International Conference in Kalmykia Unites Leading Buddhist Scholars
The first international scientific conference, “Buddhist Education: Problems and Perspectives of Development,” was held in the Republic of Kalmykia on 28–30 April, attended by Leading Russian and foreign experts in the field of Buddhist education.
The conference, which was held both face-to-face, at the Kalmyk Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and online via the Zoom platform, marked the 15th anniversary of the central khurul (monastery) of Kalmyka, the Golden Abode of Shakyamuni Buddha* and the 25th anniversary of Geden Sheddup Choikhorling monastery**—the first Buddhist monastery established following the destruction of all Buddhist temples and monasteries during the Soviet collectivization era and the Great Purge of the 1930s.
The forum was organized by the Save Tibet Foundation (Moscow), the Kalmyk Buddhist Association, the central khurul of Kalmykia, the Kalmyk Scientific Center, and Kalmyk State University, named after B. B. Gorodovikov, and funded by a government grant in the form of a federal budget aimed at supporting scientific research.
Among the Russian speakers were: Telo Tulku Rinpoche, the shadjin lama (head lama) of the Kalmyk people and Honorary Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the Russian Federation, CIS, and Mongolia; Geshe Dymbryl, rector of the Buddhist University Dashi Choinkhorlin; Chingiz Sultimov, rector of Aginsky Buddhist Academy; Dr. Andrey Terentyev, senior editor of Nartang publishing house; Dr. Raisa Krapivina, senior researcher at the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, Russian Academy of Sciences; Acharya Bem Mitruev, researcher, Kalmyk Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Prof. Andrey Bazarov, leading researcher at the Institute of Mongolian Studies, Buddhology and Tibetology, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, among many others.
Foreign speakers included: Prof. Robert A. F. Thurman, Columbia University; Ven. Geshe Lhakdor, director of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives; Ven. Prof. Geshe Ngawang Samten, director of the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath; Prof. Vesna A. Wallace, University of California; Dr. Georgios T. Halkias, Center for Buddhist Studies, University of Hong Kong; Prof. Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, co-founder and director of the Emory-Tibet Partnership, Emory University; and Gabor Karsai, rector of Dharma Gate Buddhist College, Hungary, among others.
The conference began with greetings from Telo Tulku Rinpoche and Gelek Natsyk Dorju, the Ninth Kamby Lama of the Tuvan people. Gelek Dorju made his first official visit to Kalmykia as Kamby Lama of Tuva. He left the republic the night before the beginning of the conference and extended his greetings online from the Tuvan capital Kyzyl.
The scientific forum is part of efforts by Telo Tulku Rinpoche to establish a center for Buddhist higher education in Kalmykia.*** In September 2020, he met with Kalmyk scholars to discuss the possibility of setting up a council with the aim of working toward creating an institution and organizing the international conference. In November, he made an official tour of the eastern region of Russia, visiting Buryat State University and Buddhist University Dashi Choinkhorlin, as well as the Center for Oriental Manuscripts and Xylographs of the Institute of Mongolian Studies, Buddhology and Tibetology of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. During the trip, he also visited Aginsky Buryat District of the Trans-Baikal territory and Tuva to collect information about establishing a Buddhist educational institution.
At the conclusion of the conference, Telo Tulku Rinpoche mentioned that after visiting Buddhist institutes in the eastern region, his delegation had learned a lot, and over the three days of the conference they had learned even more than they had anticipated. He spoke about institutions of Buddhist education established in Asia and Europe, and about the challenges, complications, and unique aspects of Buddhism not only as religion but as science and a system of philosophy.
* Kalmyk Buddhists Mark the 15th Anniversary of the Golden Abode of Shakyamuni Buddha (Buddhistdoor Global)
** The name Geden Sheddup Choikhorling (Tib: Genden Shedrup Chokhor Ling; “ A Holy Abode for the Theory and Practice of the School of Gelugpa”) was given by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, who also chose its location—on the steppes just outside of the republic's capital, Elista, during his first visit in the summer of 1991.
*** Planning Underway in Kalmykia for a Center of Buddhist Higher Education (Buddhistdoor Global)
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