Friday, August 28, 2009

Russian President Medvedev becomes a Buddhist goddess, apparently becaue he upholds the Rule of Law

On the first official visit by a head of state to Ivolginsky, a Buddhist monastery in Buryatia, eastern Siberia, President Medvedev was hailed as a Buddhist goddess, Tara.

Tara is not much known in the land that is the birthplace of Buddhism (India) but Tara is thought, at least by some devotee, to be the mother of all Buddhas. She is considered to typify compassion and serenity, which Medvedev is thought to embody - at least according to the spiritual leader of the monastery, Pandito Khambo Lama Damba Ayusheyev.

When asked about the president’s spiritual elevation, the Pandito is reported, by the the Interfax news agency, to have responded: “It’s very hard to understand this for non-Buddhists and even for some Buddhists too.”

Yes, very hard indeed.

Russia’s Buddhists consider all the country’s leaders to be an emanation of the female Buddha - a belief that dates back to the 18th century when the Empress Elizabeth officially recognised the religion.

According to the Pandito: “The leader of the country is a man who bears very serious responsibility for others. The Buddhists must support him, identifying him as a deity.”

Well, what are gods and goddesses supposed to do? Fulfil your wishes, of course! So it was entirely appropriate for Medvedev to promise financial support to the Buddhist community and to announce that he will introduce Buddhist chaplains to the Russian Federation’s army.

The latter action may make him popular among the nation's 0.7% who are Buddhist, but is likely to make him much less popular among the nation's 63% who are Russian Orthodox. After 70 years of thorough Marxist propaganda, only 16% say they are non-believers, according to a poll by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center.

So why has President Medvedev accepted the role of a Buddhist goddess? According to Geoffrey Bamford of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies:“It’s a psychological thing that doesn’t quite have a parallel in our language. It’s philosophically based. Saying he is a goddess is a bad translation.For Buddhists he represents a bundle of qualities on the contemporary political scene. Identifying him as White Tara is a shorthand way of visualising that bundle of qualities in order to summon them up in oneself. Medvedev’s thing is the rule of law – he’s a lawyer. He produced a remarkable state of the nation address in November last year in which he anatomised the difficulty of making a modern state out of Russia. It was basically about being a law-based society and this, I think, is the characteristic that the Buryats and the Kalmyks identify in him when contemplating the White Tara.”

Interesting philosophical and practical question: Is accepting the role of a god in line with promoting the rule of law?

Another interesting question: Which societies have been most committed to the rule of law?

Readers of my blog will be aware that my answers to these questions are, respectively, "No", and "Northern Europe and North America". Sphere: Related Content

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