The filling ceremony

In 2005, it was first heard in the botanika that Bremen should perhaps get the European Peace Buddha. 12 years later he has arrived and is now to be filled according to ancient custom. And this is yet another exciting and touching story. Because alone to clarify which items should be filled into the statue is not so easy, given its size. Then there is the question of whether and how to get it upright after it has been filled. And finally: will the filled statue, which is many times heavier, survive being placed on the lotus throne? The following pictures report on the two-day action:

In preparation for the ceremony, Geshe Pema Samten, the spiritual director of the Tibetan Center Hamburg, selects the right items for the filling. Here the herbs and precious ground substances such as incense are felt, smelled and tested.

The tree of life, a yew, which was later used in the statue, had been previously selected by Geshe in the rhododendron park, cut at full moon and then sawed obelisk-like. Always in such a way that the eastern side remains recognizable. Because it should be aligned in the upright Buddha also again to the east.

The tree of life, now carefully polished, lacquered and inscribed with gold paint in Tibetan script, is wrapped with five-color threads by Gesche Pema Samten. Very clearly marked is the east side.

A last time in full beauty to see is also the small golden stupa, which is to be located later in the heart area of the Buddha. How small it is can be seen in the size comparison of the colorful wool threads.

Interesting also the view "behind the scenes", where all the items are stored, which are otherwise necessary. But also the bags with the soft filling materials, spices, herbs, powder of precious substances, petals...

... and the ground incense. These filling materials have been procured by the sack, because in the statue there should be no more cavities after the filling.

Each area of the Buddha will be filled separately. For the head, here are TsaTsas, small votive tablets, carefully hand-cast and painted beforehand. Behind them the mantra scrolls that had been sent in 14 boxes with the Buddha from Tibet House in India. Very different for the torso, the hands, the head and the lotus throne.

Now, finally, all the ingredients are ready for the filling: the mantra scrolls, the kanjur, a collection of books of the canon of Tibetan Buddhismaus, the treasure vases filled with semi-precious stones, in between a precious double dordje made of the purest rock crystal - an impressive abundance of treasures.

The Japanese garden of the botanika is the setting for this ceremony and is filled to capacity. During the welcoming speeches, the audience is allowed to sit right up to the front; later, during the filling ceremony, there must be room for the fillers to act.

The chairman of the German Buddhist Union, Gunnar Gantzhorn, welcomes those present, as well as words of greeting from, among others, Bremen's second mayor Caroline Linnert and the chairman of the association "Die Sieben Faulen", Peter Siemering, who made it financially possible for the statue to come to Bremen.

Finally, Geshe Pema Samten, the spiritual director of the Tibetan Center Hamburg, who will lead the ceremony, will also speak. He will explain the meaning and background of this event.

Now it can finally start. The Buddha statue lies on its back, carefully tied into a wooden frame. Now the first mantra roll is placed in the lower opening of the body.

So little by little the interior fills up with the mantra rolls. But it is to be filled completely.

Here you can see what the numerous herbs, petals and spices are used for.

Besides the main body of the Buddha, the arms are also filled. For these delicate parts, spray bottle and tweezers are used. To protect the valuable gold layer, the wearing of soft protective gloves is announced.

Again and again the filling is interrupted for pujas.

Next, the tree of life is inserted. At the bottom, the arrow indicates the east direction: When the statue is erected, the tree of life will again face east, as it had grown.

The Tree of Life is considered the spine of the Buddha and extends to the head.

Now the heart stupa and the tree of life are also embedded in the statue and carefully wrapped with flower petals and fragrant herbs.

It is time to admire also once the beautifully decorated altar.

The mood fluctuates between solemnity...

... and exuberant joy

Finally, the whole body is filled, last still the kanjur had been embedded as a base.

Now, to protect and finish the valuable items, a gold-colored ceiling is applied.

Now there is another puja, a Buddhist devotion of the lamas celebrating the filling. Beside Geshe Pema Samten there are Geshe Palden Öser from the Tibet Center Hannover, Geshe Rigzin Gyaltsen from the Tibet Center Berlin, Lama Dawa from the TTC Hamburg and Gen Lobsan Choejor from the Tibetan Center Hamburg.

After the puja, the bottom is sealed airtight.

Everything is also firmly closed in the neck area, with only the tree of life still sticking out. It is swept again before the next exciting section begins: the erection of the statue.

Except for a small team, all the spectators, but also the teachers, have now left the Japanese garden. Absolute concentration is required for what is to follow now. First, the very mobile crane is brought into position.

What is to be done now has never been done by any of the parties involved: The raising of the fragile statue, which has become very heavy after being filled. The anxious question is: Will the bracing of the statue in the wooden frame hold? Nothing slip, crack, destroy the gilding?

For this reason, those involved have agreed that only a very few experts are now allowed to give instructions; everyone else is to hold back with tips and comments. The crane operator has now found the right starting point. The crate is lifted very slowly and carefully, centimeter by centimeter.

Now it hangs on the hook, floating freely, but guided by several holding ropes. Until now, the statue has not moved in its tension. But the excitement of those involved continues to grow. 

A somewhat whimsical image, cutting-edge technology and many centuries of tradition combined at this moment to create the European Peace Buddha.

Now the box is erected vertically and floats freely. Still the statue inside has not moved. A good sign. 

The next step will be exciting again: the exact placement of the statue above the lotus throne.

Very slowly, the statue swings over the lotus throne. Now don't make any jerky movements.

The lotus throne had, of course, also been filled beforehand and then tightly sealed with a strong plate to support the enormous weight of the Buddha statue.

The statue must be lowered very precisely over the lotus throne. Once the lower support bar is removed, there is no possibility of modification.

On all sides, the edge of the statue is now exactly aligned with the edge of the lotus throne, hovering just an inch above it.

This is now the decisive moment, everyone present holds their breath. It has become very quiet in the nocturnally dark greenhouse. Only the "construction site" is illuminated. Now - very carefully - the first lower support beam is loosened. Will the braces at the top hold the Buddha?

Yes, the strong straps holding the heavy but also very delicate gilded Buddha body with soft mats do not move. The last lower holding bars have been removed. Now the crane can set the statue down very gently on the lotus throne. 

Perhaps you can see from this detail that the task was not easy to fix and lash the statue, which now has a huge weight and only a very thin and extremely delicate gilded outer wall, so that nothing can slip.

The Buddha has found his place on the lotus throne. The holding ropes and tensions are released. A great sigh of relief goes through the room as the wooden frame is now slowly and carefully pulled up.

You can still see the tension in the actors' faces, but now the box is hovering just above the tree of life. It is done.

The great relief is not to be overlooked. The most difficult thing has now been accomplished. A great sense of gratitude can be felt by everyone involved.

Now the head of the Peace Buddha has to be put on, carefully brought by Gunnar Gantzhorn, the chairman of the German Buddhist Union.

However, the tree of life is not exactly in the right position. With combined forces, it is still pulled forward a little.

This action also requires a delicate touch. For this reason, the decisive touchdown may also be performed without gloves as an exception.

The exact position of the head is now "directed" from the front, before the head can then also be filled from above the next day.

How it goes on the next morning shows the next photo stretch "The solemn consecration".