After decades of bans and prosecutions in the Soviet period, in Kalmykia a Buddhist revival began during Gorbachev’s perestroika years. A pivotal point was the establishment of the first Buddhist community in Elista in 1988, which was followed by the opening of the first prayer house. In 1990 a cohort of Kalmyks was sent to study Buddhism in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and soon afterwards another group was sent to the Ivolginskiy temple in Buryatia. The first lamas to come to Kalmykia to revive the teachings of the Buddha were from Buryatia. It was not a coincidence that in post-Soviet Kalmykia the first Shajin Lama, or Spiritual Leader of the Buddhist establishment of Kalmykia, was elected a Buryat lama named Tuvan Dorj. The first high-ranking lama from outside Russia to arrive in Kalmykia was the 19th Kushok Bakula Rinpoche from India who during his visit in 1989 consecrated a place for the building of a temple on the outskirts of Elista.
The Dalai Lama paid three visits to Kalmykia, in 1991, 1992, and 2004 respectively. Following his Holiness’ visit, in 1992 his disciple Telo Tulku Rinpoche, an American Kalmyk lama educated in the Tibetan monastery of Drepung Gomang in India, was invited by the Kalmyk Buddhist community to become their next Shajin Lama, a post he holds to this day. In 2014 he was also appointed Honorary Representative of the Dalai Lama in Russia, Mongolia and CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States). During his years of spiritual leadership, Telo Tulku Rinpoche not only consecrated and oversaw the building of many temples, prayer houses, and stupas across Kalmykia, but also helped spread Buddhist teachings and philosophy, especially that of the Tibetan monastic tradition. He invited Tibetan monks to Kalmykia and sent Kalmyk youths to study in India.
In these five collections, you can listen to stories and see videos about schools of Buddhism, religious buildings, objects, knowledge, as well as practices and rituals performed by lamas, religious practitioners, and lay people alike.