The new Temple for World Peace, which is currently being constructed on the grounds of the International Kadampa Retreat Center (IKRC) in Williams, appears to be on track for its scheduled opening day of Sept. 26, as local artists and architects apply the final touches to what will serve as an open meditation center for northern Arizonans and international guests alike.
The temple will be the fifth addition to an international network of peace temples, each of which acts as a hub for tourism and as a gathering place for practitioners of the New Kadampa Tradition of Buddhism.
Project manager Gen Kelsang Lingpur said the center in Williams serves as an advantageous site for the new temple because of its picturesque views and surrounding natural landmarks.
“The area is gorgeous,” Lingpur said. “When you’re looking out from the retreat center at the temple and you see Humphreys Peak right behind it — see the snow and the sunsets — it’s absolutely stunning.”
Lingpur said the temple, which will be capable of hosting nearly 1,000 people, was designed with reverence to traditional Buddhist values and will feature a similar structure and ornamentation to other Kadampa temples worldwide.
Each side of the structure’s exterior will be adorned with engravings of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism. Each symbol represents a unique virtue in the Buddhist way of life. All 37 corners of the temple’s five-tiered roof will be furnished with gilded vajras, sacred Buddhist ritual ornaments, and three gilded Buddha statues standing 5 to 8 feet tall will be displayed in the temple’s main hall.
Lingpur said construction of the temple has been a predominately local endeavor. Two Flagstaff companies — JWA Architects and BEC Southwest, Inc. — were contracted to build the new facility and have used local materials, such as stone from Ash Fork’s quarries, to construct large portions of the temple. Although much of the gilding has been left to highly skilled artists and practitioners of the New Kadampa Tradition, local volunteers and residents at the retreat center have been given attempts at the highly technical craft.
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Getting locals involved in the project is one way Lingpur said the center, which receives its funding solely through donations and fees for courses and sessions offered there, gives back to the northern Arizona community for its consistent support.
“Everybody in the community that we’ve had to deal with has been fantastic,” Lingpur said. “We’ve got great architects, great contractors, and all the subcontractors have been great to work with, too.”
Michelle Gauthier, a teacher at the retreat center and longtime practitioner of the tradition, said the temple will be open to people of all backgrounds and beliefs. Gauthier said she feels that everyone can benefit from the practices of meditation and mindful breathing.
“We don’t want people to feel like they have to be a Buddhist to come to the temple,” Gauthier said. “We’ll have lots of meditation courses and retreats on offer … The temple itself will just be a quiet space.”
The opening day celebration will precede a week-long fall festival held on the grounds of the center. Gauthier said the festival will serve as a worldwide spiritual reunion for members of the tradition, and as a welcoming event for new and prospective members. Teachings will be given by the current and former general spiritual directors for the NKT, Gen-la Kelsang Dekyong and Gen-la Kelsang Khyenrab, respectively.
Gauthier said she encourages curious members of the northern Arizona community to visit the temple once it has opened to learn more about the services and activities offered there.