Thursday, September 28, 2006
Today I decided to check out another possible vendor for the wall. I stopped by Standard Supply in Gaithersburg, having seen some concrete block in their window on a previous visit. I found they had a large indoor display of various concrete block solutions, and spoke with Kurt Lucas, who gave this Ani a lot to think about. For starters....that brown looking block in the middle there...each one weighs over 90lbs!!! Yikes! And we thought with the sandblasting done the worst we'd have to do is dig! The block next to it weighs about 70lbs though...more manageable. Kurt spent quite a while talking with me about the process, equipment we'd need, and tried to work up an estimate. Unfortunately, our situation (as usual) is unusual, so we'll be following up with him to give him measurements and photos...But overall it was a very informative visit.
So you all know, I did swing by the Stupa on my way home to make some offerings and circumambulate. It was wicked cloudy, not long after this shot it stormed. The Stupas are beautiful anytime though! So please do come out and visit! The temple is open 24 hours a day, and we have some hot water for tea and coffee avaible anytime...so even a rainy day can be a nice day to see a Stupa!
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Remember this? This is a mock up Ashby did of Migyur Dorje with the wall! Of course, we've now repainted the relief, so it's back to full color. Now that all that's done, we're turning our attention back to this....the wall.
Why, you may be wondering, would we build a wall? The answer is under this Stupa is a "suppression box"---I don't know the technical term for it, but it is a chamber that contains all those elements in the world we are seeking to suppress, like weapons, illness, that sort of thing. This chamber is suppose to be completely underground, and the Stupa seals it beneath the ground, suppressing those negative forces. The way our Stupa sits right now (thanks to some translation issues and misunderstandings), this chamber is exposed, meaning those harmful forces are not completely subdued. Thus, we need to get the earth up to the "earth hugging layer" of the Stupa, which is the bottom level of the gold. His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, the supreme head of our lineage (who broke the bad news to us after the Stupa was consecrated) suggested we build a wall and back fill with earth, bringing the earth up to the earth hugging layer. Many plans and designs have evolved over the years, but our current plan has the advantage of being affordable, easy to implement, reasonably attractive and effective at meeting the requirement. Our plan is to construct a retaining wall out of decorative concrete block.....
Though the day was spent getting my car serviced and running errands which were long overdue, Ani Yeshi and I did discuss biting the bullet and getting started on the wall this weekend! Yup! No backhoe, just shovels and our devotion. Of course, the more the merrier!
So you don't think we're completely off, here's a scan from a booklet we were given by a local vendor on the product we plan to use. You can see from the top right of this photo, that it is designed for the DIY novice. We'll be struggling with calculators tomorrow (I've been avoiding this...but my bud may bail me out here...). The goal is to get a a reasonable estimate of the cost. I'll also be checking out other potential sources for materials, trying to get a good price. Though these images may not be exciting, they do reveal the planning that goes into our work. Okay...we don't always plan well...but truly, research and planning have helped us achieve almost everything we've been able to accomplish, so I'm sharing some of that with you!
Of course, the goal of all of it is to keep the Stupas in top shape and available for all who wish to spend time with them. No need to get your hands dirty or worry about any of these things! They are here as sources of blessings and benefit for all beings, no matter who you are! So come on out and see them for yourselves!
Monday, September 25, 2006
Ever heard the expression "be careful what you wish for?" Well, it's been this Stupa gal's experience that with the fulfillment of wishes comes great responsibility (liberating all sentient beings is, after all, the ultimate goal of all this!). Today an amazing opportunity was laid before me....
I spent the afternoon with Ani Dawa, who is traveling back and forth between here and Sedona as a result of our Teacher moving here. She arranged for many Stupa supplies to be sent here to Maryland, entrusting them to our care. Sounds great (and it is) but the responsibility is not small. We spent the afternoon opening crates and examining contents, and Dawa told me what she knew (which fortunately is quite a bit) about how all these things are used. The person who created all the molds, and did all the artwork in the past, is no longer practicing, and thus, there is a void to be filled.
According to Dawa, this stuff, though it is so light you could easily think that bucket was empty, is very expensive. It is mixed with the fortran (which has a liquid consistency---at least it did the time we were shown how to use it) to create a more viscous media to work with, allowing for creation of hollow spaces within large molds....this is all hearsay...I've never tried to use any of this...but am eager to learn!
What you see here is a set of copper reliefs plated with gold, which had been acquired for the Amitabha Stupa in Arizona. It turned out the spire was not the right dimensions, so they were never used. Shipped from Nepal (I think that's what she said), they are precious objects, containing mantras in sanskrit, awaiting a Stupa Spire to adorn!
This is part of the mold for the flower garland that surrounds the relief on the Migyur Dorje Stupa. We found that almost everything was here now, from the mold for Migyur Dorje himself to the huge snow lions, down to the tiny suns and moons for the 3 foot Stupas. Dawa was thrilled to have delivered them into our care. She has committed, fortunately, to assisting us in the learning process associated with this amazing treasury...
This is a Parinirvana Stupa, representing the Buddha's complete victory over death. It is one of the eight Stupas surrounding the Long Life Stupa for our Teacher. Much work has gone into getting the Stupa Park cleaned and repaired, so it is our hope that those of you who can will brave the wooded hike out to it. It is, from this Stupa gal's perspective, the most peaceful place on the property. Fully consecrated by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche himself, it offers ceaseless blessings to the countless beings who encounter it. We hope you'll make the journey out!
Saturday, September 23, 2006
With our Teacher, Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo, relocating here to remain in residence and teach, some of the students from Arizona have decided to relocate as well. This is a truck rented by Dawn, who is moving here. Though her needs were modest, she took upon herself the great responsibility of transporting items for the temple as well. That included some Stupa related items....all the molds for the artwork on the Migyur Dorje Stupa. Fortunately, we had Norbu and Tashi available to help unload!
So there they are. They may not look like much, but those are the molds for the artwork on Migyur Dorje! There are also pieces from which 3 foot Stupas can be made! Though the shed isn't the perfect long term solution, we're relieved that at least they are shelted from rain. These things were HEAVY, so it will be an adventure learning to work with them....
Our planned project for the day was getting the Long Life Stupa ready for the ceremony tomorrow (a food offering ceremony) in celebration of the enthronement of our Teacher. Here Yeshi applies fresh paint to the throne in the shed. The shed was a disaster, and Tashi, a monk who recently moved here from Arizona, worked hard for days to create a space where we could work...
Ani Yeshi worked on removing the old caulk...but unfortunately we purchased the wrong replacement! We'll pick up the right stuff tomorrow. Many clear caulks apply white and dry clear in a week or so. Our experience has been it is often not the case. The white remains pretty white. So we'll hold out for a caulk that applies clear....the fit of the plexi is good enough to protect from all but the worst rain, and if we're lucky, it won't rain...
Here you can see Amitayus in his newly decorated home, in the center of the Long Life Stupa in our Stupa Park. Finally the gau is complete. This is where the whole renovation started, with removing the old tattered brocade from here. Now it is restored to a state befitting its' precious nature.
Whether you come here to pray, or just to find some peace, it is our sincere hope you will take advantage of these amazing sources of blessings!
Now that the major renovation is done, we thought we might not have anything to do. Well, much to our relief, we're finding we will never run out of services we can offer to the Stupas!
Here (they may look tiny) you can see we've already put out some little flags to mark out proposed dimensions for the wall we will be erecting. We're using them to get some measurements so we can work up a needs list. : ) They should also reassure those regular visitors who fear the retaining wall (needed to bring the earth up to the "earth hugging layer) might interfere with the ability to circumambulate (walking clockwise around a Stupa is a traditional, and potent, form of prayer). But that's a pending project....We've got immediate tasks to tend to!
The past few days I worked, and didn't have a chance to update. But here's a look at what we did earlier this week. We've had a sign for Migyur Dorje for quite a while now, prepared by our devoted artist Ashby North, and finally got out to mount it! This is a shot before the sign went up.
As is the case of many of our projects, this one was long overdue. However, finally, there is a sign with some information on the Stupa and a place to make secure offerings out by Migyur Dorje! There's more fiddling I want to do with the box when there is time, but for now our naked mounting post now looks like it has a purpose!