Thursday, November 29, 2012

A most improbable world: Buddhist Kalmykia

(,  Tomas Van Houtryve; edited by Seven, Wisdom Quarterly
Girls in Soviet era uniforms, Victory Day celebrations in the capital. Lenin was part Kalmyk, but that didn’t save Russia from the Communist Party’s wrath. Stalin ordered the entire Kalmyk population loaded onto cattle cars and deported to Siberia after WW II.

(Russian version) In 2010 I visited one of the most improbable places on Earth, the little-known European Republic of Kalmykia, a former Soviet state. 

Gilded Buddha, Mes Aynak, Afghanistan (CNN)
[Most people are hard pressed to believe that Buddhism made it to Afghanistan, in Central Asia. But Siddhartha Gautama, who became the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, was probably born there 26 centuries ago when it was the northwestern frontier of India called Gandhara, near the portion of the Himalayan range known as the Hindu Kush. Buddhism did not come West to "reach" Afghanistan. 
"Hey, it's Seagal!" (
Rather it rather co-originated there, as the recent discovery of the enormous 2,600-year-old Buddhist temple complex archeological site "Copper Well" (Mes Aynak) indicates, along with the maverick archeological research of historian Dr. Ranajit Pal, and the stunning Greek-Buddhist blended treasures, monastic caves, and the world's oldest oil painting art of Bamiyan.]

Located on the arid steppe region south of Volgograd along the Caspian Sea, Kalmykia is Europe’s only Buddhist republic.
Modern suburb surrounding the World Chess Federation building, Elista, Kalmykia
Nyusha concert (
It is also billed as a Mecca for chess players with the headquarters of the World Chess Federation (FIDE, whose current president is the former president of Kalmykia, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov). An American-style suburb has been built near the capital, Elista, expressly for the purpose of holding tournaments and offering vacation homes to former champions.
The game -- which was invented by Buddhist monks averse to war but keen on peaceful expressions of strategy and wit -- is mandatory for all Kalmyk school children.

"We are not alone." Many are contacted by space ("heavens") dwelling humans.
Tea girl at car rally (
Oddly, the man behind all of this, billionaire Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, claims to have been abducted by aliens (devas). He says that “chess came to Earth from outer space [in the akasha deva loka or plane of 'shining ones'].” 

Men play open air chess on a massive board in Lenin Square, women do yoga in the main Buddhist temple in front of the Golden Buddha -- whose Western features are not due to Greek artistic influence, as has long been the speculation by Eastern Buddhists but because Siddhartha was from the northwest with a mother who came from even further west in what is now the geopolitical Middle East in or around Iran (Persia, Seistan-Balochistan, according to Dr. Ranajit Pal) -- and time seems to stand still in this arctic region of the Buddhist world.

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