His Holiness the Dalai Lama began a three-day teaching on Nagarjuna’s Commentary on the Awakening Mind (Skt: Bodhichitta Vivarana; Tib: Changchub Semdrel) on 5 November, at the request of Russian Buddhists, by video link from his residence Thekchen Choling in Dharamsala, northern India.
The program was organized by Datsang Rinpoche Bagsha (Buryatia), the central khurul of Kalmykia, the Golden Abode of Shakyamuni Buddha, the Administration of the Kamby Lama of the Tuva Republic, the Save Tibet Foundation (Moscow), and the Center of Tibetan Culture and Information (Moscow).
Teachings by the Dalai Lama for Russian Buddhists have been held in India since 2009 at the request of Ven. Elo Rinpoche, abbot of Datsang Rinpoche Bagsha, the shajin lama (head lama) of Kalmykia, and Telo Tulku Rinpoche, who is the Dalai Lama’s representative in Russia, Mongolia and CIS countries, with the support of the kamby lama, the most senior Buddhist monastic in the Tuva Republic. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the teachings for Buddhists in Russia are being held online for the first time.
At the beginning of the virtual teaching, Telo Tulku Rinpoche extended gratitude to the Dalai Lama for teaching Russian Buddhists in India since 2009, and in Riga, Latvia, since 2014. He also expressed his joy that despite the pandemic, it is possible for large groups of devotees to unite through the internet.
The online program continued with a recitation of the Heart Sutra in Russian from Kuntse Choinoei Datsang in St. Petersburg, and then with a recitation of the sutra in the Buryat language from Datsang Rinpoche Bagsha. The Tibetan spiritual leader noted the long-standing ties between Tibetans and the people of Buryatia, Kalmykia, and Tuva, as well as the connection between Tibetans and the people of Mongolia. His Holiness observed that what had happened in Russia and Mongolia later took place in Tibet as well: “The authorities tried to eliminate the Dharma, but it can’t be eliminated by force because as long as we have feelings, we all wish to be happy and not to suffer. As human beings we are intelligent and have the ability to think things through. We can use our minds to change how we think to cultivate happiness and reduce suffering. The Dharma and religion in general are a means to transform our minds.” (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate also shared his memories of his visits to Russia and Mongolia in 1979: “I sat with a group of old monks inside Gandan Monastery in Ulaanbaatar. They made a long-life offering to me, during which they chanted with such devotion it brought tears to their and my eyes. I reflected on how Buddhism had spread there and how it had been destroyed—and yet faith was undiminished. The atrocities of the Russian and Chinese revolutions could not erase faith from people’s minds.” (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
The Dalai Lama explained that in Tibet and the Mongolian region, Buddhists follow the Nalanda tradition, which emphasizes the use of logic and critical analysis. In his text Commentary on the Awakening Mind, Nagarjuna relies exactly on reason and logic. His Holiness gave explanations on the text and then answered questions from Buddhists in different parts of Russia
The teachings will continue on 6 and 7 November, with His Holiness’ commentary on Nagarjuna’s text and with explanations given by Ven. Geshe Lhakdor, director of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala. During the next two days the virtual audience can also hear the Heart Sutra chanted in Tuvan and the Kalmyk language.
Commentary on the Awakening Mind – First Day (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
Учения Его Святейшества Далай-ламы для буддистов России―2020 (Save Tibet Foundation (Moscow))
Учения Его Святейшества Далай-ламы для буддистов России―2020. Трансляция и программа (Save Tibet Foundation (Moscow))