The Jade Buddha for Universal Peace on view at Co Lam Temple in Seattle, Washington.
Photo: Bill Hirsch.
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Buddhists of many traditions had the opportunity to view the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace on its North American tour, when it made stops near Vancouver, in Seattle, and in Portland during August and September.
The statue is the largest Buddha image ever carved from a single piece of gem-quality jade. Weighing over four tons and standing nine feet tall, the Jade Buddha sits on a four and a half foot alabaster throne.
In 2003, the man behind the statue, Australian Ian Green, was advised of the discovery of an 18-ton jade boulder of gemstone quality in British Columbia, just south of Yukon. He consulted with his spiritual mentor, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, who advised that this stone, named “Polar Pride,” must be made into a Jade Buddha as a holy object to be offered to the world.
The boulder was shipped to Thailand where master jade carvers created the statue, modeled on the famous Buddha figure in Bodh Gaya. The completed statue was consecrated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on December 1, 2009, in Sydney, Australia, and named “The Jade Buddha for Universal Peace.” After visiting parts of Australia, the statue began its North American tour in February 2010.
On August 6th British Columbia’s former “Polar Pride” returned to the province as a Buddha image, where it was honored and viewed for nine days at Hoa Nghiem Monastery in Aldergrove. The Jade Buddha then moved on to Co Lam Vietnamese temple in Seattle (August 21 - 29) and Ngoc Son Tinh Xa Buddhist Association (site of NWDA’s 2009 Annual Gathering) in Portland (September 4 – 12).
Lotus flower procession honoring the Jade Buddha at Ngoc Son Tinh Xa, Portland. Photo: Jacqueline Mandell.
The Jade Buddha will continue to tour North America and Europe, then Asia, through 2012, eventually arriving at its permanent home at the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion in Bendigo, Australia. The Great Stupa will also house a collection of sacred Buddhist relics, some of which are accompanying the Jade Buddha on its tour.
The design of the Great Stupa is based on the famous chorten (pagoda) in Gyantse, Tibet that was built in the 15th century. It will be 50 metres (164 feet) wide and 46 metres (150 feet) high, making it the largest stupa outside Asia. It is hoped that the Stupa will be a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists of all traditions.
Ian Green and his wife Judy are touring with the Jade Buddha. In Aldergrove, Green recalled that his first sight of the un-carved block of jade had been only “a 20 minute drive” from its then current viewing place at Hoa Hghiem Monastery.
NWDA board member Bill Hirsch visited the Jade Buddha in Seattle, where he found
the Co Lam temple grounds packed with visitors snapping photos, offering incense, buying miniature plastic Jade Buddhas and munching on Vietnamese snacks. Directly in front of the statue he observed a 4-year-old girl doing perfect prostrations, hands together, forehead to ground. A gray-haired man stood watching her. "Tôi cháu gái" (my granddaughter), he said proudly.
In Portland, opening ceremonies at Ngoc Son Tinh Xa included a procession of monastics from different traditions (including Kyogen Carlson of Dharma Rain Zen Center and former NWDA vice-president Jampel Clark Hansen of Dorje Ling), the national anthems of the United States and Vietnam, traditional Vietnamese dancing, and welcome speeches from temple leaders. Hundreds attended. Portland dharma teacher and NWDA board member Jacqueline Mandell was one of the invited guests.
The formal cutting of a long, yellow ribbon preceded the unveiling of the Jade Buddha. After each guest on the podium made a ceremonial cut, the beautiful red brocade cloth covering the large Buddha was slowly lifted and everyone clapped and cheered. Celebrations continued with music, firecrackers, a lotus flower procession and flower offering, followed by a traditional Lion Dance. The festivities, including food and entertainment, continued throughout the day.
For more information about the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace, please visit: www.jadebuddha.org.au/en.
Contributors: Bill Hirsch, Jacqueline Mandell.
Photos: Bill Hirsch, Jacqueline Mandell.