Opening speech of the photo exhibition

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Welcome our guests from the Faculty of Oriental Studies in Saint-Petersburg State University – Natalia Jahhontva and Alexander Andreyev , who is also the director of the Kozlov’s museum ; and from Helsinki – tibetologist Alpo Ratia , writer and translator Tuula Saarikoski and the representative of Buryats Cultural Society – CirenDari Sambuyeva.

Good evening our hosts – today’s exhibition on Saint-Petersburg’s Buddhist temple is taking place in cooperation with the Institute of Humanities in Tallinn University , headed by Martti Kalda who generously has enabled us to use these rooms for the exhibition and conference. The idea for the confenece came from Estonian Buddhist Vello Väärtnõu who introduced practical Buddhist tradition in Estonia . Already in 1980s under his direction 4 stupas were bilt, much literature was translated, tangkas and Buddha statues panes were made and actively were communed with the monastery of Ivolga in Buryatia . At that time already the lamas of Ivolga visited Tallinn , socializing with Väärtnõu and his brotherhood. For a long time has Vello Väärtnõu studied the life and activies of the first Estonian Buddhist Karl Tõnisson and has brought out things that the orientalist in Tartu left undone at Soviet times , because they kept themselves far from Buddhism and Buddhists . This attitude has not changed much by today.

Both Vello Väärnõu and Karl Tõnisson studied in Buryatia , so the Estonian Buddhism is related to Buryatian Buddhistic tradition and to Buryats’ Kalatshakra temple in Saint-Petersburg. Unlike in Estonia, the building of the temple in Saint-Petersburg was assisted by not only Kalmyks , Buryats , Tuvas , Mongols and other Buddhists in Saint-Petersburg and elsewhere, but also by orientalist of that time and by Russian intelligence who was interested in Buddhism and the new temple gave them an opportunity to study Buddhism in Saint-Petersburg without a need ta take a months-long trip to the Far East . People in the Institute of Oriental Studies helped also in building and paperwork and they were at the opening of the temple as well, for example the academicians Radlov , Oldenburg , Shcherbatskoy, Rudnev, Kotvich, Stahl, E.E. Uhtomskij, Shneider, Stahl-Goldstein, explorer Pyotr Kuzmich Kozlov etc. Last November when I was in Saint-Petersburg at Agvan Dorzhiev Festival, I noticed that people there knew Dorzhiev and Tõnisson of the Saint-Petersburg´s temple better than people here. In his new book about Saint-Petersburg´s temple academician Andreyev brings out many facts about Tõnisson and his relations. On 2nd May 1914 Czar II officially confirmed the list of monks, which at first consisted of 9 monks, 5 of them had to be Gelongs . Three lamas arrived to Saint-Petersburg´s temple from Transbaikalia , Buryatia and four from Kalmykia ; in the official list of monks was also bodhisattva Karl Tõnisson from the Odratsi´ farm. From the moment the temple was built Dorzhiev took care that brother Vahindra would be officially and publicly alligated to the temple. When Dorzhiev went to Buryatia in the summer of 1917, he left Karl Tõnisson in charge. Dorzhiev trusted Tõnisson so much that he made Tõnisson the head of the Kalatshakra temple with the official directive in 1920. Brother Karl Tõnisson socialized closely with Agvan Dorzhiev who was the author of the idea to build Saint-Petersburg´s temple and also the one who carried it out, he was one of the teachers of Dalai Lama XIII and also his representative in the court of Russian Czar . Dorzhiev introduced Karl to Dalai Lama XIII and to Ja Lama . While living in the house of Uhtomski in Saint-Petersburg Tõnisson got acqainted also with paron Roman Ungern von Sternberg who was studing in Tallinn ´s Aleksandrian School – that is a former building of Tallinn University in Narva road 1; in 1872-1917 was there Tallinn´s Aleksandrian Gymnasium.

In Estonia Tõnisson and his activities are in greater part unexplored. So far has Mait Talts written about him but he has been more concentrating on Lustig. At Soviet times Gennadi Gerodnik wrote about him, making the laughingstock of the future bodhisattva, picturing him as a mentally handicapped village fool. In the same way was Vahindra presented by Olev Remsu and Linnart Mäll . We have direct material on Tõnisson only because of one man´s personal initiative. Namely, Tiit Pruuli was the one who brought all this treasure – photoes, Lustig´s diaries, Tõnisson´s biography written by Lustig, everything that was left behind after their death – from Burma to Estonia . We could name that gesture the rescue mission of the historical materials about Estonian Buddhism. The importance and meaning of Karl Tõnisson as the founder of Estonian Buddhism in Estonian cultural history is still subliminal and therefore is this exhibition the first sign, carried out by Estonian Njingma.

About Saint-Petersburg´s Buddhist temple.

The author of this exhibition is Erki Meister , who came to help us just in time. As the photographer Markhot who also has a photographic exhibition on that subject had a problem with the size and light and contemporarity of the exhibition room, then I talked to Eriki who I knew for years and he liked the idea of this exhibition. Erkki travelled right away for a couple of days to Saint-Petersburg , took pictures of the temple and got acquainted with the people there. Therefore we have a chance today to look at his photographic exhibition of Kalatshakra temple in Saint-Petersburg . This temple was the representative temple of Kalmyks , Tuvas , Mongols and Buryats in the West. We have today here with us also the representative of Aa-Ja Ganga Cultural Society – CirenDari Sambyeva. Please, welcome CirenDari Sambyeva!