Paying for Prayers: Perspectives on Giving in Postsocialist Ulaanbaatar.

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Since the end of the socialist period in 1990, Buddhism in Mongolia has been undergoing a resurgence. Temples no longer oversee vast tracts of land and receive income from the activities of bonded nomadic herders as they did in the presocialist period. They must instead fund themselves from the freely given donations of lay Buddhists. Whilst the majority of the Mongolian population self-identify as Buddhist, regular donations to temples are not an assumed part of social and economic relationships. Unlike the case in most other Asian Buddhist societies, the concept of giving donations as a way to make merit was not present amongst my interlocutors. The urban Mongolians that I spoke to viewed their donations as payments for highly valued ritual services. The act of donating to temples was for some an ambivalent activity, bringing to the fore broader issues relating to spiritual authority, religious education and observance, and the necessary conditions for spiritual efficacy. In this article I investigate patterns of religious giving in Ulaanbaatar in relation to ideas about donation, the role of religious specialists and concerns about the intersections between capitalism and religion.
Original languageEnglish
JournalReligion, State and Society
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)327-341
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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