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Local Buddhists share excitement for Dali Lamas visit

With the arrival of Buddhisms spiritual leader on May 8, Quincey-area Buddhists offer reflection


by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - Lodru, A Tibetan Monk Studying at Great Vow Zen Monastery maintains the centers farming and gardening equipment. Prospective Buddhists can apply for a free meditation and organic gardening program through July and August.The Great Vow Zen Monastery, a branch of the Zen Community of Oregon, located in Quincey is one of the largest Buddhist monasteries in Northwest Oregon.

For 10 years, the monastery has been attracting local Buddhists from all over the greater Portland area.

Members of the Great Vow Zen Monastery share excitement with the growing number of local Buddhists about the Dali Lama's recent arrival in Portland.

On May 8, the Dali Lama arrived in Portland for a three-day environmental summit expected to attract followers from around the globe. The visit will shed light on Portland's remarkably vibrant Buddhist community.

In 2000, there were 19 Bhuddist congregations in the Portland area, according to the association of Statistics of American Religious Bodies. Today, there are 37, a figure that doesn't include the many small Buddhist study groups meeting in people's homes. Those study groups typically serve as a point of entry for converts, which number more than 400, according to one assessment.

“Obviously he is the world's most famous Buddhist,” said Hogen Bays, Zen Teacher at Great Vow Zen Monastery. “Peace and respect amplify in his presence.” Bays is a practicing Buddhist since 1968.

Recent attacks by Buddhist groups upon Muslims in Burma have directed the Dali Lama toward promoting peace within practicers of the religion. In a speech delivered on Tuesday, the Dali Lama implored monks in Myanmar and Sri Lanka to end the violence, saying he condems all killings in the name of religion.

“I wish there was perfection somewhere in the world,” Bays said. “People can be abhorrent, unfortunately. They are notable because they are the exceptions, we are known as a religion of compassion.”

Many Buddhists take on a different name once they officially become part of a congregation. Lodru Dawa, a Tibetan Buddhist from Clatskanie who studies at the Great Vow Zen Monastery, said there are many different “flavors” of Buddhism.

“There is a difference between Zen and Tibetan Buddhism,” he said, “Tibetan refugees had to start over and build from scratch. Because of that, Zen Buddhism has a greater community focus."

Dawa said that if the karma is there, he will start a Tibetan Monastery in Clatskanie and build community through the western model of Buddhism.

Last year, on what he described as an impulse, Dawa rode his bike through the Cascades to Mt. Shasta in California and back to his home in Clatskanie.

Currently, Dawa is hosting bicycle tours through the Pacific Northwest that he calls Dharma Wheels, wherein people interested in relaxing and touring can, “put themselves in nature and let nature teach them, allowing their own wisdom to come out,” Dawa said.

“When you move through space and time on your own power, you come back much closer to the person you want to be. An incredible presence comes out of being in nature, the only expectations you have are what your body needs. Now with the development of agriculture, industry, and virtual life, we are detached from nature,” Dawa said.

Lodru leads weekend retreats of 20-30 miles, but hopes to hold longer rides in the future. More information on Dharma Wheels can be found at dharmawheels.com.

The Zen Community of Oregon started with a handful of converts as a small home-based group 15 years ago. Between the Clatskanie facility and an additional temple in Northeast Portland, as many as 120 congregants gather for services with the Zen Community of Oregon each week, almost all white converts with a median age around 40.

Board member Patrick Green says Zen Buddhism has plenty of appeal to an audience of young adult Portlanders, even from a generation noted for its ironic attitude.

— The Portland Tribune's Peter Korn contributed to this report.

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