Whidbey Island is known for its artists, natural wonders and a Naval air station.
Its next claim to fame could be a new Tibetan Buddhist temple.
Built on a wooded hillside off Humphrey Road in Clinton, the new sanctuary combines Northwest architecture with Tibetan elements, resulting in a sturdy and stunning building that streams with sunlight and seems to reach for the sky.
Blooming purple and white foxglove encircle the building while flags of many stripes wrap around its front garden.
“It is one of the few Buddhist temples in the Pacific Northwest and we expect it will attract people from around the region,” said Mully Mullally, an advisor on the temple’s board of directors. While Seattle has a number of Buddhist temples and meditation centers, it also has maddening traffic and other urban ills.
Phagtsok Gedun Choling Temple is opening its doors to the public June 9-10 with tours, talks and a demonstration of a sand mandala.
The public is also welcome for meditation at 5:30 p.m. every Monday.
The 5,000-square-foot facility is anchored by its towering 2,000-square-foot temple built with a multi-tiered roof. The building also includes a gallery reception area, dining hall, commercial kitchen and quarters for lamas, or spiritual teachers.
Local philanthropists Nancy Nordhoff and Lynn Hayes provided funding. The cost of the project wasn’t revealed.
The temple is led by Dza Kilung Rinpoche, an important lama in Tibetan Buddhist tradition who chose Whidbey Island years ago as the base for his Western teachings. At a young age, he was named the fifth reincarnation of a prominent Tibetan Buddhist teacher who built Kilung Monastery in Tibet, which Rinpoche also heads.
“We are fortunate that Rinpoche has chosen Whidbey Island as his seat in the West,” said Karen Carbone, co-director of the Kilung Foundation that strives to strengthen and support the nomadic people of East Tibet.
A multi-day consecration of the temple ended Monday. It included dances, ceremonies and prayers known as “aspirations,” with people coming from all over the world — Germany, Brazil, Denmark, Canada and Asia. Monks visiting from Taiwan played traditional instruments and performed a lama dance that featured an eye-bulging red mask topped with tiny skull replicas.
Individuals who contributed to turning a dream into a roofed reality were invited Monday to join the 100 or so practitioners. They crowded into the temple, which is neatly arranged in rows of cushions and chairs.
Colorful tapestries, an altar of offerings and the glow of tiny glass statues accent the temple. Huge timbers of Douglas fir spire above. Cabinets are made of Sapele or African mahogany and intricate art made of Spanish cedar are the work of Tibetan carver, Sampa.
Every person sat with a stick of incense and small lit candle while clutching a white scarf or khata that stretched across rows and joined people when tied together. Readings, known as aspirations, occurred in both Tibetan and English, sometimes simultaneously.
From the front of the room, Rinpoche spoke of the energy of helping and kindness he felt during the first week, as well as the significance of the new sanctuary.
“To experience a temple like this would require going to the Himalayas,” Rinpoche said. “Some people are able to do that. Now this is here in the Northwest. They can come here. This is like a power and truth of all aspirations coming from all directions.”
Rinpoche thanked many people with an offering of a khata as a symbol of gratitude.
Nordhoff’s expression of pure joy when receiving a gold khata elicited laughter and a loud round of applause.
“I know you have a really great heart,” Rinpoche told her. “From our sangha (community) we just want to say how much gratitude we have for your generosity and we want you to be strong, healthy and happy.”
New Generation Design and Build owner Damon Arndt of Langley was also recognized.
“He made many mistakes,” Rinpoche said, smiling and laughing. He then explained that Arndt actually surpassed his expectations and “everything he makes always works.”
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Arndt commented afterward. “I was nervous at first taking on a project of this nature. But I had great support from the community I was working with.”
As the plans grew in size from 3,000 to 5,000 square feet, a licensed architect was needed, which led to the collaboration with Cedar Tree Architects of Seattle.
Wisdom, kindness, patience, generosity and compassion are all important virtues to practitioners of Buddhism, some of whom consider it more of a way of life than a religion.
There’s also one more trait that helps, especially at the temple — a good memory.
“Sometimes,” Mullally joked as she searched the steps among piles of foot wear, “the hardest part of a day here is remembering where you put your shoes.”
— Open House of Phagtsok Gedun Choling Temple, 6900 Humphrey Road, Clinton is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 9 and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, June 10. Because of limited space, only cars with four or more people will be allowed to park on site.