Dayton is home of new 835-pound Buddha statue

By Meredith Moss, Dayton Daily News, February 15, 2009

DAYTON, Ohio (USA) -- She expected the giant statue to be delivered to her home in Yellow Springs by UPS.

Instead, Ellen Marie Lauricella was notified in June that the 835-pound statue of Buddha had been sent by air from Nepal and was waiting to be picked up in Columbus.

"It took 10 strong members to get it into the building," said Lauricella, president of the Gar Drolma Buddhist Center in East Dayton.

Crafted of brass and gold, the 5-foot-tall statue was created by artisans in Nepal who, for generations, have passed the sacred arts tradition from fathers to sons.

For the past eight months, excited members of the sangha (congregation) have been busily preparing for the consecration of their new Buddha statue and the 13-foot-high mahogany shrine on which it sits. The special event took place Friday evening, Feb. 8.

Weeks before the ceremony, a Tibetan lama arrived in Dayton to oversee preparations for filling the statue – a life tree was placed in the center, and mantra, 10,000 saffron-saturated sheets of paper, were rolled and put inside as well.

Lauricella said one of the most precious items it contains is a bone relic from the original historical Buddha, who lived 2,500 years ago.

The consecration celebration also included a week-long winter retreat conducted by His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche, founder and spiritual leader of the Dayton Center.

Rinpoche, who was imprisoned for 20 years during China's Cultural Revolution, also leads the Garchen Buddhist Institute in Arizona.

Seated in the Shrine Room at the temple after Sunday morning meditation, Feb. 15, Dianne McKinnon of Centerville said the new statue was important because it was a gift from Rinpoche.

"He is the most vast, loving, kind and compassionate person I ever met," she said. "The statue itself represents the ultimate goodness and purity in all of us."

Lauricella said Buddhists do not "worship" anything or anyone, in the way Westerners think of the word.

"The statue is a source of inspiration as is the historical Buddha," she said.

Those interested in seeing the new Buddha statue can visit the Center on Sunday mornings or Wednesday evenings, call (937) 252-2220 or check out the Web site