Dmitry Ermakov, Swayambhu, 2019. Photo by Carol Ermakova.
Born in Leningrad, USSR (now St. Petersburg, Russia) in 1967, Dmitry Ermakov studied music from the age of five, first at the classical conservatoire then at jazz college. At the same time, he attended after school classes at the Hermitage State Museum where he was tutored in art and history by Prof. B. Piotrovsky. As a boy he participated in archaeological digs led by his own aunt, Prof. G. Mezentseva, in Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, later (1987) going on to join digs on Scythian Kurgans in Khakassia conducted by Archaeological Department of Leningrad University.
Ermakov’s first encounters with Buddhism occurred in 1989 when he received transmission of the Diamond Sutra from a Japanese Zen master and of Green Tara from Kushog Bakula Rinpoche. At this time he was also practising martial arts and Qi Gong.
At the age of 23, Dmitry made his first trip to Buryatia where he gained first-hand experience of the Bө Murgel tradition and also met Buryatian Tantric practitioner thangka painter Batodalai Dugarov. This would be the first of many visits to Buryatia and Lake Baikal. It was around this time that Dmitry began researching the connections between Bө Murgel, Tibetan Buddhism and Yungdrung Bön.
In 1991 Dmitry had his first contact with Dzogchen, receiving Longchen Nyingthig from Nyingma masters Khenchen Palden Sherab and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal in Moscow. A few months later Ermakov met Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and spent some months travelling with him in CIS. Dmitry served on the first Dzogchen Community gyalkhil in his hometown, and was a member of the London gyalkhyil when he moved to UK.
In 1995, Ermakov met Yongdzin Lopön Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche in Amsterdam where he received teachings on Zhang Zhung Nyengyud. He has been practising Bön ever since, and received numerous teachings, transmission, empowerments and instructions from Yongdzin Rinpoche and other Bönpo masters.
The following year Dmitry spent several months in Triten Norbutse Bönpo monastery, Nepal, where together with his wife Carol, he began translating texts with Yongdzin Rinpoche.
In 2006, Dmitry and Carol were asked to serve as the first gekhö-caretakers in the nascent Bön centre Shenten Dargye Ling, France, and to work on transcribing, editing, translating and publishing Yungdrung Bön teachings given there and elsewhere.
After a period of intense study, in 2008 Ermakov published his ground-breaking monograph, Bө & Bön: Ancient Shamanic Traditions of Siberia and Tibet in their Relation to the Teachings of a Central Asian Buddha, a comparative study of Mongol-Buryat Bө Murgel and four kinds of Bön. He is currently preparing a third, revised edition and the book will shortly be available in Russian, too.
On the basis of this publication, Prof. Charles Ramble invited Dmitry to Oxford University the following year to study Tibetan with him on the post-grad course in Tibetan Studies. Ermakov has subsequently been asked to lecture at several universities throughout Europe, including Oxford, SOAS, Cagliari, Vilnius, Hamburg and so on.
With the blessing and support of Yongdzin Rinpoche, in 2012 Dmitry and his wife established the Foundation for the Preservation of Yungdrung Bön. It was officially registered as a UK Charity in 2017.
To date, Ermakov has collaborated on producing over 100 transcripts and translations on Bön, both for the general public and for the international Bönpo sangha.