Buddhist relics to arrive Friday

By Lisa Fernandez, Mercury News, March 9, 2006

San Jose, CA (USA) -- A special collection of Buddhist relics -- the cremated remains of many Buddhist masters, saints and sages -- is on a world tour, scheduled to reach Fremont on Friday.

Sponsored by the Maitreya Project, viewing of the relics is the idea of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, a lama, or monk, originally from Nepal, now living in Aptos.

Rinpoche, who is in his 50s, is also the spiritual director of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition, which emphasizes the spirituality of relics left by holy beings when they die.

The relics are an unexplainable phenomenon, resembling pearl-like beads collected from the ashes of spiritual masters after their cremation. Buddhist tradition teaches that the relics embody the masters' spiritual qualities of compassion and wisdom and are deliberately produced at death. Some visitors report these relics affect them in mysterious ways.

``When people are in the presence of these relics, you feel different, mentally and physically, even if you're not into this kind of thing,'' said Allan Bowman of Antioch, a volunteer promoter of the tour. ``One man reported feeling that his molecules were being arranged in a more wholesome order.''

The tour is funded through individual donations, although promoters stress that no one is pressured to give money. Two volunteers accompany the relics as they travel around the world. This is the tour's first stop in Fremont since it began in 2001. Next U.S. stops include Los Angeles, Phoenix, Soquel, Honolulu and Portland.

The hope of project organizers is that the relics will travel the world until approximately 2010, when they will be placed in a yet-to-be-built 500-foot Maitreya Buddha statue in Kushinagar, northern India.

The relics include the remains of many well-known Buddhist masters, saints and sages such as Shakyamuni Buddha and his disciples, including Maudgalyayana, Ananda and Sariputra. There are also relics from other spiritual masters from the Chinese, Indian and Tibetan traditions.

Some of the relics were salvaged from statues in Tibet where they were enshrined for thousands of years before the Chinese occupation in 1959. Other relics were donated by museums and monasteries.


The relic tour will occur Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Willits Center, 3755 Washington Blvd. in Fremont, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Visit www.maitreyaproject.org for more information.