Buddhist center takes shape

With about $200,000 in donated labor from volunteers, many of them "just walking in the door, wanting to help," a three-story, $1.6 million Buddhist meditation center is nearing completion and will open for classes the first week of June.

The graceful, 5,800-square-foot home of Kagya Sukha Chöling is a blend of traditional Tibetan and contemporary "green-sustainable" architecture — and is being lauded as an "eternal" structure that will offer spiritual and economic benefits.

"It's a beautiful thing, long-lasting, environmentally friendly and embodying ethics and values we so much need today," said Kagya Sukha Chöling board member Anne Stine. "It's a gift to the Rogue Valley community, a beacon for Ashland in terms of resources, classes and visitors — and good for the economy and other businesses."

The center, founded in 2002 in a house on Granite Street, took out permits in 2005 to build at the Hersey Street location, with a gala ceremonial ground-breaking in 2007 — and challenging fundraising (just over $1 million) during a harsh recession.

The center — called a gompa in Tibetan — has attracted a weekend volunteer crew of about 25, including many who aren't members but just want to help. Their attentions are focused mostly on simpler tasks, such as painting trim and staining beechwood ceiling panels and concrete floors.

Volunteering on construction is a sort of meditation for participants, said volunteer contractor Clay Colley, noting that "after this experience, we would do anything for each other, we feel so close, like brothers and sisters."

Lama Pema Clark, co-founder of KSC with Lama Yeshe Parke, says, "So many people of all ages and walks of life are coming in, executing high quality work, really focused and mindful. They realize it's a special place "¦ that ultimately will benefit so many people and make them happy. That's the underlying theme."

The meditation center uses resources mostly from the local region and features an array of green-sustainable devices, says Colley, including solar hot-water heating and under-floor heating from a tankless water heater. Instead of air conditioning, it has ducts that allow hot summer air to cool and fall to the basement, then be recirculated by a whole-house fan that pulls in cooler air from outside.

The ground floor houses offices, library and classroom. The second floor has a large meditation hall and kitchen while the top floor is apartments for the two lamas, plus quarters for visiting lamas.

An outside porch surrounds the top floor, which shows accents of red and gold. Final touches will include prayer wheels from Nepal, ornamental full moons, dharma wheels, two deer and banners.

Carlos Delgado is the architect and John Fields the general contractor, with Fields noting that "building a temple is the highest form of service." Both Delgado and Fields are from Ashland.

Board member Ellen Waldman called the structure "absolutely beautiful, so different, it beckons to you "¦ and now we have a place for all the people who have kept coming (to meditation)."

In the remaining three months before opening, KSC has to raise the final $75,000 for the project, said Clark. Its first event, "The Empowerment of Sukha Siddha" (a feminine wisdom teacher), will be taught on the first weekend in June by Lama Lodru Rinpoche of San Francisco.

The schedule of classes, including such topics as "Extraordinary calm abiding," "The Seven Points of Mind Training," and "Preparing for death by relying on meditation," are listed on the Web site, www.kscashland.org.

KSC practices two ancient lineages of Buddhism: the Karma Kagyu lineage and the Shangpa Kagyu lineage.

"Everyone knows this building will outlive us," said Clark. "We're building for the generations beyond us"¦ . I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. We've created a home for a peaceful and compassionate practice. I don't know where anyone could find a better job than that."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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