Next Generation Leadership for Dalai Lama’s First U.S. Temple

Howell, N.J. The year I was born, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama escaped the Chinese occupation, crossing over into India on a two-week trek to find refuge in India. Then only 23, he disguised himself as a soldier and slipped through the crowds outside the palace in Lhasa he’d never see again.

With the help of the CIA, he crossed the mountains of Tibet’s most rugged terrain with his entourage on mules, carrying what they could to save from destruction. About 80,000 Tibetans were able to follow his Holiness into exile, where they re-established monasteries and nunneries in an attempt to preserve Tibetan Buddhist teachings and the Tibetan way of life.

Escape_000106-birth4The 14th Dalai Lama fleeing Tibet into exile with Khampa bodyguards in 1959.
Photo: Office of H.H. Dalai Lama.

This is a complicated story with lives intertwining like the melting snows of the Himalayas, and yet it is also a simple story of one young woman finding her voice to preserve her family’s way of life – and offering a respite and sanctuary to humanity in Howell, New Jersey.

Part of this story begins much earlier, surprisingly with Genghis Khan, founder of the Mongol Empire which became the largest empire in history after his death in the 1200’s. Accompanied often by large-scale massacres of civilian populations, the Great Khan created vassal states in all of modern-day China, Korea, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and substantial portions of Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia – all the way down to Vietnam. The Great Wall of China was strengthened during the Song Dynasty (960–1279), unsuccessfully, to keep him out.

AutoSave_Mongol House - V3 ~Architectural rendering of Mongol House project in Howell, New Jersey.
Image courtesy of Mongol House.

However violent his methods, the Great Khan also did some good. He practiced meritocracy and encouraged religious tolerance in the Mongol Empire, and unified the nomadic tribes of Northeast Asia. Genghis Khan is also credited with bringing the Silk Road under one cohesive political environment. This brought communication and trade from Northeast Asia into Muslim Southwest Asia and Christian Europe, thus expanding the horizons of all three cultural areas.

Genghis Khan consulted Buddhist and Taoist monks, as well as Muslims and Christian missionaries. Although somewhat religiously tolerant and interested in learning philosophical and moral lessons from other religions, he interestingly forbade halal and kosher ways as well as circumcision.

IMG_1906Architectural rendering of Mongol House project in Howell, New Jersey.
Image courtesy of Mongol House.

Mongolians comprise about a dozen subgroups, one of which are the Kalmyks who live today stretching from the nation of Mongolia through parts of China and the Russian province of Kalykia on the western shore of the Caspian Sea. About 200,000 Kalmyks remain, 180,000 of them in Russia. Others are in Germany – and some happily ensconced in Howell, New Jersey.

Being a rather ignorant American, I assumed Mongolians were Muslim. I was stunned to learn that the Kalmyks are the only inhabitants of Europe whose national religion is Buddhism. Through the ebb and flow of the Mongolian Empire, they embraced Tibetan Buddhism in the early part of the 17th century (I have since discovered that Tibetan Buddhism is derived from the Indian Mahayana form of Buddhism commonly referred to as Lamaism, from the name of the Tibetan monks, the lamas – “heavy with wisdom”…).

Historically, Kalmyk (e.g., Tibetan Buddhist) clergy received their training either on the steppe – or in Tibet. The pupils who received their religious training on the steppe joined Kalmyk monasteries which were active centers of learning. Many of these monasteries operated out of felt tents, which accompanied the Kalmyk tribes as they migrated.

8.5 x 11 2-FOLD - FRONT-smallArchitectural rendering of Mongol House project in Howell, New Jersey.
Image courtesy of Mongol House.

The Mongolian empire did not last and its people have been left unprotected. Fast forward to Russia at the beginning of the 1900’s where the Tsar began policies encouraging the Kalmyks to both convert to Christian Orthodoxy and give up their nomadic lifestyle. He suspended Lamaist canonical regulations governing monastery construction and Kalmyk temples began to resemble Russian Orthodox churches.

Other policies the Tsarist government implemented sought to gradually weaken the influence of the lamas. For instance, the government limited Kalmyk contact with Tibet. In addition, the Tsar began personally appointing the High Lama of the Kalmyks.

With the Russian Revolution, the Communists continued to end the influence the Kalmyk clergy. In the 1920’s and the 1930’s, the Soviet government implemented policies to eliminate all religion through control and suppression. Towards that end, Kalmyk temples and monasteries were destroyed and property confiscated; the clergy and many believers were harassed, killed, or sent to labor camps; religious artifacts and books were destroyed; and young men were prohibited from religious training.

In 1944, the Soviet government exiled all Kalmyks not fighting in the Soviet army to Central Asia and Siberia, accusing them of collaborating with the German Army. Others not exiled were captured by the invading Nazi armies and moved to labor camps in Germany.

Screenshot 2017-11-04 11.10.39Architectural rendering of Mongol House project in Howell, New Jersey.
Image courtesy of Mongol House.

Mr. and Mrs. Badushov were in XYZ in 194_ when they were captured by the Nazis and moved to a labor camp outside of Munich where they met and fell in love. They were freed in 194_ and, with the support of the Jewish World Congress (?), made plans to migrate to South America as the U.S. still had laws excluding Asians. It was 195_ and their bags were packed for Paraguay (?).

On this side of the Atlantic, in the U.S., Mongolians were seen as Asian and held in contempt. From the beginning of the 1930’s in America, following the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Immigration Act of 1917 that established an Asian Barred Zone of countries from which immigration to the U.S. was forbidden, “The Yellow Peril” was feared. In fact, this phrase was a common refrain of publishers such as William Randolph Hearst and Henry Luce of Time-Life, right-wing intellectuals, businessmen, and Christian missionaries who were political advocates of the U.S. military-industrial complex supporting Methodist-convert Generalíssimo Chiang Kai-shek over the Imperial Japanese and Communist Mao Zedong.

In 1941, after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, all bets were off for anyone in America who looked Asian. But the Jewish World Congress realized they could place Mr. and Mrs. Badushov  in America as “Europeans/Russians” and not as Mongolians. The anti- Asian rules could be avoided. On EXACT DATE, Mr. and Mrs. Badushov arrived in the U.S., and after a brief stay in Philadelphia, joined a Russian enclave in Howell, N.J. where they could understand the language.


Mr. Badushov knew that a temple was needed in their new community and they opened a temple in a vacant garage in Howell in 195_.  This was the first Tibetan/Mongolian temple in North America and the Dalai Lama visited this spiritual center in 195_.  This is also where Columbia University’s Tibetan Buddhist scholar Robert Thurmond began his theological studies.

Today, Bob is also president of Tibet House in New York City. He told us,


The temple was moved to its present location a few hundred feet away, a new temple built from scratch, in 195_.

In the last forty years, human relationships, internal politics and schisms have created additional ebb and tides within this community and the community has been sploit more than once, resulting in three seperate Tibetan Buddhist temples in Howell. Coupled with how all religious institutions from Mainline churches and synagogues are losing membership and that spirituality is replacing religion in America, it is not guaranteed that the doors of this temple will remain open forever.

A Pew Research Center poll last year shows that about a quarter of U.S. adults (27%) now say they think of themselves as spiritual but not religious, up 8 percentage points in five years.

This is why the enthusiastic involvement of Mr. and Mrs. Badushov’s granddaughter XYZ is so important… It is this next generation of young global leadership that will assure the future of the Dalai Lama’s first North American temple in Howell, New Jersey.

AutoSave_Mongol House - V3-bwArchitectural rendering of Mongol House project in Howell, New Jersey.
Image courtesy of Mongol House.

In 2014, I interviewed the Dalai Lama in Bodhgaya, India and His Holiness told me that he believed he would one day be replaced by either a woman or a committee. He believe women are the future of Tibetan Buddhism and I can only imagine how warmly he will embrace XXX.

XXX and her father Naran Badushov have grand plans for improving the first Buddhist temple of Howell. DETAILS

With the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia began to liberalize its rules and Buddhism began to revive in the Republic of Kalmykia. The the largest Buddhist temple in Europe opened there in 2005 and is a monument to the Kalmyk people who died in exile between 1944 and 1957. Naran tells me that the temple will house four minks

DAUGHTER & OUTREACH are future of Buddhism in America…

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About Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens

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Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce ( writes and speaks on Thought Leaders and Global Citizens. Bringing 26 years management experience within both investment banking and the non-profit sector, Jim has worked for Daiwa Bank, Merrill Lynch, a spin-off of Lazard Freres, and two not-for profit organizations and a foundation he founded. As Founder & CEO of Orphans International Worldwide (, he is working with a strong network of committed professionals to build interfaith, interracial, Internet-connected orphanages in Haiti and Indonesia, and creating a new, family-care model for orphans in Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

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