The Buddha’s relics — almost literally little pearls of wisdom — have returned to Kansas City this weekend as part of the Maitreya Loving Kindness Tour.
The free public exhibition of ancient and sacred relics of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni and many other Buddhist masters from Tibet, India and China are at the Temple Buddhist Center (Unity Temple on the Plaza) at 707 W. 47th St.
The multifaith, multicultural, international touring display is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Part of what can be seen are pearl-like crystals found among the cremation ashes of the Buddhist masters. Called ringsel in Tibetan and sarira in Sanskrit, they are said to be deliberately produced by masters at their deaths to embody compassion and wisdom.
Monks have placed them into tiny stupas that can be held to the top of the visitors’ heads — and occasionally even on their pets’ — in blessing ceremonies.
Janet “Nima” Taylor, Buddhist nun, author, and meditation leader at the Temple Buddhist Center, said just being in the crystals’ presence can inspire positive emotions and create a space for mental or even physical healing.
Taylor said the arrival of the relics may be especially timely in the wake of the divisive atmosphere generated by the events in Ferguson, Mo. Some might take the opportunity to pray for community, as well as world peace or inner wisdom.
Eight of the relics of the historical founding Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama, were contributed by the Dalia Lama and are considered to be more than 2,600 years old.
Others came from the Sakya Reliquary in Tibet and Meiktila Museum in Burma. The collection has grown to 3,000 items, involving 40 Buddhist masters from around the world.
The display cases encircle a life-size, golden statue of the Maitreya Buddha, who will be the next Buddha to bring teachings of loving kindness to the world, scriptures say.
The exhibit was put together in 2001 by master and tour spiritual director Lama Zopa Rinpoche, who was born in Nepal. Viewed in more than 60 countries, it was last here in 2011, Taylor said.