Buddhism & Nordland

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When Buddha came to Ultima Thule

The 6th International Conference Buddhism and Nordland

19-20 November 2021


The international conference Buddhism and Nordland aims to enhance the academic study of Buddhism in Sweden and to investigate the history and presence of Buddhism in Northern Europe using academic approach and scientific methods.

This project advances scholarly interpretation and understanding of Buddhism, both in regard to method and results, and creates informative sources of knowledge available to public for free.

The author of the international conference Buddhism and Nordland is a Swedish scholar Vello Väärtnöu (PhD), who had the idea to organize the international conference on Buddhism in cooperation with other Nordic countries already many decades ago. In 2007-20011, he organized five conferences Buddhism and Nordland in Estonia which brought together scholars from all the Nordic countries and the Baltic states, as well from the US, UK, Germany, Hungary, India, Nepal, Mongolia, Buriatya, Russia.

As Vello Väärtnöu was granted a Distinguished Talent Visa for his educational academic projects in Australia, he spent 10 years in Western Australia, initiating annual academic conferences Buddhism and Australia and working with his online Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia that he introduced to the public in 2012 at UC Berkeley. 

Moving back to Sweden, Vello Väärtnöu decides to continue with the conferences Buddhism and Nordland in Sweden to stimulate researches in this area of study and broaden the local history with Buddhist topics. 

There is very little research done about Buddhism in the Nordic countries, we can say that the research on the historical reception of Buddhism in the West is still in its infancy. Therefore, the aim of this conference is to research and acknowledge the history, persons and events related to Buddhism in Northern Europe.

The conference encourages cross-disciplinary engagement and brings together scientists and Buddhist scholars to reveal their latest research, and share different aspects of Buddhist culture - something so often spoken of in the academia the world over yet rarely made possible in actual fact.

The conference invites to expand on

  • relationship between Buddhism and State in Sweden (Scandinavia)
  • early reception of Buddhism in Northern Europe
  • Buddhism as described in historical documents
  • how much state in Sweden pays attention to Buddhism and Buddhists and their work
  • how Buddhism is reflected in the local culture and news
  • what are the similarities and differences in the neighboring countries
  • what is the current situation with Buddhism in their country
  • Buddhism and Science
  • different Buddhist schools in Sweden
  • how much Swedish science and Academy of Science cares about Buddhism

The conference is open to proposals for contributions on Buddhist history, philosophy, texts as well for proposals on any Buddhism related theme.

Important Dates

Please send your proposals by September 15, 2021 to the following email:

  • Acknowledgment of acceptance will be sent by 30 September, 2021
  • A full draft paper should be submitted by October 31, 2021

What to send

Proposals may be in Word or RTF formats with the following information:

  • author(s);
  • affiliation as you would like it to appear in programme
  • email address,
  • title of proposal,
  • body of proposal; no more than 250 words,
  • up to 10 keywords.
  • CV max 2 pages

The time for paper presentation is 30 min (including Q&A)
Papers to be presented in the conference will be published on conference website.
Papers must not have previously been published and, if accepted, cannot be published through other media.


Marju Broder, Organising Chair
tel 0763044162


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Welcome speech (2007)

Hello dear guests,

First event and gathering on the topic of the history of Estonian Buddhism has become true. In Estonia we already have Buddhist literature , which has piled up during decades, translated by enthusiasts and Buddhists. We even have examples of Buddhist architecture in the form of stupas on Estonian soil. It may be said that it smells like we have a Buddhism in Estonia.

Here we can also add Buddhist thankas and sculptures made by Estonian Buddhist Fellowship some time ago. Projects for Buddhist monasteries have been created. For example the first designer was Leo Lapin, who made a project for Estonian Buddhist Fellowship intending to build the first monastery.

We can freely speak of such phenomenon as Buddhist on Estonian soil, which by now already has decent history and it seems to me that we are in fact obligated to speak about the topics of Estonian Buddhist history.

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The reason behind this conference is the need to research and acknowledge Estonian Buddhist history, persons linked to Estonian Buddhism and events in Estonian history related to it. As Estonia is not the only country here, on the shores of the Baltic Sea, where Buddhists live - there are some in Finland, Russia and Latvia as well - it is only natural that neighbors gather together and review what they have to say on this topic. Therefore - welcome neighbors.


Nordland is a poetic name for Nordic countries or Northen Europe . (In older translations from Estonian , Nordland was used instead of contemporary Nordic)

Nordland consists of Iceland , Norway , Sweden , Finland and Denmark , and also Åland, Faeroe Islands and Greenland . Many places have long time close relations with Nordic countries and they identify themselves close to or similar to some or all Nordic countries . Usually they are not considered part of Nordic countriesthough.

In the Northern parts of Scotland there are Orkney and Shetland islands , which have Nordic identities, they were colonies of Norway over 500 years, but since 1472 they belong to Scotland.

During WWII Shetland and Orkney were important bases for Norwegian exiles. Exiles, agents and equipment were deported and imported to and from Shetland.

Also an important role has been played by closeness of economy. Cultural exchange and mutual sport competitions take place all the time. Genetic studies have shown that 60% on Shetland and Orkney population have Norwegian genes. Estonia After independence in 1991 has Estonia been interested in connecting oneself with Nordic culture, language and history due to similarities to Finland, Sweden and Denmark. Estonian language is closely related to Finnish and Finno-Ugric languages . Estonia has been part of Danish and Swedish emporiums for centuries.

The northern part of Germany , Schleswig had also Nordic identity until it was united with Germany in the middle of 19th century. Nowadays in that community Nordic unity is not distinguishable.

Estonian Nyingma

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The first Nyingma movement or Estonian Buddhist Brotherhood , was established by Vello Väärtnõu in 1982, in Tallinn . They were also well-known in Estonia and Russia by the nickname Taola. Väärtnõu had an idea to establish the Nyingma tradition and Buddhist brotherhood in Estonia already in the 1970s. During that time Väärtnõu made contacts with Ivolga monastery in Buryat , which belonged to the Gelug school .Nyingma school did not exist in the territory of the Soviet Union . The only way to approach Buddhism was through Gelugpa teachings. Traditionally they started by building a stupa , which under the guidance of Vello Väärtnõu was built at Pangarehe. The first Estonian Buddhist Brotherhood lived and operated in Tallinn and quickly became known as Taola (it means something like “Tao's place”) and Väärtnõu as their leader became known as VanemTaolane (ElderTao). Taola operated as a self-funding, self-learning organization, the members worked as boiler men, which was very common among intellectuals during the Soviet time.With the money earned, they made buddhist statues , silk-screen printed thangkas and so on. Taola was a popular meeting place among cultural figures, Buddhists and also among guests from Russia and Siberia. Many people who visited Taola helped in finding materials and in book-binding, copying and with other works. All those people contributed to establishing Estonian Buddhism .

Many books were translated and copied into hundreds of exemplars; also a remarkable library was founded, whereas many of the tibetan texts were from Buryat . The relations with Ivolga monastery in Buryat were very intensive – they visited the monastery on several occasions and talked with elderly lamas, who in turn visited Estonia . It can be said that the lamas from Ivolga monastery had great merits in the development of Estonian and also of all the Soviet countries' Buddhism.

In the years 1983 – 1985 three stupas were built in West Estonia . The main activity was still studying and self-educating: Buddhist education was taught by Vello Väärtnõu, languages by prof. Pent Nurmekund from University of Tartu , who has established the cabinet of Oriental studies in Tartu University .

Vello Väärtnõu and Taola also opened the door for freedom and independence in Estonia .

In 1987 Vello Väärtnõu came up with the idea and programme of creating Estonian National Independence Party , So the Estonian Buddhist Brotherhood and Buddhist way of thinking can be considered a part of Estonian fight for independence, they were the first in soviet times to attack openly the foundations of communist country . In January 1988, Väärtnõu organized a press-conference in Moscow for the accredited foreign newspapers. From the newspapers New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and one Swedish magazines were represented, also US TV company ABC was there. Väärtnõu made a public announcement to the international audience about the proposition of starting an opposition party – Estonian National Independence Party , which was an unheard event in that period of time.

Due to breaking of the communist system , Taola was under constant psycological pressure and control by the KGB – the Buddhist library was "cleaned" on several occasions and large amounts of Tibetan texts , thangkas, slides and reels of Tibetan texts (manuscripts) were taken from Väärtnõu. 14 citizens signed under the initiative of Väärtnõu the proposition of creating ENIP and he also drew up the first program. This resulted in the deportation from the country by KGB and two of them were killed by the KGB .

Since 1989, the members of Taola and other new nyingmapas operated under the guidance of Väärtnõu and in 2007 this group of people are officially known in media as Estonian Nyingma.

Visit also our webpage http://www.estoniannyingma.com