The Eighth Kamby Lama, Jampel Lodoy, the most senior Buddhist monastic in the Russian republic of Tuva, passed away from health complications related to COVID-19 on 23 June in the Tuvan capital Kyzyl. He was 45 years old.
Jampel Lodoy, who was elected as the supreme lama of the Russian republic for a second term on 29 November 2019, was diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this month. He was admitted to the Republican Infectious Diseases Hospital in Kyzyl, where he was place in a medically induced coma. Many Buddhists in Russia and India, including monks from Drepung Gomang Monastery, participated in prayer ceremonies for the recovery of the Kamby Lama after an appeal from the Administration of the Kamby Lama on 9 June.
The death of the supreme spiritual leader of Tuva was announced by Sholban Kara-ool, chairman of the Tuvan government, who shared the sad news via social media: “I have received grave news—the Kamby Lama of the Republic of Tuva, honored Bashy* Jampel Lodoy, has left us forever. This is a huge loss for our republic. He was supposed to turn only 45, he was so young,” Kara-ool said, describing the Kamby Lama as a “highly educated clergymen who knew how to convey the teachings of the Buddha to everyone and who offered help, support, and guidance to many people.”
Sholban Kara-ool concluded his message by expressing belief that the senior Tuvan monk would be reborn: “We believe that if a person has led a virtuous life, then he will surely be reborn. I also believe this and think that thanks to his good deeds and the prayers of believers, the Kamby Lama of Tuva will return to us.”
Telo Tulku Rinpoche, the honorary representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Russia, Mongolia, and the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, expressed his sincere condolences in a letter to the Administration of the Kamby Lama of the Republic of Tuva:
I was deeply saddened by the news of the passing of the Kamby Lama, who for many years selflessly served the Buddha’s Teaching, cared for the spiritual development of people, and was a role model for many Buddhists. I pray for his good rebirth and will always keep a memory of him and rejoice that he lived a life full of deep meaning.
Jampel Lodoy (Apysh-ool Sat) was born to a family of livestock farmers on 21 August 1975 in the village of Hondergey in Dzun-Khemchiksky District of the autonomous republic in the Russian Federation. In 1992, he began his Buddhist education at Gandan Puntsogling, a monastery in Kyzyl—the same year that His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited Tuva. From 1993–96 he studied at Gunzechoinei Datsan in St. Petersburg, and subsequently continued his training at Drepung Gomang Monastery in the southwestern Indian state of Karnataka. While in India, Jampel Lodoy completed a nine-year course of study and received the title candidate of philosophical sciences. He then returned to Tuva and served as kamby lama from 2005–10. During this period, the Tuvan lama began actively working to establish ties with the spiritual leaders of the Buddhist sanghas in the republics of Kalmykia and Buryatia, and also initiated the construction of new large monastic complexes in cooperation with the local republican and federal authorities.
Jampel Lodoy later became the abbot of Ustuu-Khuree, a temple in the town of Chadan. Ustuu-Khuree was built in 1905 in the Tibetan architectural style, but was shut down in 1930, and in 1937 the structure was largely destroyed. In 1999, the Russian government, recognizing its historical and architectural value, decided to reconstruct the temple. During the same year, the Ustuu-Khuree Ethno Music Festival was initiated within the objective of reconstructing the ruined monument. The festival has since become a major cultural event in Tuva.
At the time of writing on 24 June, global confirmed COVID-19 infections were reported to have reached 9.24 million, with 476,945 deaths so far recorded and 4.6 million recovered.** The World Health Organization in March estimated the mortality rate from the virus, believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, at 3–4 per cent, based on incomplete and preliminary data, with the elderly and people with underlying health conditions considered most at risk. More recent data suggests that the mortality rate may be significantly lower, however studies are inconclusive due to variations in COVID-19 testing procedures in different countries, and differing methodologies for classifying and reporting COVID-19 as a cause of death.
Russia has so far reported 598,878 confirmed cases and 8,349 deaths, with 355,847 people reported to have recovered.** Tuva, which has a population of 327,383 people,*** has recorded 3,575 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and three deaths.**
* “Teacher” in the Tuvan language.
*** Data as of 1 January 2020, according to Сайт о странах и городах (statdata.ru)
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