Admiring Conviction in Mongolia

Today we visited the ancient Ongi monastery that sits on the East and West side of the Ongi River.

In Mongolia, the majority (85%) of the population is Buddhist. However our tour guide, Mr. Oghi, is an athiest.

Before the 1930s, it used to have over 1,000 monks. Communists destroyed the majority of the monastery. We meandered around the dusty ruins and peeked inside the few buildings that were still erect… I can only imagine how amazing it was.

Ruins of ancient Ongi monastery.

The most significant moment was when Mr. Oghi introduced us to one 10 year old boy. A couple of years ago, he had visited Ongi and saw all of the monks teaching religious texts for charity. As a result, he decided to become a monk so he could dedicate his life to be of service to others.

He’s only 10 years old!

His family lives 40 kilometers away from Ongi and so he stays with the monks to learn and memorize the ancient texts and teachings. He made this choice all by himself. Before he was 10 years old, he had decided his fate and I thought that was amazing.

During the summer, he is the keeper of the keys and watches over the ruins with the monks. Sometimes he travels into the water well to retrieve trash.

One of the temples he is responsible for watching over.

He wears orange and green because those are monk colors. When we first met him, he was wearing a yellow basketball team Lakers jersey!

Mom gave him candy (Dum Dum lollipops and Smarties candy), her own nuts trail mix she didn’t eat (how generous, sacrificing her own food), pens, and 3 small hacky sack balls.

That boy was something.

Myself, the boy, and my mom (Left to Right)


I remember this conversation so vividly because I initially thought to myself, wow, he is so lucky that he knows what he’s doing. I really respected his strong sense of conviction and admired his dedication.He lived in rural Mongolia, the least densely populated country on Earth, with limited opportunities relative to where I grew up. In terms of quantity, I have been given more choices, and more “freedom” to choose my own path. I shouldn’t say that I am more blessed or fortunate than him. Rather, I should acknowledge that we have different paths.

We all have different paths.

This boy reminds me to never forget this.


Note: Originally written on 7/2/13. Italics thoughts added in Jan 2016.

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