Even before the earthquakes and aftershocks rocked Nepal, renowned Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, His Eminence Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche, had a vision – to build a peace sanctuary in Lumbini, the birth place of the Buddha.
“The Mahasiddha Sanctuary for Universal Peace is for everyone who loves peace; ‘Mahasiddha’ means great accomplishment,” said Shyalpa Rinpoche, 49.
He was in Malaysia recently to announce this plan as well as attend a private event to raise funds for children affected by the earthquakes in Nepal. Shyalpa Rinpoche’s monastery is in Kapan, Kathmandu.
He said the sanctuary is also designed to promote Buddha’s birth place and tourism in Nepal.
The peace sanctuary is for everyone, regardless of race, skin colour or tradition.
He hopes everyone can participate and relate to the efforts made in building this structure.
The design of the sanctuary is like a lotus – a symbol of purity – and also a butter lamp – which clears the darkness. Within this sanctuary, there are plans for a digital library (to store all Buddhist texts and sacred teachings), museum and conference hall.
This will be situated in a park closest to Buddha’s birth place; there are many temples nearby.
It is part of a larger plot of land with a sacred garden bigger than Central Park in New York.
Shyalpa Rinpoche said: “The Nepal government has allocated a prime plot of land for this. However, we feel that this piece of land is not big enough.
“We’re requesting for more land because of the scale of our project, which could one day be a national treasure.”
The cost of the project has not be determined yet, but plans are afoot to ensure the building is earthquake-proof.
The ground-breaking ceremony for the Mahasiddha project was a year ago but there has been a delay in the construction. “We’re building a world class sanctuary. Even though we can start to build with bricks and pillars, every nut and bolt has to be made somewhere and transported to Lumbini. This will take time,” said Shyalpa Rinpoche.
Renowned architect Professor Stephan Braunfels, who previously designed the offices of the German Parliament, has worked with His Eminence Rinpoche to develop the design and architectural plans for the Mahasiddha Sanctuary.
Fund-raising for this three-year project will begin in November.
“My idea is to involve everyone so that when the sanctuary is built, everyone feels (a sense of) ownership. This project becomes inspirational from beginning to end. Whether it is RM1, USD1 or 1 rupee, we would like everyone to support us,” he said, adding that it would also be an opportunity to create good karma by building this sanctuary together.
The Nepali government, Shyalpa Rinpoche said, has agreed to an extension period for the project. There are also plans to hold a dinner on the grounds of the palace where Buddha was a prince. “Now that the palace site is in ruins, we plan to erect makeshift tents and invite everyone who loves peace to this dinner in Lumbini.”
Urgent matters first
After the earthquakes, Shyalpa Rinpoche said the peace sanctuary project was “put on the back burner” and instead, focussed his energies on helping the victims and doing reliefwork in and around Kathmandu.
Shyalpa Rinpoche was in Hong Kong when news of the disaster broke. “That evening, my flight to return to Kathmandu was cancelled and I was stuck in Hong Kong,” said Shyalpa Rinpoche, who felt a huge sense of relief upon learning that the nuns and monks at his nunnery and monastery, as well as his family, were unharmed.
The monks and his staff swung into swift action and were involved in humanitarian aid. “We sent more than 3,000 tents to the villages in eight districts in Nepal and gave blankets and food,” said Shyalpa Rinpoche. He has returned to Nepal twice since the earthquakes, including once to present donations to the Prime Minister Relief Fund for the children of Nepal.
On May 28 this year, 200 close friends and family members attended a fund-raising dinner at Aloft Sentral Kuala Lumpur, hosted by Lai Voon Hon under the auspices of Shyalpa Rinpoche. At least RM180,000 was raised. The proceeds came from the auction of a used badminton racquet belonging to Datuk Lee Chong Wei, as well as from the sale of thangkas and antiques.
The event was attended by Shyalpa Rinpoche, Dr Niranjan MS Basnyat, the Ambassador of Nepal to Malaysia, Lai Voon Hon, Datuk Nancy Yeoh, Datuk Lee Chong Wei and other guests.
Dr Niranjan thanked Shyalpa Rinpoche, Wencheng Gongzhu Malaysia and the Bhirkuti Himalayan Foundation (a sister organisation in Nepal) for their swift action and response, reaching out to more than 10,000 people in as remote locations as China-Nepal borders, distributing tents, tarps, rice and blankets.
Shyalpa Rinpoche spoke about the devastation in Nepal and his plans to further deliver relief to 17 of the most badly affected districts in the Himalayas over the next few months, in collaboration with Nepali youth groups.
He also spoke about his plan to invite friends from around the world to Nepal in an effort to revive the tourism industry, one of the country’s main sources of income.
According to him, only 18% of the tourist sites are affected by the earthquakes and 82% of Nepal’s tourist spots, hotels and hiking trails, are still structurally sound and intact.