Buddhists bless site of monument to prayer and peace near Freeland

Lama Jigdal Dagchen Sakya of Seattle leads a blessing ceremony on Thursday for a traditional Buddhist stupa that will be built at Earth Sanctuary south of Freeland. With him is his wife, Dagmo Kusho Sakya.  - Roy Jacobson / The Record
Lama Jigdal Dagchen Sakya of Seattle leads a blessing ceremony on Thursday for a traditional Buddhist stupa that will be built at Earth Sanctuary south of Freeland. With him is his wife, Dagmo Kusho Sakya.
— image credit: Roy Jacobson / The Record

Feelings were warm Thursday morning, and it wasn’t all due to the rising temperature.

About 30 people took part in a Tibetan Buddhist blessing ceremony for a new structure dedicated to prayer and peace.

“We wanted to build something that will be a real benefit and a healing influence for our community,” said Chuck Pettis, founder of the 72-acre Earth Sanctuary off Newman Road south of Freeland.

“South Whidbey can use all the blessing it can get right now,” he added. “This is our modest contribution.”

Thursday’s 40-minute ceremony was to consecrate the site and surrounding area where a traditional Tibetan Buddhist “victory” stupa will be built on Earth Sanctuary property just off Emil Road.

A stupa is a mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics and used by Buddhists as a place of worship.

The blessing ceremony took place under colorful tents and umbrellas to protect the visiting Buddhist dignitaries and about 20 community members from the bright sunshine of another 90-degree day.

“At least it wasn’t rainy and cold,” Pettis said.

Led by Jigdal Dagchen Sakya, head lama of Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism in Seattle, seven other monks and lamas chanted softly the ancient verses of the blessing, punctuated by muffled drumming, bell-ringing and the gentle clashing of cymbals.

In the middle of the ceremony, the monks suspended their chanting and the younger ones escorted their leader to the center of the makeshift compound, where the stupa would be built.

The monks faced the four points of the compass in turn, beginning with the east. A shovel-full of earth was removed at each rotation.

A stem of rose blossoms was poked into the center of the tiny excavations.

Groundbreaking complete, the monks returned to their tables and umbrellas and resumed chanting. At the conclusion of the ceremony, everyone was invited to lunch.

Pettis said the event was filled with auspicious signs. For example, one community member brought peacock feathers, which delighted the Buddhist officials. Peacocks are special to Buddhists because they can eat certain poisonous substances without effect.

Pettis said peacock feathers will be incorporated into the new stupa, and that prayer wheels will be placed around the structure.

He said construction of the concrete stupa will begin soon. It will be about 9 feet by 9 feet and about 13 feet high, with a statue of Buddha facing Emil Road.

“Just seeing a stupa helps to heal body and mind,” Pettis said. “People who are unhappy or depressed will find life full of happiness.”

Pettis, 61, founded Earth Sanctuary in 2000 as a place for birds and wildlife, personal renewal and spiritual connection. There are three ponds and more than 14,000 plants drawn from 80 native species, part of Pettis’ 500-year restoration vision.

Buddhist shrines and symbols are scattered throughout the property, including two stone circles, a labyrinth, a megalithic dolmen, large standing stones and a Native American medicine wheel.

Pettis is a psychologist, author and business consultant dedicated to peace and enlightenment.

“I’ve tried to create an environment that motivates and facilitates spiritual practice,” he said. “I don’t know anyone who meditates or prays too much.”

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