Tibetan Buddhism is preparing to make a giant step out of a residential living room into a &

36;1 million meditation center in Ashland that can take its place among the valley's large, mainstream houses of worship.

Recently approved by the Ashland Planning Commission, the 5,800-square-foot three-story meditation center of Kagyu Sukha Choling will be built in the open space off the corner of Hersey and Oak Streets. It will be a blend of a modern office cube with traditional Tibetan touches, such as pagoda-like eaves, bright golden prayer wheels and other roofline ornamentation.

KSC already has 60 members making pledges for the &

36;300,000 land purchase. Site preparation and landscaping will begin after the land deal is closed, said Pema Clark, one of the center's two lamas, or teachers. It will have entrances on both Hersey and Clear Creek, a cul-de-sac off Oak.

We're very happy, not just to have gotten it through the city (government) but to have so many people dedicated to meditation and to the contemplative lifestyle, said Clark.

The Ashland center will join Tashi Choling Center for Buddhist Studies of the Colestin Valley as a major locale for meditation and classes in the region. Tashi Choling, from a different Tibetan Buddhist lineage, was built in the early 1980s and is considerably larger than the center proposed for Ashland.
— The Ashland center, its large shrine room and meditation rooms and surrounding gardens will be open to the public without the requirement of membership, said KSC fund-raising director Ellen Waldman of Ashland.

Members are now doing fund-raising teas at a natural pace and getting to know interested community members, added Waldman. When I show the plans, the response has been really positive, with people saying they really like how you can come meditate and not join if you don't want to.

The building melds Tibetan religious tradition with pragmatic modern design and will fit in quite well, unique, not gaudy or out of place, said its designer Michaeldavid Uri, a Kagyu member with Fine Lines Design. The architect is Carlos Delgado of Ashland.

The congregation of about 60 people has been meeting in a large house on Granite Street for the past three years. It began here five years ago.

There's been a lot of interest since we started, said Clark. We're kind of amazed how it's grown. We're knee-to-knee now (in present quarters). People feel very comfortable with it (Tibetan Buddhism) and feel the teachings are very useful in their daily lives.

The basement of the new center will house administrative offices and a residential or retail space. The top floor will be quarters for the lamas and visiting teachers. The shrine will be large and light, Clark noted, with an altar with a modest representation of Buddha, a golden dharma wheel and two golden deer ' traditional symbols of harmony and peace from the origins of Buddhism.

Clark said building may begin in two years, when enough funds are in place to avoid a large mortgage.

More than 2,500 years old, Buddhism is one of the major religions in the world with nearly 400 million followers of many varied sects. All are based on teachings of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, according to Wikipedia.org.

Originating in India, Buddhism gradually spread throughout Asia, teaching followers to perform good acts, avoid harmful acts, and to purify and train the mind to end the suffering of cyclic existence to attain a state of Nirvana.