On a beautiful and auspicious day, June 19, 2011, His Holiness Sakya Trizin performed the opening ceremony for Tsechen Kunchab Ling, His Holiness' official seat in the United States. This joyous event was attended by many members of the noble Khön family from both Drolma Phodrang and Phuntsok Phodrang including Khöndung Ratna Vajra Rinpoche, Khöndung Gyana Vajra Rinpoche, Dungsey Ani Rinpoche, Dungsey Akasha Rinpoche, H.E. Jetsun-ma Kunga Trinley Palter, H.E. Gyalyum Chenmo, H.E. Dagmo Kushog Kalden and her mother Mayum Sadultsang.
In addition, the Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Lobsang Nyandak, and many tulkus, lamas, monks, nuns, dignitaries from the Village of Walden, and over 4,000 people came to celebrate the opening of the new temple building. Among those were 180 people who had traveled from 18 different countries and 24 U.S. states to attend the Lam Dre teachings.
In his remarks on the occasion, His Holiness told the assembly, "I am delighted to see the opening of this new temple, and appreciate the efforts of all those who worked together to make it come to pass. The number of people interested in Buddhism is growing every year. This temple will become an important place where people can seriously engage in Dharma study and meditation."
The opening ceremony was particularly meaningful because it represented the culmination of nearly a decade of diligent work by Venerable Khenpo Kalsang Gyaltsen and His Holiness' disciples to accomplish His Holiness’ goal of establishing a traditional temple in the United States. At the end of the Lam Dre teachings in Vancouver in the year 2000, His Holiness encouraged the assembled disciples to establish a traditional temple as His seat in the United States in order to more firmly establish the Dharma in this new land, and in particular to encourage the growth of the monastic sangha. He designated Khenpo Kalsang Gyaltsen to undertake the task, assisted by Chodrungma Kunga Chodron and Chodrungpa Jamyang Tharchin.
As Venerable Khenpo Kalsang explained in his opening remarks, "I am delighted to have had the opportunity to serve Your Holiness for the past ten years in accomplishing your vision to build this temple as Your Holiness' seat in the United States. Although Your Holiness' main seat is 1500 miles away, we are delighted that you have decided to extend your noble activities in this part of the world and given us the honor of serving you by helping to establish another seat here in the United States. It will be a truly great blessing for many sentient beings in this land for generations to come. All of Your Holiness' devoted students have dedicated their best efforts toward the goal of building Your Holiness' temple. Some offered money, some offered work, some offered encouragement; each offered the best that they could in order to bring Your Holiness' vision to reality."
The new temple building was built in traditional Tibetan architectural style using modern materials and techniques, under the close direction of His Holiness and Khenpo Kalsang by architect Larry Hibbard of Hibbard Architecture in Manson, Washington. The building contractor was Mark Annunciato of Liam Construction in Warwick, New York. The main worship hall is 9,000 square feet in size, with a bronze and gold image of the Buddha sculpted by a famous Nepali sculptor. It is also graced by 78 statues of the Lam Dre lineage lamas made by the Nepali sculptor Shidhra Ratna, large statues of the five founders of the Sakya Order, the Sixteen Arhats, and 21 Taras.
The opening ceremonies began with a flag raising ceremony by the Walden Veterans of Foreign Wars, followed by a procession for the arrival of His Holiness, and ribbon cutting. Following prayers and the Sixteen Arhat Ritual, speeches were offered by His Holiness Sakya Trizin, the Representative of His Holiness Dalai Lama the Honorable Lobsang Nyindrak, Venerable Khenpo Kalsang Gyaltsen, and the Honorable Brian Maher Mayor of Walden. Venerable Chodrungma Kunga Chodron served as Master of Ceremonies.
A delicious luncheon and dinner was sponsored by the Minneapolis Sakya Center Sakya Thupten Dhargye Ling, and by the Washington D.C. Sakya Center Sakya Phuntsok Ling, and was prepared by a team of Sherpa cooks led by Mr. Tashi. Food from local restaurants was also showcased at a "Taste of Walden" table. The afternoon program included the bestowing of a long-life initiation by His Holiness Sakya Trizin, a cultural program of dances and songs from various Himalayan communities, and a play "How the Dharma Came to Tibet" by the Tsechen Kunchab Ling children's Dharma Class.
From June 15-18, for the three days immediately prior to the opening ceremony, a Tenzhug Ceremony was held to request the long life of His Holiness Sakya Trizin. The event was graced by the attendance of members of both Drolma Phodrang and Phuntsok Phodrang. The Tenzhug was organized by a Committee consisting of Her Eminence Jetsun Kushog-la, Khenpo Pema Wangdak, Khenpo Migmar Tseten, and many Himalayan associations in the New York area. The Tenzhug Committee was chaired by Venerable Khenpo Kalsang Gyaltsen, Chodrung Jamyang Tharchin, and Silvia Yueh.
The three days of Tenzhug prayers culminated in a grand offering ceremony to His Holiness on June 18, during which over 20 different temples and Dharma Centers and many Himalayan associations made traditional offerings and prayers for His Holiness’ long life and the flourishing of his holy activities. After His Holiness formally accepted the assembly's request that He live long, everyone joined in a celebratory luncheon and traditional Himalayan songs and dances of rejoicing.
With these auspicious ceremonies, the consecration of the new temple in Walden is now complete. All are encouraged to come to attend events at the new temple, or to visit whenever they can. ”
Source: Melody of Dharma, Issue 7
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