Buddhism & Nordland

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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