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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Tibetan spiritual leader visits Austin

June 14, 2009

To raise awareness of Tibetan monastery, Buddhist leader blesses Barton Springs


By Joshunda Sanders

Austin American-Statesman

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Most people know Barton Springs Pool as a good place to hang out and swim. Now, it holds another distinction: It has been
blessed by venerated Tibetan Buddhist monk, Khen Rinpoche.


Rinpoche was chosen by the Dalai Lama in 2005 to take over the role of Panchen Lama — a spiritual leadership role second
only to that of Dalai Lama in the Tibetan Buddhism tradition — after the previous Panchen Lama was kidnapped by the Chinese
government in 1995.


Rinpoche was in Austin visiting churches and raising money for the monastery he leads. His presence in Austin serves as a
kind of bridge between faiths.


"God is a great underground river that no one can dam up or stop," said the Rev. Dr. Sid Hall, a senior minister at Trinity
United Methodist Church, quoting Meister Eckhart, a 13th century preacher. The religious traditions of the world, Hall
said, are like individual wells that all flow to the same river.


On Saturday morning, Rinpoche was at a different body of water — Barton Springs Pool — to bless the trees and what he
called "this divine place."


Wearing the traditional Tibetan maroon and gold robes, Rinpoche greeted a group of about 30 people with a kind smile and a
gentle nod before he led them in a silent meditation walk to the southeastern corner of the pool.


As people gathered around him, Rinpoche chanted a prayer as some in attendance closed their eyes. The chime of two bells he
held could barely be heard above the sounds of rushing water and children playing in the pool. He said that his prayers
were to help "give rise to the altruistic mind, to support the happiness of all beings."


The Panchen Lama, Sanskrit for "Great Scholar," is traditionally the person educated by the Dalai Lama to become the next
spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists. In 1995, members of the Chinese government abducted the then 6-year-old Panchen
Lama, who is still recognized by the Dalai Lama and Tibetan people as the true Panchen Lama, said Gaea Logan, a local
psychotherapist who helped organize Rinpoche's trip.


Rinpoche is visiting Austin this week to raise money for the Tashi Lhunpo monastery in exile in Bylakuppe, India, which
houses more than 300 monks and where Rinpoche is the abbot. The monastery is one of the poorest of the re-established
monasteries. "It's been meagerly subsisting next to a chicken farm in India," Logan said.


His trip is also meant to raise awareness of the oppression of Tibetan monks who are persecuted for practicing their
tradition openly in Tibet, Logan said.


According to the Tashi Lhunpo Web site, the monastery was established in 1972 in response to the continued oppression of
Tibet by China, which has occupied Tibet since 1950.


In 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, fled to India in exile. He now lives in Dharamsala, India, the seat of the
Tibetan political administration in exile, according to his Web site.


On Sunday, Rinpoche will bless Hall and the Rev. Steve Bolen at Unity of the Hills Church. Hall said this week that
Rinpoche's visit is an opportunity to share a different, parallel spiritual philosophy with his congregation.


"He is a really holy man who honors the beauty around him," Hall said. "His visit will be of tremendous value to us since
that's a model we all aspire to." And, Hall said, referring to Eckhart's words again, "Our congregation will get to see
that we are just one well among many wells."  445-3630

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