Kagyu Sukha Chöling's newly completed Meditation Center in Ashland, Oregon. Wetland and wildlife pond are in foreground. Main entry to the building is at left.
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A culmination of faith, determination and cooperation by a community of Buddhists and non-Buddhists has transformed a vision into reality. Kagyu Sukha Chöling, a center for the practice and study of Tibetan Buddhism now has a permanent home in Ashland, Oregon. Dedicated to supporting individuals at any stage of their spiritual journey, the KSC Tibetan Buddhist Center opened in June 2010.
When Lama Pema Clark and Lama Yeshe Parke came to Ashland in 2000 at the request of their teacher, Venerable Lama Lodru Rinpoche, they had no idea what awaited them. First meeting in private homes, then in a leased house, it soon became apparent that even the house was too small to meet the needs of their rapidly growing group. In retrospect, one might say their destiny was catching up with them sooner than later.
The search for a more appropriate location led the sangha through an extended process, exploring options of renting vs. building. Ultimately the desire for more adequate space escalated the group into property owners with building approval for an authentic Tibetan Buddhist Center.
Two aspects of the project are of great significance. In keeping with the Buddhist philosophy of living in harmony with the earth, the building was planned to be environmentally sustainable. The project was a community effort by local architects, contractors, suppliers and laborers with volunteers playing a major role. Ultimately, 100 men, women and children donated many hours to perform a vast array of services, saving close to $200,000 in building costs.
Carlos Delgado, architect, explains that the design of the 6000 sq. ft. structure is a fairly simple passive building—a pioneering, mixed-use structure, utilizing green and sustainable architecture and construction. Passive heating and cooling methods rely on occupants’ modulation of systems; advanced framing techniques save wood and provide more insulation space; energy-efficient lighting, solar hot water with maximum energy-efficient appliances all conserve water and electricity. As an added touch of beauty, regionally adapted plants are featured in a low-water-use landscape and contemplative garden adjacent to nearby wetlands.
Clay Colley, semi-retired building contractor and sangha member, coordinated and supervised the volunteers, whose efforts began in earnest after the general contractor completed the bulk of the structure. He explains that a local man donated trees from his property that he had cut and dried to be milled for use in all the beams and posts.
“I’ve had the satisfaction of teaching people with few building skills to prepare and paint the inside and outside of the building, finish the concrete floors and stain all woodwork, including boards and beams. Countless hours with huge savings. Volunteers also have been key in the massive amount of cleanup, separating plastic, paper, wood and concrete—striving to recycle or reuse everything.”
Clay concludes, “Everyone wants to have their hands on this building. Our connection to our teachers and to the center has become so enriched by this experience. It’s been an opportunity to practice our intentions. Putting our efforts into this building has come back a thousand times.”
Other volunteers support these sentiments, mentioning the camaraderie that has developed among the volunteers of all ages, the excitement and joy they feel to be part of the vision, whether or not they are Buddhists. According to one retiree, “In this third chapter of my life I want to be in service to causes that are ethical. This community feels like home.” Another man who appeared out of the blue, offering to lay 7 1/2 tons of stone, explains his contribution of time and skill, “When I finally understood my purpose and started giving away my gifts, everything came back to me.”
Nevertheless, this creation of a beautiful and unique home for peaceful and compassionate practice remains secondary to the teachings and activities that have also grown. Monthly Sunday meditations are open to all, alternating Tonglen, Calm Abiding and Silent Sit. Calm Abiding is also offered on some weekday evenings. Other Tibetan style meditations such as Chenrezig, Mahakala, Green Tara and Four Tantric Deities occur regularly, with practice support groups provided as well. Two weekly classes with varied topics occur in fall, winter and spring as well as day-long retreats on site along with three and seven day retreats off site. Special events bring visiting Lamas to the community, with visitor quarters now available in the new building.
DharmaKids, a group of children ages 5-12, meets twice monthly to learn mindfulness and compassion, the basic tenets of Buddhism, through stories, meditation, exercises and games. A pre-teen group is planned for the fall and eventually a teen group will be added.
Kagyu Sukha Chöling Meditation Center welcomes all who seek a path of peace and a life imbued with kindness and compassion. The doors are now open for all to enter.