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Darma-Dodi Zhalsarayev

Darma-Dodi Zhalsarayev

Darma-Dodi Ayusheevich Zhalsaraev (1904, ulus Inzagatuy, Transbaikal region, Russian Empire — April 24, 1997, Buryatia, Russia) is a Buryat lama, the revivalist of the Buddhism in Russia, “shire’ete” (the prior) of Ivolginsky Datsan in 1980 — 1986.

Дарма-Доди

Darma-Dodi Zhalsaraev was known and respected lama of the senior generation in Buryatia, one of the initiators of restoration of the Buddhism of Vajrayana traditions in Post-Soviet Russia, along with other outstanding old lamas, such as Zhimba-Zhamso Tsybenov and Sandzhi Ulanov.

Darma-Dodi was born in April, 1904 in ulus Inzagatuy of the Selenga department of the Transbaikal region. His paternal grandfather was Tibetan, who had emigrated to the Transbaikal region in the second half of the 19th century and married a Buryat woman. Darma-Dodi’s mother was Mongolian. According to the oral tradition, at the time of Darma-Dodi’s birth a Mongolian lama passed by his house and has offered him the accessories for Ch?d practice. It was considered as a dark omen, unless the child didn't possess the highest degree of spiritual abilities.

His relatives dealt in Kyakhta and had sufficient means to provide him religious education. However, in spite of their will, Darma-Dodi has begun studying rather late: in the early childhood he had smallpox, and has spent these years in Mongolia. Nevertheless at the age of 8 years he came to Sartul-Gegetuysky datsan where he began studying Tibetan and written Mongolian languages. In a year he has been sent for study to Tibet where, besides the basic course he has studied the ritual system Ch?d and has received a name Pema Dordzhe Chiang (Tib. pad ma rdo rje phyang).

In 1927 Darma-Dodi has returned from Tibet and together with parents has moved to Selenginsky aimak of Buryat-Mongolian ASSR, where he continued studying Buddhist Tantra, in particular, the Yamantaka system in which, as it is considered, he later has reached the full implementation. He met the religious needs of believers, for example, blessing sheep flocks and steam engines. When the USSR has stepped up the repressions against Buddhist clergy, he has moved to MNR again for several years. At this time his parents who lived there have died, and when the repressions against the Buddhism reached full swing in the Mongolia, Darma-Dodi has decided to return to the USSR. But there he has been arrested in Novoselenginsk in 1937, and till 1946 he has stayed on Kolyma on the mines of Susuman.

In 1948 he has returned to official religious activity and for some time he was gebshi-lama at Gegetuysky datsan in which he once began the education. In 1964 lama Darma-Dodi has passed into Ivolginsky datsan, and appeared in the staff list of datsan since 1970. He held the ritual of consecration of the main temple Tsogchen-Dugan in 1976 after the fire, and in 1989 has consecrated the space for reconstruction of Gegetuysky datsan where he once studied. In 1980 Darma-Dodi became the prior of Ivolginsky datsan, and has spent six years in this position.

When in the late 1980-s people wishing to study the Dharma began to come to datsan, Darma-Dodi as one of the oldest and most experienced lamas willingly and actively began teaching them as he waited for this for a long time. In the first years this training was unofficial as the institute "Dashi Choynkhorlin" has been founded at datsan only in 1991. People also addressed him for specific Tantric dedications. At that time he has gathered a group of 16 disciples, generally Russian (but there were also Buryats, a Tuvinian and several Ukrainians), and specially studied with them the Buddhist Tantra in which he was a recognized expert. With the official foundation of the Buddhist institute at Datsan lama Darma Dodi has begun formal teaching there too, giving, in particular, a course on Tsanid (Buddhist philosophy).

In the mid-nineties, after the end of studying, ten of his disciples emigrated to India, and another one moved to the USA, having left his disciple in Russia; some disciples stayed in Buryatia. Darma-Dodi, though he got the main education in Gelug school, widely used transmissions of other schools of the Tibetan Buddhism and, as well as Bidiya Dandaron, believed that future development of the Buddhism in Russia is connected with Russians; thus, he encouraged that all the canonical texts and texts of the practices for his Russian pupils could be read in their native language as far as it was possible.

Lama Darma-Dodi was known in Buryatia as mahasiddha, who has reached perfection in Yamantaki tantra and in practice of consciousness transfer – phova. A number of miraculous stories is connected with his name, including reports of bringing to life people who had just died or were in a coma.