Ulan Ude is the capital of Buriatia. This Russian republic is about a hundred miles east of Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake. Buriatia has the size of Germany but has a population of just over one million people.
This statue of Lenin was the largest of its kind in Soviet times and still dominates the city’s central square. To a stranger the Ethnic Buriats may look like Japanese people. But these days they are re-establishing the ancient roots and traditions of their region.
Buriatia is once again the center of Russian Buddhism. Here at the republic’s principal temple — the Ivolga Dazan close to Ulan Ude, a monk calls believers to a Buddhist mass or Khural.
It was from Mongolia that the Gelukpa Branch of Tibetan Buddhism travelled to these remote territories of Russia more than 200 years ago. The monks brought with them their deep knowledge, the product of centuries. For more than four decades this hall may have been the only place in the atheist Soviet Union where the complex chants and traditions of the Buddhist mass were kept alive.
The 14th Dalai Lama is the monk’s spiritual leader. A special throne in the center of the hall is always reserved for him. Religious paintings, called Tankas pay tribute to various Tibetan gods.
Believers make offerings and pray as they walk clockwise through the temple during mass.
Buddhist teachings at the temples fall into three main categories: philosophy, medicine and astrology. The Buddha of course stands as the principal teacher of enlightenment.
After Perestroika most of the new monks are ethnic Buriats. But visitors and believers often come from far away. Here in Buriatia people visit the temple whenever they need help — to solve family issues, material and health problems, or to find a new job. Today a ritual that’s meant to promote wealth is being performed. Visitors also seek the advice from Tibetan astrologers or the medical doctors, called Emchi.
SOUNDBITE: Sergey Samoshapov, Zyren Lama (speaking Russian): “It is assumed, that all medicine came from the Buddha of Medicine, who gave us these teachings to believers and non-believers, and even to atheists. And everybody understood the words of Buddha according to his own level and understanding. Therefore, for me the fact that people who don t believe, or people who believe come to me to get treatment does not matter much. For me the main thing is to try hard so that they will get healthy again. It does not really interest these non-believers that I consecrate my medication, that I gather my herbs at a certain time and place. I have to teach them to live right.”
Dr Heidi Bartsch from Germany is among the many tourists who visit Ivolga Dazan. She respects the work of her Buddhist colleagues:
SOUNDBITE: Dr Heidi Bartsch (speaking English): “I see here a clear advantage, that not so much chemistry would be administered to the body. But it is much easier to convince today’s young people of the benefits of the Asiatic medicine than the elder generation.”
In the 1930s Stalin’s troops had destroyed all 47 Buddhist temples in Buriatia. The monks and Emchi doctors live in simple wooden huts these days. A new temple was built in 1946 on Stalin’s orders.
Zyren Lama sees five to ten patients per day.
Tatjana Uboshenko first came to him out of despair, after western medicine could not help her. First the Emchi makes a diagnosis of her pulse. He uses his three middle fingers to analyze the pulse on both hands of the patient. In a couple of minutes Zyren Lama has drawn a complex echogram of all the patient’s vital organs. This art of pulse reading has been passed from teacher to pupil over many generations.
The Emchi carefully inspects Tatyana and asks her about the symptoms. He is trained in western medicine too. He was a doctor for the Armed Forces. Subscribe – never miss a video! http://www.youtube.com/subscription_c…