Maitreya Project Heart Shrine Relic Tour Update, July 2010
Cultures in harmony
During the past few months Maitreya Project’s unique and precious collection of Buddhist relics have been displayed in cities throughout Australasia, Asia and South America. Here are some highlights from the events to share with you.
In April and May, the relics visited Australia and New Zealand bringing blessings to Sydney, Auckland, Nelson, Melbourne, Perth and Hobart.
In Auckland, the relics were displayed in Awataha Marae Centre at an event organised by FPMT's Amitabha Hospice. During the Opening Ceremony, many Tibetan sangha (Buddhist monks and nuns) including Geshe Wangchen from Dorje Chang Institute in Auckland, led a procession of the relics into the marae (Maori sacred site), which is the heart of the Maori community in New Zealand.
They were welcomed at the threshold by the traditional Maori Powhiri Ceremony. The Maori hosts sat on one side of the hall while the sangha and other guests, including John Banks, Mayor of Auckland, sat facing them. The Maori hosts gave the "Welcome to Country" address in the Maori language. Then, as a sign of respect and hospitality, they sang a song. Traditionally, this song is responded to by the guests; so in reply, the sangha led a mantra recitation.
Present at the Opening Ceremony and throughout the event was a beautiful gold-embossed copy of the Dhammapada Sutra (one of Buddhism’s best known canonical scriptures) which is currently travelling around New Zealand. Eventually it will be presented to the New Zealand Parliament and kept at Government House. The event attracted 2,500 visitors including Buddhists from different traditions.
“As we were leaving, the spiritual leader of the marae told us that they do not look for signs but they observe them if they do occur. During the Opening Ceremony, when the sangha and other guests were reciting the mantras in response to the Maori song, he said he could see the forms of Buddhas appearing above their heads.”
– Ven Siliana Bosa and Andy Melnic, Maitreya Project Relic Custodians
FPMT's Tara Institute hosted the Relic Tour event in Melbourne at the Koori Heritage House. Many sangha attended the Opening Ceremony in a tightly packed house. A local Koori leader gave the traditional "Welcome to Country" speech while a didgeridoo player encircled the relic altar with his musical offering. During the weekend 4,000 visitors, including several animals, viewed the relics and received blessings.
All of the Australia and New Zealand events were very successful. We wish to thank all the hosting FPMT centres who worked so hard to bring the blessings of the relics to their cities. We will be back!!
Blessings for 40,000 people in Vietnam
Meanwhile in Asia, the relics were warmly welcomed with flowers and smiling faces in Ho Chi Minh City. In Ba Ria Vung Tau, Nha Trang and Phu Yen Tuy Hoa, 40,000 visitors came to make offerings and pay respects to the relics.
At Ba Ria Vung Tau, flower-covered vehicles and countless bicycles and motorbikes with Buddha flags welcomed the relics. Children and parents waved flags and placed palms together in prayer as the relics passed through the city.
Ni Vien Dieu Quang Nunnery in Nha Trang welcomed 26,000 people to receive the blessings of the relics.
“In Nha Trang we visited the largest and oldest temple in the area where we met an old monk who had lived there for 65 years. He had lived through the war and changes within Vietnam. When we shared with him the reason for the relics’ visit he was moved to tears and made offerings of Buddha pictures and prayer beads. His eyes seemed to reflect a feeling of deep joy that the blessings of the Buddha relics had come to Vietnam.”
– Andrea Bridger, Maitreya Project Relic Custodian
We wish to thank our sponsor, Mr George Vinh, whose kindness and generosity made the Maitreya Project Relic Tour to Vietnam possible.
Relics in the heart of the Amazon
During March and April, the relics toured cities throughout Brazil – in Viamao, Florianópolis, Curitiba, Sao Paulo, Vitoria, Salvador, Recife, Joao Pessoa, Rio de Janeiro and Manaus. Almost 30,000 people visited these Relic Tour events.
In Rio the relics were displayed at the Botanic Gardens beneath the famous Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the city.
In Vitoria, the relics were displayed in the Legislative Assembly, the building where all laws are passed.
At the end of May, the team were sponsored to bring the relics to Manaus which lies in the very heart of the Amazon Rainforest. This event also took place in the Legislative Assembly of that city, at a crucial time when legislation that would allow further deforestation was being considered.
”The Amazon is a powerful symbol for the preservation of the environment. We all felt it was very auspicious for the relics to be there. On the Monday after the event, we rented a boat and went out into the middle of the Amazon River and poured offering water from the relic altar into the river.”
– Cristian Cowan, Maitreya Project Relic Custodian
We offer many thanks to CEBB, Lama Rinchen and to FPMT in Rio for the success of the Relic Tour events in Brazil.
The Maitreya Project Relic Tour continues to attract people from all walks of life. More and more we find that dignitaries from different cultures and representatives from different religions are pleased to be able to participate in Relic Tour events, for example during the Opening Ceremonies. It is very rewarding to bridge faith and cultural boundaries, to be welcomed by indigenous peoples in their own venues and to experience such heartening responses. As the late Lama Yeshe, founder of Maitreya Project, often emphasised, we all share the same fundamental nature.
“The Maitreya Project Relic Tour is not actually aimed at Buddhists, it’s aimed at everybody."
– Andy Melnic, Maitreya Project Relic Custodian
To see more images from these events, please visit the Relic Tour Gallery.
For information about Relic Tour events for the remainder of 2010, please visit the Relic Tour Calendar.