They are a strange, beautiful sight: what appear to be polished stones or crystals, some resembling rose quartz, others pearls, in ornate containers encircling a life-size statue of the Maitreya Buddha, the hoped-for future Buddha.
The ancient artifacts, Buddhists believe, are relics of the Shakyamuni Buddha -- the historical Buddha who lived 2,500 years ago -- and subsequent spiritual masters, found among their cremation ashes and miraculously produced by the holy men at the time of their death.
"Ordinary people die with fear," said Thupten Dadak, 54, of New Brighton, a former Tibetan monk and one of the leaders of Minnesota's 1,500-strong Tibetan community, the second-largest in the United States. "When the masters die, their consciousness is still strong, and it becomes these relics."
The so-called Heart Shrine Relics, which have been on worldwide tour since 2002 and were brought to Minnesota last year, are on display this weekend at the Watt Munisotaram, a Cambodian Buddhist temple in Hampton, and Friday through July 30 at the Aveda Institute in Minneapolis. The exhibits, which are free, will include special events, including prayer chants by monks on Friday and a presentation on "Buddha's Four Noble Truths" next Saturday.
The Heart Shrine Relics Tour is part of the Maitreya Project, which has both spiritual and financial goals. It seeks to promote Buddhist concepts of compassion and peace and to collect donations to build a 500-foot statue of the Maitreya Buddha in the impoverished northern India state of Uttar Pradesh. The statue, of the Buddha many believe is yet to come, would serve as the spiritual symbol of a larger effort involving health care and educational development. The relics will be housed in the statue when the tour ends in 2010.
Tibetan Buddhists traditionally find a sense of inner peace from viewing and being near the relics, Dadak said. "These relics come from great spiritual teachers -- bodhisattva -- who have shown what human beings can achieve," he said. "Meditating upon the relics can fill one with a great feeling of compassion and well-being."
See the exhibit this weekend: Friday July 28 to Sunday, July 30, at Aveda Institute, fourth-floor Grand Atelier, 400 Central Av. SE., Minneapolis. (10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. next Saturday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Special ceremonies (both at Aveda Institute): Processions featuring Tibetan Gyuto monks' multiphonic prayer chanting with long horns and cymbals, 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Friday.
Chokor Duechen Presentation on "Buddha's Four Noble Truths" by Abong Rinpoche of Minneapolis' Gyuto Wheel of Dharma Monastery, 2 p.m. Saturday, July 29.