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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Governor Rell declares Sunday "Stupa Day" in Connecticut. What's a stupa?

A Buddhist spiritual monument known as a stupa is being erected in Old Saybrook and is being dedicated tomorrow with what our spiritual forebears would have called idolatrous rites.

The New London Day reports:

The squat, white monument in the midst of a New England farm field certainly catches the eye of drivers along Ingham Hill Road.

The structure, which stands about 15 feet high, is made of brick overlaid with stucco and painted a bright white. Around each side of the square monument are 13 steps that lead to a domed top. The steps, explains Rana Samphel, a Tibetan immigrant who has helped build the stupa, represent steps of enlightenment for those who seek reflection here.

While some stupas are big enough for people to enter, this one is not. When completed, it will be entirely enclosed, and a statute of Buddha will be placed behind glass in its domed top.

This week Samphel and Tsultrim Gyatso, a Buddhist monk from Middletown who has overseen the stupa project, placed the “life tree” in the center of the monument. The tree is a piece of cedar, taken from a live tree, that Gyatso has spent hours intricately carving with prayers. The cedar pole will protrude from the top of the stupa and then prayer flags and Buddhist spiritual symbols will be placed on it, Brown said.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell has issued a proclamation to the town proclaiming Sunday as Stupa Day in Connecticut, and about 1,000 people are expected to attend the consecration ceremony, planned for noon.

[Farmer and property owner David] Brown said the ceremony would be attended by several Buddhist monks, as well as clerics representing a variety of religions, including a Catholic priest, protestant ministers, a Muslim imam and a rabbi.

The town's first selectman, Michael Pace, also is expected to take part, along with state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

The New Haven Register adds more:
Brown says he first had a notion to build a stupa more than a decade ago. He’d lived in Asia for a number of years and seen them. But it wasn’t until two years ago that a friend urged him to finally act on the idea. Brown decided to visit a Buddhist lama in upstate New York for advice.

"He told me to talk to town officials," Brown says, stoking the wood stove in his studio. "He said to get permits for everything."

Brown followed those words of wisdom and got a zoning variance and a building permit, which he keeps handy for anyone to see. "The town planner even showed up at the mantra rolling," he adds. More on that mantra rolling later.

Nearly 50 people, including many people who aren’t Buddhist, helped dig the hole for the stupa’s cement foundation last summer. Brown and his friends also set up a bank account to collect donations to pay for construction.

"We’ve gotten a lot of contributions of manpower and money," notes Kelsang, who also is negotiating to obtain a Buddhist religious relic from India for the stupa. "It’s good for the town and good for the Tibetan community in Connecticut."

However, as Brown points out, "You don’t just go and build a stupa. There’s a ritual for every step of it."

What spiritual influence will be released into our State by this object?

I do not know to what extent the Catholic priests and Protestant ministers may be participating in the ceremonies.

What would our ancestors think if they could know that these days our officials are attending Buddhist ceremonies, while challenging the propriety of persons naming the name of Christ to even have a voice in the formulation of public policy?

1 comment:

Max said...

If you afraid of compassion, love and kindness then you have reason to fear this stupa.