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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."

Bazaar aims to preserve endangered Tibetan culture

September 14, 2010

Annual event mixes shopping and spiritual experience
Jane Marshall, Freelance
The Edmonton Journal (Canada)
September 11, 2010

Wafting aromas of dumplings, the melodic chanting
of mantras, tables filled with the bright colours
of Tibetan wares -- all tickle the senses at the
Gaden Samten Ling Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Society's annual bazaar.

Next weekend, the society once again rolls up its
sleeves to bring Alberta's exiled Tibetan
community, most of whom have settled in Calgary,
to Edmonton in an effort to share Tibetan culture.

"The intention of the bazaar is to preserve
Tibetan culture," says Kushok Lobsang Dhamchoe,
the meditation society's spiritual director. "For
18 years the society has hosted the bazaar so
that Tibetans can set up a traditional altar,
serve Tibetan food, speak in our language,
perform dancing and chanting. It is a way that we
can protect our Tibetan religion and culture."

Kushok spent 30 years at the Dalai Lama's
monastery in India after escaping Tibet in 1963.
He came to Edmonton in 2000 and teaches
meditation. He is a master of sutra and tantra
degree from the Council of Religious and Cultural
Affairs of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

"In this City of Edmonton, close to one million
people, I am the only Tibetan," says Kushok. "But
whatever I do represents the six million people
of Tibet. For them, it is difficult to maintain
religion and culture because of Chinese occupation.

"There is no way to preserve real culture in
Tibet, so we must do it here. By having Tibetan
vendors and displaying the Dalai Lama's
photograph (which is banned in Tibet) we preserve and share culture."

Tibetans have been struggling to maintain their
innately Buddhist culture since they lost their country in 1959.

"Even in Edmonton, I am one monk in one small
temple. I hang prayer flags, maintain my Buddhist
practice; our Tibetan Buddhism, which teaches
compassion, allows us to keep a strong connection
to our culture. Tibet and Buddhism are like a
mother and son. They can't be separated."

The bazaar begins Friday with a question and
answer session led by Sandy Large, a psychologist
and member of the society. "Mindfulness
meditation has been used successfully to help
people deal with extreme emotions," says Large,
"and there is evidence that it makes people less
emotionally reactive. It now has a role in
western psychology in treating depression."

Interested in the dialogue between Tibetan
Buddhists and western scientists, Large says the
Q-&-A session is a great opportunity to interact with a highly trained monk.

"Tibetan Buddhism challenges students to ask
questions," Kushok says. "Analyze, analyze. This
is why monks have debates -- the goal is to refine knowledge."

During the three-day event, visitors can expect
to see items imported from Tibet, India, and
Nepal such as silver jewelry embedded with
turquoise and choral, yak wool blankets and
sweaters, as well as religious items.

Kushok explains the religious meaning behind some
of the items sold at the bazaar:

MALA BEADS

"Mala beads are worn as a reminder to recite
mantras. When people start to gossip or forget to
recite their mantras, they see the mala and
remember to work on being compassionate," Kushok explains.

Many malas have 108 beads; 100 beads symbolize
the 100 volumes of the Buddha's teachings, and
the additional eight act as "recovery" beads in
case the practitioner isn't mindful during each
recitation. They are also used to keep prayer counts.

SINGING BOWLS

"We have six body chakras," says Kushok. "When we
ring the singing bowls the vibration helps to
un-knot the chakras. This helps with health; when
energy flows freely in the body, it helps the mind."

PRAYER FLAGS

Think of Mount Everest and the colourful squares
of fabric that flap in the wind. There are five
colours on each strand of flags, and each represents an element.

"We hang flags in high places -- the mountains,
trees, roofs -- to create balance," says Kushok.
"If the elements in our bodies are unbalanced, we
get sick. If external elements are unbalanced,
there are weather disturbances. The flags represent harmony."

Tibetan Buddhists print mantras or prayers on the
flags. "When the wind blows the fabric, prayers
are carried into the universe. All beings touched
by the wind receive the blessing and their negative energy is cleansed."

- - -

FIND OUT MORE

What: Gaden Samten Ling Tibetan Buddhist
Meditation Society's 18th annual Tibetan Bazaar

When: Friday, Sept. 17, from 7 to 9 p.m., Sept. 18 & 19, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Alberta Avenue Hall, 9210 118th Ave.

For more information: call 780-479-0014 or visit www.gasamling.ca
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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