As six Tibetan monks meditated at Ichimura Miami-Japanese Garden, silence filled the air.
The monks recited mantras about love and compassion at the opening ceremony of the Bodhi Festival, a world peace, art and spiritual-healing exhibition, hosted by the ChakraSamvara Center, a Buddhist healing center in Miami Beach that promotes personal health and well-being.
“Everyone’s really hungry for love and kindness here, and hopefully that can bring some changes about the betterment of this world and the bright future,” said Geshe Phuntso, a Buddhist monk from the city of Bhutan in the Himalayan Mountains.
Along with the other monks, Phuntso was there for the coming of The Jade Buddha for Universal Peace, a five-ton Buddha statue carved out of a block of polar jade.
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“The idea behind the Jade Buddha is this sort of secular enlightenment, or this idea of world peace,” said Colin Mayer, an officer on the board of trustees of the ChakraSamvara Center. “The idea [of the event] is that all these different traditions come together and experience the peace that emanates from the Jade Buddha.”
The Jade Buddha has travelled around the world and has received visits from more than seven million people.
Its first stop in South Florida was in 2010 at the Wat Buddharangsi Temple.
This is its second year at the Bodhi Festival, where it acts as a symbol of peace and is thought to have healing powers, as jade itself is known to have holistic properties.
“It’s magnificent. I knew I had to come and see it,” said Regla Echevarria, who found the event on Google. She was recently diagnosed with neuroleptic malignant syndrome or NMS, a rare neurological disorder that has confined her to a wheelchair.
“Thank you so much,” she said as she received blessings from Phuntso, at the festival’s opening ceremony on Jan. 24.
The Bodhi Festival will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Feb. 8 at Ichimura Miami-Japanese Garden on 1101 MacArthur Causeway.
The organizers of the event, with the help of a mobile pet adoption unit called “Helping Our Pets Everyday” (HOPE) Express, also launched an animal rescue mission at the festival.
“The animal realm is extended out of love, kindness and compassion because they are one degree away from God, or Buddha, or Jesus Christ, and to make that connection they have to go through us,” said Mai Dechan La, director of the ChakraSamvara Center.
Lia Rodriguez, 20, an adoption counselor for HOPE, arrived with six dogs waiting for families to take them.
“It’s called the HOPE Express because our goal every time is to come back empty handed,” Rodriguez said. “Animals are being brought here to be blessed and the abused and homeless ones will be blessed, so they can find homes.”
The HOPE Express will be at the event for the duration of the festival. They will be offering pet adoptions and counseling to help find individuals the ideal pet for their specific needs.
Cindy Angarita and Giovanni Martinez were the first to adopt at the opening ceremony.
Their new Boxador [Labrador, Boxer mix] puppy, which they named Thor, ran and bounced around as the couple enjoyed the rest of the festival.
The festival includes exhibitions of a 1-ton, 4-foot-tall Green Tara, as well as yoga, meditation, dance performances, food from around the world and displays of art installations that revolve around world peace such as Peace Flags in the Wind by Joseph Vasile, Peace Art Murals by Mang and a giant mural called Lolita by Michael Gray.
This is Vasile’s second time exhibiting at the Bodhi Festival.
Part of Vasile’s art exhibit consists of a collection of different colored small cloths that he calls flags. Each flag displays different drawings by children from around the world and their interpretation of peace.
There were only 600 flags when the Jade Buddha first visited Miami. Today, there are more than 9,000 flags adorning the grounds where the Jade Buddha sits on display.
It reigns at 8 feet in height and sits on an alabaster throne measuring about 6.5 feet. The statue is valued at $5 million, but many refer to it as priceless.
The jade used to carve it was found just south of the Yukon border in Canada, and it was named “Polar Pride.”
Gemologist Fred Ward described Polar Pride as the largest piece of gem-grade jade found in the millennium.
Since then, it has embarked on a World Tour for Universal Peace with stops in over 60 cities in Vietnam, Australia, United States, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, France, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India.
“It’s not about Buddhism, it’s more of an art, as you can see it’s an art sculpture. It’s a beautiful sculpture of the Polar Pride Jade,” said La. “It’s a gorgeous sculpture that’s suitable for everyone to enjoy its beauty.”
If you go
▪ What: Second annual Bodhi Festival
▪ Where: Ichimura Miami-Japanese Garden at 1101 MacArthur Causeway, Miami, FL 33132
▪ Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Sunday, through Feb. 8, when it will have its closing ceremony at 5 p.m.
▪ Tickets: $10 on the weekends, and admission is free on weekdays. For more information or to buy tickets, visit http://jadebuddhamiami.com/site/ or call (305) 672 8740 for inquiries.