There is no doubt that the Lake District is a destination for those who wish to seek peace and quiet.
Its breathtaking landscapes are some of the best the country has to offer, with millions of visitors each year.
The market town of Ulverston has spectacular scenery that provides a peaceful getaway for visitors while historically being the center of religious activity.
In the 1650s, Quaker George Fox had a vision at Pendle Hill, Lancashire, which brought him to the “Seekers of Westmorland”. This group performed their worship in the absence of leaders and simply settled in silence with those who felt moved by the Holy Spirit.
These people became Fox’s disciples and within a week of meeting him the group traveled to Swarthmoor, Ulverston, which became the hub of the Quaker movement.
After Fox was offered a military commission in 1651, his response became the first formulation of the Peace Witness affirming the Quaker’s commitment to nonviolence and refusal to bear arms – a belief that has remained core Quaker values for over 350 years.
To this day, Ulverston is still synonymous with peace and connection with nature. In addition to housing the Druid Birkrigg Stone Circle, it is also the site of the UK’s first and only Buddhist Temple for World Peace.
The Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Center at Conishead Priory is considered a hidden treasure in the lakes and offers a place of quiet reflection and spiritual inspiration. Home to resident monks, the temple is used daily for meditation and prayers.
It began its life in 1160 as a hospital for the poor and the building as it stands today has been a private house, a spa hotel and a military hospital.
Reminiscent of the thriving Ulverston maritime community that flourished when the canal was built in 1796, the magnificent property belonged to the Durham miners and was once a convalescent home for miners.
The fantastic architecture has however fallen into disrepair and with some renovations by Buddhist monks it has been turned into a temple for world peace.
The center was opened in 1997 by Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche, founder of modern Kadampa Buddhism and world renowned meditation master.
Its message is simple and profound – that all problems in this world have their origin in the mind, and that the solutions to these problems, as well as the causes of lasting peace and happiness, are also found in the mind. ‘spirit.
Founded by the great Indian Buddhist master Atisha (982-1054 AD), Ka ‘refers to the teachings of Buddha and “dam” to the special instructions of the Lamrim of Atisha.
Kadampa practitioners regard the teachings of Buddha as personal instruction and employ practical methods to transform daily activities into the path of enlightenment.
The meditation center was largely built by them with Kadampa builders and volunteers working according to Kelsang Gyatso’s plan.
The structure is based on the Mandala Palace of Buddha Heruka in Brazil, located on top of Mount Meru, which is considered the center of the Buddhist cosmos.
The site is very special because the only other temples of world peace are located in Glen Spey, New York, Cabreúva, Brazil, Sintra, Portugal, Williams, Arizona and Malaga, Spain.
Kelsang Gyatso has created a truly global infrastructure to preserve and promote Kadampa Buddhism for many generations to come, providing a light, airy and peaceful environment to be a good place for contemplation.
Surrounded by a beautiful forest with a path to the beach and access to Morecambe Bay, every aspect of the temple is designed to teach the spiritual path and encourage visitors to use human life in meaningful ways.
For many, the temple is a reminder of the inner potential to achieve our highest goals and is an encouragement on a spiritual path to achieve them.
During its construction, Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche said: “We have built this temple not for our own pleasure, but so that in the future people will have a great opportunity to enjoy it – to progress on the path. spiritual enlightenment and achieving inner peace. Our main goal is to give people in the future a great opportunity to listen to and practice holy Dharma. “
Since then, Kelsang Gyatso has overseen the design and construction of five other traditional-style temples around the world, some of which are planned for the future. All are dedicated to world peace.
The temple of Ulverston is however special and can boast of housing the largest bronze statue of Buddha cast in the West. Every year, thousands of people visit the structure to admire its artistic and architectural features.
Inside, each aspect symbolizes the path to enlightenment. Its four gates represent the four ways to enter the path of liberation with eight auspicious symbols showing how to progress along this path.
The deer and the Dharma wheel symbolize the final stages of the path to enlightenment. The male deer symbolizes the experience of great bliss, the female deer the realization of ultimate truth with the wheel being the union of these two realizations.
Last but not least, the five-branched vajra at the very top symbolizes the five omniscient wisdoms of a Buddha.
While visiting the temple, participants should take off their shoes and are encouraged to relax and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, admire the magnificent statues and other blessed objects, and can enjoy a 15-minute guided meditation at 2:30 p.m. each day.
Resident monks are available to speak for spiritual guidance, but their living quarters are understandably off-limits to visitors.
The temple also has a wonderful cafe that offers vegan options and a fantastic gift shop.
The surrounding woods give people the opportunity to take a contemplative walk along the water’s edge and there is also a small pet cemetery in the park.
The meditation center offers classes and retreats such as the upcoming Christmas Class Find Peace, Giving Peace, as well as the site for celebrations such as New Years Eve.
Current Covid-19 measures are of course in place, with the center operating a one-way system with separate entry and exit. Hand sanitizer is provided and face covers are essential.
Hosts are always there for help, but please maintain a social distance when chatting with one of them. The number of visitors is monitored and will stop when the building has reached its maximum capacity – so please check in advance during your visit.
Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso likes to remind visitors that: “Just looking at the temple with a happy spirit brings inner peace” and anyone who sees the temple or the sacred objects inside will receive a special blessing that will sow. the seeds of future peace.
So this is also something else to keep in mind if you are planning to visit this unique and remarkable temple in UK.