Beyond “Bad Buddhism”: Conceptualizing Buddhist Counseling in Ulan-Ude, Buryatia

Kristina Jonutytė


In Ulan-Ude, the multi-ethnic, multi-religious capital of Buryatia, most laypeople make use of “Buddhist counseling” (Rus. priyom u lamy), or various ritual, medical and other services that ameliorate illness and misfortune. Laypeople consult lamas about a range of issues from economic to familial matters, from imp attacks to joblessness. Such Buddhist counseling is one of the most common kind of interactions with Buddhist institutions and practices in Buryatia. At the same time, it is a deeply contested practice, as local critiques refer to the rise of “consumerist”, “commercialized”, “utilitarian” or “bad” Buddhism. This article explores Buddhist counseling as a site of value-laden negotiation of post-Soviet Buddhism. It looks at normative emic notions of good Buddhist practice and their translocal sources as well as social and historical context.


Buryatia; Buddhist counseling; divination; ritual; post-socialist Buddhism

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