The mystical and beautiful land of Tuva, located in southern Siberia, has a long and fascinating history that is infused with the wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism. Despite encountering many obstacles, the Tuvan people, who belong to the Turkic ethnic group, have been able to preserve their culture and language through the centuries as well as their devotion to the Buddhadharma.
Like much of the world, the Russian republic has been facing difficult times as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.* Undoubtedly, one of the saddest moments in Tuva’s modern history has been the loss of the Eighth Kamby Lama Jampel Lodoy, who passed away from health complications related to COVID-19 in the Tuvan capital Kyzyl on 23 June.* An election to select Tuva’s new supreme lama will be held in the fall of 2020. However, there is a light of hope during this dark period of pandemic: the construction of a new Buddhist temple complex in Tuva is reaching its final stages, with guidance and support from Sholban Kara-ool, chairman of the Tuvan government.
The history of this complex, which is intended to become Tuva’s main Buddhist temple, stretches back to 1992, when His Holiness the Dalai Lama made his first and only visit to the republic. With this historic event, the spread of the Buddhadharma in Tuva had a new development: the Tibetan spiritual leader blessed a site especially chosen for the construction of a future Dharma monument located near the republic’s main airport, at the gateway to the capital.
The initiator of the temple project is Kara-ool, who discussed the proposed temple with the Dalai Lama during a meeting in India in 2012. Construction began in 2014, with donations from Buddhist followers and sponsorship collected by a specially created non-profit foundation. The seismology of the region was taken into consideration and the construction has been carried out strictly in accordance with the Buddhist canon. The temple’s interior is planned to be completely unique, unparalleled in the world, including a 10-meter statue of Shakyamuni Buddha. The temple is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020.
Since the beginning of the project, Kara-ool has visited the construction site on numerous occasions and discussed the process with various Buddhist teachers. In 2016, he presented the project to Telo Tulku Rinpoche, the honorary representative of the Dalai Lama to Russia, Mongolia, and the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, during his visit to Tuva for the international conference “Buddhism in the Third Millennium: Trends and Prospects for Development” (8–9 September 2016).
Following his most recent visit to the temple on 11 July, Kara-ool gave an update on the latest progress and shared via social media his personal motivation for the auspicious project: “Our ancestors built up their faith. My great-grandfather was an enlightened lama. My grandfather was repressed for his commitment to religion and spiritual healing help for his people. Therefore, I wish to build a Buddhist temple for the spiritual development of my people.”
Kara-ool also expressed confidence that the temple would be highly beneficial for Tuva and would help to protect the people from adversity and infection.
The Tuvan leader decided to name the temple “His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama” as an expression of the strong devotion and gratitude of the Tuvan people for the Tibetan spiritual leader’s guidance. This sincere devotion has also been expressed through two other historical events: in 2012, Kara-ool decided to award the Dalai Lama the Order of the Republic of Tuva; and in 2011, the Tuvan State University presented His Holiness with the title of Honorary Professor for his contributions to solving human problems, protecting rights and freedoms, protecting the environment, strengthening the spiritual and moral foundations of society, and promoting inter-religious harmony.
A ceremony was held on 21 December 2011 in Dharamsala, India, during the Dalai Lama’s annual teaching for Russian Buddhists. During the ceremony, His Holiness said that when he had visited Tuva after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he had felt the devotion of the Tuvan people, and expressed regret that he could no longer visit the Russian republic due to political reasons.
Although His Holiness is unable to visit Tuva at present, the Buddhist temple named after him will certainly help the Tuvan people preserve their faith and spiritual culture. It is hoped that it will also serve to protect the people from adversity and mental and physical sickness, and will last as an important pillar in the Russia’s golden triangle of Buddhism.
* As of 27 July, Tuva, which has a population of some 264,000 people, had recorded 5,956 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 47 deaths, according to data gathered by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
** Kamby Lama of Tuva Dies from Health Complications Related to COVID-19 (Buddhistdoor Global)
В Кызыле продолжается строительство нового буддийского храмового комплекса (Сохраним Тибет)
Его Святейшеству Далай-ламе присвоен Орден Республики Тыва (Его Святейшества Далай-ламы)
Глава Тувы и представитель его Святейшества Далай-Ламы посетили стройку буддийского комплекса и открыли конференцию (Правительство Республики Тыва)