May 28, 2005

Taoists will gather to dedicate shrine in Carmel

By John J. Shaughnessy

One of the rare I-Kuan Tao shrines in the United States will be dedicated Sunday in Carmel, according to a local practitioner of the Eastern philosophy.

Bill Bunting's voice rises in excitement when he talks about the shrine being housed in his Carmel home -- a shrine that he plans to open to the public. "The shrine is the residence of the divine presence. It's where we go to meditate, to breathe, to become harmonious and centered in our lives."

Bunting says that creating the shrine is an extension of the interest he's had in Taoism since he was 13.

"To followers, the Tao is the divine spark that inspired all the religions and philosophies throughout history," says Bunting, 46. "The principles of Taoism appeal to me. The three cardinal virtues are wisdom, compassion and love for all living things."

A group of Asian-American I-Kuan Tao practitioners from California will dedicate the shrine at 10 a.m. Sunday. The contingent will include Derek Lin, the director of Tao Studies at the Great Tao Foundation of El Monte, Calif.

Lin says that the tradition of I-Kuan Tao (pronounced yee-guan-dow) is relatively unknown in the United States. That's why there aren't many I-Kuan Tao shrines and temples in the country, he explains.

"I-Kuan Tao is about pure spirituality as opposed to religious worship," Lin says. "Thus, there are no deities to worship. The godlike entities featured in rituals are symbols of virtues that practitioners wish to cultivate -- gratitude, reverence and humility."

Lin explains that the most important part of the shrine is a flame of fire that is called the Buddha Light or the Mu Light.

"Because the Tao is the ultimate force or principle rather than a father-figure supreme being, I-Kuan Tao represents it with fire instead of some human visage," Lin writes on the Web site, www.taoism.net.

Bunting isn't sure how many followers of I-Kuan Tao there are in Indiana but he's inviting anyone with interest to the dedication. He can be reached at (317) 818-8297.

"I hope it does for them what it's done for me," says Bunting, owner of Indiana Tai Chi Quan Academy in Indianapolis, a martial-arts school. "It's a path of harmony and oneness, of not separating yourself from anyone."