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"For a happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood."

Beloved monks mark birthday milestones

September 1, 2008

By MICHELLE GLADDEN, Staff Writer
Asbury Park Press, NJ
August 29, 2008

For more than 35 years, Baksha Jampel Dorj, 99, and Gen Yonten
Gyamtso, 89, have not only led weekly and holiday services at
Buddhist temples in Howell, but they have provided detailed spiritual
guidance and holistic remedies to the community.

Earlier this month, members of the township's three Buddhist temples
gathered to honor the upcoming 90th and 100th birthdays of the two
Mongolian monks, who reside at Nitsan Temple quarters.

There are three temples, Rashi Gempil Ling, Nitsan and Tashi-Lhumpo,
that serve the Kalmyk community that settled in the area in the 1950s
after World War II.

Opening with a chant that not only signified worship but prayer for
peace, harmony and release from all sufferings, the gathering also
featured a blessing said for the offering (food) to Buddha, said
Tenzing Dakpa of the Tashi-Lhumpo Temple.

And so with a look of great humility, the two men partook in a feast
of traditional and modern cuisine, all prepared by temple members as
well as the other monks.

The day was warm and the sun shone bright, but everyone drank a tea
made with butter, milk and salt — a drink usually reserved for just
such a special occasion. It was coupled with conversation and
bortsik, a dense, fried biscuit, and as noon drew near the fare grew
more plentiful.

Tibetan monks provided momo, a dumpling made with lamb, that was
coupled with another traditional dish — a soup made of boiled lamb and noodles.

And once everyone ate and shared in memories, Nitsan Temple President
Narma Stepanow spoke of the men's rich history.

"We have come a long way, but they have come a lot further," Stepanow said.

In written biographies made available to the Asbury Park Press, the
early struggles and the two men's dedication to spiritual studies is outlined.

Born 10 years apart, their travels led them from their native lands
in Mongolia to the Freewood Acres section of Howell.

Gen Yonten started as a monk trainee at age 9, and by age 15 had
memorized the books. By age 21, he was studying in a Tibetan
monastery, but at 40 would flee the country during the Chinese
invasion. His travels took him to Nepal, where he studied with the
Dalai Lama's older brother, Thubten Jigme Norbu. He settled in India
before finding his way to Howell's Rashi Gempil Ling Temple in 1968.
Members of the community say he provides holistic remedies that have
helped to cure an array of maladies, including cancer.

"He named all my sons (ages 12 to 26)," Stepanow said. "They (the
monks) have been a unifying factor for the community."

While Baksha Jampel Dorj's life outside Mongolia began at age 30, he
spent his 20s in the innermost part of the country in a place with
many monks and temples. He landed in Tibet, via China and Hong Kong,
and then onto India before moving to the area.

In the early years he lived in Paterson with other Mongols, working
for Barnes Jewish Hospital. He retired at age 69, at which time he
resumed Dharma study and practice full time. Each day he would attend
Nitsan Temple from 3 to 7 a.m. to pray and make prostrations,
completing 2.2 million full-length prostrations before developing
knee problems. He is most known for his insight and the detailed
guidance he provides the members of the community.

Both men donated not only their time but also financial resources to
the community, making numerous offerings to the temple that would
include the sponsorship of religious leaders and purchasing of holy text.

Those who gathered to share in the celebration presented scarves, but
in the end, the two monks who have called Howell home for so many
years gave gifts to those who gathered among them -- chocolate bars
that had been blessed.

By mid afternoon, a closing chant, including a prayer "for peace and
prosperity for this country of ours," was said by Gen Yonten Gyamtso
through an interpreter. "It is the spiritual path we have taken that
eliminate all the negative factors in our world." he said. "That is
the tradition we relate to."
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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