Buddhism In Russia
VOL. 05, NO. 20, May 04, 2012 (Baishakh 22, 2069)]
A Bond To Explore
Far away from Nepal, Buddhism made inroads into Russia a long time ago
By DEBESH ADHIKARI
Despite the existence of Buddhist influences in Russia from a long time ago, Nepalese took a while to know about them. Thanks to the initiative taken by present Russian ambassador to Nepal Dr. Sergey Velichkin, Nepalese have got the opportunity to know about the influences now.
After coming to Nepal as an ambassador, Dr. Velichkin, a scholar with South Asian expertise, has already organized a number of programs to bring Nepal and Russia together.
The timing of an exhibition set up to show this side is perfect as various countries around the world are following Buddhism. For Nepal, this is the right time to enter into relations of exchange with Russia.
As Nepal is celebrating the Visit Lumbini Year 2012, the exhibition is being organized at the Russian Culture Center to mark the birthplace of Lord Buddha and to introduce Russian Buddhist heritage and contemporary life of the Buddhist religion to Nepalese people.
A sacred exhibition
Many people in the world are unfamiliar with Buddhism of Russia and rarely know about the existence of Buddhists in the largest country of the world. The Tibetan form of Buddhism, however, first spread to Russia in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and since then the number of Buddhists has grown beyond a million.
“People wonder that even Russia has Buddhism but Buddhists and Buddhism have been there in Russia for centuries. It is one of the four religions accepted by the law in the country,” said Dr. Natalia Zhukovskaya, professor of Russian Academy of Sciences.
A Russian delegation from the All-Russia Museum of Decorative-Applied and Folk Arts, consisting of professors, scholars of Russian Academy of Sciences, led by curator of the exhibition Irina Kolopova and Dr. Natalia arrived in Nepal to present the exhibition.
The exhibition titled ‘Buddhism in Russia’ is being jointly organized by Russian Centre of Science and Culture, Lumbini Buddhist University of Nepal, Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, All Russian Decorative Art museum, and Russian Museum of Ethnography.
The exhibition, being held between April 27 and May 26 at the Russian Culture Centre, Kamalpokhari, was inaugurated by Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, the chairman of the Greater Lumbini Development National Steering Committee.
Similar exhibitions were held in India and Bhutan in 2011 but this kind of exhibition is the first in the history of Russia-Nepal relations. “We have already exhibited it in Bhutan and India and it shows the existence of Buddhism even in Russia,” said Irina Kolopova.
According to the organizers, around 20 sacred artworks (Thankas) will be showcased in the exhibition. The showcased artworks are high-quality state-of-the-art technological replicas of the 19th century Buddhist creations, including works by Nicholas II, the last Russian Emperor, and photographs from the various Russian Museums. The works of contemporary artists used in the decorations of Buddhists temples in Russia can also be seen in the exhibition.
“The exhibition showcases historical as well as modern artifacts which are developed by using modern technology. There are also photos from various museums,” said Irina.
World Press Freedom Day 2012
Media in Transition
Despite continual pressure, Nepal’s independent media has been passing through a very crucial phase of its survival
By DEBESH ADHIKARI
Last year, about a half a dozen of journalists were killed and another dozens got physical assaults. Despite the efforts of the government, Nepal’s media sector is yet to get a respite.
Along with global media community, on May 3rd, Nepalese media also celebrated World Press Freedom Day. It is a day to consider the importance of freedom of the press, and to remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression as stipulated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
According to experts, a free press is a form of freedom of expression, providing citizens with access to knowledge and information, thus safeguarding any political system based on the will of the people. But Freedom of the Press Day serves not only to highlight the importance of an uncensored press: it also serves as a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down; that in many countries, journalists, editors and publishers and bloggers are harassed, attacked, jailed and even murdered. It aims to remind governments of the need to respect their commitment to Press Freedom, and to journalists.
“This day also serves as a reminder to professionals of their responsibility to society, and of the importance of maintaining professional ethics. And it is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the exercise of their profession,” said Shiva Gaunle, president of Federation of Nepalese Journalists.
Former Philippine President Corazon Aquino once said that "Freedom of the press guarantees popular participation in the decisions and actions of government, and popular participation is the essence of democracy."
A free press is called the Fourth Pillar of Democracy because a free press reports abuses of power by public officials. It shines a spotlight on government decision makers and those who influence them. It keeps the citizens informed of news critical of the government, gives them the opportunity to exchange information and opinions about public affairs without interference by government officials, say experts.
As one-time U.S. Supreme Court Judge Felix Frankfurter once said, "Freedom of the press is not an end in itself but a means to the end of [achieving] a free society."
A silent press means the end of democracy but Nepal’s media is more chaotic. What Nepalese media need to do is to protect the access to information of citizens and avoid manipulation and maneuvering by various forces.