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Monday, September 14, 2009

This little light of mine

Yesterday was a gorgeous day - sunny and warm.
J and I spent the day together relaxing and in the afternoon while out on a walk we popped by the library to see a very unusual exhibit: The Maitreya Project Heart Shrine Relic Tour.

Apparently, in the Buddhist tradition, their holy leaders are cremated after their deaths. Often in their ashes, there are small pearls and pebbles found - believed to be relics left behind by the leaders to encourage and remind those to come of goodness and kindness. I don't really buy into all of that, but I do like the idea of having physical reminders of the value of kindness and compassion. I like what they represent. These relics were on tour together for people to see for the first time in the history of the world...apparently up until this point they were in pagodas in shrines all over the world (largely India and Tibet) although once China invaded Tibet (yes invaded...that's a topic for another day) and kidnapped the Penchant Lama in the hopes of destroying the strength of the religion there in Tibet and China they destroyed a lot of monasteries and imprisoned a lot of the monks there, so that many of these relics were sold on the black market or hidden to be kept safe. Apparently this is the first time such a large collection has been on display to the general public.

The reason for it is to not only inspire people and raise awareness of the Buddhist tradition in the modern day, but there is a project underway called the Maitreya Heart Shrine, where a group of Buddhists are looking to build a large buddha shaped pagoda building in the heart of one of the worst areas of India. They hope that they can bring peace and prosperity to the area by having the relics there, and also by building a school and a hospital where the poorest of the poor can be educated and receive proper medical care. I'm not sure how I stand on the relics part, but I can get behind that...
We entered the area where the alter was set up and a kind monk gave us a tour. She told us about some of the leaders the artifacts came from and some of the circumstances in which they were found. The relics looked like shiny pearlized pebbles...there was a bit of information by the pebbles as to whom they came from. I admit to not really understanding most of it, and I'm rather skeptical, but in the end I did let the monk bless me. I cannot help but think the focused thoughts of good wishes on my behalf can be anything other than a good thing.

I'm always a bit overwhelmed when I see old old traditions in front of me. Canada is such a young country...we really don't' have any sort of ancient traditions to draw on...sure there is Christianity, but that's not quite the same thing... I try to keep an open mind and and see what I can learn from every belief system, and try and treat others how I would like to be treated. ("Be excellent to each other" and all that sort of thing... ) I try and be involved in local groups that do the same thing...like Station 20 west. Here in town we are working to build a community centre with a good grocery store, medical care, a library, low cost housing and other community building services in the poorest part of the city. When the PC government came in to power a year ago they removed the 8 million of funding promised to make it happen, but the city has banded together to try and still make this happen - because we need this. Whatever I've taken and left from the beliefs of the world, these words have always remained and resonated with with me: "What you have done to the least of these, you have done unto me".

I still believe firmly that if we are to survive as a society we have to work together to make sure that everyone has access to the basics health care, proper food and education...to make sure they understand that yes, they are valued and important and that they can be a part of our city with us. Community and dignity are fading away in the face of consumerism and greed and I think projects like Station 20 west and the Maitreya Project help remind people of their duty to each other.
Yes. duty.
I know we can't solve everything and help everyone...but there are ways every day that we can do things to help people less fortunate than us...hostels for abused women and children, food banks, medical clinics, lunch programs, low cost housing, shelters, rape crisis lines, sponsored activities for kids, community building events...these help us help each other. When we know our neighbors we cannot ignore them.

I guess, in the end, what I got out of yesterday was a potent reminder of how blessed I am. I mean, I have so much...I'm really lucky. I have so much more than what I need. This weekend I tried to do something...I managed to find someone to give my old washer and dryer to - I don't need it, and I'm certainly not going to try and make a profit off of it...I went on freecycle and found a single mom with kids who can use them. It seems right...as this is how a community works. We share. Some day I might need help...I like to hope that someone will return the favour. Call it karma... whatever. It matters to me...
I'm just rambling now, I know. It turns out that it all had a profound effect on me after all. Snuck up on me really...to remind me that I need to remember to look outside of myself and remember the needs of others as well as myself. To find my own little way to shine a light in the dark....

2 comments:

sally said...

Interesting to read about your response to the Maitreya relics. It's certainly inspiring when people have such good intentions.
However, development projects that come from outside an area can sometimes be controversial. It might be better to have "grassroots" development projects that the local people endorse.... and some of the local people actively oppose this particular project, mainly because small-scale landholding farming families will lose their farmland. They will get compensation, but losing land puts them into a quite different situation.
You might be interested to read about some of the debate about how much this project will benefit the local people of Uttar Pradesh. See the Wikipedia page about the project, which has links to some critical articles (e.g one on a website called Wild River Review) and the Maitreya Project's response.

Geosomin said...

Interesting. Thanks...I'll definitely look into that :) I'm always looking for more information.