Groundbreaking set for today in Ashland


8212; Four fluttering prayer flags mark the corners on a budding, three-story, $1.2 million Buddhist temple &

8212; the Rogue Valley's first &

8212; where today ground will be broken in sacred ceremonies attended by the public and the center's several hundred members.
Operating in the home of its lamas (teachers) since 2000, the Kagyu Sukha Choling's new center will become a public meditation sanctuary and green energy showpiece in Ashland's railroad district, helping fulfill the city's vision of mixed commercial and residential use.
A ceremonial ground-breaking at 10:30 a.m. today, presided over by Lama Lodu Rinpoche of San Francisco, will include a fire offering, the burying of an "earth treasure vase" containing water and earth from sacred places and prayers to the creatures who live at the site, asking their permission to build there, said Lama Yeshe Parke.
Operating on a pay-as-you-go basis for three years, members have raised $400,000 to pay off their land and planning and architectural costs. Using plenty of "one buck at a time" fundraising events, they are now raising $800,000 for the building, which they hope to begin constructing later this year and open in 2008.
The KSC center was designed by Michaeldavid Uri of Ashland to be a model of sustainability and green architecture, having photovoltaic solar panels and enough heat-collecting solar mass in concrete floors that it doesn't need central heating or air conditioning, said Lama Pema Clark. The architect is Carlos Delgado of Ashland. The walls will be made of integrated concrete forms, made from recycled materials. Much of the lumber will be donated by local woodlots. Windows will be glazed to keep summer heat out while letting light in. And labor and materials will come from the community to support jobs and interrelatedness, Clark said.
To be built on a gentle slope behind the wetlands sanctuary on Hersey Street near Oak Street, the 5,800-square-foot structure blends traditional Tibetan temple architecture and the modern, commercial look of surrounding structures, said Clark.
The ground floor will hold administrative space and a commercial unit, to be rented to a business that's harmonious with Buddhism, such as an acupuncturist, she said.
The second floor, accessible from the rear slope, will be the meditation center. The top floor will be lamas' residences, with roof lines crowned by three spires and a dharma wheel, which symbolizes the unity of all things, flanked by two deer, symbols of bliss and realization.
Money has been raised from membership &

8212; 80 regularly paying members and 150 to 200 active attendees &

8212; as well as from other Buddhist communities, including Tashi Choling Meditation Retreat Center in the Colestin Valley, the Ashland Zen Center, the local Vipassana meditation community and the Tibetan Buddhist community in Williams.
Donations also come from people who want to support green, sustainable building, the faith's welcome to non-Buddhists and its philosophy of loving kindness and compassion, said KSC board chairwoman Phyllis Norris, an Ashland accountant. —
"People are looking for ways to get more calm in their lives as a counter to war, violence and the aggressive society we live in," said Norris. "It's a ripple effect. People contact other people who support meditation and want to see a center in the downtown area. People are seeing we mean it and are committed and have the right energy and the right people involved."
KSC also received a $100,000 grant from the Marpa Foundation in Nepal, an organization that supports translation of Buddhist works into all languages, said Norris.
The KSC heeded the city's request that it increase from two to three stories to accommodate goals of integrating residential and commercial uses in the urban core. The city requirements added 30 percent to the building's cost, but a broad horizontal band will make it look shorter and the retail income will help pay it off, said architectural coordinator Joyce Ward of Ashland.
"It's a little jewel box in the center of Ashland. That's how people are describing it," said Ward. "They're very open to people who just want to come and meditate. People love the fact that it brings in diversity and models the earth-friendly way that we should all be building."
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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