DHARAMSALA, 2 Feb: A specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia has said that Moscow forcing out of the leader of the Buddhist community of Kalmykia has more to do with Moscow’s wanting to show deference to Beijing than his criticism of Putin’s war in Ukraine.
Paul Goble, a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia, has said in an Op-ed on eurasiareview.com that “the forcing out of the leader of the Buddhist community of Kalmykia had more to do with Moscow’s wanting to show deference to Beijing by getting rid of someone closely linked to the Dalai Lama and the cause of the restoration of the independence of Tibet than his criticism of Putin’s war in Ukraine.”
Telo Tulku Rinpoche, also known as Erdni Ombadykov, is the leader of the Buddhist community of Kalmykia. Rinpoche, also His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s representative in Russia, resigned from his role as the Shajin-Lama, the leader of the Republic of Kalmykia’s Buddhists two days after Russia added his name to its registry of foreign agents.
“By labelling Erdin Ombadykov, the leader of the Buddhist community in Kalmykia, the CIS and Mongolia for 30 years, a foreign agent for criticizing Putin’s war in Ukraine, Moscow has forced him to retire, opening the way for a more pliant Buddhist in Kalmykia and giving the Buddhist leadership in Buryatia an opening to a broader role,” Goble has said.
Further, he has cited two Russian journalists and stated that there is more to development than meets the eye.
Goble quoted journalist Aleksandr Plyushchov and said, “right before our eyes, Buddhism is becoming a protest religion in Russia.”
Citing commentator Stanislav Kucher, Goble added, “the Kremlin fears Buddhist ideas and may seek to ban it.”
Kucher has said that “the basic principles of Buddhism are about questioning all authority, something anathema in Putin’s Russia, and can become the basis for radical even militant action as happened in Mongolia during the Russian Civil War.”
According to a report on Lion’s Roar, Telo Tulku openly condemned Russia’s war on Ukraine in Oct. saying, “I think it is wrong; nobody needs this war. We are all living in the twenty-first century, all of us want to live peacefully, each country wants to develop. I think the Ukrainian side, of course, is right — it is defending its country, its land, its truth, its constitution, its people. It is very difficult to say and accept that Russia is right. It is very hard to say so, and this is what I cannot [say].”
Rinpoche later announced his resignation on Sunday, saying that he considered it “reasonable” in light of what had occurred.
Following his resignation, Rinpoche has requested that all his duties be transferred to Tendzin Choidak, the leader of the religious organization — called the Kalmyk Central Buddhist Monastery of Geden Sheddup Choi Korling — and the administrator Yonten Lodoi.
However, he will retain his position as the Dalai Lama’s envoy to Russia.
According to media reports, Rinpoche, a US citizen, is currently in India and plans to stay in it for the time being.