“Festival of Miracles” Held in Kalmykia in Memory of Ven. Geshe Tenzin Dugda
SOFIA—The “Festival of Miracles,” known in Tibetan as Chotrul Duchen, was celebrated from 12–14 March in the central khurul (temple) of the Republic of Kalmykia, the only region in Europe where Tibetan Buddhism is the predominant religion. The festival included a special ritual, held to commemorate the eminent Tibetan teacher Geshe Tenzin Dugda, who passed away in Kalmykia on 13 March 2012.
Chotrul Duchen is one of the four major Buddhist festivals observed in Kalmykia. It takes place during the full moon of the first month in the Tibetan calendar and commemorates the miracles that Shakyamuni Buddha displayed to increase the devotion of his disciples. The festivities ran for three days in the central khurul, along with the Great Prayer Festival (Monlam Chenmo in Tibetan.)
The Great Prayer Festival is traditionally celebrated at the beginning of the first lunar month in monasteries in Tibet and India, as well as the Buddhist triangle of Russia—Kalmykia, Buryatia, and Tuva. The tradition in Kalmykia was revived several years ago thanks to the efforts of Telo Tulku Rinpoche, the shadjin or head lama of Kalmykia.
A special ritual in memory of Geshe Tenzin Dugda was performed during Chotrul Duchen in the prayer hall of the central khurul. The ritual included a practice known in Tibetan as Lama Chopa, which consists of making offerings to a spiritual master through via offerings to all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the past, present, and future, thus accumulating merit for all sentient beings.
The main khurul was built in 2005 in the capital Elista and is the largest Buddhist temple in Russia and Europe. It received its name, “The Golden Abode of Buddha Shakyamuni,” from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who blessed the construction site during a visit in 2004.
Born in central Tibet in 1938, Geshe Dugda left occupied Tibet at the age of 20, following His Holiness the Dalai Lama to India where he took part in the building of Drepung Gomang Monastery in the southwestern state of Karnataka. After studying there, he received the highest academic qualification in the Gelugpa tradition known as geshe lharampa (equivalent to a doctorate in Buddhist philosophy.)
In 1995, Geshe Dugda followed the advice of the Dalai Lama and moved to Kalmykia, becoming the first geshe degree holder in the republic. He dedicated 17 years of his life to reviving the Buddhist tradition in Kalmykia. Since the first year of his stay, Geshe Dugda continuously transmitted Buddhist knowledge to monks and lay people. He made a great contribution to the formation and development of the Kalmyk khurul and bestowed numerous teachings, empowerments, and blessings. Over the years, he had a huge number of Dharma students, not only from Kalmykia, but also from other regions of Russia. He passed on to his disciples the most important sutra and tantra teachings that he had received from his own spiritual teachers.
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