SOFIA—The senior Gelug teacher Venerable Arjia Rinpoche (Lobsang Tubten Jigme Gyatso) visited Kalmykia from 14–28 April to give Dharma teachings and to launch the Russian-language translation of his autobiography. His was invited to the Russian republic by the Kalmyk Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences as part of his teaching itinerary in the Russian Federation, which includes the republics of Kalmykia, Tuva, Buryatia, as well as Moscow.
Arjia Rinpoche, better known in the Russian region as Arjia Gegen,* belongs to the Khoshut (from the Mongolian for bannermen) people, one of the four major tribes of the Oirat people—Mongols originating from eastern regions of Central Asia. The most prominent Oirat population today is found in Kalmykia. The Khoshuts were first recorded in 1580 and by 1620 had become become the most powerful Oirat tribe, notable for widely propagating Buddhism. As a representative of the Khoshuts, Rinpoche transmitted his teachings in Kalmykia in the Kalmyk language—a unique opportunity for local people to hear Buddhist teachings in their own language.
The launch of Rinpoche’s autobiography, The Life of Arjia Rinpoche and the Secret of the Golden Urn, was held on 16 April at the Kalmyk Scientific Center. The book, translated into Russian by Irina Garri, also describes important events in Tibetan history.
Arjia Rinpoche gave three lectures at the Kalmyk Scientific Center: “Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in USA” on 19 April, “Buddhist Monasteries and Temples in the United States” on 22 April, and “Basic Canonical Texts in the Schools of Tibetan Buddhism” on 26 April. Rinpoche also gave Dharma talks at the Central khurul (temple) of Kalmykia, the Golden Abode of Shakyamuni Buddha: “The Refuge in the Three Jewels” on 16–17 April, “The Kind Master” on 19 April, “Four Noble Truths” on 22 April, and “Buddhist Traditions of the Oirats” on 23 April.
Rinpoche also traveled around Kalmykia to a warmhearted welcome from the Kalmyk people, visiting Lagan Dargyeling, a khurul in Lagansky District, on 21 April; the settlement of Sarpa, where he met local Khoshut residents, and the settlement of Tsagan–Nur on 24 April; and Geden Sheddup Choi Korling (Arshansky khurul) on 26 April.
Arjia Rinpoche was born in 1950 to a nomadic family living close to Lake Kokonor (Tib. Tso Ngonpo, Blue Lake) on the Tibetan-Mongolian border. At the age of two, he was recognized by Choekyi Gyaltsen, the 10th Panchen Lama, as the reincarnation of the father of Je Tsongkhapa (founder of the Gelug School), Lumbum Ghe, the throneholder and abbot of Kumbum Monastery in eastern Tibet. At the age of seven, he was sent to live in Kumbum Monastery. From age 12–14, Rinpoche studied at Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, the home monastery of the Panchen Lama, and in 1979 he became abbot of Kumbum Monastery.
Rinpoche has trained with several lineage teachers, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the 10th Panchen Lama, and Gyayak Rinpoche, from whom he received many sacred teachings and instructions. During the Cultural Revolution, Arjia Rinpoche spent 16 years working in a forced-labor camp, after which he continued to serve as the abbot of Kumbum Monastery.
In 1998, Rinpoche was granted political asylum by the United States government and moved to the US. He now directs the Buddhist Center for Compassion and Wisdom in Mill Valley, California, and the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington, Indiana, as appointed by the Dalai Lama.
* From the Tibetan for teacher.