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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 teacher says Dalai Lama's visit will spread compassion around western Montana

March 23, 2010

By JOE NICKELL of the Missoulian
March 19, 2010

When Tulku Sang-ngang Rinpoche speaks of the significance of welcoming the
Dalai Lama to the Garden of 1,000 Buddhas in Arlee, he frames the discussion
not in terms of hosting a celebrity visitor, but rather in terms of making
your life better.

"His Holiness (the Dalai Lama) for us is the embodiment of compassion, the
reincarnation of the Buddha of compassion, so his mere physical presence
will have the capacity to bring about peace and compassion in the region,"
said Rinpoche at a news conference on Friday where the Dalai Lama's visit,
tentatively scheduled for late 2011, was formally announced.

Rinpoche, a Buddhist teacher from Tibet, has devoted his own life to
bringing about peace and compassion in the world. At Friday's event, he
spoke of the long road that brought him here to western Montana, where he
founded the Garden of 1,000 Buddhas with the intent of creating an
international pilgrimage site for Buddhists, as well as people of all
religions and spiritual practices.

"Whether you are from the east or west, your head is black or blonde, we all
share the same values in the sense that all of us truly want happiness and
peace," said Rinpoche, speaking through translator Karma Tenzin of Butte.
"If you pay attention, all the religions basically teach the same principles
of loving and compassion and kindness.

"The idea of the garden is that it's a place where people of different
faiths, different backgrounds can come together and ... collectively
accumulate good merit so that the world around us can be a better place."

*******

Located on 60 acres of land just north of Arlee, the Garden of 1,000 Buddhas
is still a work in progress. Prior to Rinpoche's talk, organizer Georgia
Milan explained that the site will ultimately comprise 1,000 cast-concrete
statues of the Buddha Shakyamuni arrayed around a 500-foot circular garden
connected by eight spoke-like paths to a 25-foot statue of Yum Chenmo, or
great mother, at its center.

"This will be one of the major pilgrimage sites in America," said Milan. "To
have a place of such spiritual promise, Rinpoche teaches that just the wind
that blows over this garden will spread positive impacts all around."

Before that happens, much in the way of resources needs to be gathered.
Milan said that the first three phases of construction at the garden, which
organizers hope to complete this summer, will cost approximately $160,000.
The overall cost of the garden is expected to be approximately $1 million.

"If Rinpoche had chosen to live in New York or San Francisco, this garden
would have been finished years ago," said Milan, addressing the fundraising
and volunteer effort that organizers of the garden face. "But he said this
is the place, this is where the pilgrimage must be."

Rinpoche said he has faith that the necessary funds can be raised now that
construction of the garden is in full tilt. Already, more than 500 of the
Buddha statues have been built by volunteers working at the site in Arlee
and at a "Buddha Barn" in Missoula, at 1800 Trail St.

"Funding has been challenging, but since word spread about his Holiness
coming here it has gained momentum," said Rinpoche, adding that his group
"will continue fundraising efforts and keep building momentum and hopefully
things will be OK."

Once the garden is complete, the Dalai Lama - the spiritual leader of
Tibetan Buddhists - will come to give his blessings and officially open the
garden to the public. Though the date of that visit depends on the pace of
the garden's construction, organizers hope it will take place in late 2011.

Rinpoche noted that he expects the visit will draw "a diverse crowd."

"Whenever his Holiness visits the United States, he always gets an
overwhelming response, stadiums and halls always booked in advance," said
Rinpoche. "Apart from inaugurating the garden, he will give religious
teachings, so it will attract a lot of diverse people. Some of his
international students from other parts of the world will be here at this
time."
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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