Monday, 25 May 2015

Buddhism in Russia and the Lankan connection

From Asian Tribune  
by Janaka Perera

“...Russia is in a special position in the sense that it is the only European country that recognizes Buddhism as one of the traditional religions. One of the world’s oldest it has been practiced for over three centuries by Buryats, Kalmyks,Tuvans and other peoples native to this country, Buddhism’s philosophy and spiritual practice have had a deep-reaching influence on the customs and traditions of all those who live here and all those who follow this religion. Of course the unique Buddhist culture is an integral and greatly valued part of Russia’s common historical and cultural heritage.”

Buddhism was incorporated into Russian society in the 17th Century when Kalmyk people traveled to and settled in Siberia which is now the Russian Far East. Russia's main school of Buddhism is Tibetan Buddhism which spread to Mongolia and via the latter to Russia.

The introduction of the Buddhist teaching into the country generated an interest in the subject among Russia scholars and academics. There have been Slavic converts to Buddhism since the 19th Century. But it is only after 1990 that real growth of Slavic converts to Buddhism began. They are based in the large cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg where there is greater access to urban Buddhist centres and facilities.

Although religious practices were suppressed in former Soviet Russia under communist rule, academic interest in different civilizations and cultures was renewed after Stalin’s death. This included the study of Buddhist philosophy and culture and their role in Russia’s relations with Asian countries, including Sri Lanka.

The journalistic notes by Vladimir Yakovlev Russian diplomat and the first Soviet Ambassador in Sri Lanka give a good insight to this. He had taken the decision to write them since very few Sri Lankans remembered his compatriots who had acquainted Russia with this island..."   read it all

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