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Telo Tulku Rinpoche, About Local Spirits in Kalmykia

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Terbish, Baasanjav 
Churyumova, Elvira 


Baasanjav: Many old people say that mountains, streams or even some trees have local spirits. They go there, read mantras and so on. What is the Buddhist take on the idea that the landscape is inhabited by local spirits? Telo Tulku: Well, of course, there are many water spirits, earth spirits, mountain and tree spirits and so on. In Buddhism we highly respect the environment and ecology and believe that such spirits exist. I am not a superstitious person at all, but I do respect all spirits. Unfortunate things happen in life due to certain conditions, karma, and actions. But I do not believe that disturbed spirits may affect one’s work or career. B: As you know, in Mongolia it seems to me that many lamas believe in that. There are a lot of cultural or traditional taboos. For example, the worst offence is to urinate in the river. We believe that by disrespecting river you will make the local spirits angry and the expectation is that the offender would be punished by these spirits. The offender goes to lamas, lamas understand this and read special mantras for such occasions. Do you think that in Kalmykia you have similar ideas or is the situation in Kalmykia different? TT: It is similar, but it is not as strongly superstitious as it is in Mongolia. Of course, there are people that believe in this. I take my words back. There are certain spirits, but I have never disturbed any of the spirits. I have been respectful and I truly do not believe that I would be harmed by any of these spirits. I am not saying that I have the power to prevent it, but I believe that I have generated good enough karma to prevent myself from such negative impact from any type of spirit. I truly believe in that. Are there such spirits in Kalmykia? Well, it is not only in Kalmykia. There are such spirits here in Cambridge. How many churches and how many castles, how many buildings are here on the campuses? I truly believe there are certain spirits in the water, in the rivers, in the earth. But are we going to be harmed, be spelled upon in every step we take in life? I do not believe so. I try to be conscious about respecting the environment – I try to recycle, it is a good way to contribute towards our planet Earth. B: In Buddhism do you classify these spirits? For example, the spirit of mountains, clans or whatever? TT: Yes, we do. But I do not really follow that so much. It may sound strange for a Tulku or a Rinpoche to be saying this. I am a very realistic person. I am a Buddhist of course, I believe, but there are certain things that I am skeptical about. I am not going to follow certain things just because scriptures write so. I want to question it, I want proof, I want to be convinced.



Local spirits, Kalmykia

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Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge

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Sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin