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Celebrating peace, expansion

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ARLEE – Four boys started counting the 2-foot-tall Buddha statues lined up back to back on the eight-spoke dharma wheel during the 11th Annual Festival of Peace at the Ewam School of Tibetan Buddhism on Saturday. 

“I got 74 on this side counting the ones on the ends,” said River Adkins, 9. 

The boys ran off to look in the goldfish pond before getting to the total number of statues, which is said to be 1,000. At the pond, they watched as several large white and orange fish swam around.

Tibetan Lama Gochen Tulku Sangngag Rinpoche designed the garden as a place to inspire peace. The garden was finished this spring after fifteen years with the help of volunteers and donations.

Volunteer Emmanuel Ananda explained why people were placing small offerings like coins, jewelry and tea near the statues. 

“Buddhism hinges on the idea of karma,” he said. “Every action has a result, and making an offering creates positive momentum.”

Now that the garden is finished, the next step is to build a $1.5 million center. A lama who wished to remain anonymous explained that the project started with a donation of $50,000. A ground breaking ceremony was held in June.

The two-story building will contain a large space for many things including weddings, graduation parties, and practicing Buddhism.

“We see it as an offering to the community as the garden has been,” she said. “Adding a building is another part of the refuge that is available to all.”

During the festival, several people gave speeches on topics from cultural relations to living joyfully. Namchag Khenpo stood on a stage in front of a small crowd, and with the help of an interpreter he explained the Eastern techniques for creating happiness. 

He said that happiness is conditional. External conditions include food and water, and because happiness relies on external factors, it’s important to take care of the environment. 

A person’s internal environment needs to be cultivated with love and kindness to create happiness, although both happiness and sadness are like the horns of an animal and a person needs to balance both. 

Local teacher and poet Alex Alviar acted as a graphic facilitator. He picked out the main points of each speech and highlighted them on a poster board next to the stage with bright colors and small drawings. 

“As a teacher, I do a lot of visual mind mapping,” he said. “It helps people think.”

Dr. Steven Running spoke about climate change during his speech.

“Gathering facts is not enough,” he said adding that people need to take action. 

Many other speakers and artists took the stage during the day. Spectators enjoyed food from vendors and walking through the garden. The boys that started out counting Buddha statues continued their adventures, and although they said they aren’t Buddhists, they wanted to participate in some of the traditions. 

“I wanted to give him my pencil,” River said of one of the Buddha statues. “I made a lot of stuff with that pencil, so I wanted to say thank you because this is all about peace.”


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