PF has an excellent post [scroll down to “06:48:49 PM, Sunday 28 September 2003”] about the Buryats, a Mongol people near Lake Baikal in Siberia. There are links about Buryat history, the epic Geser (“the Iliad of Central Asia”), teaching in the Buryat capital, a Buryat summer festival, and much else, including a couple of Buryat stories; here’s one:

Once upon a time a Buddhist lama was traveling in the steppe as a “badarch,” a holy man that brings blessings to the nomad families in exchange for food and lodging. It was close to sunset, and he came upon a lone ger and some livestock. When he approached the ger a young woman came out to greet him. She was the only person living there.

When he requested hospitality she said he could stay the night only under one condition. He had to choose to do one of three things. He could drink alcohol, sleep with her, or sacrifice a goat. The last was taboo for lamas since only shamans sacrifice goats. Since all three choices were in some degree sinful, he had a difficult decision. He decided that drinking alcohol would be the least harmful.

He drank the alcohol, and while he was drunk he killed the goat. When he woke up the next morning he was in bed with his hostess. He then learned that drinking alcohol is a small sin but it can easily make a man do bad things under its influence.


  1. Thanks, but that’s not Moss, that’s me.

  2. I added another little story at the bottom.
    PS You have a marvelous site, which I check obsessionally.

  3. Sorry, I checked the site for “about me” or the like and found nothing, so I just assumed it was one of Moss’s pages. I’ll correct the attribution when I have the time. Thanks for the kind words!

  4. (Suddenly that “about me” page editor I’ve been meaning to write for people whose blogs I host starts to seem more important than I thought it was.)

  5. Get cracking!

  6. “Badarch” or “badarchin” don’t always have a good signification in Mongolian. Rascals in folk stories are often badarchin, a profession that seems to attract all kinds of shifty characters who drift from place to place and get up to various tricks. The badarchin are not always bad, of course, but they can be mischievous…

    In one story I read, the rich man refused to give a wandering monk food or drink and told him he was forbidden from setting foot in the yurt. The monk put his hand in instead (a bit of word play here) and eventually put wind up the rich man and his wife with threats of various kinds of monster that would get him for his lack of generosity.

  7. John Emerson says

    “Badarchin” = pentecostal / charismatic preacher.

  8. По диким степям Забайкалья на лошади едет бурят. Смотрит – посреди степи стоит
    сооружение, а вокруг него люди мельтешат. Подъехал, объехал вокруг – ничего не
    понял. Тут один мужик отошел в сторону. Бурят его и спрашивает:
    – Эй парень, что твоя машинка делают? Тот и отвечает
    – Бурят (буровая вышка это была, стало быть) Бурят подумал, ухмыльнулся
    – Врешь, однако, моя знает, какой машинка бурят делают!


  9. I met a Colombian guy in Belgrade, who told that he really loved Buryatia, and that he wanted also to see Mongolia as well, but that required a trip to Moscow, then to Bogota, then to the embassy to get visa, then …

  10. In Mongol regions of Russian and Qing empires, many more people entered Buddhist monasteries and received religious instruction than could be supported by existing monastic structures.

    This surplus “secular” clergy had to leave monasteries and live like laymen (in Russia, government restrictions went as far as prohibiting them from shaving their heads and wearing robes resembling lama clothing), however, in the eyes of common people, they were still learned men who knew more about religion and enjoyed some degree of social prestige.

    Badarchins were just one subset of this numerous group of non-monastery Buddhist monks.

    It is thought that this was one of the factors which contributed to survival of Buddhism during Communist persecution when official monasteries and temples were closed.

  11. Thanks for reviving this thread; I’ve replaced the second link with an archived version so PF’s full post can be read.

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