When the ‘Great Tradition’ of Indian Buddhism came to Tibet in the 7th and 11th centuries, it amalgamated with pre-Buddhist Tibetan religion and what we know as Tibetan Buddhism was created. Then the ‘Great Tradition’ of Tibetan Buddhism came to Mongolia in the 13th and 17th centuries and adapted to Mongolian way of life and incorporated popular and shamanic beliefs and practices. So one may argue that a ‘Little Tradition’ of Mongolian Buddhism was created based on a highly complex interaction between Great and Little Traditions and new syncretic religious forms were created. Such processes also affected oboo worship in Mongolia during the last centuries. Oboo, literally ‘cairn’ in Mongolian, is a structure erected by stones and trees in order to mark sacred or pastoral territories in Inner Asia. The cult to oboos, one of the oldest stone monuments on earth that has been the object of worship, has continued till the present time, and is the most important ritual structure in the sacred landscape in Mongolia. Oboo worship is closely connected with Mongolian worldview of supernatural beings connected with nature and has developed based on elements from Inner Asian shamanism and Tibetan Buddhism as well as indigenous views of the spiritual world. Mongols have a view that earth is not only a living place of humans and animals, but there are also countless non-visible supernatural inhabitants surrounding them. Mountains and waters are seen as the homes of these benevolent and malignant spirits, and local inhabitants frequently have negotiations with them through different kinds of offerings and rituals in order to delight them and to ask their protection. Oboos are erected on the mountains and on the banks of rivers and lakes in order for people to worship supernatural masters these places. There are different types of oboo structures in the Mongolian sacred landscape and oboos have various functions that also reflect social and administrative divisions in the country. An oboo construction practice which is prescribed by an eighteenth century Mongolian scholar Lobsangnorbusherab is an important source for the study of how far the Mongolian oboo worship is integrated into the Tibetan Buddhist ritual system. According to the text Mongols directly copied Tibetan rituals in their oboo worship. But later developments reveal that Mongols made their own contributions to the rituals. This can be seen in a contemporary oboo construction in western Mongolia described in the thesis.
A photo on labtse construction ceremony in Qinghai province, PRC on the Plate VI in the thesis was taken by Mr. Tsemdo Thar from Amdo, Tibet. I would like to express my gratitude for his kind contribution to my thesis to illustrate this rare ceremony.