A ceremony of consecration for the Buddhist monastery Tubten Shedrub Ling was held in Kyzyl, the capital of the Republic of Tuva, on 28 April. The 12-floor monastery is intended to serve as Tuva’s principal Buddhist temple.
While the Russian news agency RIA Novosti describes Tubten Shedrub Ling, standing 56 meters high, as the largest Buddhist monastery in Russia, the central khurul (monastery) of Kalmykia, the Golden Abode of Shakyamuni Buddha, has a height of 63 meters. The outer walls of the Tuvan temple are are 1.7 meters thick, and are built at an incline. The temple complex covers total area of 9.3 hectares.
The history of the monastery dates back to 1992, when His Holiness the Dalai Lama made his first and only visit to the republic.* This historic event led to a new milestone in the spread of the Buddhadharma in Tuva: the Tibetan spiritual leader blessed a site especially chosen for the construction of a future Dharma monument, located near the republic’s main airport and the gateway to the capital.
The initiators of the monastery project were Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, and the former head of Tuva, Sholban 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 temple was originally scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other organizational problems, the grand opening was postponed until 28 April 2023.
Initially, Kara-ool named the monastery after His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama as an expression of the devotion and gratitude of the Tuvan people for the Tibetan spiritual leader’s guidance. In 2020, the Dali Lama bestowed the official name of the monastery: Tubten Shedrub Ling.
Tubten Shedrub Ling is intended to be a place for ordained monastics, unlike previous Tuvan temples, which were home to non-celibate lamas. At present, Tubten Shedrub Ling houses six monks from Drepung Gomang,** a Tibetan monastery in India, and six from Tuva, as well as an abbot. The project also includes a dormitory, study hall, and medical center for novice monks.
Five statues of Buddhist deities, including the main sculpture of Shakyamuni Buddha, have been installed in the prayer hall. Relics of Shakyamuni Buddha’s ashes have been enshrined within the main statue. The relics were brought from Tibet in 1959 and donated to the monastery by the Dalai Lama, along with his monastic robe and sacred texts. The monastery plans to hold an exhibition of more than 3,000 items, including unique Tibetan texts containing the words of the Buddha.
The consecration ceremony on 28 April included a prayer ceremony and a rich cultural program with leading Tuvan artists. The event was led by the Ninth Kamby Lama of the Tuvan people, Gelek Natsyk Dorju, and attended by Buddhist representatives from Mongolia and different parts of Russia, including the newly elected Shajin Lama of the Kalmyk people, Geshe Tenzin Choidak (Mutul Ovyanov), and the Kalmyk lama Anja Gelung. Among the official guests were: Vladislav Khovalyg, head of the Republic of Tuva; Sholban Kara-ool; Alexei Tsydenov, head of the Republic of Buryatia; Milan Raj Tuladhar, ambassador to Russia of the Republic of Nepal; and sculptor Dashi Namdakov, who created the statues enshrined in the monastery.
The Buddhist leaders of Tuva and Kalmykia explained the meaning of the new monastery for Buddhists in Russia: “The opening of Tubten Shedrub Ling is a milestone in the development of Buddhism in our country, as well as an essential increment for confessional cooperation at the international level,” said Kamby Lama Gelek Natsyk Dorju. (Vzglyad)
The Shajin Lama of Kalmykia, Geshe Tenzin Choidak, expressed happiness at the historic event: “We are very happy for our people, who are enjoying such a significant event today. We are confident that this Buddhist temple will become another place of religious attraction and will give a new impetus to the development of Buddhism not only in this region, but in the whole country.” (Central Khurul Kalmykia)
The monastery was opened to Buddhists in Tuva on 29 April, with prayer services provided three times a day.
* Construction in Tuva (BDG)
В Туве открылся крупнейший по площади буддийский монастырь в России (RIA Novosti)
Верховный лама Тувы объяснил важность открытия крупнейшего в России буддийского монастыря (Vzglyad)
Шаджин лама Калмыкии принял участие в церемонии открытия нового буддийского храма в Тыве (Central Khurul Kalmykia)