The 7th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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The black JEEP was riding along the snowy road, making its way through a hard blowing wind. There were waves of snow everywhere around and it seemed as if we were driving on a white soft blanket. Me, my friend Asya and the JEEP’s driver were discussing some topics, which I do not remember now as I was busy staring at the road. Me and Asya, after transferring from one car to another, finally got a ride straight to a small Siberian town called Aginskoye.
We were heading for Aginsky datsan (datsan is the term used for Buddhist university monasteries in the Tibetan tradition of Gelukpa), which was located 150 km to East of Chita in the Amithasha village. Datsan’s name is “Dechen Lhudubling” translated as “Abode of spontaneous realization of great bliss”. Today it’s one the most revered datsans in Russia.
We got out of Chita on a bus and then hitchhiked all the way to Aginskoe. The road took us three hours. Our last driver decided to drop us at the gates of the datsan, which was about five kilometers away from Aginskoe. The story of Aginsky datsan takes its roots in the early 19th century.
By that time, Buddhism was spread all over Buryatia. In 1727, Buryats became loyal to the Russian Empire, since the “Russian-Chinese agreement on the borders” was signed in Kyakhta. Buddhism played such a big role in the lives of Buryat people that the Empress Elizabeth had no other options than to officially recognize the Buddhist church in Russia. Eleven datsans were founded and there were 150 lamas serving. The Aginsk datsan was founded in 1811 and after 6 years of construction was consecrated in 1816 by Lama Rinchen.
The schools of philosophy, tantra, medicine and astrology were openned here in 1861. The printing house of the datsan was famous far beyond Buryatia. It kept 47,525 xylographic boards with Tibetan nad Mongolian texts as well as wooden plates with drawings.. Datsan published many books on Buddhist philosophy, logic, medicine, astronomy, astrology and tantra on Tibetan language, also popular didactic literature, dictionaries, etc.
In the late 30’s of the 20th century Aginsky datsan, like many other temples, was closed. It was partially destroyed and the only reason why it survived the complete destruction by the communists was the fact that the buildings of datsan were used as tuberculosis sanatorium. Оbjects of worship and religious art were excluded from datsan and were sent to museums of Moscow and Leningrad (St. Petersburg).
The revival of Buddhism in Russia began in the 1990’s. Twenty datsans were restored. In 1991 H.H. Dalay Lama XIV visited the former Aginsk-Buryat Autonomous District (nowadays Chita region), in the heart of which the Dechen Lhundubling is. In honor of His visit local Buddhists erected a stupa at the entrance Alkhanay National Park.
Today Aginsky datsan, as I could understand, gets a lot of money for restoration works, as well as for construction of new buildings. That’s why the datsan now can be divided into two parts: the old and the new. I didn’t like the new part at all that’s why the photos I’m posting here are from the old part of the monastery. After spending some hours, exploring the surroundings, me and Asya went back to the road and then hitchhiked back to Chita. Two guys from Chechnya gave us a ride all the way back to home. We were peaceful in our minds and hearts.