Ritual of Circuiting the Khanata Village with Sacred Texts
Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge
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Terbish, B. (2018). Ritual of Circuiting the Khanata Village with Sacred Texts [Video file]. https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.42184
A ritual of circuiting sacred objects or settlements with Buddhist texts is performed rarely in today’s Kalmykia. In pre-revolutionary times this ritual was performed in all Buddhist monasteries, which housed Buddhist Ganjur and Danjur texts. This video shows this ritual as it was performed in Khanata village of Maloderbetovskiy rayon. It begins with Dordzhi-Tseren, a senior lama of the Buddhist Union of Kalmykia, telling the participants about the foundation of Buddhism, the Three Jewels of Buddhism, practices, and the Buddhist texts of ‘Ganjur’ and ‘Danjur’. He also stresses the importance of the fact that after 70 years of religious bans in the Soviet period, these Buddhist texts have been brought back to Khanata. Dordzhi-Tseren carries on: ‘Ganjur is a record of 84,000 teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni. Ganjur contains all kinds of instructions, encompassing a wide range of topics from worldly life to philosophical teachings about emptiness and prajnaparamita. Danjur contains teachings and commentaries of other great Buddhist teachers. Even birds and insects that live in this place get blessed from a mere presence of these sacred texts here. Today we are reviving our roots. Therefore, we should revere the Three Jewels, namely Buddha, his teachings and the monastic community. Rejoice from the fact that you have a lama stationed in your village. Some changes, I hear, have taken place since his arrival. Now, when you will carry these texts in your hands you should think as if you are carrying such a precious jewel as you may never do again. All Buddhas and deities, gods and local spirits-protectors rejoice and bless you. With such thoughts you should walk around the village’. Zungru bagshi continues: ‘It is a great honour to have a senior lama with us today. We should all perform this ritual with dignity. All this would have been impossible without your support. There is a saying that without knowing the past, one cannot see the future. Between the past and the future is the present. Caring for the present, we strengthen the past in the process preserving our history and culture. In 1856 our fellow countryman, Djidjyatn bagshi from Dundu khurul, set off on a pilgrimage to Tibet, where he had an audience with the Dalai Lama. From Tibet he brought a letter which allowed three other Kalmyk monks, including Baaza bagshi Menkendzhuev, to visit Tibet. In 1893 they brought Ganjur texts with them. The 1931 anti-religious campaign resulted in the destruction or the loss of all Buddhist texts. However, there is information that some of these texts, including those translated into Oirat, were saved and buried somewhere. Unfortunately, today no one knows the whereabout of these texts. Today we are reviving our sacred places, and this place is protected by deities and Dharma protectors. People will be blessed not only by the presence of these sacred texts, but also by Buddhist deities. I would like to thank all who made donations towards acquiring Ganjur and Danjur, and those who helped transport them here from the Gandan monastery in Mongolia. Now, I would like to invite these individuals and give them presents’. Zungru bagshi gives out the presents. Then Sergei Dordzhiev, who assisted in the transportation of the texts, says, ‘Dear compatriots, brothers and sisters of the great Kalmyk nation! We brought you greetings from sunny Buryatia and Kazakhstan. Miraculously, we managed to overcome all obstacles, cross borders and bring these holy texts here. We are as glad and happy as you are! Your land is sacred, your ancestors stopped the advance of the Nazi army. May the blessing be with you and stay in your land. I wish you eternal prosperity!’ Zungru bagshi: ‘I would like to express special thanks to Vladimir Maksimovich Karuev, without whom we would not have been able to bring the texts. He came to me and offered his help. Thank you! Now, we will start the circuiting ritual of the village with the texts. I would like to ask men to come here. We will give a volume to each of you. You should form a queue and proceed in the exact order that you received the texts. After you finish walking around the village we will put the texts back in the same order. If children would like to carry texts, they should do it together in couples so that they do not get tired. If anyone does not get a chance to carry a volume, you can walk next to someone who has it and help them carry it’. Then the lamas give out the volumes of the texts to men, one by one. Men line up outside the temple to receive texts. Once all the volumes are handed out, the procession starts from the temple which is located outside the village. While walking clockwise around the village, the participants ask for blessing from the deities of the local clan and land. The ritual is accompanied by religious musical instruments including a drum (kenkrg), a trumpet (burya), a kettledrum (tsang), and a shell (dung). In front of the procession a young man holds burning incenses in his hands. Behind him another man carries a flag. The procession stretches for a long distance, and the participants walk through all streets in the village. After, the procession returns to the temple, and the lamas lay the texts on the table. Then the celebratory prayers begin with reading ‘Itkl’ prayer (Refuge in the Three Jewels) in Kalmyk, ‘Bilgin zyurkn sudr’ (the Heart sutra), ‘Tushityn zun tengr’ (100 divine beings of the Tushita Heaven, dedicated to Lama Tsongkapa), and mantras. The prayers conclude with reading a short text called ‘Buyan zorn orgkh’. Finally, all participants receive a blessing by touching the texts with their forehead. The ritual ends with a celebratory lunch and a concert.
Ritual, sacred texts
Sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.42184