Tibetan Buddhists plant roots in northern California


May 13, 1996
Web posted at: 8:00 a.m. EDT

From Correspondent Susan Reed

CAZADERO, California (CNN) -- For two decades, a grand Buddhist temple has been rising on the northern California coast. Finally, the Northwest Tibetan Temple of America opens to the public this month. (1.5M QuickTime movie)

Odiyan is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery built by and for American Buddhists from the Nyingma Center, dedicated to saving Tibetan Buddhism. With it's authentic forms, symbols, art and sacred texts, Odiyan restores new life to a California mountain top.

"It's really no enough to read about them in books," says Buddhism student Jack Petranker. "You have to be in a place where it's real and concrete, where it's embodied."

temple facade

Over 6,000 Tibetan monasteries have been destroyed since China occupied Tibet in 1959, leaving Buddhist culture in fragile condition. Building Odiyan in northwest America fulfills a prophecy made long ago.

"When the iron bird flies and horses run on wheels, the Tibetan people will scatter like ants and Buddha's dharma will come to the land of the red man," explains Sally Sorenson of the Nyingma Center.

The "land of the red man" is thought to be the United States. The site where Odiyan was built has long been considered sacred by the Pomo tribe of Native Americans.

Many in Cazadero see Odiyan as a symbol of Buddhism taking root on American soil. At Odiyan, Tibetan Buddhism does take on an American character -- electric prayer wheels spin out 100 billion mantras a minutes, and on a gold-leaf base rests a ten-ton prayer wheel, thought to be the largest in the world.


And the Vajra Temple holds 108,000 sacred images on ten miles of shelving -- an offering for world peace.

"The West offers the sanctity, the sanctuary, the materials and the opportunity for Buddhism to continue to grow," says the Nyingma Center's Iris Maitland.

temple shot

Odiyan is a retreat center for serious students of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Sacred texts rescued from Tibet are reprinted to last 300 years.

"I think of it as an offering to invite Buddhism to America," says Buddhism student Bruce Smith.

Odiyan's creators know it will take time for the West to embrace Buddhism, but they're patient. They have built the temple for the ages.


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