There has been a lot of activity at the Kurukulla Center for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies on Magoun Avenue lately — painting, cleaning, etc. — and all with good reason. This past weekend, the center opened its doors to receive a collection of rare Buddhist relics that have been traveling around the world for the past eight years.
There has been a lot of activity at the Kurukulla Center for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies on Magoun Avenue lately — painting, cleaning, etc. — and all with good reason.
This past weekend, the center opened its doors to receive a collection of rare Buddhist relics that have been traveling around the world for the past eight years.
“The relics have been to all the continents, except Antarctica, and to over 50 countries,” said Cristian Cowan, one of two relic tour managers who travel with the collection. “This is a powerful tour that says through kindness we can achieve peace.”
Cowan has been on the road in North America for the past year, visiting Canada and 23 other U.S. locations. The Heart Shrine Relic Tour is one of several, including European, Asian and African, versions that show off a number of statues, crystals, water bowls and several ancient masters, whose remains are believed to multiply or disappear depending on the environment in which they find themselves.
Cowan said the goal of the tour is to raise money through donations for the Maitreya Project in order to build a 500-foot bronze statue of the Maitreya Buddha.
Once finished, the statue will resident in a park to be located in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, in northern India, very close to the place where the historical Buddha died. The facility will be open to the public and act as not only a spiritual place for visitors, but as a center for education and medicine.
There is currently no date to begin construction.
“There have been quite a few delays, but ultimately, it will make a stronger foundation with the Indian people,” said Cowan, of the 20-year effort to construct the statue. “The final phase is to relocate families from the lands. We intend to build a statue that will last thousands of years. Hopefully, it will be begin next year, but we’ve had dates before.”
Crown added once the statue is finished, the idea was to place the relics at its very heart. However, only part of the objects will now be placed inside the heart in order to keep the relics traveling throughout the world for people to experience.
Wendy Cook, a member and organizer at the Kurukulla Center, said part of the reason the project is taking so long is simply because of bribery. Because the Buddhists will not be a party to bribery, there have been problems with the Indian government.
“[The project] won’t engage in that,” Cook said. “We don’t want anything that’s slightly shady. We want to make sure everything is done ethically and in a clean manner. This will be a place where people from around the world can come to meditate and worship.”
As part of an international network known as the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), Kurukulla has been very aware of both the Maitreya Project and traveling relics. But it wasn’t until leaders at the center heard the North American tour would be in the area that they decided to make contact and invite it to Medford.
Confirmation arrived in September.
“We were thrilled,” said Sean Gonzalez, assistant director of the center, eyes glowing. “It’s a huge high for us.”
Gonzalez said several of the center’s projects sitting on the back burner immediately jumped to the forefront and the Buddhist community quickly worked to paint, clean and generally ready the 68 Magoun Ave. house for the relics’ arrival.
“It was a huge community effort to set this up,” Gonzalez said.
Cook likened the experience to having the Buddha himself visit the center.
“If the Buddha visited your home, what would you do?” Cook said. “We’ve been making the place tip top.”
As for the expected number of those who would visit, both Cook and Gonzalez said there was outreach made to Buddhist centers and groups in the area. Cook said the Medford clergy was also invited and Kurukulla contacted yoga groups and Facebook friends.
Gonzalez said as of Friday, he wasn’t worried about what would happen during the weekend visitation.
“I rejoice in what this means as a community,” he said. “It’s really joy.”
Dekyi-Lee Oldershaw, the second co-relics tour manager, has been on the tour before. She has studied Buddhism for 20 years and was an ordained nun in Australia for seven years before coming back to her home in Canada.
She said the reactions vary when people arrive to experience the relics firsthand.
“I’ve seen complete healing take place,” she said. “Two weeks ago, in Toronto, I saw someone come in with a walker and leave without it. Most of time, though, something shifts inside people.”
She said the tour even visited a prison in Washington state.
“Some of them walked in quiet and respectful while others were big and tough,” she said, of the sex offender inmates. “They ended up sitting for about three hours, completely pacified.
“There’s just so much peace and love and kindness that we often see people just break into tears,” she added. “It’s like a deep peace that comes from inside. It’s a gentleness in your heart that touches something so profound and beautiful. It’s not external. What they experience is something that’s already in them.”
Interested in finding out more about the Heart Shrine Relic Tour or the Maitreya Project? Go to www.maitreyaproject.org or www.fpmt.org. For more on local Buddhist studies, visit the Kurukulla Center for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies at www.kurukulla.org.