Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Two Gifts for Aryaloka Buddhist Center

Viriyalila, an Order Member from Aryaloka, Triratna's retreat center in New Hampshire, USA, writes with news of two art projects that contributed to their 25th anniversary celebrations. She says -

"Last fall I had the opportunity to work closely with three long term friends in the Order to coordinate Aryaloka's 25th Anniversary celebrations. There were two artistic projects that I was closely involved with, that when finished, turned out to be the perfect gifts to give to this "Noble Realm" that has helped to build such a vibrant spiritual community.

"The first gift was initiated five years earlier in the form of a talk I gave marking the 20th anniversary. I had contacted Manjuvajra, the founder of Aryaloka, to see if he could provide me with some stories of the early days. Well, what he gave me was a draft of a book he was writing, which was pretty amazing! Using this, along with personal stories collected from some of our early pioneers, I was very happy to produce a fun and inspiring booklet telling at least one version of Aryaloka's story of coming into the world."

"From the very early beginnings, in a rented apartment/Buddhist gathering place in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts:

"One day...while sorting through a pile of unopened general mail, Manjuvajra came across a flier that had been sent to the previous occupants - a yoga group. It was advertising the sale of an interesting property in Southern New Hampshire. It was an unusual place - a pair of geodesic domes joined in the middle, to form a sort of space ship resembling building. There were several large rooms as well as a number of smaller rooms and thirteen acres of woodland with a beaver creek running through the land. He took hold of the flier and put it aside with nothing more than an idle thought that this would be the sort of place that would make an ideal retreat center.

Bob [Thiradhamma] and Manjuvajra had often talked about the possibility of a country retreat place. Bob found the city to be quite noisy on Friday nights with all the traffic and city sounds, the conditions were not well suited for medit
ation. Bob was envisioning a quiet deserted cabin, or even a shack, deeply set in the woods where 2-3 people could sit in peace and without external interruptions. Manjuvajra’s ideas were a little bit grander – a house perhaps, where a residential community could live and practice and work together, with extra buildings and rooms to accommodate visitors for large retreats.

On one Friday night, after completing their weekly meditation and puja, the subject of having a place of their own in the country in which to practice came up again. Manjuvajra hopped up off his seat, trotted off to the back room, and when he came back, he half jokingly, yet excitedly grabbed the flier advertising the domes in NH and thrust it into Bob’s hands.

“This is the place we want - big enough, close to Boston, quiet - and only a quarter of a million dollars!” They both laughed and then Bob, being an American, suggested that they actually go and look at the place. Manjuvajra, being British, thought he was joking but realized he wasn’t and when he’d overcome his reluctance to get too involved too fast, they called the owners and agreed a date to drive up to the New Hampshire Seacoast."

The Second Gift to Aryaloka for their 25th Anniversary was a large hand painted rendition of the 1000-Armed Avalokitesvara...

"Early on in the planning [of the 25th Anniversary celebrations] my dear friend Surakshita, who's been around Aryaloka since the very beginning, enthusiastically shared his vision of seeing a very large 1000-Armed Avalokitesvara banner draped over the domes of Aryaloka. He saw it as a cosmic and symbolic welcoming of people to the celebrations, marking this very significant, historical event.

"Having a very busy summer planned, I initially sat quietly waiting to see if anyone stepped forward... but he only had to mention it a few times, before I offered as long as I could find help! Very quickly my dear friend Amala expressed interest in working together to plan and create this magnificent 9 x 5 foot painting of the thousand-armed Avalokitesvara.

"Not really being a fine artist myself, I rejoice in Amala's ability to really bring the piece into its final stages - even right up to the time it was scheduled for hanging she still had her paint brush in hand! I rejoice in her patience, skill and courage to take on such an immense project. The highlight for me, besides deepening friendship with Amala through our working together, was on several occasions when we applied paint to some of the symbols in the image something was happening on a deeper level. Like when we painted the jewels on his crowns and especially when we painted the eyes, something 'other' came alive in the painting. Recollecting the experience now still evokes a similar feeling of awe and amazement."

"With metta, Viriyalila /
14 Heartwood Circle
Newmarket, NH USA
(603) 659-5456

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