You don’t have to wait until Doors Open to visit the Tibetan Cultural Centre or the Tibetan temple on Heinzman Street. You can go on Wednesday, February 22, on Losar, the Tibetan New Year. Worshippers can drop in to receive blessings and leave offerings. Respectful sightseers can visit too. In both places, monks will be chanting prayers in time to beating drums. In both places, no Doors Open guides with spiels will be available. If you ask, many of the people present will cheerfully answer your questions in English.
Usually, visitors have to take off their shoes at the temple. The temple has beautiful statues but you can’t take pictures there. There are only a couple of chairs.
Last Saturday, we didn’t have to take off our shoes at the Cultural Centre. A lot of people were taking pictures of the monks, performers, and dignitaries. Hundreds of chairs were available for us to sit on.
The Tibetan Cultural Centre will be open Wednesday from 9am to 1pm. It is at 40 Titan Road in Etobicoke, an industrial district, and a five-minute walk from Islington Avenue. You can’t miss it on the north-west side because of the tiny white pagoda and prayer flags in front. The flags are suspended from a tree, a delightful use for a Toronto tree. In treeless Tibet, such pyramids of flags hang from giant poles.
The formal entrance with its red doors is on Titan Road. I found it locked. Last Saturday, people were entering through the doors on the west side. In the back of the parking lot are two huge prayer wheels – larger than those that I’ve seen in Tibet, and I’ve visited temples from one end of Tibet to the other.
Alas, a couple naughty Tibetan children were throwing snow balls at the prayer wheels. A few children were using them as playground swings. Each spin spreads blessings so I don’t suppose it matters as long as they spin clockwise. I also saw Tibetan mothers reverently teaching their youngsters to rotate the wheels. You can spin them too.
Last Saturday was the Re-Opening Ceremony of Phase One of the Centre. Two more phases are to be built when enough money is raised. Besides the huge meeting hall, the current building has a couple of smaller function rooms, and big washrooms. I did not mention this event in my web-site because it cost $20. This is more than our web-site’s guidelines allow. The fee included a delicious lunch, butter tea, ceremonial rice with raisins, and a donation to the centre. We watched Tibetan dancers in beautiful silk brocade costumes. They were students of dance at the centre.
This event and the more expensive fund-raisers were on the centre’s web-site.
Last Saturday, a large picture of the Dalai Lama was ceremoniously carried in and placed on the stage. Worshippers laid katas, or white scarves of respect, in front of it. Several people kowtowed three times, head to the floor in reverence. People involved in the construction of the building were honoured and thanked for their work. Aside from the politicians, construction and bank people, I didn’t see any other non-Tibetans there. I felt sad at this lack of community support. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet these friendly, pleasant newcomers to Toronto.
The Ontario government money helped to fund the building. $211.600 came from Ontario government’s Trillium Foundation. The Dalai Lama Foundation gave a million dollars. Loans and donations took care of the rest. They need more money.
The centre’s web-site is: www.tcccgc.org/en/ . For more information, telephone 416-410–5606.