Shared Buddhist Heritage between India and Russia
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Speakers from Russian side: Prof. Tatiana Shaumyan, Professor for Indian Studies, Institute of Oriental Studies, Scholar from Kalmykia Region, Telo Rinpoche (Honorary Representative of His Holiness for the Dalai Lama in Russia, Mongolia and the CIS from Kalmykia region, Andrey Alexandrovich Bazarov, Institute for Mongolian, Buddhist and Tibetan Studies of the Serbian Branch of the RAS, Buryatia Republic, Ulan-Ude from Buryat Region, Chash-ool Anay-Khaak Anay-oolovna (Tuva State University) from Tuva Region, Yury Rodichev, Center for Spiritual Culture and, Baatr Uchayevich Kitinov, Senior Researcher of the Dept of Oriental Studies, Moscow.

Speakers from Indian side: Shri Shakti Sinha, Author, Strategic Thinker and Director General of International Buddhist Confederation, Professor Ngawang Samten, Vice-Chancellor, Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarnath, a deemed University under Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India, Dr Shashibala, Researcher on Russian and Mongolian Buddhist culture and historical studies and Dean, Munshi School of Indology, Bharitya Vidya Bhawan, and Shri Sonam Wangchuk Shakspo, Former Secretary to late 19th Kushok Bakula Rinchope.

Chairperson: Dr Arvind Gupta, Director, Vivekananda International Foundation

Vivekananda International Foundation organised an interactive session on, "Shared Buddhist Heritage between India and Russia" on 19th July 2021. The webinar was a collective effort of the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Science, Embassy of India, Moscow, International Buddhist Confederation and Vivekananda International Foundation.

The session started with the opening remarks by Ambassador D. Bala Venkatesh Varma from the Embassy for India, Moscow, Russia, by speaking on the close ties between India and Russia. He emphasised on India-Russia cooperation on an inter-regional level. To introduce the session, Ambassador Varma spoke on Buddhist ties between India and Russia as an integral part of people to people ties between both countries. He thanked Dr Arvind Gupta and Vivekananda International Foundation for hosting the session.

Dr Arvind Gupta thanked Ambassador Varma for his opening remarks and welcomed distinguished participants from various regions of Russia.

Russian Scholars

The session began with Professor Tatiana Shaumyan, Professor for Indian Studies, Institute of Oriental Studies. Professor Shaumyan spoke on the history of Buddhism in Russia. She also discussed the spread of Buddhism in Russia and its ethnic interaction with Russian society.

Moving forward, Telo Tulku Rinpoche expressed his gratitude to the organisers and participants in the session. He shared that he has been a part of the revival of the Buddhist tradition in the Kalmykia region after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He said that the movement had reintroduced the rich Indian heritage that has been a part of the Russian Civilisation for 400 years. He reiterated Professor Tatiana Shauyman's remarks that Buddhism is a part of Russia's traditional religions. Mr. Rinpoche said that the relationship between India and Russia is political and economic, and spiritual, which reached out to ordinary people and transcended the timeline of political and economic relations. During the 20th century, Russia went through a difficult period where many Buddhist monasteries were destroyed or shut down, said Mr. Rinpoche. He added that many Buddhist texts whether in Sanskrit, Tibetan or Mongolian languages were destroyed. However, he said that Russia has been the upholder, preserver and extension of this ancient Indian thought.

Mr. Rinpoche said that there's a need to strengthen cultural exchanges between Indian and Russian scholars in terms of Buddhism. He suggested that Indian scholars explore regions in Russia to develop scientific research on India-Russia Buddhist heritage.

Andrey Alexandrovich Bazarov, Institute for Mongolian, Buddhist and Tibetan Studies of the Serbian Branch of the RAS, Buryatia Republic, Ulan-Ude from Buryat Region spoke on Preserving of the Buryat language by the Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Heritage (Kangyur). Mr. Bazarov said that the area of preserving and studying of Buryat language has many sections. However, one of the most promising and unexplored sections is the Buryat language's actualisation within the Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Heritage. He added that this section has many subsections ranging from Tibetan and Traditional Mongolian to Buryat language.

As the session proceeded, Yury Rodichev from the Centre for Spiritual Culture highlights his centre's engagements with monasteries in different parts of India.

Baatr Uchayevich Kitinov, Senior Researcher of the Dept of Oriental Studies, Moscow, spoke on the cultural heritage between India and Russia. He emphasised the contribution of Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore to the Indian heritage. Further, he spoke on the historical engagement of Russian regions with Indian civilisation.

Indian Scholars

Moving forward, Dr Gupta invited the Indian scholars to speak on the shared Buddhist Heritage between India and Russia. Shri Shakti Sinha, Director General of International Buddhist Confederation (IBC) initiated the discourse from the Indian side by highlighting that Russia was one of the founding members of IBC. He said that IBC would initiate cultural and academic exchanges for Buddhist scholars from India and Russia. He suggested that holding exhibitions and collaborative events will help the Indian side understand more about regions in Russia having Buddhist heritage. Shri Sinha also spoke on the efforts of IBC and the Indian government to promote cultural and academic exchanges of Buddhist scholars.

Professor Ngawang Samten, Vice-Chancellor of Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, proceeded with the session by saying that the revival of Buddhism in Russia is 400 years old, unlike the European countries where it is new. He spoke on the different translations of Buddhist texts, especially Mongolian. He added that many Mongolian scholars choose to stay in Tibet and have contributed to the literature, and they are also spiritual masters. Before the communist takeover in the Buryat region, there were academic and intellectual studies. He said that India-Russia shared Buddhist heritage is deeply rooted in the academic, intellectual and spiritual system. He noted that Buddhism is not just a religious system but applicable to modern life. It has a lot to offer in terms of contribution to psychology, neuroscience, and clinical science.

Dr Shashi Bala, Researcher on Russian and Mongolian Buddhist culture and historical studies, spoke briefly on the historical Buddhist linkages between Russia and India. She highlighted the linguistic affinities between the two civilisations by highlighting the words and language, names of people, cities, rivers and organisations, among other elements of language.

Lastly, Shri Sonam Wangchuk Shakspo spoke on Kashok Bakula's contribution to reconnecting Buddhism in Russia. Shri Shakspo served as the Secretary to the late 19th Kushok Bakula Rinchope and authored his biography.
The interactive session was followed by the closing remarks by Dr Gupta and Ambassador Varma.

Event Date 
July 19, 2021

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