Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Buddhism in Russia: Lhasa's Emissary to Tsar

Amber Larson and Dhr. Seven (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly; John Snelling; J. Anderson
The Kremlin in Red Square, Moscow: imperial capital of vast land holdings that again include Crimea but not the "Stans" of Central Asia, formerly Buddhist countries overtaken by Islam.
Buddhism in Russia: The Story of Agvan Dorzhiev: Lhasa's Emissary to the Tsar is a fascinating story of political and religious intrigue.

It tells the story of Agvan Dorziev, a Mongolian Buddhist Lama, who was instrumental in the founding of Buddhism in Russia.
[Russia/USSR as an empire spread out to include many formerly Buddhist lands in Central Asia. It also contains Kalmykia -- Europe's only indigenous Buddhist country, the home of international chess tournaments and Lenin's grandmother. The shamans of Siberia practice a shramanic/shamanistic form of Esoteric Buddhism from Mongolia, Tibet, Western China, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and faraway Afghanistan (Gandhara, India), Russia's "Vietnam." With secret CIA help, Afghans eventually repelled the USSR so the USA/MIC could illegally invade, occupy, and plunder it.]

The book includes an update on the status of Buddhism in Russia since Glasnost.

NUMBERS: There are under-counted Russian Buddhists throughout the country -- particularly in Buryatia, Yakutia (Sakha Republic), Kalmykia, and Siberia -- with census numbers reflecting more "atheists," "animists," and "Eastern Orthodox Christians" as if any of these designations negated one's Buddhist beliefs or practices. A Moscovite who practices the Dharma will still routinely be listed as an official atheist (formerly a good Communist party member) unless s/he is from a Buddhist Russian republic or territory.
Soviet slice of Buddhist history
J. Anderson, edited by Wisdom Quarterly 
Gorgeous Russian Buddhist temple, Buryatia, Russia (J. Weeks/
Civil war in Ukraine gathering pace
Civil war in Ukraine gathering pace
John Snelling's major work was being completed when he passed away in 1992. It tells a fascinating story about Ven. Agvan Dorzhiev, a brilliant Mongolian lama and the Tibetan capital's emissary to Russia in the 19th century.
Arrayed against the backdrop of the fiercely Orthodox court of the Russian Tsars -- with its sacred religio-political [unseparated church and state] dominance over nearly every aspect of Russian life, the extraordinary progress made by Ven. Dorzhiev in setting Tibetan Buddhism on a solid footing in that land is a story of remarkable courage and success.
Odessa's tragedy buries Ukraine's hope
Odessa's tragedy buries Ukraine's hope
Snelling's books can be a bit dry and academic, but his scholarship shines, and the text is surefooted and informative. The book's success rests on its thoroughness. Snelling takes a comprehensive look at the early and post-Communist state of Buddhism in Russia.
The enormous expanse of Russia bordering the rest of Northern Europe on the left and Siberia on the right with America just to the right beyond the Bering Straits. Buddhist Kalmykia is shown in red on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

Russian Buddhist monk, Vesak 2013 (
This, indeed, makes a valuable contribution to the study of the spread and influence of Buddhism as a world religion. It even speculates with respect to the future of the Dharma in Russian Asia.
Included are some marvelous photos of Ven. Dorzhiev and a brilliant mini-history of the Buryats (from which he arose). While readable, it is definitely a specialist's book. More than biography, less than hagiography -- it concerns itself with what is rather than what if.

I want a Pussy Riot! - We do, too, Comrade.
In any case, it is a tale unlikely to be told anywhere else.
Certainly, it is told nowhere else with as much authority, passion, and carefully wrought scrutiny as Snelling delivers. Recommended for anyone inclined toward the myriad diversity of Buddhist history beyond India and Southeast Asia. 

World War II: Behind Closed Doors
J. Anderson, edited by Wisdom Quarterly 
This is a welcomed reappraisal of Churchill, a film incorporates information from Soviet files not available until the 1990s. One important outcome is a new and welcome delineation of the lying duplicity of England's Winston Churchill, his involvement in handing half of Europe to Russian Dictator Joseph Stalin, sentencing the Eastern Bloc nations to half a century of Stalinist (Orwellian) suffering. On the whole, it presents a view of history distinct from stories regurgitated in the West... More

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