Sunday, July 19, 2009

Temples, Chapels, Retreats, Oh My

This photograph by Don Croner, of a ruined temple in Mongolia, set my thoughts to wandering. I think we spend a lot of time re-inventing the wheel when it comes to infrastructure projects. Each center, or group, or whatever, goes through essentially the same steps whenever a project is tackled -- be it casting a new statue, building a stupa or mani wheel, or setting up a chapel, temple, or retreat house. This is part of the syndrome that is bleeding Buddhism dry, financially speaking.

Can't some of this be systematized?

In looking at the above temple, built in a Chinese style -- the flush gable roof (Yingshan style)-- that has been around for centuries, I try to visualize how this could be done quickly and inexpensively in the West. I try to visualize how prefabrication could be brought into play. Hopefully, Don will wander out that way again, one of these days, and take more photographs. There is also Liang Ssu-ch'eng's Pictorial History of Chinese Architecture as a useful resource. SUNY also has a list of links.

Don't we have any venturesome Buddhist architects out there? Some 40 odd years into the game, and we still have precious few Tibetan Buddhist temples in the West. In some ways, I think it is because we dreamed big when we should have dreamed small.

This gable and hip roof style, while more complicated, is still possible. I know there are builders in California's San Gabriel Valley (the farthest eastern hutong) who actually specialize in this sort of thing. But, it is the scale that I am illustrating here. I think something like this could go up rather comfortably for a quarter of a million USD.

We already have the Japanese example to instruct is. Japanese Buddhists built temples all over the western U.S., but gradually, as the congregations displaced or aged, the larger installations were the first to go.

A diamond is a diamond whether it is ten carats or one carat.

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