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Title Jetsunma - Amid the tall trees

Jetsunma - Amid the tall trees by JoAnn Grbach Special to the Gazette Amid the tall trees of a 65-acre wildlife refuge in Poolesville stands a 38-foot sacred monument. The members of the Kunzang Palyul Choling Temple have built an ancient Tibetan stupa with hopes that miraculous things will happen. The stupa is an edifice that many people in the Western world have rarely seen. In fact, there are only about 40 stupas throughout the United States, 14 of which are located on the grounds of the Poolesville temple. However, stupas have existed in Asia for the past 3,000 years. The towering monument will house, among other things, the relics of a key teacher in Tibetan Buddhism. The relics encased in the stupa are of such significance that the temple hopes the site will become a place of pilgrimage and spiritual refuge. The stupa has been dedicated to those suffering from incurable illnesses. Reportedly, miraculous cures have been proclaimed by those who worshipped at stupas containing such relics in Tibet and India. Here in America, we have incurable diseases on the rise like cancer, AIDS and heart attacks, said Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo, the resident lama (teacher) and spiritual director at Kunzang Palyul Choling, in a letter about the stupa project. And the numbers are not going down - they are constantly going up. There are eight different types of stupas, each one is said to represent some aspect in the life of Buddha. The stupa in Poolesville is known as an 3enlightenment stupa.2 This means that it embodies the enlightened qualities of Buddha and for Buddhists it reflects one1s own potential for enlightenment. The relics contained in the Poolesville stupa came to the temple from their spiritual leader, His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, who was visiting from India earlier this year. The relics belong to a key 17th century Buddhist teacher, Terton Migyur Dorje. His student Kunzang Sherab and his sister, Ahkon Lhamo, founded Palyul, the specific teaching tradition of Tibetan Buddhism practiced at the Poolesville temple. Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo is an American who Buddhists consider to be a reincarnation of Ahkon Lhamo. These relics will supposedly reunite Jetsunma with her brother and his teacher. Building the stupa requires a very spiritual methodology. Everything that goes in the stupa has meaning and spiritual potency, said Monk Tom Fry. As a result, the project must be overseen by a highly qualified lama. The Poolesville stupa and the relics it contains are of such importance that the world1s foremost expert on stupa construction, Tulku Rigdzin Pema, has been there to supervise the project. The project has been a large undertaking for the 34 monks and nuns of the temple. All the work for the most part has been done by them and lay members of the temple. The stupa is situated at the center of the refuge and a road was built to allow access to and from the building site. Additionally, many trees were cleared from the area to make a site for the stupa. The temple feels that although the work as been hard, the result will be well worth it. This project may seem close to impossible to accomplish in such a short time, but the thought of waiting years to bring this stupa into the world is unacceptable, wrote Wib Middleton, a temple trustee, in a letter to other temple members. The cost of the project is $150,000. Money for it was attained via individual contributions from 24 different states and four different countries. Future plans for the site of the stupa include walking paths, landscaping, road improvement, sitting places, and wheelchair access. The stupa is not just for the Kunzang Palyul Choling Temple. Members of the temple are happy to explain aspects of the stupa to non-Buddhists. Copyright of Gazette.Net