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Visit the Buddhist Temple of Ivolginsky Datsan

Very few people will think of Russia as being a center for Buddhist worship, let alone being a place where you will find a few practicing Buddhists. Yet the country is home to a massive Buddhist temple located in Buryatia, Russia, not far from Verkhnyaya Ivolga village. It is known as the Ivolginksy Datsan.

The Ivolginsky Datsan in Russia got it’s start as a little ‘Khambin’s Sume’ – a simple place where Buddhists could practice their religion. It was the only Buddhist spiritual center in the USSR and so it quickly became the primary monastic center in the country. Before long Pandido Khambo Lama, the leader of all Russian Lamas, took up residence at the center further adding to its importance. In 1991 the datsan grew to incorporate a Buddhist university known as Dashi Choinkhorling and 1995 it became the residence of the Central Spiritual Buddhist Board of the Soviet Union. The Ivolginsky Datsan provides Buddhist education in its many forms, including medicinal practices, temple rights and Buddhist traditions.

This Buddhist datsan is in very good condition and its location not far from Lake Baikal makes for some striking scenery. The monastery is home to a number of other treasures, including a rare collection of old Tibetan Buddhist silk manuscripts and a holy Bodskhva tree. Over time the complex has grown to include a Sockshin-gugan temple, a Maidrin-sume temple, a Devazhin temple, a Sackhjusan-sume temple, a museum of monuments of Buryat art, a library, a hotel, the Choyra building, the Dashi Choinkhorling University, a number of sevice buildilngs and lama houses and some sacred tumbs-suburgans. All facets of the religious site are well worth seeing.

Most visitors to the Ivolginsky Datsan in Russia, however, are most interested in seeing the remains of the 12th Pandito Hambo Lama. Apparently in 1927 this particular Lama told fellow monks to bury his body and dig it up in 30 months before retiring to meditate. He died just a short while later in mid-meditation and his associates did as he’d requested. Thirty years later they dug up his body to find it perfectly preserved. It was reburied during the Soviet era but has since been unearthed again and this ‘miracle’ is evident for all to see. Even scientists have found the discovery to be remarkable as they have found a complete absence of preservation balms or other attempts at mummification. The body lacks any signs of decay with even inner tissue, soft joints and skin remaining intact. It is as if he had died just one day ago. The Pandito Hambo Lama remains preserved as he originally was – in lotus position – and can be seen at the Ivolginsky Datsan today.


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