The Maitreya Project
In October of 2008, an article caught my eye in the calendar section of my local newspaper, the Orlando Sentinel. It was talking about a tour of holy Buddhist relics which were traveling the globe and would be coming to a local Vietnamese Buddhist temple and cultural center which was only a few minutes away from my home. I had to see it.
When the day arrived and Tom, my boyfriend, and I drove over to the small temple, I had no idea what to expect and was very excited to be able to see anything of historical value relating to the Buddha. When we approached the front of the temple, an elderly, petite Vietnamese woman (who apparently knew no English) greeted us and motioned for us to come to her and offered us water from a large basin to ladle over a statue of a Buddha as an offering.
After removing our shoes and the water offering, we entered the small room that held a large golden Buddha sitting in the center back of the room which appeared to be an altar with other objects and statues. By a printed flyer, we were instructed to maintain a respectful demeanor while in the presence of these relics and to look at it as if we were in the presence of these great teachers themselves. We learned that these relics were collected among the cremation ashes of the Buddha, many Buddhist masters and their disciples. I was stunned.
Around the perimeter of the room were what looked like jewelry cases like you might find in a department store. As we made our way to the first case, we saw names and pictures of each of the Buddhist masters or disciples who had manifested the relic we were seeing. The relics were held in beautiful gold or clear glass miniature stupas or tiny gold or clear bowls. Inside held what appeared to be pure, white pearls, or white rice-shaped objects. We saw tiny gold pellets, and what looked like crystals, different colored bead-like objects, pieces of teeth and hair, each of these belonging to Buddhist masters like Milrepa, Ananda, Shakymuni and the historical Buddha himself and many others including some modern day Lamas as well. I was amazed as I viewed the gifts left by these holy beings upon their deaths. Buddhists believe that these relics were manifested to bring blessings and the message of loving-kindness to those people who come into their presence.
There are over 1000 relics that have been collected throughout the years from many Buddhist masters and teachers, from many different traditions. They’ve been found in Indonesia, Tibet, France, Burma, Thailand and many other countries. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has contributed eight of these relics from his own personal collection. Buddhists believe that these relics are produced as a result of the master’s spiritual qualities of compassion and wisdom and to show us that we all have the ability to cultivate these innate qualities.
As I slowly walked around the room and absorbed the enormity of what I was looking at, I became very emotional and it grew difficult for me to maintain my composure. Blessing ceremonies were being offered to individuals by Lamas that were traveling with the tour. I decided to receive a blessing and took my turn and knelt in front of him as he held some type of chalice over my head and uttered some words which I couldn’t understand. Tears started streaming down my face and my heart cracked open as I was overcome by my feelings. I got up and was able to calm myself and continued my slow walk around the room absorbing the miracles in front of me.
After we walked around the room, Tom and I went outside where they had some chairs set up and a video playing which showed the relic tour in other cities and countries and the affect it has had on many people. I sat down and felt like I was in another dimension; I felt calm and soothed–I didn’t want to leave. We must have sat there an hour or more and then I decided to get another blessing from another Lama who I noticed could speak English. So I took my place in front of him and became teary again as I received my blessing. He spoke to me very kindly and I told him I was overcome by my feelings here. It said it was common with a lot of people and we discussed some philosophical topics for a few minutes and then I got up to leave. We were invited to enjoy a vegetarian meal that had been prepared by some of the women from the temple. So we stayed and ate and then we finally went on our way.
The Relic Tour will have a permanent home, upon completion, in Uttar Pradesh in Kashingar, India. The relics will be held in the Heart Shrine of the Maitreya Buddha statue there–a 500 foot Buddha that is being built through donations.
I decided to share my experiences and the photos we took during our visit, because I just received an email saying the tour is again coming to that small temple near my home. I will go again and be blessed by being in the presence of these great teachers. I hope if the tour comes to your town, that you will take advantage of this most auspicious opportunity.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, “This project is really wonderful and is the result of great courage and determination, and from the depths of my heart, I appreciate and applaud this wonderful project. You should realize that this is a really Holy and Sacred project.” http://www.maitreyaproject.org