Juliette leCornec gazed at the historic, sacred Buddhist relics once before when they were on display in Massachusetts. This weekend she will see them a little closer to home at the Chua Phuoc Long temple in Ansonia.
“If you are a Buddhist follower, you would probably feel as close to Buddha as you could get because these relics still remain after all these years,” she said.
Buddhism is a religion based on the ancient teachings of Siddhartha Gautama — aka the Buddha.
Buddhists believe in Karma, reincarnation and the power of meditation.
While Siddhartha Gautama is recognized as the first Buddha, those who has achieve a state of perfect enlightenment are considered a Buddha, according to Buddhist tradition.
The Maitreya Project
The Maitreya Project Relic Tour is a collection of sacred artifacts of Buddha and Buddhist masters. The relics were found among the cremation ashes of various Buddhist masters. It is believed that the objects embody the spiritual qualities of compassion and wisdom.
According to the tour website, finding relics after the passing of a Buddhist master is not uncommon. For instance, in 2001, Geshe Lama Konchog, a revered Tibetan scholar and meditator, passed away at Kopan Monastery in Nepal. After his body was cremated those attending the funeral rites found hundreds of crystal-like relics among the ashes.
Some of the items included in the tour are a tooth relic believed to have come from Shakyamuni Buddha, who is known as the historical Buddha. The relics also include a partial handprint from Lama Atisha a Buddhist scholar and master, and hair from Buddhist master Kalu Rinpoche.
The Maitreya Project is named for the future buddha. It is believed Maitreya Buddha will one day appear on earth as the Buddha of the fifth world cycle. At present he is considered as one of the dhyani-Bodhisattvas, the creators of the universe.
The Relic Display
On Friday, at 6 p.m., Buddhists monks and nuns will chant and bless the artifacts as part of the tour’s opening ceremony.
The relics will be on public display after the ceremony, and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the temple, 14 N. Cliff St.
“It definitely will be an amazing experience, and I’ll probably feel more inspired this weekend seeing it again. The first time I saw it I didn’t understand much about it,” leCornec said.
She serves as a volunteer with the Ansonia temple and said she’s come to realize that the pearl-like crystal relics serve as a reminder to master the sacred qualities of peace and loving-kindness.
People who have seen such relics have reported being overcome with healing and inspiration.
This weekend, depending on the size of the crowds, people will have the opportunity to participate in a blessing ceremony, in which the relics will be placed gently on the crown of one’s head. In previous tours people have brought the ill, the young, the elderly and even their pets to be blessed.
The relics will be inside display cases that encircle a life-size statue of Maitreya Buddha, who is believed to be the next Buddha.
LeCornec said this weekend’s event is also a way for the temple to reach out the Ansonia community.
The Chua Phuoc Long congregation, which has Vietnamese Buddhist roots, moved from Bridgeport to Ansonia about a year ago so they could gather in a larger building.
“We’re trying to outreach to everyone to give them a chance to come and be blessed by the relics. It’s a big event, anyone from any ethnic background would benefit,” leCornec said.
There is no entrance fee to see the relics, but donations will be accepted.
Tracy Simmons, a former reporter for the Republican-American in Waterbury, publishes Creedible.com, a site focusing exclusively on religious news in Connecticut.