Russia’s most revered Buddhist monk

by Ajay Kamalakaran, Special for RIR, January 31, 2012

Buryatia, Russia -- The soft power of Buddhism from Buryatia spread far and wide across the Russian Empire. Dashi-Dorzho Itigelov, a Buryat monk who is revered by Buddhists in the country, was awarded the order of St Stanislas by Czar Nicholas II in 1917.

Itigelov, who attended the tercentenary celebrations of the House of Romanov, opened the Gunzechoyney Datsan in St Petersburg, making it the first Buddhist temple in Europe.

Itigelov was believed to have reached the supreme level of practicing Buddhism and it was in 1927 that he asked to be buried, while in a state of deep meditation. His body, which was exhumed in 2002, was almost intact.

Itigelov was buried sitting in lotus posture in a pine box and kept in lama graveyard in Khukhe-Zurkhen in Buryatia. The monk wanted his body to be exhumed by other monks within several years. When the body was exhumed, scientists and pathologists said it was "in the condition of someone who had died 36 hours ago."

The body was preserved without any signs of decay with the muscles, inner tissue, skin and soft joints intact. The body was transferred to Ivolginsky datsan, which is now the most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in Russia.