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New eco-monastery at Buddha’s birthplace

On 4 April 2011, Dr. Trungram Gyaltrul Rinpoche will preside over the opening of the Lumbini Udyana Mahachaitya, World Centre for Peace and Unity, the latest and largest Buddhist temple and meditation hall complex to be built at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Site in Lumbini, Nepal. (Lumbini is the birthplace of the Buddha in Nepal; Udyana is a Sanskrit word that means garden or orchard; and Mahachaitya is the Sanskrit word for Great Stupa.)

Mahachaitya is the latest addition to a master-planned monastic community that envisions more than 40 Buddhist temples in different national styles to be built near where Prince Siddhartha Guatama, the Buddha, was born in the year 583 before the common era (BCE). As a young man, Siddhartha renounced the comfort of royal riches and adopted an ascetic lifestyle to find a solution to end human suffering, a quest that led to his enlightenment as the Buddha 2500 years ago. His philosophical breakthrough of the “middle-way” and its tenets of non-attachment revolutionised Eastern thought.

While most other Lumbini structures are being built by governments, Rinpoche decided…

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to build a more universal structure that harkened to Buddhism’s educational and ecological roots. The World Center was built mostly by hand because of Nepal’s chronic power outages. At one point, workmen had to form a chain to lift heavy buckets of wet cement to the top of the structure’s dome.

The 4515-square-metre (48,600-square-foot) structure is the first modern Buddhist temple to be built as an eco-monastery, one that incorporates a green design that builds in extra insulation while relying on large-area solar panels to generate all of the building’s lighting needs. It will be the most environmentally friendly of all the buildings in the monastic zone of Lumbini. In addition, the complex also features an anti-earthquake system that can help the building resist temblors as strong as 7.7 on the Richter scale.

The central meditation hall and surrounding walkways are filled with more than 1000 custom-made copper statues depicting Buddha, his close disciples and various Buddhist deities in the style of the 7th to 13th centuries, considered the height of Buddhist classical art. By reviving the unadorned, balanced figures, the hope is to create an atmosphere of serenity and simplicity conducive to reflection and meditation.

“This is an effort to save the ancient arts and wisdom, to highlight the importance of our gentleness to the earth and to promote a sense of peace and unity for all,” said Rinpoche.

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