Erie’s Bhutanese Hosted Major Celebrations in June
The first group of Bhutanese were resettled in Erie in 2008. Their ancestors migrated from Nepal and settled in Bhutan in the late 19th century. For generations they lived in relative isolation and maintained their multi-religious and multi-ethnic languages and traditions. In the 1990’s the Bhutanese monarchy forced them to flee, where they lived in refugee camps in Nepal for over 10 years. Erie’s Bhutanese community is around 3,000 individuals (an estimated 3% of the total population) and they have established roots in the city, purchasing homes and starting businesses.
Two different Bhutanese groups held major celebrations in the early summer of 2022. June 10-12, the Palyul Choekhor Ling Buddhist Center hosted a Vajrakilaya Puja. Over 30 Buddhist monks from across North America came to Erie to chant and pray with other devotees for three consecutive days. The Center’s President, Bhim Gurung, writes, “The practice of Vajrakilaya is famous in the Himalaya Buddhist world as the most powerful for removing obstacles, destroying the forces hostile to compassion and purifying the spiritual pollution so prevalent in our world. We strive to subjugate the delusion and negativity that can arise as obstacles to the practice of Dharma.” Dharma is often translated as cosmic law or righteousness. More information about this relatively new Buddhist Center can be found at www.palyulerie.org.
On June 11, the Kirat Rai of Erie hosted a Sakela in Perry Square. The Kirat Rai follow an ancient earth-based spirituality that predates Buddhism and Hinduism. The Sakela is their annual spring festival, which resumed after a two year hiatus due to the pandemic. The ritual involved setting up an altar with plants, hunting and farming tools, and offerings of incense and fruit. Drummers played in the center while young people moved around them in a circle with traditional dances that invoked animals, birds, and fish. The celebration gave thanks to the Earth and prayers for a successful harvest. About 100 people attended the event, including dancers and drummers from Akron and Cleveland.