November update: Permits and the Manjushri painting
Step by step the Abbey is meeting the requirements to secure all the permits to construct our 17,000 square-foot Buddha Hall.
Our local health department and the state health department received the final plans for the septic system and are reviewing them. We’re awaiting their approval. Tim, our architect is working on refining the building plans to meet the strict building code we are required to follow.
Our county considers the Buddha Hall a commercial building and thus holds it to the same building standards as a high rise in Manhattan. For example, they are requiring us to install an elevator, instead of a platform lift. This and many other changes to the plan will raise the cost. We have appealed to our local building inspector, but he wants us to follow the commercial building code exactly.
Meanwhile Tenzin, the Tibetan artist, in India is progressing with the beautiful painting of Manjusri he is making for the main altar. Watch this video to see how he does it.
And meditators have passed 7 million recitations of Shakyamuni’s Buddha mantra! We’ll keep going. See how you can join in.
What is the Buddha Hall?
Imagine this world in 100 years. Between ever-accelerating technological advances and the uncertainties of climate change, it’s hard to guess what it will look like.
Now imagine that no matter what changes, in the eastern corner of Washington State, Buddhist monastics still meditate, learn, and study together. Intent on growing their love, compassion, and wisdom, they still share Buddha’s teachings with all who seek them.
Their peaceful temple is big enough to seat everyone who wants to learn. It’s equipped to broadcast teachings and meditations for those who can’t be there in person. And it’s dedicated to creating peace in a chaotic world, a spiritual home for all beings.
That’s what the Abbey’s new Buddha Hall is all about.
For 18 years, Abbey residents and guests have practiced in a converted-garage Meditation Hall. Now, with a resident community of 17 monastics and pre-Covid attendance at Abbey programs regularly surpassing 50 people, the Meditation Hall is just too small to contain all the Abbey’s Dharma activities.
When the Abbey opens up again, we expect an even greater surge of people seeking methods to cultivate peace.
The Buddha said that people who help to build holy spaces dedicated for growing virtue will enjoy the merit—good karma—that is generated there for as long as the building is in use. We expect that to be a very, very long time.
Got more questions? Read Why This Big Buddha Hall?
What’s the plan?
The Buddha Hall will support Sravasti Abbey’s daily meditation practices, regular sangha and chanting rituals, teachings, retreats, pujas, memorials, and special Dharma events. Designed to fit beautifully within the Abbey’s forested landscape, it will be a two-story, 17,000-square-foot temple and library.
The main hall features a 10-foot statue of Shakyamuni Buddha, flanked by smaller statues of Venerable Ananda, the Buddha’s faithful attendant, and Venerable Mahaprajapati Gotami, the first Buddhist nun, who was also the Buddha’s stepmother. Equipped for superb sound and live streaming, the main hall will seat up to 100 people.
Two side halls will each seat 50 people. The Tara Room will be a more intimate meditation space, and the Posadha Room will be dedicated for monastic rituals. Both will also be equipped for broadcast. In addition, a Dedication Room will memorialize the people for whom prayers have been requested.
The Buddha Hall also includes a learning center with library, media room, and classrooms.
Because we are in a rural area, building also includes bringing in the necessary infrastructure: power, water, septic, and road improvement are all included in the constructions plans.
We hope to begin construction in summer 2021. We are grateful to everyone who joined in the Buddha Hall Jumpstart Challenge. However, much more will be needed for this multi-million dollar project. Permitting and new estimates are underway now. Check back for final cost estimate.
What’s this about a challenge gift? Read Together We’ll Build the Buddha Hall
Introducing Venerable Gotami and her Sculptor, Peter Griffin
While Buddha Hall construction permit applications make their way through various government regulatory departments, a different kind of construction is well underway.
Sculptors Peter and Denise Griffin are at work constructing the holy images for the altar in the main hall of the Buddha Hall: Shakyamuni Buddha, Venerable Gotami (the Buddha’s stepmother and the first Buddhist nun) and Venerable Ananda (the Buddha’s attendant.) See early impressions of the sculptors’ work below. Learn more about the statues here.
Met the Challenge!
Voices from Asia
What's Happening Now? - July 2021
The project is moving forward. We’ve moved the location of the Buddha Hall up the hill a little to a much better location. To adjust to the change, our architect has re-drawn the two required accessible parking spaces.
Next, the civil engineer will do the grading—there is a lot of dirt to move when a building is located on a hillside. We’re hoping he will locate the septic system in a more convenient place, too.
We’re still involved in the permitting process, which is complex because this is considered a commercial building, not a residence. Ven. Chodron gives a short video report here.
Kevin Koesel, our project engineer, came with a team to stake the actual perimeter of the Buddha Hall. Then John Young, our contractor, visited the building site.
After looking at the placement of the building on the hillside together, all of us enthusiastically favored John’s idea to move the site up the hill a little. Doing so will make use of flatter land there and decrease the amount of dirt that will be excavated. John will now speak with Kevin and Tim Wilson, our architect, to include these changes in the building plan.
Because the Buddha Hall is such a large building in a rural county, the permitting process is lengthy. In addition to applying for and receiving a building permit, we must also pass special reviews and engineering inspections, an NREC energy code review and inspection, inspection by the state fire marshal, a SEPA examination of environmental impact, obtain a septic permit, and have a fire department site plan.
People have responded enthusiastically to the $250,000 Jumpstart Challenge for building the Buddha Hall. You can follow progress on the bar at the top of this page. The deadline is July 14.
Seeing a post about the Abbey’s new Buddha Hall project on Instagram, someone wondered why we need it. “Why do you need to spend so much on a place to meditate? Buddhists should be happy with any reasonable place to use as a Buddha Hall.” Read Ven. Chonyi’s reply here.
The Buddha Hall committee completed the architectural and engineering plans and have met with our contractor, John Young, and architect, Tim Wilson, to go over them in detail.
We’re now in the process of getting permits, thus making changes to the final plans as required. Once the permits are confirmed, John will put together a final estimate and set a construction schedule.
We still hope to begin summer of 2021!
The Buddha Hall Jumpstart Challenge is well underway. Read Ken’s letter for details. In a nutshell, three donors challenge the rest of us to double their $250,000 gift to get Buddha Hall construction in motion this summer. And Abbey friends are responding generously. Join them here.
Our contractor, John Young Construction, has all the detailed design documents and is in the process of getting costs from all the many sub-contractors and vendors he’ll be working with. And the sculptors, Peter and Denise Griffen, are working on two of the statues for the main altar: Ven. Mahaprajapati Gotami (the fist nun), who will be on the Buddha’s right, and Ven. Ananda (the Buddha’s attendant) who will stand on his left. They’ll start the central figure, a 10 foot Shakyamuni Buddha statue, after the first two are well along. We hope to have photos and maybe video for you soon.
The Buddha Hall is definitely going forward! And three generous donors have challenged us to jumpstart the project with their $250,000 challenge gift. While the Abbey’s commercial contractor finalizes his estimates, these donors want to launch the project with $500,000. Their gift takes us halfway there. Now they invite more Abbey friends to join them by matching that gift and doubling its impact. This will ensure that construction can begin this summer.
Deadline to match the challenge is July 14, Wheel Turning Day, which commemorates the Buddha’s first teaching. See the Buddha Hall donate page to help meet the jumpstart challenge.
In addition, Abbey friends are making merit (good karma) for the project by practicing the Shakyamuni Buddha meditation and accumulating recitations of Buddha’s mantra. We’ve surpassed the 5 million mark and are going for 7 million recitations. Learn more here.
Our building teams have continued to meet throughout 2020—architect, engineers, contractors, designers, acousticians, and others—to finalize construction details. As of February 2021, plans are nearly complete. We just have to finish the building-wide lighting design and finalize some things with the acousticians. The next step is for John Young, our contractor, to send the plans out for bid.
Conditions seem to be coming together for a 2021 start. See the update video (above) for info, check out the updated altar design (below on this page), and keep checking here for updates.
Hopefully . . . we’ll be taking the next big steps soon. Stay tuned!
Although the pandemic and related concerns have slowed the project down, the Abbey is still envisioning a new Buddha Hall in the not-too-distant future.
Vens. Chodron, Semkye and Samten met to decide the wall hangings, paintings, and so forth to put on the walls of the main hall, the Posadha Room, and the Tara Room of the Buddha Hall. With this information, the acousticians can design the acoustic panels to put in these rooms that will enable the teachings and chanting to be easily heard.
Vens. Tarpa, Semkye, and Samten are also working together with a lighting company to design the lights for the entire building. The team will continue planning and creating the causes for the Buddha Hall and we’ll keep you posted on our progress.
The Abbey’s Buddha Hall team—Vens. Chodron, Tarpa, Semkye, Samten, and Damcho—are still working steadily.
The commercial contractor we chose needs every decision made before he bids the job out to his sub-contractors, so our team is going through the details of selecting lighting fixtures, carpeting, and sound diffusers, conduit, and so forth.
Meanwhile, the artists who will make the three statues for the main hall altar are continuing their work in France where they live. They may begin to make the two side statues in their workshop this summer. The central statue of the Buddha is so large that the artists may come to construct it on site at the Abbey.
The contractor will give us an accurate cost projection by the end of the year. He’s prepared to build any time with just a few months notice. Timing, of course, will depend on many things, including the situation of the pandemic and the Abbey having sufficient funds.
We will build as soon as the conditions are right, although we can’t predict when that will be. We are certain, however, that this project will be even more vital when the “Covid time” is behind us.
Thank you so much for your enthusiasm for building the Buddha Hall. Your gifts are welcomed—both your offerings of mantra recitation to sustain the project and financial offerings to build when it’s time.
Thanks for creating peace in a chaotic world!
Meet the Building Team
Tim Wilson, of Momentum Architecture designed the Buddha Hall. Tim designed two previous buildings for us—Gotami House and Chenrezig Hall—and has created a beautiful, spacious Pacific Northwest design with Tibetan touches.
Young Construction Group, local commercial builders with over 25 years experience, will build the Buddha Hall. They’ve constructed many wonderful projects in North Idaho and Eastern Washington, including several churches. We’re happy to have them guide us through the next phase of the project.
Scott Pfeiffer at Threshold Acoustics will ensure that you can hear every word of Dharma spoken in the main hall. Threshold is also designing the audio-visual systems for streaming, Zoom-ing, or recording teachings and discussions from the Buddha Hall’s main hall and side rooms, including assistive listening systems for the hard of hearing.
Peter and Denise Griffin of Griffin Studios have started on the custom Buddha statues for the main hall altar—a 10 foot Shakyamuni Buddha flanked by his attendant, Venerable Ananda, and the first nun, Venerable Mahaprajapati Gotami, who was also the Buddha’s step-mother. Photos and video of their progress will be available soon.
The Sravasti Abbey Team includes abbess Ven. Thubten Chodron and Ven. Thubten Tarpa, who has overseen construction on most Abbey building projects, including Gotami House and Chenrezig Hall. Ven. Samten, who guided the building of Prajna Cottage, is especially concerned with acoustics in the main hall. Ven. Damcho is working on the altar design, and Ven. Semkye is involved with aesthetic decisions like choosing the lighting fixtures. They are supported by everyone in the resident community.
Check back to follow project updates.
By your effort, may the Buddha Hall become the spiritual home of all sentient beings
and a refuge of love, compassion, and wisdom
to create peace in a chaotic world.
Learn from books by Ven. Thubten Chodron.