Jade Buddha attracts thousands in San Jose
Between processions of nuns and monks leading chants and prayers, tens of thousands of Buddhists have come to a warehouse in San Jose to pray before the Jade Buddha and pose before the popular statue for family snapshots.
"I came here to just pray for good things to happen, especially to the community of San Jose," Pauline Bui said Sunday morning at the makeshift temple. "It's for universal peace. That's what this Buddha is for."
A financial analyst who lives in San Jose, Bui has brought her mother and two children six or seven times. On a previous visit, she stood in line for three hours to buy a small pendant made from the same, massive block of jade as the statue.
At least 113,000 people have visited the statue since the exhibition opened Sept. 19, according to the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace Organizing Committee in Northern California. Almost 29,000 showed up the next day, prompting at least one complaint from a resident of an apartment complex next door about crowds, illegal parking and noise.
By this past weekend, however, the mood was relaxed, even festive, as the free exhibit headed toward its last day in San Jose -- Friday. It will then continue on its five-year, worldwide tour. A spat between rival Vietnamese-American community factions over who would host the statue didn't dampen the community's enthusiasm.
Buddhism has seen countless statues of its founder in stone, bronze, gold and other materials over the ages.
It was carved from a single, 16-ton boulder of translucent jade formed in a mountaintop crucible 100 million years ago, when colliding tectonic plate created the Cassiar Mountains in western Canada. Miners discovered the rare rock only 10 years ago and gave it a name, "Polar Pride," even before anyone knew what to do with it.
Two Australian Buddhists, Ian and Judy Green, bought it and shipped it to Thailand, where master carvers produced the statue from half the stone. The other half was broken up into smaller pieces and sold to help fund the statue's world tour and to build its final stop, a new temple in Australia.
The Greens named the statue the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace, hoping that all who see it, no matter what their religion, would take a moment to reflect on peace in the world, as well as at home, work and in their own hearts and minds.
Unlike the portly Buddha statues so commonly seen on television, this one is slim and youthful, almost athletic. The designers borrowed from the famous Gautama Buddha in Bodh Gaya, India, where Buddhists believe the founder of their religion found enlightenment in the 4th century B.C.
The Jade Buddha is attracting pilgrims far from the Silicon Valley orbit.
Kim Nguyen drove down Sunday from Ukiah with her two children and planned to return after a few hours of prayer. She found a nook at one end of the temporary temple and sat cross-legged with a strand of prayer beads in her hand.
"This Buddha, this jade, it comes from deep in the ground," she said. "We pray to him for wisdom, to help us live our lives in peace. "
An hour later, she was still at prayer, standing and kneeling on a carpet away from the altar, where the line of pilgrims seemed to only grow longer.
Contact Joe Rodriguez at 408-920-5767.
If You're Going
The Jade Buddha for Universal Peace can be viewed for free at 1980 Senter Road, San Jose, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily and until 12 p.m. Friday. A closing ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. Friday.