SALT LAKE CITY — Lama Thupten Rinpoche sees hope and beauty in the simple things.
As the resident teacher and Lama, or spiritual leader, for Urgyen Samten Ling Gonpa, the Tibetan Buddhist Temple in Salt Lake City, Rinpoche hopes a simple five-word mantra will spread compassion and loving kindness to both those who utter it and to the rest of the world.
Since Thursday, the temple's sangha, or members, have been reciting "Om Mani Padma Hung Hrih" round-the-clock alongside members of the public who have visited the temple to lend their voices. The chanting of the mantra of Chenrezig, a deity that embodies compassion, is part of the temple's annual Prayers for Compassion celebration.
The recitations are also dedicated in honor of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, whose 79th birthday is Sunday. In Tibetan Buddhism, His Holiness is considered to be the physical manifestation of Chenrezig.
By the festival's end on Sunday, the temple's members hope to have recited the mantra more than 1.2 million times — a number that symbolizes the minimum number of completion for Tibetan Buddhists, Rinpoche said.
"It is our hope that by engaging in this endeavor, over this period of time, that we try to at least foster a sense of compassion for all," he said. "If nothing more, it is our intent to do so for ourselves as we interact with others in our community."
In translation, the mantra means "jewel in the lotus," he said. "The jewel in the lotus is the compassionate nature that resides in the minds of all sentient beings."
Rinpoche says the simple beauty of a lotus flower encourages people to share their love in an oftentimes unloving world.
"The lotus roots go down in the mud and the muck of the lake. But the strength of its stem rises up, and we see this beautiful flower revealed above the water," he said. "So in a way, if we could rise from the depths of our own impurities and really discover our own enlightened qualities like the lotus, ... we could connect to this compassionate nature and let it open up like a flower for the benefit of others. That is what we are seeking to do."
On Thursday, Rinpoche opened the 3-day festival alongside two visiting Buddhist teachers — Tulku Choejor Rinpoche, a recognized "incarnate master," and Ani Yangchen Lhamo, a recognized female Lama from Nepal. The temple's members and visitors took part in the opening ceremony by doing bowing prostrations and presenting kati, a symbolic offering cloth, to Tulku Choejor Rinpoche as a sign of goodwill.
Bells, drums and horns were also used in "invoking, inviting, visualizing, offering and reciting the various aspects of (Chenrezig)," Lama Thupten Rinpoche said.
Rinpoche was pleased to see visitors not of the faith present at the ceremony.
"It doesn't matter what belief you have. ... Anyone is invited to come and sit and participate to whatever degree they can," he said. "I believe that all of these approaches to the spiritual path encourage, acknowledge and invoke the compassionate quality, and that that compassionate quality is to be exhibited toward others."
By the festival's end, Rinpoche hopes that pondering mantra and the beauty of the lake flower will make compassion a simple task for those who participated.
"Whatever your tradition, beliefs, spiritual journey or quest may be, may it lead you to the ... compassionate loving kindness that lies within all of us (so) that perhaps we can arrive at a commonality of languages (and) that we can share the differences of our beliefs," he said.
Contributing: Whitney Evans