STACIE SCOTT/Lincoln Journal Star
August 16, 2014 5:00 pm • By NANCY HICKS / Lincoln Journal Star
More than 300 people welcomed the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace — a 4-ton, 8-foot statue of Buddha on an alabaster throne — to the Linh Quang Buddhist Center southwest of Lincoln on Saturday.
More than 50 Buddhist monks and nuns from across the United States participated in the midday ceremony, which included traditional music, dance, prayer, chanting, incense and offerings of flowers and fruits.
The Buddha statue, carved in Thailand out of Canadian jade, will be on display at the Linh Quang Buddhist Center for the next week, ending its visit with a closing ceremony at 11:30 a.m. Aug. 24. The statue has been traveling the world for the past five years.
The Jade Buddha represents peace — both for the world and in oneself, said Thich Tinh Man, a monk from Colorado.
Or, as it says on the local temple’s website, the purpose of displaying the Buddha is for “everyone, irrespective of their religion, to take a moment to reflect upon peace; peace for the world; peace in their relationships; peace for their families and friends; peace at work; peace in their mind.”
The Buddhist Center hopes the statue’s presence will provide an opportunity for cross-cultural exchanges and learning about the growing Vietnamese-American and Buddhist population in Nebraska, said Tuyet Kieu, a leader for the temple youth group whose parents and siblings are active in the temple.
Prudence and Claude Coccodrilli, retired elementary schoolteachers who regularly attend the temple’s Sunday service, were among several dozen non-Vietnamese attendees at Saturday’s ceremony.
The Buddhist temple generally serves Vietnamese refugees and their families who practice Buddhism, but it offers cultural teachings as well, Claude Coccodrilli said. Because of the language barrier, he said, “we don’t always know what they are doing but we love the sounds, we love the feeling, we love the culture.”
The temple has about 600 families on its mailing list, and about 100 people participate each week in Sunday morning services, Kieu said.
Saturday’s opening ceremony included a moment of silence to remember ancestors, as well as offerings of flowers, oranges and small replicas of the Jade Buddha. There was also music and dance, including a traditional Asian Lion Dance by members of the temple youth group.
Young boys and girls from several Midwest youth groups participated in the ceremony, along with older venerated monks and everyone in between, said Tram Kieu, Tuyet Kieu’s sister.
Some women wore traditional dresses the colors of the international Buddhist flag: blue, yellow, red, orange and white. Other women and men were clothed in gray prayer robes. Monks and nuns wore gold-colored robes.
Visitors could buy homemade Vietnamese vegetarian dishes, rice cakes, rice noodles, spring rolls, bánh bao chay (a steamed bun filled with vegetables) and locally grown Vietnamese melons and gourds.
And during much of the ceremony, people stood, hands pressed together in front of them — representing a lotus flower, an important Buddhist symbol.