Buddhism survives among the elderly, who pray and attend
services at the Gandan Monastery; in the speech of the people,
which is rich in Buddhist expressions and proverbs; and in the
common practice of including statues or images of the Buddha on
families' special shelves with photographs of relatives and other
domestic memorabilia. Mongolian Buddhism, which restricted full
participation in the ritual to monks and kept Tibetan as the
language of ritual and sacred texts, was more vulnerable to
persecution than a religion more widely dispersed among the
populace would have been. Studies done among the Buryat Mongols
of Siberia by Soviet ethnographers in the 1960s and the 1970s
found that elimination of the complex and conceptually
sophisticated culture of Tibetan Buddhism had led to a growth of
the decentralized and flexible folk practice of shamanism.
Similar survival or adaptation of folk religion in Mongolia would
be possible, although Mongolians have published no comparable
studies of religion at the local level. Approximately 4 percent
of Mongolians, primarily those living in the southwest, are
Muslims, as are many of their kin across the border in China.
Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the 1960 Constitution.
Data as of June 1989