Buddhism in the Works of Roerichs by Irina Bitkova
| Nicholas Roerich |
Painter, scientist, traveler, public figure, writer. Nicholas Roerich’s creative heritage is enormous – more than seven thousand paintings scattered all over the world, numberless literary works – books, essays, articles, diaries…
| Helena Ivanovna Roerich |
The union of Helena Ivanovna and Nicholas Konstantinovich can be seen as a complete and comprehensive mutual cooperation that lasted all their lives. Her philosophical views expressed in the books of Living ethics were entirely shared by Nicholas Konstantinovich, and served as a driving force inspiring him in art and life.
Not long before their 40 anniversary, he had written in his diary: “Forty years is a long term. In such a long voyage one can encounter many tempests and storms. In harmony we overcame obstacles and turned impediments into possibilities. I devoted by books to: Helena, wife, friend, helpmeet, my inspiration.” Each of these notions has been tried in the fire of life. In St. Petersburg and in Scandinavia, in England, and in America, and all across Asia we worked, studied, and expanded our horizons. We created together, and it is no wonder that the saying goes that a work of art should bear two names - male and female”.
|Yuri Roerich is one of the greatest compilers of encyclopedias of the West and East. His name is known in many countries around the world. He was a linguist, who spoke fluently more than 30 European and Asian languages and dialects, explorer, archaeologist, art critic, historian, thinker, and expert in culture who never stopped at learning new things. He saw no boundaries between ancient and modern, as well as between East and West or between different branches of science.|
|Svetoslav Nikolaevich Roerich3 is an artist with the enormous creative range: in addition to portraits, he turned to landscape, epic, “of genre”, and symbolic painting. In all of these, he proved to be a virtuoso master and inspired experimenter. The foundation of Roerich’s consisted of a deep philosophical understanding of nature as a whole, inseparably connected with the major cosmic laws. The range of his scientific interests is impressive: ornithology, botanic, mineralogy, Tibetan pharmacopoeia, chemistry, and its alchemic origins, astrology, comparative religious studies and philosophy, art critics, and culturology.|
Each of them has left a unique print in the world’s cultural space. What strikes is an incredible harmony of this great family that was representing a spiritual and creative Unity with everyone being indispensible, unique, and extremely gifted. Each was a plenipotentiary representative of other members of the family expressing their inner entity, despite one’s own vivid individual nature, and being an example of a unity in variety.
As tips of icebergs we see major evolutionary deeds undertaken by the Roerichs under the guidance of spiritual teachers who new planetary and cosmic laws and who possessed lofty expanded consciousness. Each deed had a significant historical importance for the future evolution of mankind.
Let’s name them:
- 1. The creation of the philosophy of cosmic reality- Living ethics.
- 2. The great Central-Asian expedition,(1925-1928)
- 3. The opening of the Himalayan Research institute “ Urusvati”(1930-1942)
- 4. Roerich pact and the Banner of peace.(1935)
At the beginning of the XX century our planet, according to cosmic laws, began a transition to a new, more advanced, level in its evolution. The vital goal of the coming phase of the evolution is a necessity to carry out a spiritual transformation of men by means of the consciousness expansion, the enhancement of the level of personal energy and the thinning of its very matter.
Mahatmas - are The Great Souls- Personalities which, as S.N. Roerich used to say “Have long ago walked the great kingly path of self-release”. Throughout the entire length of the existence of mankind they have been helping people appearing in different countries of the world as spiritual teachers, religious reformers, and messengers of new teachings.
It is for this reason, the life, and teachings of Buddha, the great teacher, and ideas preached by him so deeply influenced the creative work of the Roerichs.
- The participation and support in the construction of the Buddhist temple in St. Petersburg.
In accordance with one Buddhist prophecy, the teachings of Buddha will flourish in a far northern country. The increase in the attention to Buddhism in Russia began more than 100 years ago when a representative of Dalai Lama Agvan Dorziev received a permission to build a temple in St. Petersburg in 1900. The first temple in Europe was build in compliance with canons of the Tibetan architecture. In order to have a scientific control over the construction, a committee, comprising scientists – orientalists, as well as Roerich himself, was created. Some authentic stained glass windows, realized by Nicholas Konstantinovich, can still be seen in the temple. The consecration of the temple took place on 10 August 1915. For services rendered to Buddhism, the envoy of Dalli- Lama XIII Agvan Dorzhiev brought Roerich gifts from His Holiness.
- The preparation for the Central Asian Expedition.
The Roerichs had arrived in Sikkim (at that time a small kingdom neighboring the British India) by the end of 1924. They began their traveling across cultural centers and Historical places of Sikkim, meeting Indian researchers, scientists, painters, and writers. Their special attention was directed towards studying the Buddhist culture which, in the course of its centuries-old history, has developed a meticulously checked pantheon of Gods. They collected a huge collection of icons - tankas, bronze sculptures, and ritual items. Iconography plays a significant role in the Tibetan and Central Asian Buddhism. All symbolism of Buddhism, all, with no exception, philosophical notions, are realized in iconography, what makes a Tibetan painting an object of religious worshiping and meditation.
Tankas, collected in this period, were described in a magnificent J. N. Roerich’s monograph “Tibetan painting” released in 1925, in Paris. During his work in Sikkim, the young scientist for the first time was able to put into practice Tibetan language skills, and communicate with local Tibetan lama-scientists. The monograph, in great detail, examines Tibetan Buddhist iconography from the point of view of history, and reveals the importance of religion and symbolic significance of the Tibetan Buddhist art. This scientific work completed by Juri Roerich at the age of 23 is unique. Decades later the modern republication of this research, carried out by the international centre of the Roerichs, was highly appraised by Dalai-Lama XIV.
The Roerichs attended ancient Buddhist monasteries and temples of Sikkim: Pemajandze, Tashiding, Sangacheling, and Rinchenpong. Ancient manuscripts were held in hidden places in monasteries; they told of a sacred country Shambala the borders of which were being guarded by unassailable mountains and snow people. Superiors of monasteries and Lamas, hermits and wise men told the painter about underground passages leading to the secret land, about caves with treasure, sacred texts falling from above, and about stone beads ”zi” holding healing powers. They spoke of Maitreyi, the lord of love and compassion, the coming Buddha, with whose advent the reign of justice will be established on the earth. Many images of the Buddhist pantheon of Mahayana Gods appear on Roerich’s canvases. - The Buddha Shakyamuni, Bodhisattva Maitreyi, Padmasambhava , Chonava, Milarepa. During his stay in Skkim N.K. Roerich planned and then started series of paintings such as “Banners of the East”, “Maitreyi”, His Country”. Series or suites, as Nicholas Konstantinovich sometimes called cycles of his work, always expressed some definite idea which due to its scale and complexity could not be manifested in one work. The series “ Banners of the East” consisting of 19 canvases and dedicated to grand saints, ascetics, and the founders of the world’s religions of the East, occupies a special place.
The series” Banners of the East is finished, - the painter wrote in his traveling journal in 1925.
- 1. “Buddha the Conquer” at the fountain of life.
- 2. “Moses the leader” – upon the summit, surrounded by the glory of the heavens.
- 3. “Sergius the Builder”, laboring with his own forces.
- 4. The Watch upon the Himalayas, in glacier.
- 5. “Confucius the Just” -the traveler in exile.
- 6. En-no-Gyoja, friend of the Travelers (Japan).
- 7. Milarepa, the One Who Hearkened - at sunrise comprehending the voices of the Devas.
- 8. Dorje the Daring, who stood facing Mahakala himself.
- 9. "Saraha the Beneficent Arrow, never slackening in its mission of benevolence.
- 10. Mohammed upon Mount Hira (the message of the Archangel Gabriel)- the legend.
- 11. "Nagarjuna, Conqueror of the Serpent, beholding upon the lake the vision of the Ruler of the Nagi..
- 12. Oirot the Messenger of the White Burkhan, the legend of Altai.
- 13. Mother of the World.
- 14. "Signs of Christ.".
- 15. "Lao Tze".
- 16. Tsong-kha-pa.
- 17. "Padma Sambhava"
- 18. "Chalice of Christ"
- 19. "The Ancient Serpent."
The themes for paintings were drawn from a fount of legends which allowed the painter to show the Teachers of the superior knowledge at the significant moments of their deeds that have left an indelible print in the people’s consciousness. They drive away darkness, help in trouble, tirelessly do good and sacrifice themselves; they take upon themselves earthly burdens in order to help the great Future. Roerich had a strong opinion that the world will soon unite, and that the highest moral value will be labor in the name of common good. In beautiful work of art he wanted to remind the mankind of the first “commoners” – Buddha, Confucius, Christ, Sergius Radonezskij and others to introduce into the modern world the great images of these real lawmakers of common wellbeing” who embodied the internal harmony of the universe. The Roerich’s paintings of that time depict religious images and symbols. Of great importance were the images of Maitreyi - the Buddhist Messiah known as Khalki avatar in Purana, as Rigden- Djapo in Mongolia, and as The white burhan in Altai; All these images were described in legends connecting them with the Ruler of Shambala who will appear on the Earth for the ultimate destruction of Evil, for renovation of existence and for restoration of purity. The Central Asian Expedition began in 1924 in Sikkim, then it moved to the Indian princedom of Kashmir. From Kashmir their route lay towards Ladak (monasteries Lamayuru, Hemius, Basgo and etc.) from Ladak via Karakorum the expedition worked its way to the Chinese Sintzyan, the place where they crossed the border of the Soviet Central Asia, and arrived in Moscow. From Moscow they went to Siberia, from there to Altai and via Buryatia they entered Mongolia. From Mongolia the expedition advanced to Tibet and from there via, yet to be explored, Trance Himalayas to Sikkim. The expedition ended in Dardzhiling.
Roerich himself, his wife, Helena Ivanovna and his son, Jury Nikolaevich, who by that time had become a professional orientalist and linguist, in addition to the expeditionary corps, also took part in the biggest expedition of the XX century. The expedition, somewhat, made a huge circle in four years (1924-1928). It accomplished what no other expedition in the XX century was able to accomplish.
Why was that route chosen?
1. As a scientist and painter Roerich was interested in the question of the common source of ancient cultures of India and Russia. He was looking for what was integrating different nations and cultures, and not for what was separating them ,- says L.V. Shaposhnikova3. Roerich did not study in depth specific peculiarities of a separate culture but he was looking for what was connecting many cultures in time and space. He was looking for a common and not particular resemblance or difference. He studied the ways of cultural interaction between different nations, mechanics behind the formation of multilayered traditional cultures and, after all, he was searching for ancient sources which created entire cultural communities. “The ancient unity, having passed separation, should end in an even loftier unity in the future. Each culture will bring into this unity its own unique gift - the diversity of colors, shapes, its way of thinking, perception of the world, and richness of its spirit.”He did not define the time when this future should come. But in the past and in present which he witnessed, he was searching for this future. Noticing common grounds in the cultures of Russia and India, researching the cultures of ancient Asiatic countries, Roerich came to conclusion that similarities in different cultures are more numerous than differences . This similarity brought together Asian countries with Europe and America. “ And our optimism ,- according to the painter,- is not the product of our farfetched dreams but the result of the research of dozens of countries and a variety of approaches to different nations with totally alien to one another mentalities.”
2. Always looking into the future, trying to envisage the basic directions of the rise of mankind in the course of evolution, Roerich measured the past and present with future.” One can know the past but consciousness should be directed into the future,” – he wrote. When studying the history and culture of countries, and regions the expeditions was crossing, N.K.Roerich paid attention, in the first place, to those events in the past which could have been useful for the future, for evolution of mankind. He would observe what was important, everlasting, what would not disappear within time but would become a connecting bridge between the past, present and future. The foundation of this everlasting eternal were collective works of nations, ancient and modern, their cultural and moral experiences, their spiritual values, and the collection of works – all what comprises the“ precious stones “ of the culture of mankind. “Of ancient precious stones, compile the steps of the future,”- wrote N.k.Roerich. In the richest folk heritage of Asia, Roerich drew our attention to those legends where moral aspirations of people towards justice, better future, and triumph of good over evil were found.
Nicholas Konstantinovich enriched our knowledge of Asian folklore with legends about Maitreyi, the future Buddha - the liberator of oppressed and humiliated, and with new versions of legends about the exploits of Geser-han- the eradicator of ten evils in ten sides of the world, and, finally, with series of little known legends about the secret land of Shambala, or Belovodje where a wise and just way of life is established and where the Teachers of good, the keepers of knowledge, necessary for the better future of peoples, live.
- About Helena Ivanovna Roerich
The image of Buddha the lord, his teachings, the principles of formation of a Community, and the topics and questions related to it, are often found in all of the creative work of Helena Ivanovna Roerich – in the books of the Living ethics, in her letters to numerous correspondents, and in cryptograms of the East.”
Let us dwell on one of her little booklets” The Foundations of Buddhism”
In 1926, in Ulan Batore, during the preparation for the final phase of the Central Asian Expedition, two books were being simultaneously prepared for release: “The community” and “Foundations of Buddhism”. An Introduction to the basics of the teachings of Gautama Buddha, on which Helena Ivanovna Roerich (1879-1955) was working in India for a quarter of a century, is distinguished by the use of a large variety of sources, unpretentious stile of wording, and by the power and beauty of the description. The list of Buddhist texts used in the book makes us state that this book cannot be perceived as an individual interpretation of The Buddhist Teaching. We are dealing with the scientific view. The book “Foundations of Buddhism” was first published in Russian in spring 1927. The name of the author is not given. The year 1926 is written on the cover, and on the back - the inscription in Mangolian: “ Ulan-Bator publishing house, the department of the Mongolian language”. Helena Ivanovna Roerich was preparing this book literally “on horseback and in a tent” during the expedition. The printing of “Foundations of Buddhism” and the “Common good”(Community) is coming to an end. It is hard to give the book the appearance it deserves in a small printing house. The former Lama, now a lithographer, affectionately rewrites “ Buddha the conqueror” with a fiery sword for the books. The envoy of the government asks for the permission to translate Foundations of Buddhism” into Mongolian, - Nickolai Konstantinovich Roerich puts down in his diary in April 1927. The notes of the diary were later used in the making of the book Altai-Himalaya. The request of the Mongolian government passed on by Cyben Zamcarano(1880-1942), a prominent Buryat-Mongolian scientist and friend of N.K. Roerich. The leading Buddhists in the face of Avgan Djordjiev, professor B. Boradina, C. Zamcarano, G. Cibikova , heading the renovationist movement of lamaist spirituality, found in “Foundations of Buddhism” what responded to their thoughts and ideas.
In 1930, in New York a supplemented edition of Foundations of Buddhism was released in English under the name Natali Rokotova (the pseudonym of H.I. Roerich).
“I was touched when the general secretary of The Buddhist society Mahabjdni ( Maha Bodni Society3) visited me in Calcutta with two Bikshu –scientists and told me that “Foundations of Buddhism” is the best book on Buddhism, that it is better than the book by professor L. Narassou because it is more clear in explaining a difficult doctrine of reincarnation. And thus, it can be boldly recommended to all who are interested in Buddhism.( Letters of Helena Ivanovna Roerich as of 09.03.1949).
In the book of our countryman, a classic and specialist on The Roerichs, P.F. Belikov, whose 100 anniversary will be celebrated in May 2011, “ Roerich the experience of spiritual biography ” special features of interpretation of theories of reincarnation and the meaning of nirvana are examined in great detail. In foundation of Buddhism these notions are examined differently from the way it is commonly done in the East among lamas and in the west among orthodox occultists.
Presently we will touch upon the subject of future as it is seen in Buddhism and in the book of H.I.Roerich “ Foundation of Buddhism9”.
“ Not even a single teaching foresaw the development of the future with such clarity as Buddhism. Along worshiping Buddha, the worshiping of Bodhisattvas – the future Buddhas is highly developed in Buddhism. Buddha, directing all his efforts towards the assertion of the evolution, commanded his followers to honor future Buddhas more than Buddhas of the past.
“As a new moon is more esteemed than a full moon, likewise, those who believe in me should honor Bodhisattvas more than Buddhas.”( Madhyamakavatara). The history has never showed us similar examples of self-denial. According to the legend, the Blessed appointed Maitrey i- the future Buddha (literally Buddha of compassion and love) as his successor. The very same Buddha, due to his innate qualities, is often referred to as Adjita - the invincible.
It is interesting to note that honoring many Bodhisattvas is practiced only in the school of Mahayana, nevertheless, honoring one Bodhisattva Maitreyi, as a successor chosen by Buddha himself, is accepted in Hinajan as well. Thus, only Bodhisattva Maitreyi encompasses the entire space acting as an exponent of all aspirations of Buddhism.
What qualities should Bodhisattvas possess?
The primary qualities are highest possible growth of energy, courage, patience, constancy, aspiration, and fearlessness. Energy is the foundation of all because it encompasses all possibilities. “Strong, brave, sturdy in his tread, ready to carry the burden of a heroic deed in the name of the common good.” The three joys of Bodhisattvas are the happiness of deed, happiness of helping, and happiness of eternal learning. Patience is constant and is everywhere. The sons of Buddha, the suns of conquerors, Bodhisattvas in their active compassion. The mother of all living.”( Mahayana Sutra).
Across the entire Buddhist land, on roadside rocks the image of Maitreyi is depicted. From ancient times and to this day this image is created by Buddhists who know of the coming of the new century. Esteemed Lamas accompanied by their followers, painters, and sculptors to this day travel across the Buddhist lands creating images of the symbol of aspirations of the bright future.”
Below you will find and extract from the J.N. Roerich’s book “ The Tibetan art”. Dedicated to the future Buddha- Maitreyi: “ It is necessary to mention the renewal of his cult of personality among Buddhists of Tibet and Mongolia. About ten years ago, the current Tashi-Lama(Geleg Namdzhal) Dzebcun Lobsang Tubstan Chojkji Njima Geleg Namdzhal Palasango, who recently left Tibet, erected a gigantic statue of the future Buddha in a grand monastery of Tashi-Lunpo, thus giving a new live to the cult. Having erected the statue, numerous other branches of the monastery Tashi-Lunpo built similar statutes of the future Buddha in their temples and dedicated him a special cult. It all means that the Buddhist world is ready for the advent of the future Buddha3.”
By the end of the expedition in 1928, the family settled in the valley of Kulu at an altitude of 6500 feet at the foot of Himalayas with a magnificent view of the valley and of mountains fringing it. This place became their home for many years. Here they established the Himalayan Research Institute” Usurvati” the aim of which was to study and systematize the facts received in the course of recently finished expedition and to conduct additional research. It was a unique scientific establishment, the first in the world trying to combine western science with eastern traditions for resolving many urgent issues existing in the world. Albert Einstein, Robert Milliken, Nils Bor worked in the institute. A correspondence was being held with the great geneticist Nicholas Ivanovich Vavilinov to whom the institute was sending the samples of Himalayan plants. Moreover, an Indian biologist, Dzagdysh Bos and Tibetan Buddhist Lamas also worked with the institute. The idea was to show that the West and the East were not that much apart and that it was possible to work jointly. J.N. Roerich, then only 26 years old, was appointed the director of the institute.
- Since the aim of this report is to show the influence of Buddhism on the works of the Roerichs, let us name the works of J.N. in this field.
During the expedition Juri Roerich was responsible for security. In many ways, owing to Juri Nikolaevich’s resourcefulness, and great command of Tibetan, Mongolian, Hindi, and other languages, as well as because of the knowledge of customs of local peoples, the expedition was able to penetrate inaccessible regions, which were completely unknown to the world science, and to accomplish what no other traveler could have ever accomplish before them.
1. Because of the great command of Tibetan dialects and of the open and friendly character of Juri Nikolaevich:
- a. In the bon monastery, in Sharugen, a multivolume handwritten collection of texts of prior to Buddhist religion of Tibet- the ancient and in many ways mysterious religion called Bon, was made public. A fraction of these manuscripts was dedicated to the Bon version of the famous Gesserida.
- b. In Buddhist monasteries a complete text of canons of “ Tandzur” and “ kandzur’.
- c. He observed the execution of numerous ancient customs, theatricals, and sacral rituals. Juri Roerich described an unusual action which the members of the expedition witnessed in Lahula(North-Western Himalayas). Of many folk customs, - wrote J.N., there is one, in Tibet, which is especially revered, and those who perform it are considered to have supernatural powers enabling them to carry out such a dangerous ceremony. The idea of the ritual is to break a huge boulder, which is placed on the naked body of a yogi, with another huge boulder. Boulders are split into small parts, but the tested remains intact. Obviously, it is not physical, but some other force allows a yogi to stay alive and uninjured in such circumstances, whereas the outcome for an ordinary man would have been tragic.(J.N. Roerich “The ritual of breaking a boulder”)
2. From 1928 until the beginning of the second world war, Juri Nikoloaevich is the director of The Himalayan Institute of scientific research “Urusvati” the staff of which was engaged in botanic, ethnology – linguistics, prospecting archaeological monuments, studies of cosmic rays in high- altitude conditions. A rich collection of Tibetan pharmacopoeia was collected with the active collaboration of Tibetan Lama- doctors who helped in this perenia work.
3. Staying in New York from 1929 untill 1930, Juri Nikolaevich was busy not only with matters related to “Urusvati” but also worked hard to establish an office of Tibetan studies in the Roerich’s museum, in New York, red lectures at American universities, and finished the book “ On the pathways of Central Asia”. In 1929, in New York, in the museum of N.K.Roerich, the exhibition of items of the Buddhist art gathered at the time of the Central-Asian expedition, took place.
4. In 1932 J.N. Roerich publishes “The study of Kalachacra”- an esoteric mystic-philosophical Buddhist treatise related to the questions of sacralization of time. Nicholas Konsytantinovich writes that the system Kalachakra was brought to Tibet by the Buddhist scientist Attisha in 1027. It coincided with the time when the chronology in Tibet started to be told by Jupiter, and by a 60 year cycle by the lunar calendar (five times 12 years each). Many Asian nations, including Mongols and Buryats live by this calendar. This chronology is used due to the assumption of the system Kalachakra in Lamaism ( the Northern Buddhism). Kala, translated from Sanskrit, means time, and chakra - a circle or a wheel - The wheel of time. Kalachakra is a polysemantic phenomena. It is both the wheel of time and a many-headead and many-handed God of Time. Having carefully studied Tibetan treatises dedicated to this system which belongs to Tantric mystics, Juri Nikolaevich wrote his work. This work of J.N. Roerich printed in the periodical of the Himalayan Research Institute is a masterpiece of the great Russian scientist which is yet to be appreciated. The teachings of Kalachakra”( the wheel of time) was a final phase in the development of Buddhism in its motherland, India. However, religious traditions related to this teaching date back to the prior to Buddhist Indo-Iranian and partly Sino - Tibetan mystic and symbolic teachings and cults. According to the legend, the first preaching on Kolachakra was read by Shakyamuni Buddha and that the first author of Tantra Kalachakramula was the lord of Shambala Suchandra. In Buryatia, where Buddhism has been professed for several centuries, although officially it was recognized by the Imperial Russia only in 1740, at major monasteries, special temples – Dacans or Duinhoru (in Tibetan transcription), were dedicated to Kalachakra,.
5. In 1934-1935 J.N. Roerich visited Central Asian Countries such as: Ceylon, Burma, where, on site, he was studying the peculiar forms of the distinctive culture of the southern Buddhism.
6. In 1940s and in the first half of the 1950s J.N was occupied preparing a classic work on the history of Buddhism in Tibet “The blue chronicle”.
7. Upon returning to the motherland in 1957, he revived and headed all the Buddha related researches in the Institute of Oriental Studies, in the Soviet Union. In July 1958 Juri Nikolaevitch headed the work on the renewal of series of scientific works and sources on the Buddhist philosophy and culture ”the library of a Buddhist” that had an authority and popularity among scientists from all over the world. In January 1958, when he was selecting manuscripts in the archive of the Leningrad’s branch of the Institute of Oriental studies for a publication, he made public the name and work of the repressed and perished expert on Tibet A.I.Vostrikov whose work ‘ The Tibetan historic literature” was published in the series “ The library of Buddhist” under the editorship of Roerich in 1962.
8. At the same time he finishes the translation of a historical-geographic memorial “The life of Dhammapada”, a Tibetan pilgrim who visited India in the XV century.
9. J.N. Roerich acted as a scientific editor of several volumes of ancient Indian epos “Mahabharata”(translated by Smirnov).
10. After the publication of “ Dhammpada” – a collection of Buddha’s dictums,(translated by the academician V.N.Toporova ) where J.N. acted a chief an editor, he was tongue-lashed and called a “bourgeois scientist.”
11. In Moscow he was working on the completion of the major work of his life – the Tibetan – Sanskrit – Russian – English dictionary with the volume of 100 author’s sheets that encompassed many medicinal terms from Tibetan treatises.
12. It is necessary to make a special emphasis on the long-lasting work of J.N. Roerich “ The History of Central Asia”. This work rounds-up the political and cultural history of the Central Asia from ancient times until the emergence, on the historical arena, of Timur when he lay the foundation of the last great central Asian Empire in 1370. It is to be stated that under the term of Central Asia J.K.. Roerich understood the totality of vast areas spreading from Caucasus in the West to the Great Hingan in the East, and from Himalayas in the South to Altai in the North. This work is the only research of its kind from the point of view of culture and history encompassing far-reaching destinies of major national and cultural entities of Eurasia. Of special interest are chapters dedicated to the epoch of the Great migration of peoples and to the history of Mongols, and especially of Tibet.
In his work J.N. Roerich paid a special attention to Kushans (I-IV A.D.) who, on the ruins of Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, were able to build a vast empire which could compete in grandeur with Rome and which impeded the expansion of the Chinese Hun Dynasty to the west and which became the motherland of Greco-Buddhist art and of the Mahayana Buddhism which later conquered almost entire Central and Eastern Asia.
13. Another field of his work was the participation in the preparation of the Ceylon “ Encyclopedia of Buddhism.” His personal acquaintance, the ambassador of Ceylon in the USSR, the former dean of the department of the East at the University of Colombo, professor Malalasekera involved him in this work.
14. It is important to mention another work of J.H. Roerich – “Buddhism and cultural unity of Asia”. It is a collection published by the scientist’s 100th anniversary.( The publishing house МЦР, 2002). All his activities were dedicated to one ultimate goal – the establishment of cultural communication not only in Asia, but in the entire world.
Versatility of knowledge and occupations of each member of the Roerich family with their collaboration and inexhaustible energy contributed to the success and to wide acknowledgment of the institute “ Urusvati” both in India and far beyond its borders.
- Svetoslav Nikolaevitch Roerich
He was a magnificent painter, specialist on the ancient art and on the local fauna, besides he was a great botanic and ornithologist. He headed the branch of pharmacopoeia, flora and fauna.
What meant the study of Buddhist Tibetan pharmacopoeia ?
- 1. Searching for, translating and studying precious Tibetan texts on therapy and pharmacopoeia .
- 2. Examination, collecting plants and seeds, as well as growing “Yoga” plants in home plantations.
- 3. The acquisition of medicinal preparations and emulsions according to the complicated ancient prescriptions in a specially designed in 1932 chemical laboratory.
During the expedition in 1931 in Lahul, the North-Western Himalayas, J.N.Roerich and Lama Lobzang Mingyur found a number of valuable Tibetan texts on therapy and pharmacology such as “ Chzut- she with comments “ Vaidurja-onbo”, biographies of prominent Tibetan doctors, several rare “ secret books” (“termas”) on medicine which could contain astrological calculations, invocations and comments. All found books and descriptions were taken to the scientific library at “ Usurvati”. Using the found material J.N. Roerich translated into English “ Nus-pa Kyensel”( Effective medicine for the abolition of the causes of pathological illnesses) with a list of Tibetan medicinal remedies, by lama Tenzin Punchoka, whereas lama Lobzang Minpor Dorze compiled a vast “Inventory of medicinal plants”.
As an example of a successful joint work with his brother- J.N. Roerich, we will introduce a foreword to the translation of the ancient Buddhist treatise “Medicine Buddha”. Linguistic skills of the elder brother were needed to properly translate the text, as well as naturalistic knowledge of the younger brother - to understand what the treatise was about and what plant or a class of medicinal material they were dealing with.
The Buddhist theme is substantially presented in the artistic work of S.N. Roerich. In his monograph “ The art of the valley of Kulu” he studies antiquities of the unique valley, its Buddhist monuments. Apart from genre paintings, the creative work of S.N. wonderfully reveals the in-depth beauty of the universe. He went beyond the borders of mundane representation of material shapes, the visible surface of obviousness. A new, and unearthly way of representation is seen in his work.
Quoting the professor of the international academy of Indian culture Shashibala, we will say:” The mountain tops are not earthly shapes, but shapes of Svetoslav’s consciousness personifying his ideas – Tamaso ma joitir gamaya – Bring me to the light.
The radiance of the sun gives life to taciturn snow mountains. The Svetoslav’s brush carries the impression onto the canvas. The powerful strokes of his brush, carrying sophistication and refinement, fill the portrayal with energy.
The transformation of nature comes from his deep understanding of its more subtle aspects unseen for the untrained eye. Thus, he creates alive and inspired tones and the atmosphere, and positions them according to the understanding of an individual who aspires to achieve the level where the divine and human merge3.”
“Let’s aspire to the Beautiful”, - that phrase which Svetoslav Nikolaevitch was constantly repeating was filled for him with the deepest meaning. Our inner desire for something perfect, more beautiful, - he used to say, - is that grand inner force that changes both us and our life. Without this inner flame, a man cannot awaken his hidden energies and rise to a higher level of knowledge and experience.”
- The stupa of the three gems in the museum by name of N.K.Roerich
The other half of a century passed and the new spiral of the renewal of Buddhism is once again connected with the Roerich family – with the museum by name of N.k.Roerich.
On the 8 June 2010 the Fifth International Festival “ Russia-India-Tibet” came to an end, and on 18 August the head of the Buddhist school Amarapura in Sri Lanka, the father superior of the two temples Radzharguru Sri Subhuti maha Viharaina and Dipaduttamarama Tai Radzhamaha Viharaija, the keeper of authentic relics of Shakyamuni Buddha, the venerable Vaskaduve Mahindavansa Maha Najaka Tero. During the day the authentic relic of Shakyamuni Buddha was being exhibited in the hall of the living ethics of the museum by name of N.K.Roerich. It is a unique relic, the age of which is 2554 years, gives a rare opportunity to feel the energy and vibrations of the blessed in the worlds.
In June 2008 the Museum became the place of the realization of two Buddhist ceremonies the importance of which was hard to exaggerate. Commenced at different times and conducted by different people they coincided in their climax having become a single ritual carried out for the good of all living who aspire to Enlightenment. The ceremonies were the finalization of the construction of stupa of the Three Gems and of the creation of the sand mandala of Green Tara. The place of the future mandala had been sanctified by one of the prominent lamas of the Nyingma tradition – Rangrigim Dordzhe Rinpoche who belongs to the clan of tertons, the keepers of hidden texts - termas.
The full name of the stupa erected in the Museum by name of N.K.Roerich is “The solid support of the permanent place of the three Gems”. And by its appearance, this stupa of an ultimate enlightenment is the most important of all eight stupas which correspond to the eight most significant episodes in Buddhas life. It symbolizes the aim of the Buddhist path – an ultimate liberation from all human passions, from all that prevents deliverance from sufferings.
It is important to note that the stupa of the three Gems is not only a relic but a memorial as well. It was made to honor the 80th anniversary of the end of the Roerich’s Central Asian expedition and the learning of the material obtained in the course of the expedition. Speaking at the opening of the stupa, the director general of the Museum by name of N.K. Roerich Ljudmila Vasiljevna Shaposhnikova said that the route of the expedition lay from stupa to stupa as if along landmarks of the spiritual path, and that the creation of stupa in Moscow symbolizes a new phase in the understanding of the actions of the great Roerich family.
However, it is not the first stupa connected with the Roerich family. The expedition to the plateau caidama, led by Professor Roerich, created a stupa which was sanctified by the local chief Buddhist. It is a well known fact that stupas are erected at the sites of cremation of high-ranking lamas or spiritual teachers. A stupa was erected at the place of cremation of Helena Ivanovna Roerich.
- Let us finish the report with N.K, Roerich’s words
It is truly wonderful, and really beautiful to see before yourself the shining lights of all the ages amongst the whirlpool of our lives, and amidst the waves of unresolved social problems. It is great to study the biographies of these grand Seekers and Hermits and find in them the spring of fortitude, unlimited energy and tolerance. It is excellent to be able to understand, via this inexhaustible spring of love, the great motions of distinguished souls in which the highest knowledge is combined with the highest aspiration. They, indeed, convey a truly magnificent earthly path. They labored endlessly. They were here, on the earth, they encountered the same obsticles, the same ignorance, superstition, and intolerance. With their bright learning they defeated darkness; they knew the eternal law, that giving meant receiving. Understanding this, and laboring creatively they became the true luminaries.”