MANZANITA - Pine Grove Community Club served as more of a temple than a neighborhood meeting hall last week.

Lobsang Jinpa Rinpoche, Tibetan Buddhist master, commenced an empowerment ritual with a song. Behind him, candles flickered on a flower-bedecked altar. A tapestry depicting seven Buddhas hung above it. Incense filled the air. Rinpoche, with the help of translator Ven Lama Phuntsho, lead a roomful of North Tillamook County residents in connecting to the Medicine Buddha.

He and fellow Gaden Shartse Monastic College monks believe that spiritual practice has a direct and powerful effect on physical healing. The Medicine Buddha empowerment is meant to establish a connection between the participant and deity.

Rinpoche's words were simple:

"You must come with the proper motivation - Don't be motivated by greed or grasping. When you are generous, or give, never regret it; never be afraid you won't receive a return. It's like planting rice - if you plant it properly, it will return with lots of rice."

Having led the group through a series of visualizations, Rinpoche followed by repeating, and having the group repeat, a mantra. "Now you have a license to recite," he said.

Tom Bender, Neahkahnie resident, who as among the many North County residents who interacted with the monks while they were in the area, was impressed.

"What a treat to feel the effects of a life based in compassion rather than greed," said Bender. "An exchange like this brings into focus the beauty and strangeness of our own culture, as well as that of a very different one. It sure makes clear the value of a life and culture based in the sacred."

Rinpoche was born a triplet in 1936. Because some believed he and his brothers were reincarnated lamas, they were ordained as Buddhist monks while they were children. He began studying at a monastery at the age of seven. By the time he was 35, Rinpoche had earned the highest Geshe degree of Lharampa (equivalent to a doctorate degree) in Buddhist studies. After the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, he followed in the footsteps of the Dalai Lama by fleeing to asylum in India. Today, when he is not on tour, Rinpoche guides and trains young monks and masters on spiritual and ritual performance at Gaden Shartse Monastery.

The small band of monks were in Manzanita Sept. 5 on the last stop of the Tillamook County leg of a national fundraising tour that next takes them to Salem, Portland, Corvallis and Eugene before heading south to California. Throughout the tour, they are performing traditional Tibetan dances and rituals, while offering private and group purifications, healings, blessings and astrological readings.

When they aren't traveling abroad to raise money, Gaden Shartse monks live at a monastic college, located in the remote jungle and hill country of southern India. The college was founded in 1969 in an effort to re-establish one of the monastic traditions of Tibet. The institution has grown to house more than 1,600 resident students, teachers, scholars and spiritual practitioners.

The majority of revenue comes from international tours. The financial objectives of this year's tour are to complete a new debate courtyard, which will provide protection from the sun and monsoons, covering teachers' salaries and improving soil for farm sustainability. To find out how to contribute, or for more information on the tour or monastery, call (562) 413-5924, or visit (www.gadenshartsetour.org)

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