Monday May 21, 2018
Home Religion Buddhism: Beg...

Buddhism: Beginning of New Religion in Estonia, a Country that was in the Sphere of Christianity for Centuries

Buddhism was brought to Estonia at the beginning of 20th century, by a man called Karl Tõnisson

0
//
442
Statue of Buddha. Pixabay
Republish
Reprint

November 12, 2016: The founder of Buddhism in this world is Buddha Shakyamuni. He was born as a royal prince in 624 BC in a place called Lumbini, which was originally in northern India but is now part of Nepal. ‘Shakya’ is the name of the royal family into which he was born and ‘Muni’ means ‘Able One’. His parents gave him the name Siddhartha. At the age of 29 years old he retired to the forest where he followed a spiritual life of meditation and attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, India.

A brief overview of the history of Buddhism in Estonia-

Brother Vahindra

Buddhism was brought to Estonia at the beginning of 20th century, by a man called Karl Tõnisson (1882-1962), also known as “barefoot Tõnisson” or Brother Vahindra. He was one of the very first Westerners embarking on the Buddhist faith as a monk. Karl Tõnisson was a colorful and eccentric figure but he was not taken seriously at the time and often regarded as a fool.

Brother Vahindra left Estonia and shifted to Latvia and became a citizen over there, known as “Karlis Tennisons.” He was designated the first Buddhist Archbishop of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by the thirteenth Dalai Lama. He was the first Estonian to visit Lhasa, the capital of Tibet with his only devoted disciple, Friedrich Lustig (1912-1989).

Karl Tõnisson died in a temple in 1962 and declared as a ‘bodhisattva’ – in Buddhism; a ‘bodhisattva’ is similar being a saint in Christianity, a spiritually evolved person. He was the first Estonian declared a saint was a Buddhist.

Other Devotees

Uku Masing (1909-1985), an Estonian philosopher, picked up the torch and started his own exploration into Buddhism which resulted in series of lectures and a book – “Budismist” (“About Buddhism”). He was also a founding member of the Estonian Oriental Society in 1935. The society had to shut down after the Soviet Union invaded Estonia in 1940, but was re-established in 1988. Linnart Mäll, who started his studies there was Masing’s student and became a teacher for many future Estonian Buddhologists. Mäll translated many Buddhism’s basic texts into Estonian.

NewsGram brings to you top news around the world today.

Resistance to the regime

The Soviet era marked the end of most religious practices and education in the country. Christian denominations maintained their activity on a much smaller scale, membership of other religious communities dwindled remarkably.

On the one hand, this situation was a perfect for the emergence of religious intellectual luminaries to attract common people. However, Buddhist resistance to the Soviet occupation of Estonia was peaceful in accordance to their basic religious principles – Buddhist texts and contemplation instead of battle-axes and wrath.

Estonian Buddhist Brotherhood- Taola

There was also a group called the Estonian Buddhist Brotherhood – also known by its nickname, Taola – that was established under the guidance of Vello Väärtnõu in 1982 in Tallinn. It was a self-funding organization. Taola members were specialized in a different field of Buddhist studies and the idea was to spread the religion’s way of thinking among Estonians.

They also built the first stupa in Estonia – in artist Jüri Arrak’s summerhouse at Pangarehe. Three more stupas followed and were built from 1984-1985 in Tuuru village in western Estonia.

Check out NewsGram for latest international news updates.

At the present time

Buddhism is no easy way out for posers. It’s a religion. Despite, of its seemingly lax structure and lenient image there are a hierarchy, stipulations, and requirements to consider and follow. It’s about decision and devotion – make up your mind and then stay on the chosen path – above everything else.

According to 2011 census, 1,145 people in Estonia defined themselves as Buddhists. However, this indicates how many people consider themselves Buddhist and not the number of members in Buddhist communities.

– Prepared by Ruchika Kumari of NewsGram. Twitter: @RuchiUjjaini

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 NewsGram

Next Story

Know Your India: How Well Do You Know Hindu Wisdom?

Our rich past must remain our greatest inspiration and inform our engagement with the world

0
//
77
Hindu wisdom and the broader framework of Eastern philosophy talked in the same language as modern physics was beginning to do. Wikimedia Commons
Hindu wisdom and the broader framework of Eastern philosophy talked in the same language as modern physics was beginning to do. Wikimedia Commons

By Bikash Sarmah

No matter how our self-styled secularists vilify ancient Indian or Hindu wisdom, there is an element of eternity and universality about that treasure trove. It is a great work of reason and analysis. And there is no confusion in the discourse. Such is its universality that the intelligent Westerner woke up to it long ago and discovered the wealth therein. Such is its practicality that when Albert Einstein deconstructed the long-held Newtonian worldview in the early part of the 20th century, and when quantum mechanics from the other side revolutionized the whole course of physics and brought about a paradigm shift in our perception of matter and energy, the founding fathers of the evolving field had already taken resort in Hindu wisdom, and to their utter surprise found that Hindu wisdom and the broader framework of Eastern philosophy talked in the same language as modern physics was beginning to do. And it was not restricted to physics or mathematics alone. Even Western writers and philosophers began to appreciate Hindu wisdom, but not without struggling to comprehend the non-Newtonian Hindu worldview — used as they were to a discrete, Newtonian notion of fundamentalism, both in the material and non-material world.

As an acclaimed physicist and thinker Fritjof Capra says in his classic The Tao of Physics, ‘‘The picture of an interconnected cosmic web which emerges from modern atomic physics has been used extensively in the East to convey the mystical experience of nature. For the Hindus, Brahman is the unifying thread in the cosmic web, the ultimate ground of all being… In Buddhism, the image of the cosmic web plays an even greater role. The core of the Avatamsaka Sutra, one of the main scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism, is the description of the world as a perfect network of mutual relations where all things and events interact with each other in an infinitely complicated way.’’

In Buddhism, the image of the cosmic web plays an even greater role. The core of the Avatamsaka Sutra, one of the main scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism, is the description of the world as a perfect network of mutual relations where all things and events interact with each other in an infinitely complicated way.’’ Says Fritjof Capra. Wikimedia Commons
In Buddhism, the image of the cosmic web plays an even greater role. The core of the Avatamsaka Sutra, one of the main scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism, is the description of the world as a perfect network of mutual relations where all things and events interact with each other in an infinitely complicated way.’’ Says Fritjof Capra. Wikimedia Commons

ALSO READ: Future of Hinduism in US: An Analysis

Such worldview brings a lot of discomfort to the typical Western mind brought up in a culture that emphasizes only rigid fundamentals and overlooks the varied possibilities beyond the confinement of fundamentals, unlike in the Hindu system that rejects such fundamentalism and espouses a notion of the world, both material and spiritual, that jells wonderfully with the implications of the theories of modern physics. But how well is this known? It is in this context that a compilation of Western thoughts on India and its ancient wisdom, titled ‘Great minds on India’ compiled by Salil Gewali and published by Academic Publications, Shillong, is pertinent. It captures the best of comments by Western intellectual giants on Hindu wisdom and its timelessness, reflecting also on the parallels between modern physics and Hindu wisdom. Let us hear some of them. Werner Heisenberg, one of the founders of quantum mechanics and celebrated for his epoch-making Uncertainty Principle in quantum mechanics that rejects the Newtonian assertion of predicting the position and momentum of matter simultaneously, glorifies Hindu wisdom thus:

‘‘After the conversations about Indian philosophy, some of the ideas of quantum physics that had seemed so crazy suddenly made much more sense.’’ If Einstein says that ‘‘we owe a lot to Indians who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could be made’’, Julius R Oppenheimer, the father of nuclear bomb, goes further: ‘‘What we shall find in modern physics is an exemplification, an encouragement and a refinement of old Hindu wisdom.’’

‘‘Indian philosophers’ subtleties make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys.’’ Says TS Eliot. Wikimedia Commons
‘‘Indian philosophers’ subtleties make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys.’’ Says TS Eliot. Wikimedia Commons

Coming to TS Eliot, who needs no introduction. He says: ‘‘Indian philosophers’ subtleties make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys.’’ What Eliot means, in other words, is that when it comes to subtlety — that is, to the delicate refinement of ideas — most of the great European philosophers should rather be huddled in a classroom with an Indian philosopher teaching and guiding them. That is why Francois M Voltaire, one of the greatest French writers and philosophers, admits thus: ‘‘I am convinced that everything has come down to us from the banks of the Ganga — astronomy, astrology, spiritualism etc. It is very important to note that some 2,500 years ago at the least Pythagoras went from Samos to the Ganga to learn geometry… But he would certainly not have undertaken such a strange journey had the reputation of the Brahmins’ science not been long established in Europe.’’ And that is why Ralph Waldo Emerson, great American author, and essayist, confesses to having been ‘‘haunted’’ by the Vedas. ‘‘In them (the Vedas),’’ Emerson says, ‘‘I have found eternal compensation, unfathomable power, unbroken peace.’’ And hence the candor, again, of Arthur Schopenhauer, one of the greatest German philosophers and writers: ‘‘In the whole world there is no study so beneficial and so elevating as that of the Upanishads. It has been the solace of my life, and it will be the solace of my death. They are the product of the highest wisdom.’’

ALSO READ: Hindu Americans are role models for Hindus in India: Dr. David Frawley

Perhaps the best eulogy for India, as it truly deserves, has come from Frederich von Schlegel, acclaimed German writer, critic, philosopher, and one of the founders of German Romanticism: ‘‘There is no language in the world, even Greek, which has the clarity and the philosophical precision of Sanskrit, and this great India is not only at the origin of everything, she is (also) superior in everything, intellectually, religiously or politically, and even the Greek heritage seems pale in comparison.’’

The booklet, ‘Eat minds on India’, is doubtless a unique venture, and the publishers deserve kudos for having accomplished such an onerous task as to compile comments on India and Hindu wisdom by a galaxy of Western intellectual giants and then to choose the best and the most relevant ones. The tragedy, however, remains: a pseudo-secular dispensation as we are blessed with at the Centre would hardly initiate any move to popularize ancient Indian wisdom, which is essentially Hindu, and call upon the youth of the country to rediscover their past and marvel at the sheer effulgence of Hindu wisdom — stemming not from any dogmatic, fundamentalist and conditioned worldview, but from a holistic way of life and its liberating experience. This is so because the word ‘‘Hindu’’ will invariably echo in any discourse on ancient Indian wisdom and the country’s perverse, self-styled secularists will discover a ‘communal’ agenda there — ‘against our pluralist ethos’. These poor souls do not realize — nor do they want to — that whatever pluralist ethos the country today takes pride in and will sustain for all times is due solely to the Hindu way of life, a preponderant way of life in India. Why, look at how the other by-product of Partition, including Bangladesh, has evolved.

Our rich past must remain our greatest inspiration and inform our engagement with the world. Even quantum mechanics and all of its later avatars recognize that fact of life. Let us all be proud of it all.

(The writer is the former consultant Editor of ‘The Sentinel’, a Guwahati-based
daily. He currently resides in Guwahati)