The 1000 Montana Buddhas
File under: The Siddhi of PR
We just found a fairly comprehensive look at Gochen Tulku Rinpoche, a Buddhist lama who's moved to Montana, and it ain't to raise him up some dental floss. It's to build a garden of 1000 Buddhas:
Visitors entering the garden will see a 300-foot diameter circle with six spokes, each supporting a roughly equivalent fraction of 1,000 2-foot statues of Buddha, with a circumference lined by 1,000 stupas, meticulously constructed shrines containing sacred drawings, scrolls of mantras, fruit and jewelry. Already in place, in the center of the circle, sits a statuary Yum Chenmo, the Great Mother, a smiling, round-faced woman 10 feet high and seated on a 13-foot pedestal.Sounds pretty good, until they get into the "mystical" side of it:
Hidden from the eye, embedded in the sculptures, are the objects to which Rinpoche and his students attribute the greatest power. These are relics, including ringsels, pill-shaped objects “left behind” in the post-death remains of highly realized beings. Amplified by sacred architecture, Tsomo says, ringsels can infect people with Buddha nature simply by virtue of the power of the person who left the relic behind.It's a quaint thing to think about, but any "infection" occurring is entirely on the part of the infected's own buddha nature. The spiritual bric-a-brac is just bric-a-brac. Any object imbued with magic power is made that way by the belief of the people who regard it as magical.
What we like about this article is the natural, yet just the right amount of skeptical approach the author takes. He clearly has an open mind, but he seems to be thinking in terms that less culturally-aware Montanans might use. It's a great attempt to make a bridge between the Rinpoche's Buddhism and the more common conservative Christianity that certainly dominates the religious landscape there.
We really enjoyed this bit with the anonymous land donor for the Rinpoche's garden:
One of Rinpoche’s students purchased the land for him, the student says, because Rinpoche “wanted to bring Buddhism to the West, and I couldn’t think of a better person to bring it.” (The donor requested anonymity, explaining in an e-mail that “in the Buddhist understanding of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ karma, the ‘positive karma’ or ‘merit’ as we call it, is diminished if we get credit for positive actions. This being a BIG one, it would make a big difference to me in my favor if I didn’t get credit for it.”)Too bad seeing their donation as a "BIG one" just erased the "favor" this person imagines they have as a result of their good works. It's a typically kindergarten approach to understanding karma, as if there's a cosmic bank out there we're all making payments and withdrawals from with our good and bad works in the world.
Let's hope the Rinpoche's garden will put a stop to that nonsense, as well as bringing a bit more peace to the world.