True Lithuania

Asian Faiths in Lithuania (Moonies, Krishnaism, Buddhism)

New Asian faiths like the Krishnaism or the Unification church (“Moonies”) became more popular with the reestablished religious freedom in the 1990s, although the Krishna movement made minor penetrations of Lithuania’s hippie scene in 1980s. In the 1990s, the Krishna marches across major cities were a relatively common sight but have since become less popular.

In the 2000s more people embraced the Buddhist practices or certain elements of the Hindu religion such as Yoga. These practices, however, are usually not fully understood by their adherents. The long atheism years brought Lithuania to a situation where many people could not describe what they believe in with e.g. the same person claiming both that the Christianity is right and that people reincarnate like the Buddhism claims, or that the Taoist principles are correct and eventually saying that there is no God or supernatural forces altogether. Usually, such people have never read religious texts of any faith in full and only heard certain quotations, e.g. by their Yoga teacher.

According to 2011 census, there are 620 self-reported Buddhists and 350 Krishnaites in Lithuania.

Krishnaites marching with Hare Krishna chants along the Basanavičiaus street in key Palanga seaside resort during a summer weekend. Usually, Krishnaites select the most crowded locations for their marches. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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  1. I left Lituva in 1944. I returned in 1973, to study at VVU. While in Vilnius I came into contact with a secret Buddhist group, who were students of the Buriat Mongol Bidiya Dandaron, the sanga was led by Antanas Danyelious. Several members had been put in a insane asilum for a year and injected with psycoactive deugs to cure them of the illness of Buddhism. For most of the year I was there, we had one or two Guru Pujas a week[[ceramonies honoring the teacher]. Everything was secret and highly illigal and had to be hidden.
    The Lithuanian Bioras Gedeminus was the first European to study in Lasa Tibet since Aleksandra the great’s Greek troops studied Buddhism. Therefore in of all Europe, Lithuania was the first to take an intrest in Buddhism.
    Through sword, fire, rape, and genocide, ti took over 400 years for the tutonic order to convert Lithuanians to Cristianaty, For hunderds of years the pagan cross was destroied and many Lithuanians killed before the grand duke told the people ot convert to the roman faith. Even today some people continue to practace old pagan ritules the christain chirch tried to eradicate.

    • Thanks for sharing your story. I didn’t know about the Buddhist underground existing in Lithuania as early as 1970s because most religious were hit heavily by the Soviet persecutions, some were destroyed and new ideas were especially hard to introduce.

      By the way, what sources you have on Bioras Gedeminus being the first European to study in Lhasa since the Hellenic times?

  2. Great to hear there are now Asian Faiths! But could you please give some more specific details? For example, you say there are 350 Krishnaites, but how many Hindus are there in total?

    • The number of people professing the other Asian faiths in Lithuania is especially small.

      There are few immigrants from India in Lithuania. Therefore, most of the Krishnaites and Buddhists are converted ethnic Lithuanians. The majority of Asian faiths such as Hinduism did not seek conversions and thus there are very few converted Lithuanians.

      As the numbers of adherents are so small, the Lithuanian Statistics Bureau does not disclose them and instead sums up all the “minor faiths” into a single category “Other religions”. The total number of those who adheres to “other religions” in Lithuania is 410 people, and this includes all the Asian faiths with the exception of Buddhism, Sunni Islam, Krishnaism and Judaism (which are reported separately).

      That is, those 410 people include all the Hindus, Shiite Muslims, Bahais, followers of Sai Baba, etc.

      Back in 2001 census two more numbers for Indian-related faiths were published by the Statistical bureau: there were 107 self-declared Sathya Sai Baba followers and 12 Osho followers. Both Sai Baba and Osho movements have active Lithuanian organizations seeking converts.


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