When the 7-foot, custom-made statue of Shakyamuni Buddha is installed next spring in the new niche at the center of Orgyan Dzong’s altar, it will be the long-awaited result of a pure intention delayed—18 years long, in fact.
Building on his art college background and an intensive study of Buddhist iconography and iconometry (the sacred canon of measurements and proportions for the creation of the Buddha’s image), Lama Jigme first undertook the Shakyamuni Buddha statue project in 1995, preparing to incorporate the direct instruction of HH Penor Rinpoche himself on the proper interior ingredients. Unfortunately, the beginning of this project coincided with Peling Rinpoche’s rapidly deteriorating health. The demands of caring for Rinpoche, as well as those of managing Orgyan Dzong, forced Lama Jigme to abandon the work of bringing this sacred image into reality, but not the determination.
A year after Peling Rinpoche’s 2009 parinirvana, Lama Jigme was introduced to an accomplished Bhutanese sculptor, Tshewang Dorji, living right in Toronto. Invited to Canada by Khenpo Sonam, Tshewang Dorji has created more than 60 statues for his Riwoche Temple, resulting in what at least one commenter has called “one of the most beautiful Buddhist altars in the West.” Struck by the quality of Tshewang’s work, Lama Jigme this fall commissioned him to sculpt the Buddha image he’d been longing to enshrine at Orgyan Dzong.
The two years’ work on the statue is nearing completion (Tshewang holds down a day job and must do this work in his free time). Every step of the way, Lama Jigme has had a collaborative role, spending long hours in the unheated studio, offering his own artistic and spiritual guidance to ensure that the final image, especially its face, is as aesthetically pleasing and inspiring as possible.
Fully satisfied with the result, this fall Lama Jigme has turned to overseeing the construction of a central niche in which to house the statue. The design, with decorative arches and improved lighting, will be extended to the flanking altars to create a unified display worthy of the sacred images they contain.
Once the Shakyamuni statue itself is delivered in May or June, 2013, there will be more auspicious work to attend to. Lama Jigme and others will apply 23K gold leaf to the body, and the face will be painted with a traditional matte formulation also using pure gold powder. Attention will then be turned to filling the statue’s interior. HE Mugsang Rinpoche is kindly arranging for scores of traditional dzung—saffron-misted paper rolls printed with thousands of mantras each—to be created at Namdroling Monastery in India and shipped over. Tulku Dawa and the Palyul khenpos living in Toronto have offered to add their expertise in helping to place the dzung and other interior ingredients, including sacred relics given to Lama Jigme by HH Penor Rinpoche during that period of original instruction in 1995, at the statue’s heart and along its central axis. This will be an opportunity for Orgyan Dzong members to see and participate in this special process firsthand.
The culmination of all this meticulous effort will take place in the late summer of 2013. Following the annual Palyul retreat in New York, Lama Jigme will invite HH Karma Kuchen Rinpoche and Their Eminences Gyangkhang and Mugsang Rinpoche to Orgyan Dzong to conduct the proper “opening of the eyes” and public consecration for the Shakyamuni Buddha image.
By bringing together such auspicious conditions—the lovingly-sculpted image of the Buddha himself, the millions of mantras and other holy items it contains, as well as the participation of sublime lamas in its creation and consecration—this statue’s presence will radiate powerful blessings and inspiration for those who visit Orgyan Dzong, the surrounding environment, and the entire world.
Please check back regularly for updates and photos on the progress of the niche, shrines and statue!
If you would like to make a tax deductible donation toward this meritorious project, these funds will be used towards the purchase of 23K gold leaf and powder, materials to finish the shrines and the statue’s lion throne, as well as additional substances needed to fill the statue, etc., please click here.
Born in Trashi Gang, Bhutan, Tshewang Dorji studied Buddhist sculpture under several learned artists, but especially under one of Bhutan’s greatest and most respected master sculptors, Omtong, who worked throughout his life for the royal family of Bhutan until he passed way in 2003.
Tshewang’s apprenticeship with Omtong lasted about ten years. During this time they traveled throughout Bhutan and Nepal, the highlight being when Her Royal Highness the Queen Mother of Bhutan sent Omtong, Tshewang and a group of sculptors to build statues for H.H.Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche’s Shechen Monastery in Boudhanath, Nepal. Over a period of six years there they created more than 200 statues from one to sixteen feet high, as well as dance masks.
After completing their work in Nepal, Tshewang and three more of master Omtong’s apprentices were invited to Europe by a lama from Belgium to build statues for his centres in Belgium, France and Portugal. Over a three-year period, they not only built these statues, but also worked for H.H. Shenphen Dawa Rinpoche and Tulku Pema Wangyel Rinpoche in Dordogne, France. Following this, Tshewang went back to Bhutan, creating statues for some temples there as well as in Darjeeling, India, for Drubchen Rinpoche.
While making statues for H.H. Dilgo Khyentse’s temple in Bodhgaya, India, a friend recommended him to Khenpo Sonam, abbot of the Riwoche Temple in Toronto. Khenpo Sonam brought Tshewang to Canada, where he worked for seven years to create approximately sixty statues, from one to six and a half feet tall, for Riwoche’s shrines.
Tshewang Dorji continues to live in Toronto with his wife and two children, and works full time at a fiberglass mold factory.