Monday, 9 November 2009

Letter from Finland, again

And again I am in Finland, staying at the community with Nagashila and Liladhi and others. This time I am travelling to the UK to work for Windhorse, visit Paris and do a CELTA course as training for being an English as a foreign language teacher, in Poland. Russian life should restart again sometime in spring.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Moscow was a dream

Moscow was a dream ... or maybe another world ... or just somewhere where blogging posts didn't come from ... or maybe just having to pay for internet by the minute was enough to put me off? Whatever reason ... when I woke up from a sleepless night this morning on a train in St Petersburg. I stayed in Moscow for 8 weeks, the first three were - lets call her for the sake of simplicity - with my Aunt, and the next five were in Galina's house hostel with Galina and four large, hairy, round cats. During that time I walked around the parks and shops of Central Moscow, looked to find out about working there, visited shops with interesting in things from Asia and - sometimes - talks, and found ways to mingle in bars and clubs ... And now again I am in St Petersburg during my last two days in Russia before leaving for Tallinn, Tartu and Helsinki.

Friday, 11 September 2009

A few words from Moscow

I have been in Moscow for about 10 days now. For the first time during my trip I need to use internet cafes to acces a computer so posts are less frequent. Maybe it is enough just to say that I am enjoying my visit here, I am staying with family sharing a room, and exploring the employment situation.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

The Datsan in St Petersburg

I have been twice now to the Datsan in North West St Petersburg. It is Tibetain in style and was build under the inspiration and vision of Buriyat Agvan Dorjiev, who was a Lama in the Gelug tradition, between 1903 and 1915 during the reine of Tsar Nicolas II.
If you would like to see 30 or so photos of the Datsan you can do so on Facebook searching for the account and then photos of 'Suvannavira'.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

First (few) words from St Petersburg

I have now been in Russia for 4 days, spending about on the first 24 hours wondering what on earth I was going to do here? It was then that I visited the Buddhist Datsan, built under the inspiration and vision of Agvan Dorjiev at the start of the 20th Century. Whilst I was sitting outside aborbing the atmosphere Vikotoria walked by ... We last met in Siberia in 2002 when she translated for me during my visit there. We met later and she found friends for me to stay with as of tonight. At the hostel I met Dima and he was the first that I taught -in broken Russian and frequent English- to meditate.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Letter from Finland

On 6th July I left Paris, France, and arrived a little after midnight in Cambridge, UK. There followed a three and a half week intensive period of work for Windhorse Trading which saw me driving visiting customers between Portsmouth, Penzance and Lemington Spa. On the afternoon of the 20th July I arrived in Birmingham for a rendez-vous with Bhante Urgyen Sangharakshita, the founder of the WBO/TBM. We had a lively, interesting and inspiring conversation about Russia and Russian culture and its relation to Buddhism. On Saturday 1st August I arrived at Wymondham College to attend first Mixed, and then at Padmaloka, Men's European Conventions of the Western Buddhist Order. Finally, a little after midnight last night, I caught the overnight bus from Cambridge to Gatwick to catch the early morning flight to Helsinki where I am staying for the weekend thanks to the generous hospitality of Nagashila and the Mylly community. On Monday I will take the boat and meet Vaddhaka and others in Tallinn, Estonia, and Tuesday the bus to St Petersburgh, and will let the adventure begin ...

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Operation 'Facebook'!

First steps taken of a plan to tune into Russian society by finding a few friends through Facebook.  On verra ...

Friday, 15 May 2009

Buddhism in Russia

Buddhism is believed to have first come to Russia during the 3rd century BCE when King Ashoka of India sent monks to spread Buddhism to Siberia.
Buddhism has been in Russia as a living tradition for around 400 years as the religion of Buryatas, Kalmyks and Tuvians, all belonging to a common Mongolian spiritual realm and practising the Gelugpa form of Tibetan Buddhism. They are said to number around 700.000 with the Buryats and Tuvian being Federal Subjects (Republics) east of Lake Baikal in Siberia, and the Kalmyks likewise in southern European Russia.
Buddhism is recognised as one of four 'offical' religions in the Russian Federation, as well as Orthodox Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Buddhism is considered native to Russia.
Also, Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants give Mahayana Buddhism a presence in the Russian Federation.
Buddhism has been a subject for Scientific research in Russia from the middle of the 19th century and St Petersburg has its own Buddhist temple built at the beginning of the 20th century under the inspiration and vision of ethnic Buryat lama Aghan Dorjiev. The stain glass windows were based on designs of Nicolas Roerich.
In recent times other Buddhist Centres have emerged, mainly in St Petersburg and Moscow that are for the most part Centres of Tibetan Buddhism.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Buddhist Centres in St Petersburg

I have found 8 Buddhist Centres in St Petersburg of which 7 were Tibetan Buddhists.  They are:
St Petersburg Buddhist Monastery
Aryadeva study group of the FPMT
Dzogchen Dudul Chöling
Padmasambhava Buddhist Centre
St Peterburg Zen Centre
Diamond Way Buddhist Centre
More details can be found at:

Buddhist Centres in Moscow

Searching the internet I found 18 Buddhist Centres in Moscow.  Various forms of Tibetain Buddhism were the most numerous with 13 Centres including:
Moscow Buddhist Centre of Lama Tsongkapa
Centre of the Internation Association of the Karma Kagyu school, founded by Ole Nydhal
Kagya Samye Dzong Moscow, affiliated with Samya Ling Monastery in Scotland
Dzogchen Centre of Namkai Norbu Rinpoche
Dzogchen Jigme Choling Centre
Padmasambhava Centre and
Ganden Tendar Ling Group of the FPMT
Also there were:
Goenka Vipassana
Moscow Zen Centre "Kwan Um"
Thich Nhat Hahn's Order of Interbeing and
The two most useful websites were:

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Free accommodation in Moscow?

Moscow has been said to be one of the most expensive cites to live in in the world, but this website shows another side :
I don't know if I will be trying the Ventilation Outlets at -10°c as suggested, but free accommodation in exchange for English lessons, or making friends, or even 'contact your ilk' all seem possible options.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Life of Suvannavira

Where the story starts ...  

Suvannavira was born in Russia in 1967. At the age of four, after his mother had re-married to an American, he left the Soviet Union with them in 1971 for England.

His mothers new husband was a Communist and both parents were atheists whilst he was in studying in a conservative English Public school. At the age of nine he paid his last childhood visit to Russia and his family there.

In school he specialised in maths and the sciences, before going on to study Politics, Philosophy and History, first in Northern Ireland, and then Birmingham. He specialised in the relationship between the mind and the brain. Some neural connections between the two hemispheres of the brain had been severed as a treatment for the spread of Epilepsy. It was discovered that this caused a slight emergence of two centres of consciousness, one half of the brain did not always know what the other half was doing! So how could they be said to have just one mind?

After the end of his studies he went travelling for 16 months to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and India. This was a very significant time in his life.

"When I arrived in Thailand, the serene beauty and calm of some of the places I was in had a very profound effect on me, on my mind. I found I was able to think much more clearly, feel much more deeply, I could absorb myself much more in contemplation, in thought, and in being in the natural world. It was also a time when I was left very much alone, also, to fend for myself. For the first time it really felt that my life was very much in only my own hands".

At the end of the trip whilst in India, first in Calcutta, and the in Darjeeling and Sikkhim, he met and travelled with an Englishman who called himself Arthadarshan. He was a member of the Western Buddhist Order. It was then that he was taught, for the first time, to meditate.

"I had always wanted to learn to meditate, I always felt that the mind had greater capacities, and that meditation was a way to reach and unlock them. Buddhism also seemed to correlate with internal thoughts and experiences, to which I had not found correlation's before. As it turned out the practice of meditation also gave my mind a discipline and vigour which in turn gave my mind a much greater degree of clarity and intelligence."

Within a year of his return to the UK he had asked for Ordination into the spiritual community which is in the West is called the Western Buddhist Order, and in India the Triloka Buddha Mahasangha. He also started working for a giftware wholesaler and retailer run and staffed solely by Buddhists, as a way of living their spiritual lives together. At this time he also started the study of the ancient Indian language of Pali so he could read the oldest texts about the Buddha in their original language, and studied other Buddhist texts in English, many of which were the works of Sangharakshita, the founder of the Order.

In 1994 he was Ordained into the Western Buddhist Order/Triloka Buddha Mahasangha during a 16 week retreat in a seduced valley in the south of Spain. He was given name in Pali of Suvannavira; Suvanna meaning golden or beautiful, and Vira meaning a strong or heroic man.

Towards the end of the nineties he started to have more contact with Russia again, he found members of his family on the internet after not having contact for nearly 30 years. He started to read Russian history of the late 19th and early 20th century, and especially Solzhenitsyn's epic on the revolution 'the Red Wheel'. He returned to native soil for a week long retreat led by Kamalashila, another member of the Western Buddhist Order, at Oranienbaum (near St Petersburg). At this time he also changed his non-Buddhist name back to the Russian, and started to re-learn Russian again.

After 11 years in the gift business he decided also that it was time to devote more time to teaching meditation and Buddhism, and to change countries! So in 2002 he arrived in Paris to work and teach at the 'Centre Bouddhiste Triratna de Paris'.

Just before his arrival in Paris he paid a 6 week visit to Russia, passing through Helsinki and Tallinn. He visited St Petersburg, Moscow, seeing childhood residents and family again. He also travelled to Siberia, to the Chita region, to visit Buddhist monasteries and datsans there of the Buryat people at Aginsk and Tsygolski. The Buriyat people were practitioners in the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. He did a two week solitary retreat in the forests near the sacred Mount Alhanai, which was considered considered a natural mandala. He travelled back to European Russia from Chita, Buryatia, past lake Baikal on the Trans-Siberian Express.

He visited again in 2003 leading his first retreat on Russian soil, near St Petersburg.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Suvannavira returns to Russia

In August of this year I will return to Russia, a country that I left in 1971 when I was four years old.  This journal will recount my life there.