One should visit Baikal without missing the opportunity of getting acquainted with the culture and religion of Trans-Baikal (Eastern) Buryats - Buddhism. The best way to do this is to visit the most important datsans of Baikal region. “Key to Baikal” will tell about the most important of these temples and why you should remember to bring milk.
A datsan is a Buddhist monastery and University of the Buryats. The largest datsans include temples, residential houses of llamas, household buildings, shops and many other things. Separate buildings – dugans - are included in one integral complex of buildings: one needs to go around them in a special way.
The exterior of the Baikal datsans was greatly influenced by three main architectural schools: Tibetan, Chinese and Mongolian. The influence of Russian church architecture was also serious; the first datsans were built with the help of Russian masons and carpenters. However, Buddhist motifs in Orthodox churches can also be traced around Lake Baikal. Religions have always coexisted peacefully and complemented each other in this place.
So, when you enter the territory of datsan, it is first necessary to perform goroo – go around dugans in the same direction as the sun moves: this is considered the most respectful greeting.
When you enter a dugan you need to take your hat off. Being inside the dugan, you should also move in a clockwise direction.
Besides, being inside, you are prohibited to produce noise, rustle, scuffle your feet, talk loudly (especially in relation to phone calls), dab any things with your fingers, chew, keep your hands in your pockets, etc.
When you exit the dugan, you should preferably move with your face turned to the altar. It is better to dress in a modest way, so that clothes cover your hands and feet.
If you come to visit a llama or attend a public prayer, it is advisable to bring offerings - milk, tea, and cookies. Sometimes datsans have shops selling the things that are necessary for the monastery complex.
There is a custom that men enter the datsan before women. And women should not enter the datsan during their periods.
Ivolginsky Datsan - is the main Buddhist center in Russia and a monument of history and architecture. It was the first datsan constructed after the anti-religious persecutions of the Soviet government. Services have been constantly held there since 1946. The datsan was gradually expanded: in 1951, the authorities officially allocated the land for the monastery complex, and the majority of the temples of the datsan were built in the 1970s.
In 1991 the “Damba Darzha Zayayev Dashi Choinkhorlin” Buddhist University was built as a part of the datsan: the educational institution currently includes four faculties: the Faculties of Philosophy, Tantra, Iconography and Medicine.
In the autumn of 2002, Ivolginsky Datsan received the undecayed remains of Hambo Lama Itigilov. The undecayed remains of the Buddhist saint are exposed to public only eight times a year.
The datsan is visited by many pilgrims and tourists from different countries. It is simple to get there: it is situated only 35 kilometers away from the city of Ulan-Ude and public transport connects the city and the the datsan.
The datsan was founded by Hambo Lama Lubsan-Jimba Akhaldayev on the right bank of the Temnik River on the territory of Under-Shikhoy in 1741. Originally the datsan was just a felt yurt. A little later it was moved to the southwestern coast of Gusinoye Lake, to the foot of the Tsogto Khongor Mountain, to the territory of Tamcha.
The future First Pandito Hambo Lama (the head of the Buddhists of Russia) Damba-Darzha Zayayev pointed the place for the construction of the datsan. The Tamchinsky Datsan had been the main spiritual center of Buddhists of the country for a long time.
By the middle of XIX century, the complex of the datsan included 17 temples. In 1858–1870, the Buryat clergy rebuilt the main temple of the datsan (tsogchen-dugan) with the support of the administration of Eastern Siberia: the renewed temple was constructed of stone. The Tamchinsky Datsan had remained the religious center of Buryatia and entire Russia until 1930s, when a large-scale anti-religious campaign began.
In September 1989 a Deer Stone split into 6 parts, dating back to the late Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age, was found in the basement of one of the destroyed buildings of the datsan. To restore the monument, they invited experts from the Leningrad Hermitage. On August 15, 1990, the Deer Stone was installed in front of the entrance to Tsogchen-Dugan, presumably in its original place.
In 1990, the datsan was transferred to the Central Spiritual Board of Buddhists of the USSR, and the revival of the monastery’s life began. The 14th Dalai Lama visited the datsan in July 1991. Ayushi Dugan was returned to the monastery from Novosibirsk. The new building of Ayushi Dugan was consecrated on November 1, 1996.
Tamchinsky Datsan is located 150 km away from Ulan-Ude, near the road leading to Mongolia. Getting to this datsan will be much more difficult due to the lack of public transport routes leading to the temple complex itself. As a rule, people get to the datsan on their own vehicles or by hitchhiking.
“Lamrim” Buddhist Center
The datsan was created relatively recently, in October 1995. The first donation for the temple was made by the 14th Dalai Lama himself. The prayers and rituals are held in the temple by the monks of the Gyume tantric monastery from Tibet.
The main statue of the Buddha that is 2 meters high was made in Nepal, by Nepalese craftsmen. The statue is filled with tantric scrolls, besides, religious relics bestowed by the Dalai Lama XIV are put inside the statue. A Tibetan-Mongolian restaurant is also situated on the territory of the complex.
The complex is located near the center of Ulan-Ude.
“Damba Darzhalin” Datsan
The first datsan on the coast of Lake Baikal opened in the settlement of Dulan, in Kabansky district of the Republic of Buryatia in 2017. 8 monuments to nagas of waters were erected near datsan, each of them has its own “responsibilities”. Rituals appealing to nagas will be held at this place annually.
“Namzhal Choidobling” Datsan in Irkutsk
If you travel to Lake Baikal through Irkutsk, then you should definitely visit the only datsan of the city. Despite the fact that the Buddhist community of this Siberian city has existed for a long time, the temple complex was built only in 2006. Nowadays the complex includes 15 buildings.
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