Foundation of Health, Jeremy Ball takes us on the incredible journey of the Earth Treasure Vases and their guardian Cynthia Jurs
In 1990, Cynthia Jurs was invited to join a small pilgrimage, trekking into the Solu-Khumbu region of Nepal (the foothills of Mount Everest) to meet Charok Rinpoche, a 106 year old Tibetan Lama who lived as a hermit in a cave almost 5000 metres above sea level.
Cynthia had been on a profound spiritual journey that had led her to this moment. Born in the United States, at the age of 17 she found herself assisting on expeditions to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. On returning home, she sought out spiritual teachers to continue the opening she had experienced in her travels, sitting at the feet of many teachers including Swami Muktinanda, Kalu Rinpoche, Namkhai Norbu and, most significantly, becoming a senior student of Tich Nhat Hanh.
The other great influence in Cynthia’s life was her desire to protect the natural environment. As Cynthia undertook the arduous journey to Charok Rinpoche’s cave, she grappled with the state of the world and what she could do to help.
After several weeks camping near the hermit’s cave and visiting him on a daily basis, Cynthia finally had the opportunity to speak with him directly and ask what she could do to protect the Earth. In the Rinpoche’s answer was Cynthia’s life mission: “Even just one person practising deeply will bring benefit to their whole area. But you need to get the Earth Treasure Vases and bury them all around the world in places of need. They will bring healing and protection to the Earth. Just put them in the ground; they will do the work.”
Charok Rinpoche sent Cynthia’s guide Lama Tsultrim to Thangboche Monastery further up in the Himalayas to have the vases made by the monks there and he travelled far and wide in Nepal visiting all the high Lamas requesting sacred objects and jewels to place in the vases. The following year, 30 vases were safely delivered to Cynthia’s home in New Mexico and there they sat for a number of years as she came to terms with the task at hand. Finally, the world spoke to her with the imbalances she witnessed in nature calling out for her to place them in the land, creating a mandala of healing.
And so the first vase was filled with prayers and blessings and placed, with the help of Tibetan monks and a Pueblo medicine woman, in a cave above Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the first atomic bomb was birthed, a short distance from Santa Fe. From there the project took on a life of its own, with the Earth calling out where the vases should be placed through dreams, meditation and synchronicities.
Vases have been placed in war-torn communities in Liberia and Kosovo, natural reserves facing destruction, communities with internal turmoil and sacred sites. Wherever possible, local communities and indigenous elders have been involved in the consecration and placement of the vases and Cynthia has often remained in contact helping set up projects to support the communities and help them heal.
In Cynthia’s own words: “We have also learned to become real participants in the work of healing and offering protection for the Earth. Motivated to become stewards of the Earth, and to share our prayers with elders, youth, shamans, masters, activists and regular folks in communities and places across the globe, we are honoring the spiritual and healing traditions of the whole Earth – not just the way of Tibetan Buddhism. Together, we are embracing the Earth in our love.”
Each full moon back in Santa Fe, the remaining vases are consecrated and filled with blessings ready for the time when they, too, will be placed. Cynthia says the vases take on a life of their own in preparation for when they will be placed to beam out blessings. She also feels a deep connection with the places where vases have already been placed continuing to send out blessings to the land and communities in this global network that has been created.
World Mandala of Vases
Towards the end of 2012, Cynthia placed the 29th and penultimate vase in her collection at the sacred site of Avebury in the South West of England with the mandala of vases now incorporating: Avebury, England; Arctic Alaska; Dtao Dum Forest, Thailand; Tritium Lab, Berkley California; Oaxaca, Mexico; Maui, Hawaii: Giza, Egypt; Ein Kerem, Israel; Kosovo; Hudson River, New York; Il’ca’bama, Ecuador; New York City; Mount Chicoma, New Mexico; Mount Baldy, New Mexico; Mouth of the Rio Grande at the Gulf of Mexico; Source of the Rio Grande, Creede, Colorado; Los Alamos, New Mexico; Biosphere 2, Arizona; Source of the Amazon River, Peru; East Oakland, California; Source of the Ganges, India; Hiroshima, Japan; Colombia; Democratic Republic of Congo; South Africa; Liberia; Headwaters Redwood Forest, California; Papua New Guinea.
The Last Vase
There is one vase left to be placed and our beautiful continent of Australia has long been in Cynthia’s heart for the placement of a vase. Initially, it was Cynthia’s intention to have the complete global mandala of 30 vases in place prior to December 21, 2012 and the Australian vase was originally planned to be placed much earlier. But it seems the spirit of the practice has conspired to save the Australian vase for last and into the New Age past the celestial turning point of 21.12.2012. And it seems very fitting to me for Australasia, to my mind, has always been the place of birthing the New Earth with new possibilities of living in harmony with nature and cooperation between man.
Cynthia sees the last vase as “a seed for the next phase of our organisation’s development. The essence of the next phase of our work is acknowledging, becoming, and cultivating our selves as holy vessels of transformation – filled as we are with our own sacred treasure and offerings to the Earth – and facilitating that transformative experience among others. Now, when all planetary ecosystems are threatened and all species are endangered, this practice invites individuals and communities everywhere to come together and strengthen our shared intention for restoring wellbeing to the Earth. The practice transcends political, cultural and spiritual differences in a common language of caring and compassion.” The 30th and final Earth Treasure Vase will be the seed from which 108 new vases shall be made under the direction of Native American potters.
Cynthia met with Aboriginal Elder and my dear friend and teacher Uncle Bob Randall and his wife Barbara when he was touring and teaching in the United States. Cynthia expressed her desire to place one of the vases in Australia. Bob and I had been involved in the placement of an Earth Treasure Vase, which I had intitiated, in the centre of Australia on Pitjantjatjara Land. The gathering was organised by Vicky Engham and Mike Booth of Aura-Soma International and attended by more than 80 participants representing over 23 nations with the cooperation and involvement of Aboriginal elders. The placement itself was presided over by Lama Choedak Rinpoche and Khentrul Rinpoche.
So it was my great honour when Bob and Barbara introduced me to Cynthia to assist with the placement of the “Australian” Vase. I am very excited to say that the placement of the vase will coincide with His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visit to Australia in June 2013. The vase will be placed on the altar on the teaching stage beside His Holiness throughout the Sydney teachings and will be blessed by Lamas and attendees throughout its time there. There will also be blessing ceremonies for the wider community held in Sydney on Friday June 13 and Darwin on Friday June 20 (Details for attendance will be on www.transformationaltours.com.au) It would be wonderful to get as many Australian people as possible to view and bless the vase before its placement in Kakadu where it can beam its blessings down and through the songlines of Australia. On its way to Kakadu the vase will be taken to Uluru and Kata-Tjuta where it can be filled with blessings from the Earth, Uncle Bob Randall and his family.
I will leave the final words for Cynthia and her beloved teacher: “Thich Nhat Hanh also stated, “The next Buddha will be a Sangha.” It was a stunning comment to hear and to witness; a prophecy it seemed, coming from a living Buddha amongst us. It rang like a bell, rippling in all of us, echoing down through the years. I think he was right. It is true. It is our collective awakening that is going to bring us into a new era of enlightened activity, beyond the unsustainable ways of life and limited understanding that characterises the present age. From the shore of collective abuse, oppression and suffering to the shore of liberation and peace we must go. With balance and harmony and prosperity for all, in recognition of each of our unique contributions to the whole of life – this timeless mandala of beauty and great perfection.”
The Meaning of Earth Treasure Vases
An excerpt from His Holiness Khyentse Rinpoche on the Tibetan tradition of Earth Treasure Vases: “In Tibet, more than a thousand years ago, many great saints possessed the knowledge to prevent wars, famines and disease. This was accomplished through the construction, consecration and the appropriate placement of special ‘vases’ containing precious objects and substances, which created a sustained, harmonic environmental grid that pervaded the surrounding area. From the time the vases were ‘planted’ until the time the Chinese Communist forces brought about the ‘cultural revolution’ it was recorded in Tibetan history that there were no major wars, famines or disease. The method to create the Treasure Vases was originally brought forth and then hidden by Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambava) in the 8th Century as a teaching to be discovered at a later time when the practice would be needed.
Of course those of us in the industrialised world have witnessed the rape and pillage of the world for her natural resources, the depletion of the forests and the scything of the many creatures that inhabit the Earth and, worse still, man set against man in battles of greed and ego over the limited resources that then bring chaos and heartbreak into the home. If ever we needed help in restoring balance it is now!
It was during the 1800s that two Tibetan saints together discovered the teachings containing the instructions to create these special vases. Significantly, these teachings were discovered at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the period in our history that created the means to destroy our planet. Alas, the Cultural Revolution came and the Tibetans alone were not able to accomplish the creation and placement of the vases on their own. However, quite fittingly, they introduced the practice to the wider community for shared responsibility in cleaning up the mess created.
Khyentse Rinpoche goes on to say that all over the world local deities dwell yet destruction of the environment diminishes their power and blessings. But the vases help to restore the balance and vitality of the guardian spirits.
Talking about the intention of the practice, Khyentse Rinpoche says, “With the motivation that the turbulence and suffering of sickness, famine, wars and conflicts throughout the whole world may be pacified and that the auspiciousness of virtue and wellbeing may pervade over all the world and that all beings may continuously enjoy the splendor of exaltation, the vases are made. When the vases are placed, all the various countries where they are buried will abide in supreme virtue, the wealth and splendor of the dharma will remain long and they will bring good fortune and long life free from illness. All beings will turn away from quarrels and strife, gathering in sublime perfection and remaining till the end of the Age.”
For more information on this incredible project see www.earthtreasurevase.org