Telo Tulku Rinpoche (also known as Erdne Ombadykow), the representative to Russia of the Dalai Lama, announced his resignation on 29 January. He will be stepping down from his post as shajin lama, the spiritual leader of Russia’s Kalmyk Buddhists.
The announcement came in response to being added to the Russian government’s list of “foreign agents” on 27 January, likely as a result of his speaking out against Russia’s war in Ukraine last October.* Telo Tulku Rinpoche made the statements from Mongolia, where he was working to help Kalmyks who had fled Russia after the start of the war in February last year.
“In the situation that occurred, I consider it reasonable to pass on all the duties related to the position of the shajin lama of the Republic of Kalmykia to the current leader of the centralized religious organization—the Kalmyk Central Buddhist Monastery of Geden Sheddup Choi Korling—Tendzin Choidak (Mutul Ovyanov) and the administrator Yonten Lodoi (Sergei Kirishov),” Telo Tulku Rinpoche said in a statement. (Radio Free Europe)
The independent Russian media group, Meduza, which has recently been outlawed in Russia, reported that Telo Tulku Rinpoche had been added to the government’s list of “foreign agents,” along with:
• Ilya Prusikin, frontman of the punk-pop-rave band Little Big
• Journalist Fidel Agumava
• Tatar human-rights activist and former political prisoner Rafis Kashapov
• Feminist Daria Serenko, a leader of the Feminist Anti-War Resistance movement.
In his statement, Telo Tulku Rinpoche noted the parallel between himself and the Dalai Lama, observing that the Dalai Lama went into exile in his youth while encouraging patience and diligent practice of the Buddha’s teachings.
Telo Tulku Rinpoche’s statement in full (translated from Russian to English by Google Translate):
I became aware that on January 27, 2023, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation entered my name in the register of foreign agents. In the current situation, I consider it expedient to transfer all the powers related to the post of Shajin Lama of the Republic of Kalmykia to the current abbot of the Centralized Religious Organization of the Kalmyk Central Buddhist Monastery “Geden Sheddup Choi Korling” Geshe Tendzin Choydak (Mutul Ovyanov) and the administrator of Gelong Yonten Lodoy (Sergey Kirishov) .
In the future, I ask the monastic community of the Kalmyk central Buddhist monastery “Geden Sheddup Choi Korling” to decide on the choice of a candidate for the post of Shajin Lama from among the fully ordained monks, who, under the current conditions, will be able to most effectively perform work for the benefit of the Republic of Kalmykia.
The monks of Kalmykia, who keep their vows in purity, are the subject of our pride and our greatest achievement. I am convinced that the candidate they put forward will bring great benefits to the further development of a pure form of Buddhism in the Republic of Kalmykia.
In the past two days, many people have expressed concern and sympathy for my name being entered on the Foreign Agents Register. I am sincerely grateful to them for their participation and appreciation of my work.
In these difficult times, I wish the people of Kalmykia and all followers of Buddhism to maintain courage, steadfastness and adherence to the ideals of compassion, love and non-violence, on which the Teaching of the Buddha we profess is based.
Just as our root guru, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who was in exile during his youth, spoke to his people, so I urge you: “Keep patience and the Teachings of the Buddha in your hearts, and the truth will prevail.”
In my thoughts, deeds and prayers, I remain entirely with the Kalmyk people and the Buddhists of all Russia, to whose service I dedicated my life.
Telo Tulku Rinpoche
Shajin Lama of the Republic of Kalmykia(Khurul)
Telo Tulku Rinpoche remains the only major Russian religious leader to condemn the invasion of Ukraine.
Kalmykia is a mostly Buddhist republic in southwestern Russia, with some of its border just a couple hundred kilometers from Ukraine. It is the only region in Europe where Buddhism is the predominant religion. Russia’s other predominantly Buddhist republics are Tuva and Buryatia, both sharing lengthy borders with Mongolia.
Self-Exiled Buddhist Leader Of Russia’s Kalmykia Resigns Over ‘Foreign Agent’ Label (Radio Free Europe)
Обращение шаджин-ламы Калмыкии Тэло Тулку Ринпоче (Khurul)
Russian Justice Ministry names new ‘foreign agents,’ including Dalai Lama’s envoy Telo Tulku Rinpoche and Little Big frontman Ilya Prusikin (Meduza)
Related news reports from BDG
Telo Tulku Rinpoche Consecrates Lamp House on the Kalmyk Steppe
Telo Tulku Rinpoche Gives His First Online Teaching to Mark the Beginning of Saka Dawa
Kalmyk Buddhists Mark the 15th Anniversary of the Golden Abode of Shakyamuni Buddha
Related features from BDG
Buddhism in Kalmykia: Construction of a Stupa as a Symbol of Unity
The Kalmyk Restoration: Telo Tulku Rinpoche on a Russian Republic’s Buddhist Revival
Buddhism in Russia: History and Modernity
Russia’s Golden Triangle of Buddhism