Buddhism

While southern Baikal is part of an ethnic Russian area, the northern shore is in the Republic of Buryatia. Its people, the Buryats, are related to the Mongols. They speak a language similar to Mongolian. Once they had an animist-shamanist religion. However, in the 17th Century, Buddhism began to move north from Mongolia. These days most Buryats are Buddhists. Nevertheless, traditional beliefs in nature spirits and shamans did not, of course, disappear. The fusion of old beliefs with Buddhism is one of the main features of Buryat culture. One can find shamans in the same village as Buddhist datsans and monks. Buryatia is the northernmost place where people practice Vajrayana Buddhism. Tantra plays a major role in many rituals.

There are about twenty datsans (Buddhist university monasteries) in Buryatia. In the 17th Century they were mainly felt yurts. These days,

however, they are stone built. Many look like they belong in Tibet, not Siberia. They have large numbers of monks, with whom we can arrange visits for guests. We can arrange for you to study with the monks, or  just observe and photograph their lifestyle. If guests would like to film the monks chanting a Buddhist mantra, we can also arrange this.

The biggest Datsan in Buryatia is Ivolginskiy. It currently has 200 student monks in four faculties – philosophy, tantra, medicine and iconography. They also keep what some call Buryat Buddhism’s greatest relic and others say is its holiest lama – Dashi-Dorzho Itigelov. This monk, who seemed to die in 1927, had asked to be buried then exhumed after several decades. When they exhumed him his body had not decayed and showed many signs of life. Monks in the Datsan care for him and involve him in debates even to this day. Even Vladimir Putin once came to shake his hand!

 

While southern Baikal is part of an ethnic Russian area, the northern shore is in the Republic of Buryatia. Its people, the Buryats, are related to the Mongols. They speak a language similar to Mongolian. Once they had an animist-shamanist religion. However, in the 17th Century, Buddhism began to move north from Mongolia. These days most Buryats are Buddhists. Nevertheless, traditional beliefs in nature spirits and shamans did not, of course, disappear. The fusion of old beliefs with Buddhism is one of the main features of Buryat culture. One can find shamans in the same village as Buddhist datsans and monks. Buryatia is the northernmost place where people practice Vajrayana Buddhism. Tantra plays a major role in many rituals.

There are about twenty datsans (Buddhist university monasteries) in Buryatia. In the 17th Century they were mainly felt yurts. These days, however, they are stone built. Many look like they belong in Tibet, not Siberia. They have large numbers of monks, with whom we can arrange visits for guests. We can arrange for you to study with the monks, or  just observe and photograph their lifestyle. If guests would like to film the monks chanting a Buddhist mantra, we can also arrange this.

The biggest Datsan in Buryatia is Ivolginskiy. It currently has 200 student monks in four faculties – philosophy, tantra, medicine and iconography. They also keep what some call Buryat Buddhism’s greatest relic and others say is its holiest lama – Dashi-Dorzho Itigelov. This monk, who seemed to die in 1927, had asked to be buried then exhumed after several decades. When they exhumed him his body had not decayed and showed many signs of life. Monks in the Datsan care for him and involve him in debates even to this day. Even Vladimir Putin once came to shake his hand!

Buddhism tours on Lake Baikal