The Yellow Shaman

Hello. I am Mark Ashford. I am a Registered Reiki Teacher and Practitioner and a Usui Tibetan Reiki Master Teacher as well as a Shaman. I am a published author of books and online courses on Reiki, and Shamanism.

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Buddhism first entered Mongolia during the Yuan Dynasty of the thirteenth and fourteenth century and was briefly established as a state religion. Mongolia itself was at a political and developmental standstill until the sixteenth century, after which the conversion of Altan Khan to Buddhism re-established itself. [1]

Yellow shamanism is the term used to designate a particular version of shamanism practiced in Mongolia and Siberia which incorporates rituals and traditions from Buddhism. Most Buddhists there belong to what is called the “Yellow sect” of Tibetan Buddhism, because the members wear yellow hats during services. There are also refences to Yellow Shamanism being linked to the Saffron coloured robes of Buddhist monks.  The term also serves to distinguish this form of shamanism from those not influenced by Buddhism, according to their adherents, who are  mostly “black shaman”.[2]

During this time, Lamaists[3] divided shamans into two categories: Black and Yellow. “Black” shamans were those who kept the old shamanic traditions, and Yellow shaman.[4] [5] Yellow Shaman were those who are controlled by Buddhist Lamas, and practice shamanic rituals and traditions in conjunction with Tibetan Buddhism.

As far as Yellow Shamanism and Mongolia is concerned, there is an argument of whether the practice continues to exist. Mongolia was part of Communist Russia from 1924 until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. During this period, known as the Communist era, all religious activities, their practitioners, and adherents, regardless of form were persecuted. Iconography, manuscripts and places of worship were destroyed and practitioners often killed.

The same process of persecution and destruction was followed in Tibet by Communist China with the worst occurrences of destruction to monasteries and places of religious worship, persecution and killing of shamans and Buddhists took place under Mao Zedong during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

The melding of shamanism and Buddhism started in the thirteenth century and comes after the merging of shamanism and the indigenous Bon Religion of Tibet. Bon is an ancient religion, dating back 3,800 years. Bon and shamanism closely influenced each other over many thousands of years. The ending of animal sacrifice during Shaman rituals being attributed to Bon.

Bon traditions were absorbed into Tibetan Buddhism along with those of shamanism. Bon is still practiced today. In 1978, the Dalai Lama acknowledged Bon as the sixth principal spiritual Buddhist school of Tibet.

This gives Tibetan Buddhism the unique characteristics it has today where astrology and divination are present and Buddhist Lamas will enter An Altered State of Consciousness in the same way a shaman does during healing ceremonies.

It is argued that Yellow Shamanism does not exist today due to a combination of persecution and absorption of its shamanistic traditions into Bon and ultimately Tibetan Buddhism.

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Rinchen, Yönsiyebü. “White, Black and Yellow Shamans among the Mongols.” Ultimate Reality and Meaning 4, no. 2 (1981): 94-102.

Wikipedia. “Tibetan Buddhism.”

———. “Yellow Shamanism.”

[1] Wikipedia, “Yellow Shamanism.”

[2] Ibid.

[3] Wikipedia, “Tibetan Buddhism.”

[4] “Yellow Shamanism.”; Yönsiyebü Rinchen, “White, Black and Yellow Shamans among the Mongols,” Ultimate Reality and Meaning4, no. 2 (1981).

[5] “White, Black and Yellow Shamans among the Mongols.”

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