Schools of Buddhism

Many Kalmyks regard the Dalai Lama's visits to Kalmykia as one of the most important and auspicious events in the spiritual and social life of Kalmykia. Believers also feel blessed by the visits of other prominent Buddhist scholars and leaders to the steppe republic, including the 17th Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje (head of the Karma Kagyu lineage), Ole Nydahl (the founder of the Diamond Way Buddhism of Karma Kagyu), the 41st Sakya Trizin (head of the Sakya tradition), the 8th Arjia Rinpoche (reincarnation of Lumbum Gye, father of Tsong Khapa, the founder of Gelug), and others. Gelug now being the dominant school, all other traditional schools of Buddhism are currently represented in Kalmykia.

Among them the followers of Kagyu have been especially active. Apart from inviting teachers and organising popular seminars, the school has built a stupa, which houses a meditation venue, and a temple in Elista. The Nyingma and Sakya schools also each have a temple. In this collection, you can see not only interviews with teachers and lamas of various schools of Buddhism but also stories by lay people about their experiences and understanding of Buddhism.

Alena Lidzhieva, About Monasteries, Lamas and Healers in the Past

Alena recalls when she was a child the nearest temple was far away from where she lived. Pilgrimage to the temple was carried out as follows. People – women, children and elderly – gathered together in the evening and went on foot to the temple. The journey lasted till the next morning. Before entering the temple, pilgrims made several circuits of the building, although Alena does not remember exactly how many times. Inside the temple people sat on the floor. After a ceremony monks sprinkled the pilgrims with arshan or holy water. Children were told by grown-ups to smear their hands with butter and drink the holy water from the palms of their own hands. The remaining holy water was sprinkled on their hair. The ceremony went on for the whole day and in the evening the pilgrims set off on their return journey.

In the temple there were several high-ranking monks (lamas) and many middle-ranking ones (gelyungs). Young monks, or manzhik, cooked and cleaned, etc. There were also doctors, or emchi, in the temple who prepared medicine themselves from herbs obtained both locally and from Mongolia.


Anna Sangadzhi-Goryaeva, Kalmyk Lamas of the Past and the Present


Lidzhi Amikov, Buddhism as a Philosophy and Practice


Lidzhi Amikov, Building Stupas


Oleg Mandzhiev, Religion and Religious Dissidence in the Soviet Period


Sanal Mukubenov, Buddhism: History, Monasteries, Sacred Places and Monastic Dress