During the September retreat at Crestone, CO, Thrangu Rinpoche spoke about the importance of building and supporting sacred Buddhist centers and shrines. He compared our own brief lifetimes with the ability of these sacred places to last, inspiring beings for hundred of years in the future.
Toward that end, the Vajra Vidya Retreat Center in Crestone began with the consecration of the land in 2002. The present building (phase I of the project) was completed and consecrated in 2005. Construction of the shrine building, the second of Vajra Vidya’s three phases, began in May 2009, and is currently underway.
The building of a shrine room can be likened to a dharma wheel with Rinpoche as the center, the visionary. We, his students, comprising the spokes of the wheel, carry out the many activities required to manifest our teacher’s vision. Set against the backdrop of the mighty Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Rinpoche has designed this authentic Tibetan Buddhist shrine building to inspire and support practitioners in the West, just as similar structures have inspired incalculable beings in the East for centuries.
Since my arrival at the center, I watched with fascination as Pat and Clark Johnson translated the detailed instructions of Rinpoche and Lobsang Dorje into specific guidelines for the men and women of the construction crews. It is much like observing a conductor translating the maestro’s work to gifted musicians.
In the past two months, the shrine building has been transformed from a shell lacking personal identity to a prominence of distinction set amidst the rugged terrain. Four red pillars rise up to the peak of the building, framing the entry to the main shrine. Rinpoche’s living quarters, on the second floor, will include a formal reception room, kitchenette, bedroom and bath. A balcony that extends outward from his quarters affords a panoramic view of the great San Luis Valley. High atop the building, a façade awaits placement of the traditional dharma wheel and deer, which will be visible from afar.
Inside the shrine building itself, carpenters and electricians are busy building the infrastructure that will soon be masked by drywall, master cabinetry and Tibetan art work. One day during Rinpoche’s visit in September, he, Lobsang Dorje, Tulku Damcho and Lama Pema (head of the Vancouver Retreat Center) all went into the shrine building to discuss plans for laying out the statuary that will form the main wall behind Rinpoche’s throne (see picture).
The centerpiece of the wall will be an 8 foot golden Buddha which is currently en route from Thailand. This statue will require ten monks, ten days to fill with precious materials and to consecrate. Sitting to the left of the Buddha will be a 2.5 foot White Tara surrounded by 21 smaller Taras. To Buddha’s right will be a 2.5 foot statue of Medicine Buddha surrounded by the other 7 aspects of Menla. This great wall will also be home to many Mahakala tormas.
Prior to consecration, a major part of completing the Buddha statue will involve filling it with many precious elements and relics. The ten elements Rinpoche noted as most desirable include gold, silver, diamonds, rubies, turquoise, emeralds, jade quartz, coral and lapis lazuli. This provides individuals the opportunity to be a part of this sacred process by contributing such precious items. Items can be mailed to Khenpo Jigme at Vajra Vidya Retreat Center, specifying that they are for the Buddha statue. In addition, sponsorship of the smaller Tara and Medicine Buddha statues (described above) is also available by contacting Khenpo Jigme.
We hope each of you will join us for the consecration of the Shrine Room in 2010. Please watch for the specific dates for the consecration ceremony and annual seminar in forthcoming issues of this newsletter. Tashi Delek ! [And many thanks to Barbara Sinclair, who wrote this for us.]
Addendum — The consecration of the new shrine room, and Ven. Thrangu Rinpoche’s annual retreat here in Crestone will be happening in June of 2010. Precise dates and other relevant details To Be Announced!
RELICS VISIT VAJRA VIDYA — On December 15, a precious collection of relics of Shakyamuni Buddha and many buddhist masters came to Vajra Vidya Retreat Center. Until this time, most of these relics have been kept in shrines and statues all around the world. Several of the relics of Shakyamuni Buddha were donated for the tour by HH Dalai Lama. The relics span the 2500 years since the time of the Buddha until the present, and include relics of Ananda and Kasyapa; Atisha, Milarepa, Yeshe Tsogyal, and such contemporary masters as Kalu Rinpoche, the 16th Karmapa, Dudjom Rinpoche, and Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche.
The Vajra Vidya dining room was turned into a shrine room for this event, with the relics in clear display cases in the center of the room. Well over a hundred people from Crestone came, making offerings of prostrations and water, and then slowly circumambulating the relics. Then they received a blessing by one of the relics of the Buddha being placed on the crown of their head by Khenpo Jigme. Most of the people who came then stayed, sitting in meditation, and then circling the relics again and again, after everyone had first gone around.
It was an evening of very great blessings, and we feel enormously fortunate to have been able to host the relics. We are hoping that when the relic tour returns to this part of the world once again, we can host them in our new shrine room.