Pandido Khambo Lama in life (via Wikimedia)
The 12th Pandido Khambo Lama lived in tumultuous times. Czar Nicholas II invited him to the 300-year anniversary celebration of the Romanov Dynasty, and allowed him to build the first Buddhist temple in Europe. Empress Elizabeth had recognized the “lamaists” of her realm in the 18th century, but under Itigilov, the Buryat religion gained stature as one of the faiths of the empire. At home, as leader of Russia’s Buddhists, he presided over a revival in interest and participation among Buryats before retiring at the close of Russia’s involvement in World War I in 1917. In 1927, he warned his fellow monks that the “Red Teaching” was coming and urged them to escape to Tibet while they still could. Few listened. Itigilov then asked them to chant the Prayer of Death over him as he meditated, but they refused. He left instructions that he should be buried immediately and in position, and then began chanting the prayer himself. He died shortly thereafter.