Antonina Kookueva, about the first buddhist community in Kalmykia and Friends of Tibet Society
Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge
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Terbish, B. (2018). Antonina Kookueva, about the first buddhist community in Kalmykia and Friends of Tibet Society [Video file]. https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.44625
Antonina talks about the first Buddhist Community in Kalmykia and how she set up the Friends of Tibet Society in Elista:The first Buddhist community of Kalmykia consisted of 22 old women, who gathered at each other’s homes and read prayers. They mainly read a prayer of Lama Tsongkapa. During Gorbachev’s perestroika, in 1988, when it became possible to set up a Buddhist community, these old women expressed their will to register such a community. We said to them that they needed to give us their details, including their names, place of work, signature etc. At that time people were afraid of the KGB. The youngest of them was born in 1949. We gathered their signatures and sent all the documents to Moscow to the Council of Ministers of the USSR. From there came permission to register such a community. On 15 June 1989, the first Buddhist religious community of Kalmykia was registered. About the Kalmyk Society of Friends of Tibet. We established this society in 1992. In 1991, the Dalai Lama came to Kalmykia. Afterwards I was invited to visit Dharamsala. Our delegation consisted of three people, including Maksim Bembeevich Mukabenov, who was Deputy Chairman of the government of Kalmykia, Shajin Lama of Kalmykia Tuvan Dorj and me. In India I first learnt why the Dalai Lama lives in exile and why Tibetans are refugees, which was a shock for me. Upon my return to Kalmykia, I could not help but establish the Society of Friends of Tibet, which we did on 16 July 1992. It consisted of scientists and artists such as Garya Rokchinskiy and Alexandr Povaev. Back then Rokchinsky was already an elderly man. He painted a portrait of Zaya Pandita as early as in the 1960s, when it was forbidden to paint icons or clergymen. In September 1992, the Dalai Lama visited Kalmykia for a second time. We made a public presentation about our society, and he handed us $1,000 for the development of the society. It was a time of spiritual revival. The task of our society is to facilitate the revival of the lost historical ties between Kalmykia and Tibet and to revive Buddhism in Kalmykia. We organized the first Week of Tibet in Kalmykia, after which monks offered to hold a public prayer in the central square of Elista. At that time, it seemed to me that it would be impossible. I talked with the Minister of Education, who telephoned Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who agreed. Many people came to the prayers. We also held the first inter-religious council to unite representatives of different religions. After that routine work started. We gave talks in schools, explaining the basics of Buddhism. Geshe Tinley arrived in Kalmykia to give lectures. We also organized lectures of Kalmyk scholars on Buddhism. We have published 4 books based on lectures of Buddhist teachers. People had a great interest in learning about Buddhism, and they willingly came to lectures. We also celebrated the Dalai Lama’s birthday for the first time at the Russian Theater in Elista. Today it is a national holiday in Kalmykia. Today our task has changed though. In Kalmykia we already have temples and monks. As Shajin Lama says, today the main task is to introduce the Buddha's teaching to people’s lives. There is no limit to perfection.
Friends of Tibet Society, Buddhist Community
Sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.44625