Many Gather for Transforming the Heart June 2 Buddhist Festival in Portland

Written by: Christopher Lee

Dance Mandal Temple Priest Prajwal Ratna Vajracharya performing a wrathful Bodhisattva dance.

Buddhist practitioners, and curious non-Buddhists, gathered in Portland’s Colonel Summers City Park June 2, for the ninth annual Portland Buddhist Festival.

Tibetan prayer flags decorated the festival’s central pavilion. (Photos & Video: Paul Harris)

Themed “Transforming the Heart,” the festival included offerings for many interests including a panel discussion, a keynote address, and even a blessing-the-pets ceremony.

At center of the event was a covered pavilion protecting a cloth-covered altar that featured a statue of the Buddha and an incense burner. Large Tibetan prayer flags draped across the outside of the pavilion.

Recorded sitar music played as people arrived. Some sought orientation materials at the information booth.

The festival included a children’s area, where young people could hear Buddhist stories, and where they could practice drumming.

Rev. Gregory Gibbs of the Oregon Buddhist Temple blesses a dog by name.

Rev. Gregory Gibbs invited people to come forward one at a time to the altar, so each person could place ashes on their forehead, and bow to the Buddha statue.

Gibbs also offered to bless any animals people had with them. Gibbs asked for each animal’s name and then he addressed each animal by name, giving each a blessing first in Japanese, then in English.

“May you be healthy and happy. May no harm come to you. May you have peace,” he said.

Then Gibbs thanked each animal by name for coming forward.

A visitor inspects literature from the Nichiren Buddhist Temple.

Domyo Burk, founder and teacher for Portland’s Bright Way Zen Center, gave the keynote address, “Transforming the Heart.”

In her talk, she emphasized how the contents of people’s hearts creates their realities, concluding they must cultivate change in their hearts to change their lives.

The Northwest Dharma Association’s Jeff Kerr read words of loving kindness from the Buddha.

Leaders in a panel discussion included: Heidi Hoogstra of Dharma Rain Zen Center, Stan Shiigi of Oregon Buddhist Temple, Prajwal Ratna Vajracharya of Dance Mandal Temple, and Mary Reinard of the Friends of the Dharma.

Tents dot the festival’s central arcade.

Many groups offered booths, with materials about their practices and their traditions. These included:

  1. Oregon Buddhist Temple, a Jodo Shinshu pure land temple.
  2. Dharma Rain Zen Center, which is considering purchasing a 14-acre tract of undeveloped land to create more room for their growing dharma school for children. The group hopes to build on the land a new Zendo, a dharma house, a sangha house for monks, and possibly condominiums.
  3. Tergar Meditation Group, a local center sharing the teaching of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.
  4. Nritya Mandala Mahavihara (Dance Mandal) Temple, where Prajwal Ratna Vajracharya danced the enactment of bodhisattvas, Nepalese Buddhist style, in costume. In response to the festival’s theme, she said, “Do I really want to change my heart? Why not understand the heart?”
  5. Nichiren Buddhist Temple, a Japanese-origin temple that is one of Portland’s oldest.
  6. Kagyu Changchub Chuling center, in the Kagyu lineage, which is now accepting applications for a one-year retreat beginning March 30, 2013. The retreat will be held at their new retreat center, Ser Chö Ösel Ling, in Goldendale, Wash.
  7. Northwest Dharma Association, an association of Buddhist groups and organizations throughout the Northwest.
  8. Soka Gakkai International, a lay Buddhist organization focused on the Lotus Sutra, and based on the teachings of Nichiren, a 13th-century Japanese Buddhist priest.
  9. Living Earth Gatherings Organization, a non-Buddhist organization founded by Betsy Toll, which supports a broad definition of dharma, or the way, found in many cultures and traditions.
  10. Bright Way Zen, a west Portland community exploring Zen practice together.
  11. Heart of Wisdom, a urban Zen center that is part of the Zen Community of Oregon.
  12. Great Vow Monastery, the monastic center of Zen Community of Oregon. Great Vow is located in Clatskanie, Ore.
  13. Community of Mindful Living, in the tradition of Vietnamese teacher Thich Nhat Hahn.
  14. Shambhala Meditation Center of Portland, the Portland-area group following the teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, now led by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.
  15. Diamond Way Buddhist Center Portland, part of an international network of centers of the Karma Kagyu school, founded and directed by Lama Ole Nydahl and under the spiritual guidance of the 17th Karmapa, Trinley Thaye Dorje.
  16. Portland Buddhist Peace Fellowship, which combines Buddhist practice with political activism in the Portland area.


Video by Paul Harris
Paul Harris is a long-time semi-professional photographer who with his wife moved to Portland last June from Green Bay, Wis. Referring to the Portland Buddhist Festival, he said he “enjoyed meeting all the nice people at the event.” He currently has no Buddhist affiliations.

About the Author: Christopher Lee
Christopher Lee has pledged Buddhist vows in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, worked as a reporter in radio and print for 10 years, and is the author of “Sacred Sites and Sacred Spaces,” published by Smashwords Publishers.