Saturday, January 05, 2008

A Jewel appears in the Heart of Devon

For some years now a most beautiful and unexpected jewel has been emerging in the heart of Devon – a sanctuary to Prajnaparamita, the Buddhist ‘Goddess’ of Wisdom. Finding it isn’t easy – it isn’t marked on any map or signposted in any way – and Sagaravajra, its creator, doesn’t expect it to be finished anytime soon. Indeed, he describes it as his “lifetime’s work”. Should you stumble across it, however, in the woods overlooking the quaint village of Broadhembury, you would be entranced.

Outside the village, around on the other side of the valley and up the slope, the tarmac ends and the road becomes a track – which in turn becomes a bridleway pressed in on either side by trees. At the far end of this, where it finally peters out, you would find yourself ducking under a young and lovely beech and emerging in a secret glade, to look down at two ponds separated by a narrow pathway – which leads across and up to the shrine of the goddess herself. All around are strange and exotic plants, and looking beyond the shrine, deeper into the woods, you would begin to see the strange shapes of the guardians of the place – nagas, dragons, horned gods, even the beginnings of a labyrinth…

Sagaravajra has had the land for over seven years now, and Prajnaparamita has been there for nearly two. She – in her form at Broadhembury at least – is a larger-than-life sculpted figure, made by Sagaravajra many years ago in the basement of Rivendell Retreat Centre in Sussex. She then followed him to Guhyaloka, the FWBO’s mountain retreat centre in Spain, where Sagaravajra lived for several years in the Vihara, and then back to the UK and the Buddhafield Festival. From there they went together, at very short notice, to the ‘Living Arts Festival’ in Devon, whose centrepiece that year was a competition to design a shrine – with a prize of four acres of land donated by a local philanthropist. Buddhafield, who had been invited to provide plumbing for the festival, ended by winning the competition and the prize – but Sagaravajra and his sculpture so impressed the landowner that he was spontaneously given the two ponds and the surrounding land on which to create a sanctuary and home for the sculpture. The rest, as they say, is history - or at least, history in the making…

Sagaravajra has created a simple website explaining his vision and plans, and you can also go on a virtual ‘photo-journey’ on FWBO Photos - leading you from the road’s end up to the shrine itself– click here to begin. Buddhafield use their land, adjacent, for a number of retreats each year, and are slowly implementing on it a permaculture design they have created.

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