Buddhist monks honor memory of Harold Ramis

by Karie Angell Luc, Sun-Times Media, Aug 8, 2014

Evanston, Illinois (USA) -- Erica Ramis found herself seated comfortably Aug. 6 in the Glencoe Community Garden as a special guest.

<< A table was adorned with a photograph of Harold Ramis and symbolic offerings Aug. 7 at Lake Street Church in Evanston, during a sacred sand mandala ceremony. | Karie Angell Luc/for Sun-Times Media

There, at sunset, with the moon visible to the south, she listened to the chanting of Tibetan monk refugees from the Drepung Gomang Monastery, a Buddhist sanctuary in South India.

The monks are on a yearlong U.S. tour, and stayed the week at Lake Street Church in Evanston. They came by van to Glencoe to perform a fire blessing honoring the memory of her late husband, Harold Ramis.

Ramis, an American filmmaker known for penning, directing and starring in Hollywood blockbusters such as “Groundhog Day” and “Ghostbusters,” died in February.

Ramis, whose good nature was buoyant despite the challenges of being ill the last four years of his life, was deeply interested in Buddhism, his family said. The screenwriter playfully referred to the Dalai Lama in the 1980 film “Caddyshack,” which he also directed.

“He (Harold) used to say he was Buddish or Jewist,” Erica Ramis said with a quiet laugh.

He and his Erica were pivotal to the Dalai Lama’s visit to Chicago several years ago. Simply talking about her husband can cause Erica Ramis to halt in mid-sentence.

“It’s been nearly six months and it could be a minute or six years,” said Erica, of the grieving process. “It’s deeper, richer, harder and difficult. I’m trying to be open and present.”

The fire cleansing or “fire puja” also blessed the Glencoe Community Garden with an abundant harvest.

The fire puja would “bring health and well-being to our community, to the environment and to the garden for a wonderful crop,” said Nina Schroeder, of Glencoe, one of the garden’s co-founders.

“It’s just so lovely because it just brings everyone together for a purpose of peace and harmony and justice for the world,” said Vivian Nitzberg, also co-founder.

The garden, tucked along the Metra east railroad tracks, was also co-founded by Jim Goodman of Highland Park. It was started in spring 2012 by Glencoe Am Shalom at its 40th anniversary. All crops benefit soup kitchens or food pantries.

The garden’s raised beds were flush with edible foliage and ripening tomatoes Aug. 6.

While Harold Ramis had no green thumb, he was “a handy craftsman,” son Daniel Ramis, 19, said of his father, who loved making things with his hands.

Ramis would have liked the Tibetan sand mandala and intricate design the monks constructed inside Lake Street Church, the family agreed.

At the sacred sand mandala ceremony, Daniel, Erica and Laurel Ward, Ramis’ partner at their Highland Park-based Ocean Pictures, were in the Evanston audience about 18 hours after the Glencoe fire cleansing.

“It’s almost kind of like a funeral service because it is celebrating joy but also the impermanence of life,” Rev. Steve Van Kuiken said.

Featuring colored sand, the mandala is about the size of a large coffee table. After chanting and symbolic gifts to Erica Ramis, the monks destroyed their creation gently with brushes. Small portions of sand were offered in plastic bags.

When combined, the bright sands became an earthy color, suggesting dust.

“That’s the color of the Earth,” said Dawa Tsering, an interpreter for the monks.

“It’s brownish green, the color of life and earth,” said David Choerab Moy, of Chicago.

As the Drepung Gomang’s North Shore tour ended two days of emotional observances, parting words did not come easy For Erica Ramis.

“I’m feeling incredible actually, it couldn’t have been better … beautiful,” she said, pausing at one point.  “It’s everything that I can’t express about what I’ve been thinking and feeling and going through in this whole process of grief.

“This was a perfect expression for it.”

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv. Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/norbuchatbot. Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv