Buddha statues arrive, await the Dalai Lama
Three massive Buddhist statues were airlifted to the Tibetan Canadian Cultural Centre on Friday, in advance of a visit to Toronto by the Dalai Lama.
The precious statues, one as tall as 16 feet, were handcrafted by Buddhist monks in Nepal specifically for the Tibetan Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto, which is expected to be finished construction by early next year.
The Tibetan cultural centre, on Titan Drive in Etobicoke, has been getting a facelift in recent weeks as the community prepares to host the Dalai Lama, a cultural and religious leader in Buddhist culture.
The Dalai Lama will be in Toronto to give a public talk on peace at the Rogers Centre on Friday, Oct. 22. The next day he will preside over an inauguration ceremony to bless the construction at the centre.
During his two-day stay in Toronto, the Dalai Lama will reside in a specially-constructed home on the centre’s second floor.
Kevin Fitzsimons, a Buddhist interior designer managing the project, said the cultural centre has been nestled inside a long, narrow industrial building at the site. Renovations were needed to fit the massive statues, ranging in size between eight and 16 feet. The statues will then sit on thrones about nine feet tall.
The site, once a lighting factory is being redrawn as an ‘enlightened’ space to match with Buddhist requirements.
The building will have a south-facing entrance with a 3 ½ storey Pagoda at the front.
Above the front entrance are private quarters that include sleeping, living and meeting rooms to be used during the Dalai Lama’s visit. Fitzsimons says that residence will remain empty when the Dalai Lama is not in town.
The centre will also include classrooms, a kitchen and banquet hall and an NBA-regulation basketball court.
“The whole idea is to get kids out, because it is a community centre,” Fitzsimons said.
At the very back of the building there will be an assembly hall that reaches up 4 storeys.
It is here that three of the largest Buddhist statues in Canada will reside.
The statues were hand crafted in Nepal according to Buddhist custom and are very precious, Fitzsimons said.
“They have to be inside. They are very precious so they have to be inside and protected.”
The statues are made of bronze, brass, copper and gold. Some are covered in jewels. The statues were hand painted by Buddhist monks in Nepal and prepared in a traditional manner.
Inside the statues are hundreds of thousands scrolls containing written mantras and prayers, all of them rolled with precision and stacked in rows. Dirt was collected from around the world and packed with cedar and jewels inside the statues.
It took 40 people three weeks to prepare the scrolls for the statues, and they will be put in place by monks.
“That can only be done by monks. That is why monks have come from India just to do these three statues ... very religious works,” Fitzsimons said.
The project was launched in September 2009 and construction began in July 2010. It is expected to be completed in March 2011.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Michelle Dube