For the past 10 years, The Maitreya project has been internationally touring with a group of crystalline relics from the Buddhist masters.The Maitreya Project began in the 1990's set up to build a 500ft bronze statue of Maitreya Buddha, a large Buddhist educational complex, and medical facilities for the local public. The project was initiated by the Foundation for the Preservation of Mahayana Buddhism, a Tibetan Buddhist organization that was founded by Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Thubten Zopa. Lama Zopa Rinpoche has decided that the Heart Shrine Relics tour should continue to travel the world to bring the messages of loving kindness to everyone.
The tour is set to tour 2011 and 2012 through North America, Central and South America, Israel and Australia, and Europe. These relics, called ringsels in Tibetans, are said to be produced by the spiritual master's meditation practices of loving kindness, and are collected from the cremated remains. The collection has grown significantly to over 1000 relics, many of which are 2,500 years old. Since Chinese invasion of Tibet, and the destruction of many relics, the relics that exist today are tightly guarded in India and other Asian countries, and require an application for viewing. The blessings of the Heart Shrine Relics tour have allowed the 1000 relics to bless millions of people internationally. Included in the tour are relics from Shakyamuni Buddhist relics contributed by the Dalai Lama, the personal collection brought forward by Lama Zopa Rinpoche (who is the founder of the Maitreya Project), some were collected in the rubble of temples destroyed by the Chinese communist invasion, and several relics given by the Meiktila Relic Museum in Myanmar, as well as masters from temples in Thailand, Indonesia, and Taiwan.
Their tour is part of the larger fundraising campaign intending to build a 500ft tall bronze statue (the equivalent of 50 stories) of the Maitreya Buddha in Kushinagar, India, which is the place where the Shakyamuni buddha passed away.
The 1000 relics will be placed in a temple at the heart chakra of the statue at the end of the tour. In addition to the statue, below the and inside of the statue will be a large 17 story throne. Inside will be the Maitreya temple building with a 40ft statue of Maitreya, along with 100,000 smaller statues in the walls surrounding it, and can be occupied by 4000 people and serve as a conference center for spiritual events. Other shrines throughout the 17 stories include Chenrezig, The Eight Great Indian Pandits, The Purification Buddhas, The Twenty-one Taras, Prajnaparamita, The Eight Medicine Buddhas, The Eighteen Arhats, The Thirty-five Confession Buddhas, Lama Thubten Yeshe. The parkland surrounding this complex will include a large Laughing Buddha statue, 100,000 stupas, artwork, prayer wheels, and sculptures narrating the life of Shakyamuni Buddha. The projected budget in US dollars is: $195 million for the statue and throne building, $35 million for health and education and $20 million for development of the "750 acre" site.[This is one of many large scale Buddha statues constructed in Asia, and others include statues in Nepal, Korea, and India.
The Maitreya Project statue is going to rival the tallest statue in the world, a statue of Vairocana Buddha, called Spring Temple Buddha in Henan, China. This statue, finished in 2002, was made out of 1,100 pieces of copper, and was constructed after the systematic destruction of Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban in Afghanistan, which were also Vairocana Buddhas.
Maitreya is said to be the Buddha of loving kindess, and next coming Buddha after the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, who appeared as Siddhartha Gautama Buddha to teach the dharma. Currently residing in the Tusita heaven realm where spiritual and enlightened beings sit in meditation before becoming Buddhas in this planet.
Here is a photo collection I took May 31st, 2009. That day there was a huge festival at the Land of Medicine Buddha in Soquel, CA. The afternoon had beautiful traditional Tibetan singers, 24ft. tall thankgas, and water bowl and food offerings. For more information about the International Heart Shrine Relics tour, please see the Maitreya Project's website.