Despite the fundamentally atheist nature of communist doctrine, the Soviet authorities emphasise that freedom of religion is guaranteed under the constitution -- and say that many religious minorities are flourishing in the various regions that make up the Union.
Despite the fundamentally atheist nature of communist doctrine, the Soviet authorities emphasise that freedom of religion is guaranteed under the constitution -- and say that many religious minorities are flourishing in the various regions that make up the Union. One such group is to be found in the Autonomous Republic of Buryatia -- where many people practise a form of Tibetan Buddhism.
SYNOPSIS: Also known as the Vajrayana, Tibetan Buddhism spread to all the areas surrounding Tibet, after it had been carried across the Himalayas from India in the twelfth century. This temple is close to the town of Ulan Ude, the Buryatia capital, and has recently been re-built after the previous one was destroyed by fire.
The Vajrayana is the world's only surviving oral religious tradition and makes great demands on its adherents. Monks and lay people alike spend long periods of their lives in meditation and other forms of yogis practice. It offers the possibility of complete enlightenment in one lifetime. The chanting of mantras is one method used to transcend ordinary consciousness.
The leader of the Tibetan Buddhist community in Buryatia is the Bandad Khamba Lama. He is also head of the regional Theological Board and commissioned the new temple, or dazan, and supervised its construction. The geometry -- and each tiny detail -- have profound mystical significance. Following the Chinese takeover of Tibet in the 1950s subsequent flight into exile of many lamas, the Vajrayana is now also practised in Europe, the United States, Canada, Australasia and elsewhere.
In common with every other aspect of Tibetan Buddhist practice, music is not just superficial ritual. Each group of notes and vibrations have been consciously evolved over the centuries to evoke higher levels of awareness.
Prayer wheels were a traditional feature of Buddhist temples in Tibet and they have not been overlooked at the Ivolghinsky dazan. Although here in the Soviet Union most of the lay people still involved are from the older generation, in western countries Tibetan Buddhism has achieved wide-spread popularity among the young. Some have already been recognised as incarnate lamas.