In the history of Buddhism in Russia, the Tibetan Gelugpa school has always played the most important role. Numerous teachers, centers, and organizations continue to this day to spread the teachings of the Buddha across the vast Russian landscape. One of the most active Buddhist organizations in Russia, which has been skillfully coping with the challenges of the pandemic for the past two years, is the Fund Drepung Gomang Center, an official representative branch of Palden Tashi Drepung Gomang Monastic University, India.
Drepung Gomang Monastic University is part of Drepung Monastery, one of the three seats (Tib: densa sum) of the Gelugpa school, together with Sera and Ganden, which act as the main monasteries for hundreds of smaller branch monasteries in Tibet and India. Jamyang Choje Tashi Palden (1379–1449), a disciple of Je Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), the founder of the Gelug school, founded Drepung Monastery in 1416. The name Drepung means “collecting rice” because, from a distance, the monastery resembles a heap of rice. The monastery is divided into seven colleges: Gomang, Loseling, Deyang, Ngagpa, Shagkor, Gyelwa, and Dulwa, of which Drepung Gomang Monastic University is the oldest. The name Gomang, which means “many doors,” comes from the attainments of highly accomplished spiritual masters, whose deep realizations of emptiness enabled them to pass through walls with no need for doors. The historical monastery has produced many eminent scholars who have contributed to the dissemination of Tibetan Buddhism. After 1959, 60 monks from the monastery fled Tibet and re-established Drepung Monastery in the southwestern Indian state of Karnataka. Since then, monks from Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and the Russian Federation have attended Drepung Gomang Monastic University to complete their Buddhist education. The monastery in Karnataka now accommodates some 1,850 monks and is headed by Khen Rinpoche Geshe Jigme Gyatso, who was appointed as the 81st abbot in 2021 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
The Fund Drepung Gomang Center was established with the blessings and help of the rector and administration of Drepung Gomang Monastery, and with supporters from Moscow, Kalmykia, Buryatia, and Tuva. Since its founding, the center has collaborated with Drepung Gomang Monastery, providing lectures on Buddhist philosophy by inviting renowned monks, conducting Buddhist ceremonies, rituals, and Dharma teachings, and welcoming official delegations of monks from the main monastery in India to various venues across the Russian Federation. The center operates in cooperation with the local Gelug Buddhist community and its spiritual leader is Kundeling Tatsak Rinpoche, a senior teacher from the main monastery in India. The chairman of the center is Natalia Bespalova.
Monks from Drepung Gomang Monastic University have visited Russia several times. Three senior lamas visited Moscow from 14 February–11 March 2018 to give teachings on Buddhist philosophy and conduct tantric rituals for Russian Buddhists.* During the same year, from 9 October–1 November, a delegation with six monks visited Kalmykia and conducted programs in Lagan, Elista, and Malye Derbety.**
In July 2019, Ven. Khen Rinpoche Lobsang Gyaltsen, the 80th abbot of Drepung Gomang Monastic University, from 2015–21, visited Moscow and several regions of Russia at the invitation of religious organizations in the Buddhist republics of Buryatia, Kalmykia, and Tuva, as well as at the initiative of the Fund Drepung Gomang Center. After a break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an official delegation from the renowned monastery arrived in Russia on 25 December 2021 for a program that will continue until 14 March 2022. They will conduct teachings on Buddhist philosophy and tantric rituals in Moscow, Tuva, Buryatia, and St. Petersburg.
The delegation, headed by Khajog Rinpoche, visited Tuva from 3–24 January at the invitation of the Ninth Kamby Lama of the Tuvan people, Gelek Natsyk Dorju. The main program was held in the central Buddhist temple of Tuva, Tsechenling, in the capital Kyzyl. From 14–16 January, the monks visited two Tuvan towns, Chadan and Ak-Dovurak, as well as the village of Teeli.
The program for the Drepung Gomang monks includes construction of a sand mandala for the Goddess Parnashavari (Tib: Loma Gyonma), Tara’s emanation related to healing and protection from pandemics and contagious diseases. They will also construct a sand mandala for Jhambala (Tib: Dzambala), deity of wealth, fortune, and prosperity. The monks are scheduled to give numerous lectures, commentaries on Dharma texts, rituals, and offerings.
At the beginning of the program, Tuvan devotees had the opportunity to attend several rituals led by the Tibetan monks. But since 14 January, due to new pandemic restrictions, the program has continued online and can be seen every day via the website and Facebook page of the Fund Drepung Gomang Center. Thus, the center continues to open doors to the Buddha’s teachings to Russian devotees and to Buddhist followers around the world.
Related features from BDG
Buddhism in Buryatia: The Palace of the Legendary Sandalwood Buddha
Buddhism in Kalmykia: Construction of a Stupa as a Symbol of Unity
Buddhism in Buryatia: Boudhanath Stupa Replica in Kizhinginsky Datsan
Buddhism in Siberia: Aginsky Buddhist Academy