Go Take a Bath

We weren’t exactly sure what to expect when the Tubten Kunga Buddhist center sent word that it was holding a “Bathing Purification” on Sunday. The short communiqué said, “This traditional ritual practice will purify demons, bad omens, nightmares, mental illness, fears, and curses. Please bring a towel and flowers. Children are welcome.”

Turns out, the event will be even more interesting than we could have hoped. Says the center’s Linda Melisano, “It’s directed at people who have, like mental problems – who doesn’t? I mean, it’s for if you want to get rid of a bad vibe. If something’s holding you back. Or if, like, not that someone has actually cursed you, but…”

Basically, Melisano explains, the center’s resident monk will fill a basin with “saffron water” and then sprinkle it on participants’ head and ears. “It’s not deep immersion,” she says. You don’t go swimming, although in Tibet, this ceremony is generally performed in a river.

After everyone has been washed, the monk will take the water, with all the bad spirits, and, says Melisano, “make a man out of barley powder -- like Tibetan gingerbread man. It’ll probably be the size of a teddy bear.” The “man” will represent all the negativity that has been washed off. “We’ll leave that at the crossroads of Hillsboro Boulevard and US 1, to be taken by the elements,” Melisano says. Hillsboro Boulevard? “Well, we’re supposed to leave it where north, south, east, and west meet. It’s an ancient custom.” Although, in ancient times, she concedes, Barley Man would not be left to disintegrate in exhaust fumes, but rather, “the oxen would walk all over it.”

The ceremony, Melisano says, “is very radical for [our monk]. He’s a very conservative monk. But there have been a lot of obstacles lately.” The beautiful thing about the purification, Melisano explains, is that “The blessing isn’t coming from anybody. It’s coming from within you. We don’t believe in some creator god that comes and takes away all your problems. Monks have no power, just the power you give your own mind.” The ritual is open to people of all ages and religions. Melisano says that for her, converting to Buddhism from Catholicism brought “happiness. Peace and happiness. We think in the tradition of the Dalai Lama. You can be much happier once you can control your mind.”

The Tubten Kunga center is located at 201 SE 15th Terrace Cove Plaza, Deerfield Beach. Call 954-421-6224, or visit www.tubtenkunga.org. The bathing purification lasts from 10:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. Suggested donation: $30.
Sun., April 23

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Deirdra Funcheon