Buddhist temple

A traditional Buddhist temple stands in the woods of South Whidbey

Whidbey Island is known for its artists, natural wonders and naval air base.

His next claim to fame could be a new Tibetan Buddhist temple.

Built on a wooded hill off Humphrey Road in Clinton, the new shrine combines Northwestern architecture with Tibetan elements, resulting in a sturdy and beautiful building that drips with sunlight and seems to reach for the sky.

Blooming purple and white foxgloves encircle the building as multi-striped flags wrap around its front garden.

“It is one of the few Buddhist temples in the Pacific Northwest and we hope it attracts people from across the region,” said Mully Mullally, temple board advisor. While Seattle has a number of Buddhist temples and meditation centers, there is also maddening traffic and other urban ailments.

Phagtsok Gedun Choling Temple opens to the public from June 9-10 with tours, lectures, and a sand mandala demonstration.

The public is also welcome for meditation at 5:30 p.m. every Monday.

The 5,000-square-foot facility is anchored in its towering 2,000-square-foot temple built with a multi-level roof. The building also includes a reception gallery, dining room, commercial kitchen, and quarters for llamas or spiritual teachers.

Local philanthropists Nancy Nordhoff and Lynn Hayes provided the funding. The cost of the project was not disclosed.

The temple is headed by Dza Kilung Rinpoche, an important lama in the 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 the 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, which works to strengthen and support the nomadic people of eastern Tibet.

A multi-day temple dedication ended on Monday. It included dances, ceremonies and prayers called “aspirations”, with people from all over the world – Germany, Brazil, Denmark, Canada and Asia. Monks from Taiwan played traditional instruments and performed a llama dance featuring a bulging red mask topped with tiny replica skulls.

People who helped turn a dream into a covered reality were invited to join the hundred practitioners on Monday. 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 accentuate the temple. Huge antlers of the Douglas fir spire above. Cabinets are either sapele or African mahogany and the intricate Spanish cedar art is the work of Tibetan sculptor, Sampa.

Each person was seated with an incense stick and a small lighted candle while holding a white scarf or khata that stretched out in the rows and joined the people when they were tied together. The readings, called aspirations, were held in both Tibetan and English, sometimes simultaneously.

From the front of the room, Rinpoche spoke of the helping energy and kindness he felt during the first week, as well as the importance of the new shrine.

“To experience a temple like this one would have to go to the Himalayas,” Rinpoche said. “Some people are able to do it. Now, it’s here in the northwest. They can come here. It is like a power and a 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 upon receiving a gold khata elicited laughter and a round of applause.

“I know you have a very big heart,” Rinpoche told him. “From our sangha (community) we just want to say how grateful we are 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 honored.

“He made a lot of mistakes,” Rinpoche said, smiling and laughing. He went on to explain that Arndt had actually exceeded his expectations and that “everything he makes is still working.”

“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Arndt commented afterward. “I was nervous at first to take on a project of this nature. But I had great support from the community I was working with.

As the size of the plans increased 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 for practitioners of Buddhism, some of whom see it as more of a way of life than a religion.

There is also another trait that helps, especially in the temple: a good memory.

“Sometimes,” Mullally joked, rummaging through the steps among piles of shoes, “the hardest part of a day here is remembering where you put your shoes.”

– Doors open at Phagtsok Gedun Choling Temple, 6900 Humphrey Road, Clinton, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 9 and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, June 10. Due to limited space, only cars with four or more people will be allowed to park on site.

Those less crowded are advised to park at the Clinton Post Office Park and Ride or Humphrey Road Ferry Park and Ride. Free shuttles will be available from 12 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. on both days.

Illuminated glass statues of the goddess Tara glow from both corners of the shrine. Photo by Patricia Guthrie / Whidbey News Group

Dances, prayers and ceremonies were part of the multi-day dedication of a new Buddhist temple built in Clinton.  A sand mandala will be created by the monks on Sunday and Monday during a day open to the public.  Photo by Patricia Guthrie / Whidbey News Group

Dances, prayers and ceremonies were part of the multi-day dedication of a new Buddhist temple built in Clinton. A sand mandala will be created by the monks on Sunday and Monday during a day open to the public. Photo by Patricia Guthrie / Whidbey News Group

The statutes, the tapestry and the candles are visible in the central gallery of the building.  Photo by Patricia Guthrie / Whidbey News Group

The statutes, the tapestry and the candles are visible in the central gallery of the building. Photo by Patricia Guthrie / Whidbey News Group