Among the Buddhist cultures that are in dire need of preservation, two names stand out amongst the snows and deserts of Eurasia: snow-capped Tibet and sandswept Mongolia. The National Library of Mongolia is a repository of these two priceless heritages that have been brutally suppressed by the extremes of Modernist ideology. Now modern Buddhism owes a moral debt to Mongolian and Tibetan Buddhism to help digitize and preserve for posterity the sacred texts that define its self-understanding and human heritage.Tibet and Mongolia have shared a common spiritual and political history since the days of Genghis Khan, although in all practicality, Central Eurasian history is far too interconnected to define by certain dates: there was almost definitely cultural and economic exchange between the Tibetan Empire and the Mongol steppe long before the advent of the greatest continental empire the world has ever known. The National Library of Mongolia is one of the few living institutions that still testify to this cultural closeness, for its collection of the Tibetan Kanjur and Tenjur is one of the most complete collections still existing and requires generous funding and professional, dedicated scholars to ensure its survival and dissemination. To date, this magnificent portfolio of Buddhist texts has received less attention from international academics than the more obvious collections as, say, Stok Palace in Ladakh. But this may soon change with the Global Institute For Tomorrow, or GIFT’s campaign to digitize the dust-covered scrolls in the National Library.
This matter of preserving cultural heritage is not an option reserved only for esoterically-minded conservationists, art aficionados, or scholars. It is something that any sincere Buddhist owes to two ancient Asian cultures. After the 20th century’s Modernist neurosis (which is not any specific ideology but more of a state of mind that condemned anything that did not speak to modern politics), it would surely be a priceless contribution on part of the Buddhist community to give something back to two foundational cultures that shaped its religion.