Buddhist relics to be in Carbondale tonight | AspenTimes.com

Buddhist relics to be in Carbondale tonight

Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Buddhist relics arriving at the Carbondale Community School today might give some the shivers.

The relics, which make up the Heart-Shrine Relic Tour that is crossing Colorado, consist of the bodily remains of some 15 noted Buddhist teachers. Some of the remains date back over a thousand years; others are practically new. One piece in the exhibit is not exactly remains, but a body part donated by the very-much-alive current Dalai Lama.

In Buddhist tradition, the remains of respected teachers are cherished objects.

“These are our teachers, and this is how we come to the path,” said Michael Gregory, a spiritual teacher with Colorado’s Summit Dharma Center. He will be accompanying the Heart-Shrine Relic Tour as it makes stops in Summit and Eagle counties, as well as today’s stop in Carbondale. “Our teachers are where all of our knowledge comes from. Our journey is laid out through their teachings. We give these physical remnants high veneration. In Buddhism, these are highly venerated objects.”

The remnants come from such teachers as Shakyamuni Buddha and his closest disciples, Sariputra and Ananda, as well as Nagarjuna, Yeshe Tsogyei, Atisha and Milarepa. They may not be names that non-Buddhists are familiar with, but they represent some of the most notable teachers in the 15-century history of Buddhism. For that reason alone, the relics are significant.

“It will at least have some historical significance,” said Gregory, who will lead the exhibit, open to the public from 6:30 to 8:30 tonight at the Carbondale Community School. “It’s like if you were Christian and the remnants of Christ came through. You’d want to see that.”

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There may be reasons beyond merely historical ones to view the exhibit, which was organized by spiritual director Lama Zopa Rinpoche and is endorsed by His Holiness The Dalai Lama. Promotional materials for the Heart-Shrine Relic Tour inform that “many who view the relics report heightened states of meditative calm, awareness and insight. Others are moved to share loving kindness toward others.”

The 32-year-old Gregory, who spent three years as a fully ordained monk in India before coming to Colorado to practice as a lay monk, said that “as a practitioner, to be around these objects, it was a quality of being inspired for my practice. My personal experience is of awe and calmness to be in their presence.”

Gregory will lead a 20-minute introductory meditation session for those who wish to participate. He will also give individual blessing ceremonies for all who are interested.

A final reason to see the relics today is that there may never be another chance to see them. The collection, which has toured through Taiwan, Hong Kong, California and elsewhere over the past year, has never passed this way before and probably never will again. The relics are planned to be housed permanently in the heart shrine of a planned 50-story statue of the Maitreya Buddha. The statue is part of the Maitreya Project, a multi-faceted Buddhist center to be built in northern India and scheduled for completion in 2006.

There is no admission fee for today’s exhibit in Carbondale, but donations for the Maitreya Project will be accepted.

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