The Shakyamuni Buddha Statue Project

Shakyamuni Buddha Statue in Progress

Shakya­mu­ni Bud­dha Stat­ue in Progress

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.

Khenpo Sonam Rinpoche and Completed Buddha Statue

Khen­po Son­am Rin­poche and Com­plet­ed Bud­dha Stat­ue

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.

Biography of Tshewang Dorji

Tshewang Dorji and Lama Nima Tsering Rinpoche

Tshe­wang Dor­ji and Lama Nima Tser­ing Rin­poche

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.

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