Once again, holy objects are on their way to the Buddha Hall before the building is completed: deer and Dharma wheel, and three spires, called ganjira.
Most Sravasti Abbey buildings are designed in a Pacific Northwestern style that reflects and complements the land. Our architect, Tim Wilson, has designed the Buddha Hall with peaks and lines similar to Chenrezig Hall, Gotami House, and other buildings.
However, we’re adding a traditional twist to the Buddha Hall by adding roof ornaments similar to what you see in traditional Tibetan monasteries.
The deer and Dharma wheel ornaments will sit on a parapet above the main entrance with the two deer, male and female, flanking the wheel in the center. The wheel is over 6 feet tall and the deer are about 3.5 feet high.
Behind the deer and Dharma wheel, at the very center of the Buddha Hall roof, you’ll see the three ganjira. The central one is 8 feet, and the two sides spires are each 5 feet tall. We should be able to see them from all directions as we approach the Buddha Hall.
A family of artisans in Nepal are working now to fashion the ornaments from copper sheeting. Soon they will ship these ornaments to Spokane, where they will be painted gold in an American auto body shop. When the Buddha Hall is finished at last, we’ll need a crane to install these holy objects on the roof, completing the final touch on the new temple.
Deer and Dharma Wheel
The deer and wheel specifically represent the Buddha’s first teaching after his awakening when he “turned the wheel of the Dharma” at Deer Park near Sarnath, India. That’s when he first spoke on the four truths of the aryas, laying the foundation for the entire path to liberation and awakening. When five of his former friends, all meditators on ascetic paths, heard that first teaching, they experienced realizations of the path and became his first monastic disciples.
Each ganjira is built with six distinctive parts. At the bottom is a lotus base, which is the seat that all the Buddhas sit on. Above that, stacked one on top of the others, are representations of the five Buddha families.
Above the lotus there is a bell, which represents Amogasiddhi Buddha. Above him is another lotus representing Amitabha Buddha. Next is a vase symbolizing Akshobya Buddha, and above that is the wheel of Vairochana Buddha. Next comes a jewel, which represents Ratnasambhava. If you’re not familiar with these names, just know that they represent every possible Buddha you can imagine, and they are all sitting on the roof of the Buddha Hall.
When we enter the Buddha Hall, we are entering a blessed place, a space where we practice to leave behind our tendencies toward confusion, craving, and hatred and train to replace them with genuine and unbiased love and compassion. In the Buddha Hall, monastics and lay friends aspire to create peace in a chaotic world.
The roof ornaments will be prominent images as we approach the Buddha Hall. When we understand the symbolism, they will remind us of our aspiration and strengthen our motivation to progress along the path.
We rejoice that these beautiful objects are on their to Sravasti Abbey, and rejoice again when they reach their fina home on the roof of the Buddha Hall.
Go here to make your offering to help Raise the Roof on the Buddha Hall!