Russian Buddhists Offer Prayers in Response to St. Petersburg Metro Attack
SOFIA—Buddhist communities across Russia have united to express their condolences and offer prayers for the victims of Monday’s tragic suicide bombing in the northwestern city of St. Petersburg.
On 3 April, an explosion on board a train between two subway stations in Russia’s second-largest city killed 14 people and injured more than 50 others. According to Russian media, the deadly terror attack was carried out by Akbarzhon Jalilov, a naturalized Russian national born in Kyrgyzstan in 1995, who is reported to have had ties to radical Islamist groups.
Russian social media networks published messages of condolence on behalf of the Buddhist Traditional Sangha of Russia, which is led by the 24th Pandito Khambo Lama Damba Badmayevich Ayusheev. The messages announced that prayer services for the victims of the explosion would be held in every temple of the Russian sangha. As the country observes three days of national mourning in the wake of the tragedy, Gunzechoinei Datsan, the main Buddhist temple in St. Petersburg, offered prayers for the deceased and injured.
Gunzechoinei Datsan announced that a special prayer service, known as a yurool, would be held for the victims of the bombing. Immediately after the incident, Buddhist priests began to perform dedicated rituals at the temple, reciting prayers for a better rebirth for those people who lost their lives. In addition, on Tuesday, which was the 8th day of the lunar calendar that according to Tibetan belief is linked to the Medicine Buddha, prayers were recited for the speedy recovery of those injured.
Gunzechoinei Datsan was erected in St. Petersburg in 1909–15, becoming the first Buddhist temple in northwestern Russia, under the guidance of His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama Thupten Gyatso and the Buryat Lama Agvan Dorzhiev (1853/4–1938). The temple is maintained as a place of Dharma practice for scholars and students of the Gelug school of Vajrayana Buddhism.
Buda Badmaev (also known as Shirete Lama Jampa Donyed), who has been the head of Gunzechoinei Datsan since 1997, expressed compassion for the relatives of the victims. “We don’t understand the people who have been able to commit such a terrible [act],” he said. “It’s an act of absolute inhumanity and a misunderstanding of the essence of concepts such as ‘virtue’ and ‘non-virtue.’ Such an event suggests that there is a need for spirituality, morality, kindness, and compassion to be enhanced in society.”
Buddhist lamas in temples in the Russian republics of Burytia and Kalmykia also dedicated prayer services to the victims of the attack.
During this time of great loss for the Russian people, Buddhist lamas across the region are united in their prayers for peace and harmony in Russia and in the world, and also for the prevention of further terrible incidents in the future. Traditionally during such events when people have lost their lives, the followers of Tibetan Buddhism recite the mantra of compassion “Om mani padme hum,” accompanied by offerings of butter lamps or candles.