Dandaron Mandala: Buryat Buddhism during the Soviet Era
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|As a case-study of the history of Buddhism in Russia this paper discuss the founding of a new form of Buddhism within the traditional Buryat sangha in the middle of the 20th century. After World War II, the so-called first restoration emerged, and consisted of an effort to rescue religious life following a decade of reprisals. In the mid 1960s, during the period of the first criticism of Stalin's cult, a small but important, Buddhist community originated in Ulan-Ude. An unofficial or clandestine micro-sangha formed around Bidia D. Dandaron, a Buryat Buddhist scholar, which existed until 1972, the year of Dandaron's imprisonment. Subsequently he was sentenced to five years in the gulag, where he died in 1974, at the age of sixty. One of his first disciples was A. I. Zheleznov, a painter. After the death of his teacher, he painted the Vajrabhairava mandala which was both untraditional and innovative. The aim of the paper is to show by means of the painting the formation of a new religious group, its perception of the outside world and how these are incorporated in the mandala. It is surprising how much can be told about Dandaron from this image; what cannot be identified here however, is Dandaron's cult, which now, as well as during his life, is met with some disconcertion by the official sangha.