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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Tibetan Connection

Categories: story ideas

For additional information or images contact:
Tosha Daugherty at 800/800-0037
or tosha@visitbloomington.com

Bloomington Indiana: The Tibetan Connection

Bloomington, IN -- A city tucked between the rolling hills and corn fields of southern Indiana and known as the home of Indiana University and Hoosiers basketball may seem an unlikely host for a Tibetan Cultural Center. Yet, Bloomington has been home to the only Tibetan Cultural Center in the United States since 1979. Now known as the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center, the Center is a resource not only to those specifically interested in Tibetan and Buddhist culture and religion, but also to anyone looking for a unique cultural experience or just a peaceful place to meditate.

The Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center was founded in the late 1970’s by Indiana University professor Thubten J. Norbu, brother of the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, in order to preserve the memory and culture of Tibetans and bring awareness to the country’s struggles. Based on the principles of peace, wisdom, justice and compassion, the center’s mission is to educate the public about the history, culture and future of Tibet, to support Tibetans both in Tibet and in exile, to preserve and transmit Tibetan culture, religion and language and to facilitate and support interfaith cooperation and dialogue among all people. A flagpole near the entrance to the 90-acre grounds displays both the American and Tibetan flags, representing the welcoming of Tibetan refugees into the U.S.

Visitors follow the winding path of pavement that leads to two stupas, which are traditional Buddhist reliquary structures that symbolize enlightenment. The first is the Jangchub Chorten, which was dedicated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1987, and stands as a monument to world peace and a memorial to the estimated 1.2 million Tibetans who have perished in the struggle to maintain Tibet’s independence. The second commemorates the Kalachakra Ceremonies for World Peace which took place at the Tibetan Cultural Center in 1999. The Kalachakra, or “Turning of the Wheel of Time,” is the most revered of all Buddhist rituals because it is dedicated to creating world peace and harmony.

At the end of the winding cement path, visitors will find the Chamtse Ling Temple, dedicated by His Holiness in 2003 and just recently designated as the Kumbum Champtse Ling Temple. The Chamtse Ling is an interdenominational, international temple whose name translates as “Field of Love and Compassion.” Inside the temple, in addition to the altar and a shrine to the Dalai Lama, visitors will also find 11 colorful scrolls, called Thangkas, which depict Tibetan Buddhist deities. The deities’ spirits are said to protect communities, extend lifetimes, heal, help people prosper and spread wisdom. Also located within the temple is the Cultural Center’s newest addition, the Room for Remembrance: Reflections of Tibet. Located off to one side of the temple, the room houses an exhibit of more than 60 photographs that tell the story of Tibet.

During a visit from the Dalai Lama in 2007, the center's name was officially changed to the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center to reflect a new goal for the center of becoming a center for Mongolian culture and Buddhist teachings in addition to a place to protect Tibetan culture.

The Kumbum Chamtse Ling Temple is open to the public daily from 9 am to 5 pm The Room for Remembrance is open on Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm, and by appointment. Guided group tours are also available and must be booked in advance by calling (812) 334-7046. For more information about the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington or a schedule of classes and teachings, visit www.tibetancc.com.

Bloomington is also home to the Dagom Gaden Tensung Ling Tibetan Monastery, founded in 1996, which follows the Buddha's teachings as transmitted by the Gelugpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. The DGTL serves as a community resource offering a wide array of cultural and educational programs to anyone who wishes to participate. For more information, visit www.ganden.org.

For more information about visiting Bloomington contact the Visitors Center at (800) 800-0037 or www.visitbloomington.com.

Sidebar: Tasty Tibetan Treats

After you’ve visited the Tibetan Culture Center to learn more about the Tibetan way of life, you’ll want to stop off at one of three area restaurants that feature Tibetan cuisine to truly experience some Tibetan culture for yourself.

Anyetsang’s Little Tibet is a local favorite on Fourth Street in an area that locals commonly refer to as “restaurant row,” where many of the restaurants are located in former homes with loads of character. This family-owned restaurant offers authentic Tibetan cuisine along with Indian and Thai specialties as well.

Snow Lion is just around the corner from Little Tibet on Grant Street and also offers Tibetan cuisine. Owned and managed by Jigme Norbu, the nephew of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Snow Lion offers a variety of authentic Tibetan and Indian dishes.

A little farther up Grant Street, you’ll find Café Django, which serves an eclectic combination of Asian food, including some Tibetan specialties in a comfortable environment. Evenings at Café Django bring live performances from local jazz musicians.

No matter which of these restaurants you choose, each offers outdoor seating when weather permits, definitely order the momos (meat or vegetarian) and, as with many of Bloomington’s ethnic eateries, come prepared to place your order based on your preference on the “spiciness scale” of one to five.

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