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Happy Losar, Everyone!

Tibetans believe in bad luck brought on by sitting mugs on plates, green skinned goddesses with a third eye, and blue-skinned hermits, but they don't believe in giving themselves a lot of time. This is why our visit to the Gyupta Buddhist center was far too short.

But then, there was far too much to see in anything less than an hour, and Rinzing was scheduled to set up his cameras at the TANC's Got Talent Show in half an hour.

But I will tell you what I saw in the brief while that I was there. The Gyupta Center is a functioning Tibetan Buddhist monastery that is hidden in a warren of narrow streets up in the hills of Richmond. You drive up to the top of a hill past neat little houses to a high yellow wall. There isn't a gate, just a break in the wall, and a road that leads to the small parking lot. The monastery is right behind this. It has the obligatory large prayer wheel ( a metal cylinder that hangs vertically from a ceiling that you can push in circles.) There was a sign near the wheel that was boldly titled "Benefits of Spinning The Prayer Wheel." Being a hopeless materialist who does not belong anywhere near anybody's religion, my first thought was 'exercise. Walking in circles while pushing a metal thing is good exercise.'

I didn't have time to actually read the purported benefits because we were heading inside to pay homage at the altar room, but I knew that 'exercise' would not be listed as a benefit for the prayer wheel. Prayer wheels are the physical manifestations of Tibetan prayers, and they are supposed to center your mind and send your wishes up to the gods.

The altar room is a great place for meditation. A large dais in the front of the room is covered with an altar that goes straight to the roof with gold statues of the 1000-headed Buddha. A small jade fountain trickled away in one corner and a large crystal sat in front of the Buddha. Flowers, fruit and candles cover it with an alluring array of textures and contrasts. None of the pictures I took did it justice; it was a work of beauty that mere words cannot convey.

Now, Rinzing takes fantastic pictures. It's his side job and passion to videotape events. Unfortunately, I do not have his gift, so you are all going to have to settle for my blurry pictures.

The table for the white scarfs that are the traditional offering of honor in Tibetan

Of course, no visual medium can bring you the soft warmth of the carpet, the peaceful sound of water flowing over jade or the sense of grandeur and space that comes in this room.

Gold statues and thanks

Once we had made our prayers for the New Year, we moved on. We had to hustle off to get ready for the show.

We did get a few moments to admire the beautiful murals of holy places in India and Tibet that Rinzing's friend painted. Rinzing pointed them out specifically because of his memories of painting those very places.

At some point, we will have to go back and take better pictures of this wonderful place. I hope to be able to show some of Rinzing's work from that day soon. In the meantime, you can consider this a taste of day.

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