegally changed the elections result beginning from 3AM. MPRP Secretary General kept making same announcements for every 3 to 2 hours. Eventually on June 30th at 6PM S.Bayar, MPRP chairman made an announcement as most probably MPRP won for the elections. The MPRP controlled elections units reduced the number of winning Democratic Party candidates to 28 at that time. Now the authority MPRP is still trying to reduce the 28 to lower.

Generel Elections Committee hasn’t announced the official elections result yet. The General Elections Committee has 8 MPRP members and one Democratic Party member. Approximately 20 thousand people worked on the elections constituency units and 26 constituencies of the elections. Most of the people those ran and governed elections units belong to MPRP. By law it is prohibited for state unit governors and state unit social workers to work for elections unit. But in reality all elections units had irregularities as the state unit governors and social workers worked for elections units.

After the voting process finished, at each elections unit one person read aloud the voted candidates’ names and another wrote it down. Another person is watching the read aloud names. Mostly all of the three people belong to MPRP otherwise they were cash awarded by the MPRP during the counting according to observers. Many observers those were standing far away from them said on TV that if a candidate from other party than MPRP were circled by voter, the reader read out simply MPRP candidate’s name which begins with same alphabet rather than the real circled one. For example if an independent candidate Baasan was circled the reader reads aloud Batbayar, candidate of MPRP. If it is Gankhuyag of Democratic Party, it would most probably be read out Gandhi of MPRP. This was the most influencing irregularities. There were many other irregularities.

Small examples are: All authority places in Mongolia are governed mostly by MPRP people. Voters registration process had many flaws as elections committee registered a household with 28-43 people while in reality the family has 4 people. Passed away people, 4 year old were registered as voters. Many numbered people were given 2 voters’ ID instead of 1 ID or some people were double registered in 6 constituencies.

MPRP and its candidates distributed cash right before, during and after elections campaign even at 2AM and 3AM in the middle of the night knocking on family doors on June 29 right before the elections that began at 7AM. Cash giving from MPRP candidate was videotaped in Uvs province and broadcast on most TV channels before the elections. Some people who received cash talked about this on Mongolian TV channels such as C1.

On the elections day MPRP transport people to elections unit and gave them cash before and after they voted at the unit and witnesses talked about it on TV channels. Right before voting is closed at 10PM, MPRP brought vans full of people to elections units to make them to vote.

There are many examples such as one elections unit which has 2400 electors accepted additional 1000 votes from a box as voted prior days of the elections. It gave an opportunity to those 1000 people to vote again on the elections day in different voting units as many people said on TV channels including elections observers. Also at many elections units electricity was cut for hours or for 20 minutes in the night of the elections. And when the electricity comes, some MPRP authority people at the elections unit were furiously saying that the electricity came too soon. Witnesses talked about this on TV.

Moreover, 43 ballots disappeared right before the elections began at a unit. Ballots were carried in plastic bags, in an apple box in small private taxis without observers to constituencies from units as they said there is no enough room in small cars for observers. Observers suspect the ballot papers were changed or added on the road to the other building.

On the night of June 30th 4 hours after MPRP chairman and Prime Minister S.Bayar made announcement of probable MPRP winning, around 9.30 PM many voters gathered at Sukhbaatar square and talked live on TV channel NTV that the elections was conducted unfair and illegal way. They were crying and demanding Democratic Party and its leaders to show up to support their choices for democracy.

On July 1st at 12PM I made a press conference. I told Mongolian journalists that the elections ballot counting had irregularities, ballots were changed and the results of Democratic Party candidates’ winning was suddenly reduced from 64 to 28. Surgery was made to the elections results. The MPRP tried to take the power of the country by changing the results of the elections. It is violating the Constitution. All wrongdoers should be evidenced and charged by Criminal Law. Democratic Party demands to recount the ballot based on the irregularities. The recounting can be done only by the decree of the President of Mongolia according to law. Therefore, Democratic Party would request for this. It was broadcast live on three TV channels, and all other Mongolian TVs showed it on the same day.

Also on July 1st in Darkhan city, people made demonstration to show support for Democratic Party candidate Democratic Movement’s secretary Sh.Tuvdendorj and Sh.Ichinnorov from Civil Coalition. On C1 television Darkhan’s people were crying and talking that how come the elections results since their families, relatives, neighbors all chose for the two candidates. But MPRP candidate Khayankhyarvaa, Darkhan’s governor whose decision caused Khongor soum of Darkhan province to be fully contaminated by mercury was elected as the Member of Parliament with the highest percentage according to the elections constituency’s result. The people of the constituency expressed their surprise at the demonstration that they know nobody who voted for him in the province. They said on TV there should be elections irregularities and demand recounting of ballots.

On July 1st Democratic Party began to collect signatures on Sukhbaatar square in Ulaanbaatar whether the law enforcement should check the elections irregularities.

On the same day in the afternoon Civil Coalition which took one seat at the Parliament by the preliminary results brought its demand of ballot recounting by walking in the street. It was shown on TV channels that the Civil Coalition people led by its leader O.Magnai walking to General Elections Committee and then they were going to MPRP building to give its demand on paper. As on live TVs showed, the MPRP building was protected by the police. The police surrounds the building. People with flags of Civil Coalition, Civil Movement Party, Republican Party and National New Party were demonstrating and expressing their protest against the elections results and demanding recounting of ballots.

At 6PM, on July 1st Prime Minister MPRP Chairman Bayar made press conference in MPRP building blaming Democratic Party chairman for the words said at 12PM press conference.

At one point the Civil Coalition leader O.Magnai tried to enter the MPRP building to give his demand paper, but the guards and police didn’t let them in. The police forced the demonstrators away from the entrance of MPRP building. Then there was clash of demonstrators and the police at the entrance of MPRP building as shown on National Public TV and Eagle Television live at that time. B.Jargalsaikhan, chairman of Republican Party went out of the gathered people in front of MPRP building with a person beaten by the police at one point on NTV.

There was separate peaceful gathering of people on Sukhbaatar square on that day and I came out to Sukhbaatar square for four times to appeal people to be calm and peaceful to fulfill the cause of democracy while there were riots in front of MPRP building which was not on site from Sukhbaatar square directly.

During that time on the square in front of MPRP building the clashed angry demonstrators were throwing stones to MPRP building as shown live on TV channels. Also the police were throwing stones against the demonstrators. Demonstrators were far outnumbered than the police. The police were aiming and shooting the demonstrators with rubber bullets. But the ones who were hit immediately badly wounded in their eyes and neck and they were entering ambulance car with help of others covered in blood. It was shown on live TV channels.

Democratic Party immediately requested talks to find ways to stop the chaos in front of MPRP building and to check on irregularities of the elections from the President of Mongolia and MPRP chairman. Eventually around 8PM after fire began on the 1st floor of the MPRP building, the talks at the initiation of the Democratic Party organized by the President of Mongolia with participation of MPRP and other party leaders. At the meeting MPRP chairman S.Bayar said he is blaming a party chairman who made statement on that day for the chaos. Our party members asked him to name it. He didn’t directly named. I told him that no freeman will cause chaos by words of a chairman. Democratic Party again appealed calmness to people specially the ones in front of MPRP building during the talks broadcasted live on TVs. The authority didn’t send any fire brigade to stop the fire in MPRP building on the late night of July 1 st as shown live on TVs.

On July 1st at 11.30PM Mongolia’s President declared state of emergency effective 12AM July 2nd for 4 days and by the decree he closed all TV channels except one, put curfew between 10PM to 8AM, gave rights to the police to arrest people if necessary, and to prohibit any gathering of people.

In the night of July 2nd at closed special session of the Parliament, MPRP chairman Prime Minister S.Bayar announced that he has evidences who caused the chaos in front of MPRP building.

On July 2nd only open TV channel National Public TV reported that MPRP building and some parts of Central House of Culture which is located next to MPRP building burnt down. Arts and items were stolen from the buildings or burnt down.

On July 1st, during the chaos TV channels broadcasted people’s talks live and during that many people expressed their thoughts that MPRP chairman S.Bayar simply should have received the demand of Civil Coalition and should have said that they would give the answer later rather than forcing police against the peaceful protestors to cause the chaos.

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