After 49 days of prayers, Buddhist monks at the Dae Yen Sa International Buddhist Temple and Meditation Center in New Hartford released the souls of the Newtown shooting victims to heaven.
“They are with Buddha now,” said Master Dae San Sunim.
The monks had been praying daily since the Dec. 14 school shooting which killed 20-first graders and six educators inside Sandy Hook Elementary School. Sunim said the 49 days of mourning also included prayers and chants for Adam Lanza, the shooter, and his mother Nancy Lanza, who was killed by her son.
The closing ceremony on Wednesday (Jan 30) .featured a banquet of food which consisted of nine types of fruit and a variety of vegetarian dishes symbolizing an offering on behalf of those killed.
Sunim said it is customary for the monks, who practice Buddhism in the Korean tradition, to pray for the dead for 49 days after their passing. The belief is that it takes 49 days for the spirit to be reborn again into a new life. For Buddhists, heaven consists of 33 different levels where beings no longer suffer and experience peace and happiness, Sunim said.
Bruce Blair of New Haven was among the 40 people who attended the ceremony on Wednesday.
“It was an important time of closure and it was a lovely ceremony,” Blair said. “While it was very traditional, Dae Yen Sa's 49 Day Ceremony afforded each of us—even though we came from different backgrounds and ages, lay people, grandparents, parents, and children, Buddhist nuns and monks—a chance to open our hearts, to listen, and to honor the tragedy in ways not easily said in words, each in his or her own way honoring the lives of those lost, precious and unseen.”