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Russian Buddhists received political acknowledgment yesterday when President Dmitry Medvedev announced his support for a revival of Buddhism during a visit to Buryatia, Siberia. Addressing Russian Buddhists at the Ivolga Datsan Monastery, Medvedev recognized the historical significance of Buddhism in Russia:
Russia is in a special position in the sense that it is the only country in Europe in which Buddhism is recognised as one of the traditional religions. For more than three centuries now this, one of the world’s oldest religions, has been practised by peoples native to this country: the Buryats, Kalmyks, Tuvans and other peoples. Buddhism’s philosophy and spiritual practice have had a deep-reaching influence on the customs and traditions of all who live here and all who follow this religion. Of course, the unique Buddhist culture is an integral and greatly valued part of Russia’s common historical and cultural heritage.
Medvedev then went on to address the current state of Buddhism in Russia:
The Buddhist community is undergoing a spiritual revival today. Old monasteries have been restored and are receiving the faithful once more, and new temples are being built. The lamas have worked very hard to revive forgotten Buddhist traditions. The most important religious texts are being translated into Russian, and spiritual and educational literature is being published. As far as I know, there are now 203 Buddhist religious organisations registered in Russia.
Religion has a special role to play in every country’s progress, in Russia too, in developing and building people’s moral character. Russia’s Buddhists are making an important contribution to strengthening inter-faith dialogue and social concord in our country.
Medvedev's support comes as part of an ongoing effort to forge a cooperative relationship between the government and Russia's "traditional religions."
Click here to read the rest of President Dmitry Medvedev's remarks at the Ivolga Datsan Monastery.
[Image: The Ivolga Datsan Monastery, © Ghirlandajo]