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The Spread of Buddhism in Northern Russia by Buda Badmayev

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Next year will be 270 years from the moment of official recognition of Buddhism as a religion of the citizens of Russian Empire.

The official recognition took place in 1741 with the empress Elizaveta Petrovna’s permission.

For 270 years Buddhism has spread considerably its influence in Russia from the traditional Buddhist regions Buriatya, Altay, Kalmykia, Tuva to Jakutiya, Novosibirsk, Jekaterinenburg, Arhangelsk, Severodvinsk, Saint Petersburg and Moscow.

As everybody knows Saint Petersburg became the first great North-European center of Buddhism in Russia.

This year Saint-Petersburg Dazan Gunzechoiney has celebrated its 95th anniversary.

Saint-Petersburg dazan is part of Buddhist traditional Sangha of Russia, which unites more than 40 dazans in the territory of Russian Federation and has been recognized on the state level as the representative of one of the state religions of Russia.

Buddhist traditional Sangha of Russia is an independent (autocephalous) church, its head is Pandido Khambo lama. His official residence is on territory of Ivolginsky dazan (Ulan-Ude, Republic Buryatia).

In 1995 Damba Ayusheev was elected as Khambo lama.

Saint Petersburg’s Religious Association of Buddhist of Dazan Gunzeichoiney was established on the 14th of February in 1991. That took place after returning the Buddhist temple to the believers.

Registration of Saint Petersburg religious association of Buddhists and return of the temple helped further spread the Buddhism in Saint Petersburg (as in other cities of Russia, where like in Saint-Petersburg also Buddhist communities had been registered).

The total number of Buddhists in Russia is about 900 000 (most of them consider themselves Buddhist «by birth»), about 500 thousand among them practice Buddhism and take part in social Life of communities.

Nowadays there have been more than 60 Buddhist organizations registered in Russia (]]dazans\\ and communities of ethnic Buryatia, Buddhist communities of Tuva & Altay, Irkutsk, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Chita, Saint-Petersburg, Moscow and so on) and their number is constantly growing.

There is a group of 13 lamas in Saint Petersburg Dazan who graduated from Buddhist University «Dashy Choichorlin» in Buryatiya and Aginsky Buddhist Academy (Zabajkalsky region).

Several times a year Buddhist teachers come to dazan; according to leader of the church invitation special group of the lamas put up mandalas several times a year; once a month there are retreats of Avalokitešvara for believers.

Every Saturday the head of Saint-Petersburg Dazan gives lectures on philosophy and practice of Buddhist-meditation.

From 15th to the 29th of September, 2010 the World Buddhist Relics Tour visited Dazan.

The huge number of visitors wanted to see the relics of Buddha Shakyamuni, his disciples, great Buddhist teachers and enlightened Masters, wanted to bow them and to be blessed showing that Buddhism attracts more and more people.

Now the Relic Tour travels all over the world, then part of the exhibition will be taken into the Heart of 152 meter lengh statue of Future Buddha Maitreya, which must be set up on the place where Buddha Shakyamuni achieved Nirvana in Kushinagara (Northern India).

We also can say about increasing Interest in [ [Buddhism]] according to an example of Decade of Buddhist Culture.

In 2010 Saint Petersburg dazan holds the second Decade of Buddhist Culture in Saint Petersburg.

This Decade has passed under the sign of Buddha of Medicine. During this decade the Mandala of Buddha Medicine was set up in Dazan Gunzechoine.

It has passed consecration of special made to the date of Decade Mosaic images of Buddha of Medicine and Boddhisattva of Compassion Avalokitešvara.

Also a round table meeting “Buddhism and improving sanitary condition of the society nowadays” took place there where the participants were also Doctors of Tibet medicine and healers.

Under the direction of the Head of Buddhist Traditional Sangha of Russia there was exhibition “The Phenomenon of Khambo lama Itigelov”, expressing the modern Buddhist miracle – “Erdeny Munche Bye” – inexhaustible Body of one of the founders of Buddhism in Russia.

In 1913 Khambo lama Itigelov held the first prayer in Saint Petersburg Dazan setting up at that time.

Lamas of Dazan Gunzeichoiney have been invited by other Buddhist communities from different cities to hold retreats and ceremonies. During such trips they have been giving teachings, lectures on Buddhist Philosophy.

For example, during 4 years the Buddhist communities from Archangelsk and Severodvinsk have invited the deputy of the Abbot of Saint Petersburg Dazan Shirab-Gamso Lama (Vyacheslav Namratov) to them or came directly to him to Saint-Petersburg. Buddhists from Careliya, Respublica Comi, Moscow and others also come to our place.

Russian traditional Buddhist Sangha supports the initiative of building new dazans in Russia.

For example right now a Buddhist Dazan is being built in Novosibirsk, where a big Buddhist community is registered.

A big community exists also in Jekaterinenburg. The most northern dazan in the world will be built in Yakutiya.

In September 2009 there was ceremony of setting up under the future dazan the sacred bowlbumbaconsecrated by Pandito Hambo Lama Itigelov.

In February and March 2008 this building was blessed by 14th Dalai Lama. The Head of Buryat community in Yakutsk - member of communityLotos” - E.H. Sotnikova received the golden statue of Buddha in HH Dalai Lama residence.

The building of dazan is being built, it is being set up in traditional style, difference being that it stands on piles, because it is necessary in such freezing conditions.

The completion of the building has been planned for 2011.

In Yakutia one of the biggest Buddhist community is registered, so the building of this Dazan has been a long time waited event.

Lamas from Saint Petersburg dazan are also invited to make big holiday ceremonies by Buddhists living abroad.

In February 2010 me and a group of the lamas visited Prague to hold traditional Buddhist ceremonies, connected to seeing off the old year and meeting the New Year according to Buddhist Calendar.

There is a tradition among the Buddhists living in Europe to get together annually in one of the European countries to see a New Year. For 3 years Buddhist of Europe have been gathering in Germany, where was a strong Buddhist community.

Then 3 years they were gathering in France and since this year this right has been given to Buddhist of Chezh Republic.

It was interesting that all ceremonies took place at the territory of Russian embassy in Praque.

We held the ritual Fire of Dug Dugjuuba, where we burnt all our unhappiness and sins of the passing year and then there was the reading of ceremonial prayer greeting for New Year of the White Tiger.

Such our activity involving Buddhists living abroad attracted a great Interest and approval of the Head of Buddhists of Russia Pandito Hambo Lama Damba Ayusheev.

It is possible to know about the events in Saint-Petersburg dazan on the site