Colorado is a long way from the birthplace of Buddhism, but a part of the Buddha's legacy will be here this week.
A collection of 45 sacred relics believed to be taken from the remains of fifteen Buddhist saints -- including the historical Siddhartha Gautama himself -- will be exhibited in Denver and Boulder as part of the Heart-Shrine Relic Tour. The relics, called ringsel, are crystalline deposits culled from the saints' ashes. Believers view them as physical evidence of spiritual advancement, and many Buddhists say that being in their presence brings on heightened feelings of calm and meditative awareness.
"It's inspiring to be around such sacred objects," says Helen Chang, one of the exhibition's organizers. "It creates an impact in people at many levels, from historical interest to veneration."
Heart - Shrine Relic Tour,
Zen Center of Denver, 3101 West 31st Avenue
10 a.m.-6 p.m. May 18 and 19
Shambhala Meditation Center, 1345 Spruce Street, Boulder
10 a.m.-6 p.m. May 25
Many of the remains are thought to be thousands of years old. In Asia, such artifacts are usually housed in temples and are not removed for touring purposes. As a result, it is extremely unusual for them to be exhibited publicly in the United States.
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The relics come from half a dozen different countries, but all of them will eventually be displayed at a Buddhist cultural complex being developed in northern India. Known as the Maitreya Project, it will include a fifty-story statue of the Buddha as well as a temple, exhibition hall, library and adjacent monastery. A hospital and school are also part of the plan, which has been endorsed by the Dalai Lama. Information about the Maitreya Project will be available during the showing.
After 2006, the relics will be housed inside the Buddha statue in a room known as the Heart Shrine. Once there, they are not expected to be taken out on tour again.
The Denver showing will include food and live music. After 5 p.m., attendants will offer blessings to visitors, touching each person on the top of the head with a small model of a shrine containing relics.