A blessing for Buddhists to ring in the Thai New Year

BY JAWEED KALEEM, MiamiHerald.com, April 9, 2010

The largest jade Buddha in the world, believed to bring peace wherever it goes, will be displayed at a South Dade temple starting Saturday.

Miami, FL (USA) -- Carved from a rare kind of dark and translucent jade, a nine-foot, 4 ½-ton Buddha statue -- revered by followers for bringing peace wherever it goes -- will begin a much-anticipated visit to South Florida on Saturday.

The Jade Buddha for Universal Peace, the largest jade Buddha in the world, is expected to attract thousands to Wat Buddharangsi temple in Redland through April 18. The visit coincides with the Thai New Year, which starts Tuesday.

``This will be very special for the Buddhist community,'' said Khanya Moolsiri, a secretary of the Thai temple who has prepared for the Buddha's visit for months.

The temple will honor the statue's visit with an opening ceremony of prayers by Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Hindu clergy. In addition, Buddhist monks from Atlanta will begin creating a colorful sand mandala, a sacred and traditional Tibetan Buddhist form of sand painting.

Buddhas are often made of bronze, brass, granite and black sandstone, but jade Buddhas are not common.

``Jade has a healing property. It's very much a stone that grounds energy,'' said Mai Nguyen, a tour organizer who runs the Chakrasamvara Center in Miami Beach. Nguyen said she hopes the statue will bring attention to local Buddhist communities.

The statue, carved in Thailand from a boulder of jade discovered just in Canada in 2000, is worth $5 million. It has gained a following since its completion 1 ½ years ago, touring Vietnam and Australia and now making its way across the U.S. and Canada.

Propped on a 4 ½-foot alabaster throne, it was set up this week at the South Florida temple after a showing in Houston, where it attracted thousands of pilgrims seeking to pray and experience its healing qualities.

The Thai New Year is officially Tuesday but will be celebrated at the temple on Sunday with traditional Thai food, music and classical dance performances. The holiday is known for its ``water pouring'' ceremony, where Thais pour water on Buddhas, monks and the elderly to bring good luck for the New Year.

Members of Wat Buddharangsi practice Theravada Buddhism, the predominant religion of Thailand and one of the oldest schools of Buddhism.

``Theravada'' means ``Doctrine of the Elders,'' and like all Buddhists, followers believe they pass through a series of lives, each affected by their behavior in an earlier existence.

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