Kalmucks and the Wheel
Dr. H. Klar
|There in no Buddhist
symbol better known throughout the whole Buddhist world than the "Wheel
of the Doctrine". In Western countries we see the "Symbol of the
Wheel" not only on the covers of Buddhist books, but also on the few Buddhist
buildings. What is more interesting although less known even to Buddhist,
is the fact that there is living in Central Europe an ethnological group
which has been Buddhist for centuries - the Buddhist community of Kalmucks
in Belgrade. After the first World War, they emigrated from the steppes
of southern Russia to Yugoslavia and brought the Buddhist Symbol of the
Wheel from the river Don to the Danube.
In 1944 I visited the Buddhist Temple of the Kalmyks in Belgrade. When I asked the direction, people told me "in the Buddhist street, of course". Already I saw from afar the white temple over the little colony of Kalmyks. Behind the simple exterior I expected no art treasures and over the door of the garden, I saw a plate made of wood with some lines in Tibetan writing. Over the entrance was the "Wheel of the Doctrine" and on either side of the Wheel , a gazelle.
In a wing dwelt the Kalmyk priest. He kindly invited me to enter his little lodging and prepared a courteous reception. I had a cordial conversation with that priest who spoke about the adventures of the Kalmyks during the long travel from the Don to the Danube. He showed me some of the small, neat houses of the Kalmucks and an old woman, who was weaving, showed me some of the material she had made.
From the priest's lodging,
we entered the Temple by a side door through a meeting hall.
Then I looked round the bright little Temple. The center of the roof is upheld by four pillars painted with Buddhist symbols including the of the 'Wheel of the Doctrine'. I asked one of the simple Kalmyks about the meaning of the wheel painted on the pillars. His answer was: "The more you are 'turning' the wheel, the sooner you are free from wrong ideas."
|TOC > Klar's Collection > Report in English (part 1)|