By Robin Pierson and Pam Wicks, Special to the Independent
After viewing moving slides taken on a spiritual trip to India, the Neighborhood Congregational Church and several members of the audience, pledged support and $600 to help the monks and Tibetan refugees living in an impoverished, desolate area of central India.
More than 100 people turned out at NCC on Sunday, May 29, to share the adventures of a group who had recently returned from visiting six high energy spiritual centers. Laguna residents Pam Wicks, Susan Brown Madorsky, Julien Kheymour and Everett Hoffman of Cleveland travelled with leader Tenpa Dorjee from south to north. One of the main focuses of the journey was to deliver humanitarian aid to residents of the Bhandara Tibetan Refugee camp, and to the monks at the adjoining monastery, living in a remote and underserved part of central India.
Dorjee, who owns Tibetan Handicrafts in downtown Laguna Beach, was born in the settlement. Keeping a promise he made to the late Rinpoche who headed the monastery, Dorjee has worked tirelessly to raise funds and awareness to help improve the lives of the monks and the 700 Tibetans who live in the refugee settlement that has “fallen through the cracks.”
In the evening’s most moving moment, Dorjee shared the story of his early life and how he eventually came to the U.S. Like many Tibetans who fled to India after the Chinese invasion of Tibet, Dorjee’s parents did not survive the harsh conditions at the camp, leaving him an orphan at 4. After the death of his parents, Dorjee was sent to Pondicherry where he was raised in an orphanage. As a young adult he later served H.H. the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala in Northern India, before moving to the U.S. Still, Dorjee considers the settlement to be his home. He is constantly is in touch with the camp and the monastery, doing his best to support both however he can.
After Dorjeeʼs heartfelt tale, Pastor B.J. Beu of NCC voiced a call to action and pledged the church’s support of the monastery and refugee camp. Many of the attendees signed up as well, hoping to learn more and support this effort.
Dorjee is responsible for bringing two different groups of Tibetan monks to Laguna who have created intricate sand mandalas, allowing thousands of people from the community to experience the message of peace symbolized by this profound and beautiful Tibetan ritual. A group of monks will be returning in September and NCC has again agreed to open its doors and host them.
As a gesture of thanks to the congregation, Dorjee presented a prayer wheel to the church. It had been lovingly painted by Yeshi Dorjee, a respected thangka (spiritual painting) artist visiting from Dharamsala, India. The exterior of the wheel reads “May Peace Prevail”. Within the wheel itself are 10,000 prayers for peace in Sanskrit. Prayer wheels are found outside all Buddhist temples. When one spins the wheel, practitioners believe prayers for peace are released into the world. The new wheel will be placed in the church’s portico, available to all who seek peace within and without. A dedication of the wheel is scheduled to take place at NCC on May 13th.
The evening ended with an Indian meal prepared by Dorjee and helpers.
For more information or to make a donation please contact Pam Wicks at (949) 573-7104 or Tenpa Dorjee at (949) 715-1043.