Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Celebrating the Buddha's Birthday in Russia

Amber Dorrian, Seven, Wisdom QuarterlyAlexandra Garmazhapova,, 5-22-13)
A Tibetan prayer at the Buddhist temple in St. Petersburg before the rite of "collective karma" burning in a ritual bonfire on the lunar New Year's Eve (RIA Novosti/Alexey Daniche).
Indigenous east Russian Buddhist temple in Buryatia, Russia ( Weeks)
Buddhist Temple in Europe, fusing East and West in former USSR republic of Kalmykia
Many ethnic Russians are coming to Buddhism. Russian Buddhists are preparing to celebrate the Buddha's birthday (Vesak): the day of his birth, enlightenment, and final-nirvana. At the Datsan Gunzechoinei in St. Petersburg, three days of prayers will be held beginning on May 25th.
Datsan in Buddhist Europe (
(RBTH) Russia's northernmost Buddhist temple is outwardly very different from the datsans (monasteries, lamaseries, temple-complexes) in Russia's traditionally Buddhist regions. But inside it is the same.

[NOTE: The only indigenously Buddhist country in Europe is Kalmykia, a former Russian republic in the Caucasus region along the Caspian Sea. But Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhism has been in Russia, Siberia, and Central Asia for thousands of years].
The temple's prior, Buda Badmaev, was the only religious representative in St. Petersburg to speak categorically against the deputy of St. Petersburg's Legislative Assembly, Vitaly Milonov, who proposed a ban on rallies outside places of worship. 
In his opinion, the Buddhist community should listen to and try to understand the position of any person publicly expressing dissatisfaction with their activity.
The Buddhist temple in St. Petersburg (Russia Beyond the Headlines/Lori/Legion Media)
Volgograd, Kalmykia, Kazakhstan...
The Russian Buddhists are generally very peaceful; they try not to antagonize the authorities. Several years ago, the Ulan-Ude [the capital of Buryatia, Russia] lamas proclaimed then President Dmitry Medvedev as the White Tara, a form of a major tantric meditation deity.

The St. Petersburg Buddhists, for their part, prefer to keep to themselves and stay away from political life altogether. The St. Petersburg Datsan is unpretentious and democratic. More
Postcard promoting European Buddhist tourism in Eurasian Kalmykia (wiki commons)
The other Dead Sea in Buddhist Kalmykia
The Slavic name is a loan translation of earlier Scythian (Ῥᾶ) "Volga," literally "wetness," seen also in Avestan Raŋhā "mythical stream" and Sogdian r’k "vein, blood vessel" (< *raha-ka), and cognate with Sanskrit rasā́h "liquid, juice; mythical river." The Scythian name survives in modern Mordvin Rav (Рав) "Volga." [All of these are suggestive of Buddhism's ancient history moving north through Central Asia, now the 'Stans, and former empires existing prior to Greek settlements we rarely learn about in the US. The oldest forms of Christianity and Catholicism appropriated Mahayana-Buddhist teachings, learned their anachronistic monasticism, and converted Eastern teachings that formed the roots of Western civilization.]
 Amazing Unreported Buddhist History
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