Doors Open June 24th at Wutai Shan Buddhist Garden in Bethany

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Pictured is one of five bronze statues that will be consecrated in a ceremony on June 24th.

This month the public will have another opportunity to visit the Wutai Shan Buddhist Garden on the outskirts of Bethany to get a firsthand look at the progress made at this significant religious destination. 

The opening hours that day run from 10 am to 2:30 pm with a special consecration ceremony opening the event.

The Wutai Shan Temple pays homage to the leading Bodhisattva, Manjusri.  This religious leader ranks first due to his “infinite wisdom”, which the project leaders acknowledge will be a key ingredient to the successful completion of this massive project.  There has been significant progress at the Buddhist Temple complex over the last few years.  Led by the current Abbot Ven. Dayi Shi, the development is now the largest Chinese Buddhist installation in Canada. It is part of a massive project located on four sites encompassing 1350 acres. The project envisions a series of sacred sites designed to provide an abbreviated, North American version of the sacred pilgrimage of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains in China, including Wutai Shan, Omei Shan, Putuo Shan and Jiuhua Shan Buddhist Gardens.

After several industrial wind turbine projects were approved a few years ago, plans for the remaining three temples were put on hold.  According to Diane Chen, site manager for the project, pilgrims expect the site to provide a peaceful environment for contemplation and meditation which is challenged by the sights and sounds generated by these installations which compromise the serenity of the landscape which was one of the key attractions for these Temple locations. 

Construction of the main wooden temple has progressed. This structure is a replica of the 1200-year-old Foguang Temple in China, which remains in good condition.  The wooden timbers are of high grade rosewood and yew, treated with natural varnish to prevent decay, insect infestation, and splitting. The roof structure will be covered by about 150 tons of bronze roof shingle tiles.  Today the main horizontal wooden rafters of the temple have been erected along with 36 vertical support beams, assembled using the Tang style architectural style of interlocking wooden brackets.  No nails are used in this construction technique.

Last March, five donated bronze statues of Bodhisattva Manjusri arrived on site and were installed on five peaks facing in five directions.  They travelled a month by sea, accompanied by 16 Chinese artisans who ensured their proper installation overlooking the lake.     The term “Buddha” refers to a person who has reached total enlightenment, while a Bodhisattva is one level below and therefore requires more cultivation to achieve the ultimate Buddha status.  Standing at almost 10 meters tall and facing in all directions, these impressive statues representing the patron saint of Wutai Shan were donated by the Mount Wutai Temple of China. These statues will be the focus of the morning consecration ceremony which visitors to the Garden are welcome to attend.

A key feature on the temple grounds is a small lake.  Originally a piece of wetland, the area was excavated revealing some springs which allowed the creation of a lotus pond to enhance the site’s spirituality.  The “Wisdom Lake” is now a 600-meter long, 150-meter wide and 10-meter deep lake, symbolizing purifying the mind of all sentient beings and spreading wisdom and compassion over North America.

Last year attendance at the Open House attracted almost 2000 visitors, with more likely to come this year to attend the consecration ceremony, so parking on site will be crowded.  There are no tour guides during the event but traffic controllers will be onsite to direct traffic.  The site encompasses 530 acres, visitors are encouraged to wear comfortable shoes, a hat and lots of sunscreen and bring their cameras.  KG

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