Buddhist shrine unveiled at Ynys Graianog, Criccieth

A Buddhist teacher travelled from Criccieth to Kathmandu to find sacred figures for her shrine room.

Now Lama Shenpen Hookham is hoping local people who are interested in meditation will visit her retreat at Ynys Graianog where the shrine room has been enlarged to accommodate more people.

“We wanted a Buddhist image in the proper proportions and covered in gold,” she explained. “Having images is important as a kind of focus for the sacred space.

“I went out to Kathmandu this winter where there are these amazing shops full of exquisite images. I chose the ones which spoke most to me.”

Pride of place goes to a statue of Guru Rinpoche, the Indian man who first took Buddhism to Tibet and is venerated followers the Tibetan tradition, like Shenpen.

The images at Ynys Graianog also include a relic from his holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, the teacher who prompted the establishment of this Buddhist retreat.

“Fifteen years ago he told us we should build a sacred place in north west Wales,” said Shenpen.

“It’s a tradition in Tibet to create a lake with an island and our founder, Guru Rinpoche, standing in the middle of it.

“My husband, who’s also a lama, wanted to create a place like that and his holiness said he should find a lake and a mountain west of London.”

The guru drew a square on a map, stretching from Bala to Anglesey.

“He said he would come and bless it, but died before we found this place,” said Shenpen.

“He also told us to build a stupa, a large image of the Buddha which is a focus for the presence of a sacred place,” said Shenpen. “We have drawings and an artist in Nepal who will come and create it for us.”

Shenpen came to Ynys Graianog over five years ago, but spent the first three years in meditation with only a few students for company. Now, she’s ready to open the door to local people who are interested.

“Nowadays, people are very aware of meditation and our morning, evening and day sessions are becoming more popular,” she said.

“We’re very happy for people to join in, even if they’re not fully committed Buddhists. A lot of people get comfort from learning how to meditate and there’s no need for a particular belief system. In fact, that’s exactly how I began to meditate.

“When I was 20, a Buddhist teacher said meditation would help me with my prayers: I was a Christian then, and it did help because my mind was always wandering.”

Spiritual guides

As she struggled to be a good Christian, Shenpen was glad to find a teacher who was willing to guide her spiritually.

“It’s not very well known that there is a tradition of spiritual guides in Christianity – I certainly hadn’t heard of them,” remembered Shenpen.

“As I began to understand the Buddhist teaching, it opened up so much for me and I’m still learning, even though I’m in my 60s now.”

Dedicated students commit to a long period relative isolation from the bustle of everyday life.

“If you’ve got too many things going on outside, you can’t properly meditate and see what’s going on inside you,” said Shenpen.

“But you can meditate when walking, too, and there are so many lovely places to do that around here.”

Ynys Graianog is not a public place of worship, so visitors need to get in touch before going.

[via BBC News]

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