Traditional bell at the new temple's door awaits a visitor’s ring.
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A slice of Nepal was evident in Portland this November with the consecration of Nritya Mandala Mahavihara, the first Nepalese Buddhist temple in the West. Nritya Mandala Mahavihara will be the new home of Dance Mandal, a local Buddhist group, which practices a Buddhist dance tradition known as Charya Nritya.
Nritya Mandala Mahavihara is the brainchild of Prajwal Ratna Vajracharya and Helen Appell. Prajwal grew up in a religious family in Nepal, where he was steeped in the sacred arts of the Vajracharyas, or Tantric Buddhist priests of the Kathmandu Valley. Prajwal founded Dance Mandal: Foundation for Sacred Buddhist Arts of Nepal in 1996 and relocated to the U.S. in 2000.
Helen is a longtime Buddhist practitioner who studied Vajrayana for years in India and as an ordained Zen priest co-founded No Abode Hermitage in Marin County, California, in 2001. They met in 2003, when Helen was seeking to integrate her interests in yogic arts and dance into her Dharma path. Helen became a serious student and joined forces with Prajwal to teach, perform, and educate the public about Newar Buddhist dance and related traditions.
The consecration ceremonies lasted for one week and were performed with the help of two Vajracharya priests who journeyed from Nepal for the occasion. On November 8, a procession wound through the streets of Portland. The ceremonies culminated two days later in an elaborate fire puja in which attendees joined the priests in offering grains, liquids, and other substances into the ritual fire to the accompaniment of chanting and the clarion ringing of brass bells. The pinnacle was also raised on the roof that day with great jubilation.
The final ritual day involved offerings of lamp light and homage to Vasundhara, the golden goddess of abundance. That evening, a closing ceremony of sacred dance and traditional vocal accompaniment by Rik Masterson filled the temple to overflowing with participants and well-wishers from near and far.
Nritya Mandala Vihara is dedicated to the enlightened nature of all beings and welcomes anyone interested in devoting practice to revealing this inner nature. It is an inspirational environment for preserving and encouraging the practice of the sacred arts and rituals of Newar masters. The temple community will maintain the sanctity of the Mahavihara with nitya puja, daily rituals of offering and purification.