Elena Olzeeva, About My Ancestors and My Pilgrimage
Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge
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Terbish, B. (2018). Elena Olzeeva, About My Ancestors and My Pilgrimage [Video file]. https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.42183
Elena talks about her experience of Buddhism, a pilgrimage that she did to Mongolia, Tibet and India (after which she wrote books about her trip) and about her grandmother. Elena was born on 22 June 1964. After secondary education she studied at the Stavropol Medical Institute, and afterwards worked as a pediatrician. She did graduate medical training in the Medical Institute of Sechenov and then worked as head of the Department of Medical Assistance to the Population in the Ministry of Health of Kalmykia. This is her story: I started writing after I traveled to India and learned about the basics of Buddhism. We, Kalmyks, consider ourselves Buddhist by birth. Although my grandmothers taught me how to pray, I understood nothing. My father also taught me how to hold hands correctly and pray. Since childhood, I had a craving for the spiritual and mysterious. Inside each person there is desire to be a better person. The first time I bought a statuette was when I was in grade 7. As a child, I was taken to Namka Kichikov for treatment, he had thangkas on his walls. Namka had a lump on his head, and he said that this was his third eye. After meeting Buddhist believers, I went with a group of pilgrims to India for a lecture by the Dalai Lama and to visit holy places. The trip was organized by the Central Temple in Elista. After the Dalai Lama’s lectures, the Kalmyk lamas Sanal and Sanan would explain to us the basics of Buddhism in the evening. In my head, everything turned upside down when I analyzed the words of the Dalai Lama. For the first time I saw that you can live kindly and approach everything with patience. I realized that you need to change yourself, and then Buddhism will make sense to you. Everyone can achieve Buddhahood, and some have already approached that state. Thanks to Buddhism, I realized that one needs to do what he/she likes. Back then I did not like my work, and I decided to quit it and live as I wanted. On the advice of my friend Valery, I wrote a book about my trip to Tibet and India in 2014. From India, people brought Buddhist sculptures and thangkas for the construction of stupas. Those who read my book said that it is easy to read and understand. On the advice of Stepan Botiev, I did not read a single book about Tibet before writing my book. In Tibet I visited the most ancient monastery there. Afterwards I read about Dari Eezhi, a Kalmyk woman who made a pilgrimage to Tibet. I also heard that upon returning to Kalmykia, Dari Eezhi healed people. My second book is titled The Road to the Gobi (2015). I went to see the ‘northern gate of Shambala’, which is also a symbol of motherhood and fertility. There I got to know Mongols and I saw how they live today by mixing tradition and modernity. The Mongols have songs about practically everything. In Western Mongolia, there is a custom whereby disputes are settled by a song competition. We went to Mongolia through Buryatia where we visited the Ivolginskiy Temple. There I learned the meaning of the name Boova. My grandmother was called Boova, which means a long biscuit with patterns on the edges. This word also means ‘Buddha’s footprint’. In my book I also wrote about my grandmother Boova, who was widowed in Siberia. She had two children, a boy and a girl. Since my grandmother ate nothing, her daughter became very weak. Thinking that her daughter would not survive, Boova decided to only feed her son. Her daughter died of hunger. Only a small piece of bread was given to the three of them. She gave it to her son telling him not to swallow it but to put it inside his mouth until it dissolved. In our family, women often give birth to boys. After the war, from all the males in his clan only my father Victor survived. My grandmother Boova understood well that she must save the boy at all cost so that the clan can perpetuate.
Sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.42183