Phagtsok Gedun Choling Temple on south Whidbey Island combines Northwest architecture with traditional Tibetan design. A multi-day gathering consecrated the building with monks who traveled from Asia for the ceremonies. (Kilung Foundation)

Phagtsok Gedun Choling Temple on south Whidbey Island combines Northwest architecture with traditional Tibetan design. A multi-day gathering consecrated the building with monks who traveled from Asia for the ceremonies. (Kilung Foundation)

This new temple marries Northwest style with Tibetan Buddhism

The sanctuary on Whidbey Island expands a lama’s mission to introduce Buddhist teachings to the West.

CLINTON — Whidbey Island has a new Tibetan Buddhist temple, and you’re invited.

Phagtsok Gedun Choling Temple in Clinton is hosting an open house June 9-10 featuring the creation, display and dissolution of a colorful sand mandala created by Tibetan Buddhist monks who traveled from Asia to help consecrate the temple. Temple tours and talks by temple leader Dza Kilung Rinpoche also are planned.

“It is one of the few Buddhist temples in the Pacific Northwest, and we expect it will attract people from around the region,” said Mully Mullally, a temple adviser.

The sand mandala exhibit will share with visitors the meaning of this sacred art, which Buddhists describe as “meditation in action.”

“They use sacred geometry to create the mandala and colored sand to complete the image,” said Karen Carbone, co-director with Jeanne Lepisto of the Kilung Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports humanitarian efforts in Tibet. “While they’re creating that, they’re doing prayer for the environment.”

The 5,000-square-foot complex, on land called Yeshe Long (which means “vast wisdom”) off Humphrey Road in Clinton, marries Northwest architecture with Tibetan elements. It’s anchored by a 2,000-square-foot temple with a mandala-shaped layout and multi-tiered roof. The building has a dining hall, commercial kitchen and sleeping quarters for lamas, or spiritual teachers.

“Rinpoche’s intention was to blend the Northwest with Tibetan architecture and the structure feels as if it is arisen from the land, Mullally wrote in an email.

Rinpoche’s students had been practicing for more than seven years in building called Yeshe Long House. The new temple’s name translates to “Land of the Great Practitioner.”

A donation from Whidbey philanthropists helped launch the project in 2012. After years of fundraising for land acquisition and design work, the building permit was issued in 2017. Construction by Next Generation Design and Build was completed in May. The cost of the building the temple wasn’t revealed.

“I’ve traveled to Nepal a lot and it’s extraordinary to have a temple like this here on our island,” said Cary Peterson of Langley, who practices Buddhism. “It’s something I’ve only seen in Nepal or India.”

Rinpoche is an important lama in Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He chose Whidbey Island as the base for his Western teachings and moved here in 2006. He is said to be the fifth reincarnation of a prominent Tibetan Buddhist teacher who built Kilung Monastery in Tibet.

“We are fortunate that Rinpoche has chosen Whidbey Island as his seat in the West,” Carbone said.

Born in 1970, Kilung Rinpoche was recognized as the fifth incarnation of Jikmé Ngotsar Gyatso. After receiving teachings in Buddhist traditions and beliefs, he became the abbot of Kilung Monastery when he was 17. There, Rinpoche revived traditional sacred dance and helped nuns establish a Kilung nunnery nearby.

Rinpoche left Tibet in 1993 on a pilgrimage that was expected to last a year. Unable to return to Tibet until 2000, he spent time in the Dzogchen Monastery in India and in Kathmandu, Nepal, where he established the Kilung Foundation.

In 1998, Rinpoche traveled to the United States and chose Whidbey Island as the base for teaching Buddhism to Westerners. He also made Whidbey his home.

In Tibet, his foundation has recently rebuilt the Kilung Monastery, established a school for nomad children and built a bridge over a hazardous stretch of the Dzachu River.

Rinpoche also is the author of “The Relaxed Mind: A Seven-Step Method for Deepening Meditation Practice,” published in 2015. It’s a meditation guide for Western beginners.

In 2003, Rinpoche established Pema Kilaya, a Whidbey-based Buddhist community, in his mission to bring Buddhism to the West.

When he’s not in Tibet or traveling, Rinpoche hosts teachings, practices, meditations and retreats for those wishing to become formally recognized as a student in the Dzogchen-Longchen Nyingtik lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Visitors are welcome from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. every Monday for meditation.

“We needed more space for the community of students to grow,” Mullally said via email.

During a temple consecration ceremony last week, Rinpoche spoke of the significance of the new sanctuary.

“To experience a temple like this would require going to the Himalayas,” Rinpoche said. “Some people are able to do that. Now this is here in the Northwest. They can come here. This is like a power and truth of all aspirations coming from all directions.”

This article incorporates reporting by Patricia Guthrie of the Whidbey News Group.

If you go

Phagtsok Gedun Choling Temple’s open house is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 9 and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 10 at 6900 Humphrey Road, Clinton.

Because parking space is limited, only cars with four or more passengers will be allowed to park at the temple. All other cars must park at the Clinton Post Office or the Humphrey Road Ferry park and rides. Free shuttles will be available from noon to 4:30 p.m. both days.

For more information on Phagtsok Gedun Choling Temple and Dza Kilung Rinpoche’s teachings, go to pemakilaya.org. For more about the Kilung Foundation, go to kilung.org.

Open house

June 9

10 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Mandala creation

2 p.m.: Welcome talk by temple leader Dza Kilung Rinpoche

2 to 4 p.m.: Temple tours

June 10

10 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Mandala on exhibit

2 p.m.: Talk by Dza Kilung Rinpoche, “Sand Mandalas – Sacred Art of Tibet”

3 p.m.: Dissolution of mandala

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