Buryaad Unen told the story of the Russian military’s only Buddhist “chaplain” — Bair Batomunkuyev. Bair Lama has served six years as assistant to the commander for work with religious servicemen (troop priest) in Kyakhta’s 37th Motorized Rifle Brigade.
He was a conscript repairing communications in a radar unit in Yakutia from 1988 to 1990. He wasn’t a very observant Buddhist as a youth although he went with his grandmother to pray at holy places and learned mantras from her.
While serving, he nearly froze to death in a snowstorm and is convinced he survived by thinking of his grandmother and repeating prayers she taught him. A search party rescued him.
He finished his military time and went to study at the Buddhist monastery in Ivolginsk, not far from Ulan-Ude. His grandmother was very happy.
In 2003-2004, Bair Lama answered a request from Kyakhta’s border guards detachment for “spiritual support.” In 2012, the MR brigade offered him a position.
He has met other “priests” working in his capacity, mainly Russian Orthodox of course. According to him, there are three Muslims serving as “assistant commanders for work with religious believers” but only one Buddhist. There are, he says, many Buddhist servicemen and they serve well. Buryat-tankers regularly win prizes in the annual Tank Biathalon, according to Bair.
Bair Lama says the situation in his formation is normal and orderly. He reports directly to the brigade commander, but also to the chief of the section for work with religious servicemen in the Eastern MD staff.
The interviewer asks Bair if the army contradicts his religious convictions given Buddhism’s principles of non-violence and compassion for all living things. He responds:
“The security …read more
From:: Russian Defense Policy