08 November 2008

My New Favorite Sacred Site

The Colestine Valley, in the Siskiyou Mountains south of Ashland, is home to the Tashi Chöling Center for Buddhist Studies. When you first encounter this beautiful Buddhist temple and garden, with a 35-foot-high statue of Vajrasattva, as well as two 20-foot statues of Green Tara and White Tara, you feel fairly certain that you've left Oregon and entered the Himalayas.

Adding to the illusion, you're greeted by primitive-looking woolly creatures, which it's quite possible to mistake for yaks, but are actually alpacas.

Then llamas--the double-L kind. Then deer--lots of babies and their moms.

On October 25, my birthday eve, we drove down to Mt. Ashland and through about 6 miles of gorgeous forest road until we came to a clearing with huge poles of prayer flags flapping in the wind. A 4-story traditional Tibetan temple loomed on the hill in the distance...and a 35-foot Vajrasattva is...well, hard to miss. We walked through the gate into the gardens, then later made our way up to the hilltop, from which we watched a beautiful fall sunset, toured the interior of the temple, and snapped about 500 photos between us.

As visitors, we were in exceptional company. Over the course of the years, many great living masters of Vajrayana Buddhism have visited and taught at Tashi Chöling, including H.H. Penor Rinpoche, Dodrup Chen Rinpoche, Yangthang Rinpoche, and Yeshe Dorje Rinpoche. Currently the center is under the guidance of Gyatrul Rinpoche, a delightful lama whom I met at a Tibetan cultural festival last month.

In 1980, the great master His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche came to bless the land where Tashi Chöling now stands, saying, “Those who practice here sincerely will have the opportunity to obtain the rainbow body.” The temple's scriptural library is said to house more Tibetan sacred materials than anywhere else in the US.

In the photo above are a large grouping of prayer wheels. Tibetans use these chokhor to spread spiritual blessings to all sentient beings and invoke good karma in their next life. I had never before (in this lifetime) turned a prayer wheel, so it means a lot to me to have them in the town where I find myself for now. Until I reach the land of many prayer wheels, a bit north and east of Ashland. I have this slated for sometime after Alaska.

(Though I am ever so hopeful that when I go to Alaska, I'll be able to see Tibet from my house!)