A friend of mine suggested I write about my trip to Western Tibet, and I found on the back of this scrap paper I happened to have with me something I wrote several years ago: “Overcome by the glory of a sacred place, Mt. Kailas, holiest of mountains and sanctuary to deities of four religions, Buddhist and Hindu, Bonpo and Jain. Years later, you still have difficulty reconstructing what took place there, in the purified landscape of the omniscient mind. How do you describe what you don’t understand? When you’ve had an encounter with eternity, where do you go next?”

Driving south from Canada I arrived at Spring Valley just below the Abbey. It was about 4 o’clock, sunset. A cloud hung above the top of the mountain and the late afternoon light streamed right onto the cloud. It was brilliant red. To me, knowing this mountain was Mount Tara, the cloud looked just like the crown of Tara, and the radiance of this crown covered the entire lands. I knew I had come to a special place.

Welcomed by the radiant power and magic of Tara was a wonderful introduction to a seemingly special place. At the same time, I came on a mission, as landscape architect working with Eric on the master plan for the Abbey. So from a professional point of view, I had to discover whether Sravasti Abbey possessed qualities of the Six Signs of the Sacred Landscape (see below). My gut reaction is that it does…

  1. Being of favorable context: situated here among the surrounding landscape, the mountain’s orientation and its relationship to the earth, waters, and sky…
  2. It is contained: a distinct space surrounded by form or distinct form surrounded by space.
  3. It is coherent: you know you’ve arrived and it all seems to make sense… Having climbed the hill, you enter the precincts of the Abbey, and you know where you are going (well, we’ll be working on that with the master plan). You have a sense that you don’t have to worry how to get from here to there (having enough problems trying to figure out what to do with your mind without having to worry about what to do with your feet)…
  4. It is composed: of thoughts and places and objects on which to focus…
  5. It has clarity: very clear in contrast to the turmoil in the outside world… and
  6. It is an artistic expression of contemplation: all teachings of the Buddha expressed in the landscape.

These are some of the things that came to me… Although my weeklong visit was very short, I’ve been clearly touched. I know that because I heard myself choke-up the last morning walking to the meditation hall, knowing it would be the last morning session for me until I return… When I cry when I leave a place, that says something about Sravasti Abbey being very special.

Dennis A. Winters, Landscape Architect