Buddhist exhibit in Boca Raton said to inspire kindness

By Lois K. Solomon, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, November 8, 2008

Boca Raton, FL (USA) -- Shaped like hearts, flowers and colorful crystalline beads, the remains of 37 cremated Buddhist masters are said to inspire and heal those who view them.

South Floridians will get a chance to see the remains, known as ringsel, today and Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Boca Raton.

The relics are traveling around the United States before they are permanently enshrined in a 500-foot statue of the Maitreya Buddha, under construction in Kushinagar, India.

Buddhists believe the Maitreya Buddha will bring loving kindness to the world.

Buddhists say the unusual shapes of the relics, which appear as pearl-like objects in the cremated remains, prove the masters attained the highest levels of spirituality and wisdom.

People who view them will similarly open their hearts to kindness and compassion, Buddhists say.

"These were masters, or saints, who had knowledge of spiritual paths, holy beings who devoted their entire lives to understanding the teachings and guiding others," said Carmen Straight, the tour's relic custodian. "These are more than just their remains. They come from someone who has been enlightened. We believe you are in the actual presence of the masters."

Among the masters whose remains are said to be in the collection: Shakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism who lived 2,500 years ago in India; Je Tsongkhapa, a 15th century Tibetan scholar; and Lord Atisha, an 11th century Buddhist saint. They were donated by museums, monasteries and individuals, including the Dalai Lama, and salvaged from statues destroyed during the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959.

The family of Geshe Konchog Kyab, a Buddhist monk who lives in Deerfield Beach, fled Tibet during that invasion and settled in India, where he was born. Kyab teaches at the Tubten Kunga Center for Wisdom Culture and the Study of Tibetan Buddhism in Deerfield Beach.

Buddhists believe human beings suffer because they seek material pleasures that cannot bring happiness. Many follow "The Eightfold Path" to enlightenment, or the ultimate truth about life, including avoiding jealousy, anger, harsh words and mindless chatter, and cultivating self-discipline and perfect concentration.

Elaine Blumenkranz, of Delray Beach, has been studying Buddhism at the Tubten Kunga Center, a sponsor of the relic tour, for four years. She said she finds an inner peace in Buddhism.

"These masters put so much good energy into the world," she said. "You get blessed by learning about what these great beings brought to Earth.