The International Scientific Conference “Vajrayana Buddhism: History and Modernity” took place in St. Petersburg on October 20-21, 2008.
The conference was held within the framework of the festival of Tibetan Buddhism in Russia (“Buddhism.ru”).
Currently, a new legislative bill is under discussion concerning a partnership between state authorities at different levels and religious organizations in the sphere of cultural, community and social projects. The bill itemizes religious trends, with which the government will cooperate as social partners. They include schools of Buddhism that are recognized as historically, socially and culturally significant for Russia: the historically formed branches of Tibetan Buddhism represented by the Gelug, Karma Kagyu and Nyingma schools.
This conference is an example of such social partnership.
The conference was initiated by the Russian Diamond Way Karma Kagyu Buddhists Association. Organizations that participated in the conference are the State Museum of the History of Religion; Center of Comparative Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy and Political Science of the State University of St. Petersburg; Department of Cooperation with Religious Organizations at the Administration of the Governor of St. Petersburg.
The goals of the conference were first of all to present the philosophical and intellectual potential of Vajrayana Buddhism; secondly, to unify the efforts of researchers who are studying this subject.
Conference participants included not only scholars who study various aspects of Buddhism - philosophers, historians, cultural historians, psychologists, physiologists, and art historians, but also religious practitioners of various schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
Conference participants included the director of the State Museum of the History of Religion B. C. Arakcheev, Director of the Center of Comparative Philosophy of the St. Petersburg State University Professor A. S. Kolesnikov; Professor of Samara State University L. B. Chetyrova; Head of the Department for the Protection of Freedom of Conscience of the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation Professor M. I. Odintsov; Head of the Department for Work with Religious Associations of the St. Petersburg Administration L. A. Musienko.
The following professors gave presentations: Е. А. Оstrovskaia (St. Petersburg), A. S. Kolesnikov ((St. Petersburg), E. V. Dvoretskaia (St. Petersburg), N. A. Nagornaia (Belgorod), A. P. Zabiiako (Blagoveshchensk), B. A. Bicheev (Elista) and other Russian scholars. The following scholars from abroad also took part in the conference: Professor B. Scherer (Great Britain), E. Khaderer (Hamburg, Germany), M. Hoyt (Hamburg, Germany). Lama Ole Nydahl (Denmark) gave a talk “Buddhism in the West.”
The main tasks of the conference were to to reveal the essence of the philosophical and psychological aspects of Vajrayana Buddhism, to characterize the social and spiritual prerequisites for the perception of the philosophy of Buddhism, to understand the reasons for the successful adaptation of Vajrayana Buddhism in modern society.
The president of the Russian Diamond Way Karma Kagyu Buddhists Association Aleksandr Koibagarov
Conference presentations included the following topics: “Vajrayana Terms”, Russian Buddhist Non-governmental organizations”, “The history of transmission of Vajrayana Buddhism: Asia, Russia, the West,” “The Project of the International Institute for Tibetan and Asian Studies (ITASS) to preserve the Buddhist heritage of Vajrayana”, “Space and consciousness,” “The First Buddhist Temples in the area of Primorie (7th-10th centuries)”, “Understanding of Buddhist ideas in the literary works of Victor Pelevin”, “Two sculptures by the 10th Karmapa Chöyin Dorje in the collection of the State Hermitage Museum”, “The Meditation Practice of Refuge”, “The Physiological Aspects of the Practice of Tummo”.
The Russian Diamond Way Karma Kagyu Buddhists Association has its headquarters in St. Petersburg and united over 70 buddhist centers and groups on the territory of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The conference took place during the anniversary year for the Association – it celebrated 20 years of revivng the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism of the Karma Kagyu school in Russia. In October 1988 Lama Ole Nydahl visited Russia for the first time and gave a lecture on Vajranaya Buddhism in St. Petersburg.
Conference proceedings were published in a volume entitled “Vajrayana Buddhism in Russia: History and Modernity”. (St. Petersburg: Unlimited Space, 2009). 576 pages. Print run 800 copies.