Buddhist relics tour comes to Charlotte

by Michele Nicole Johnson, The Charlotte Observer, Nov 24, 2006

Charlotte, NC (USA) -- Charlotte is getting a second chance at a rare opportunity next week when the Heart Shrine Relics Tour comes to town.

<< Sandhasaro Singkham lights a candle in the Wat Lao temple in Charlotte, where relics of Venerable Sariputra, below, and other Buddhist masters will be on display through Sunday.
Photo by Laura Mueller, The Charlotte Observer

The tour features the relics of Buddhism's founder, known as the Historical Buddha, who lived more than 2,500 years ago, and those of Maudgalyayana, Ananda and Sariputra, as well as other Buddhist saints and spiritual masters from Tibetan, Chinese and Indian traditions.

Buddhist relics are not merely cremated bones; they are believed to be the manifestations of the spiritual realizations of Buddhist masters.

The pearllike and crystallike objects, known as ringsel, appear during a master's cremation as a sign that the master truly achieved enlightenment and spiritual purity and showed loving kindness to others, says Victoria Ewart, the tour manager based in Soquel, Calif.

The oldest relics in the tour actually predate the Historical Buddha. The most recent are from Ven Ribur Rinpoche, a master who died in January.

"It's not an ancient phenomenon," Ewart says. "It still happens today. In the Buddhist tradition, if a master has realizations, he doesn't talk about it. He's more humble in his approach. The ringsel are evidence of his realizations."

Relics will be enshrined in India

The Heart Shrine Relics Tour began in 2001 and made its first swing through Charlotte three years ago. It is organized by the Maitreya Project based in Kushinagar in northern India, where the Historical Buddha, also known as Shakyamuni, died at age 80.

The relics and Buddhist artifacts were donated by Buddhist masters, museums and monasteries around the world. When the tour ends, the relics will be permanently enshrined in a 500-foot statue of the Buddha to be built in Kushinagar. The $195 million statue and throne building will be the centerpiece of a $250 million complex that will include spiritual, educational and medical facilities for one of the poorest regions of India.

The tour gives the faithful and the curious around the world the opportunity to view the relics before they are sealed away forever. Tour participants may view a video and learn more about the practice of Buddhism. They also may take part in a Blessing Ceremony, during which the containers holding the relics are placed upon visitors' heads.

It is believed that anyone -- Buddhist or not -- in the presence of the relics may feel joy, peace, inspiration and loving kindness. Some may experience a spiritual transformation. There also have been testimonies of healings and visions after encounters with relics, and some people are overcome with emotion.

"We encourage people to be open-minded," Ewart says. "Not blind faith, but open-minded."

The Middle Path

Buddhism is fundamentally a philosophy, a code of practice, a way of life that over time has evolved into one of the world's major religions. It was founded by the Historical Buddha, also known as Shakyamuni Buddha. He was born Siddhartha Gautama and was a prince in Nepal. Gautama gave up his wealth and privilege to undertake a spiritual sojourn to enlightenment.

Larry Galea is the Heart Shrine Relic Tour's local coordinator for Wat Lao Charlotte, the area's Buddhist temple. He says his first contact with Buddhism was probably when he was 10 or 11 years old. He is 58 now, and says that practicing Buddhism has shown him a true perspective of himself in relation to others. Everything is relative. Take everything on an even keel.

Buddha called it "The Middle Path," neither too much nor too little, but somewhere in between.

Galea says a common misunderstanding about Buddhism is the idea that its followers worship idols.

"That statue of Buddha is just a statue. Buddha is not a god. Buddha was a man," Galea says. "Statues are memorials of the founder of Buddhism. Bowing is paying respect to the founder and the ideas of Buddhism.

''If you visit Washington and there's a statue of Lincoln, you stare at Lincoln and you think about Lincoln and what he did for the country. But you're not worshipping Lincoln."

The Heart Shrine Relics Tour gives participants the opportunity to learn more and to understand another belief, Galea says. The actual presentation of the relics themselves is very beautiful and very informative. It's within the temple, a place of peace and well-being, he explains. Calming, relaxing music plays. It's an uplifting and powerful experience.

The philosophy of Buddhism is followed by people of many faiths, Galea says. "There are Catholic Buddhists, Lutheran Buddhists, Jewish Buddhists. It (the relic tour) gives people a chance to see what some of their fellow believers see in the practice of Buddhism.

"Every faith is welcomed. Every non-faith is welcomed."

WHAT: Heart Shrine Relics Tour The relics of the Historical Buddha as well as Maudgalyayana, Ananda and Sariputra and other saints and spiritual masters from the Chinese, Indian and Tibetan traditions.

WHEN: Opening ceremony at 7 p.m. today; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

WHERE: Wat Lao Charlotte, 1824 Toddville Road, Charlotte.

COST: Free and open to the public.

CONTACT: Larry Galea, (704) 340-4681; www.maitreyaproject.org

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Omniscient Robotic-Being for Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB
Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB
Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv. Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/norbuchatbot. Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv