Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/436

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everywhere, none neglected or dilapidated. Every Mongol family has one or more Lamas among its members, the unwritten law being that every second son, and as many more as the nearest Abbot may decide, shall be dedicated from birth to the priestly life. Many of the homes have the Lama altar tended by the old mother or grandmother with shaven head; and the curious little brass censers, like salt-cellars, in which incense is offered or wine burnt, are among the commonest sights. Daily exercises of devotion are conducted by the Lamas in the temples, consisting of nothing more than the endless but harmonious chanting of the Buddhistic formula, "Pu Sa Arimata." At the temple fairs and festivals the people come in their thousands to worship and give, and one can never get away from the fact that here is a land where religion enters into every jot and tittle of daily life.

But the condition of the Mongol people is a stern condemnation of Lamaism. Of the beautiful self-abnegation of the Indian Prince these people know nothing. Of the rules of the Order, or the tenets of "the Way," they are deplorably ignorant. The religion has degenerated into a set of "senseless and fatal corruptions which have overwhelmed the ancient Buddhist beliefs," and consists now merely in performance of external formalities that have no power to amend the life or cleanse the spirit. For the Lamas themselves one can have but little respect. They are the least desirable of their race. Lamaism, as practised in Mongolia, is an incubus on the land, economically, morally, and religiously.

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And yet it is just this colossal system of Lamaism, bad as it is, that is the most effective obstacle to the Christian missionary, and that almost broke the heart of so brave a man as James Gilmour. The difficulties of evangelising Mongolia are not few. Let me enumerate some:—

1st. A land of immense distances, involving exposure and expense of a very serious kind.

2nd. A population so sparse and scattered that you may travel for a week and not meet a hundred people.

3rd. A people who, when you have found them, are ignorant, illiterate, and consequently superstitious, needing infinite patience and infinite tact to make any impression at all.

But beyond and above all else, you have to face the fact of Lamaism, which stands like an omnipresent spectre wherever you go in Mongolia.

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