Mount Moriah

A view of the Temple from Mt. Moriah

A View of the Tem­ple from Mt. Mori­ah

Real­ized spir­i­tu­al teach­ers sit­u­ate tem­ples and med­i­ta­tion retreats on places of nat­ur­al power—where the inter­sect­ing ele­ments them­selves inspire fresh awak­en­ing. So it was that Ven. Pel­ing Rin­poche imme­di­ate­ly sensed the poten­cy and sacred­ness of Mount Mori­ah, south-east­ern Ontario’s high­est point, and estab­lished Orgyan Osal Cho Dzong at its base in 1984. He called the rise near­est the cen­tre Ati Peak, reflect­ing the high­est teach­ings of the Nying­ma tra­di­tion of Tibetan Bud­dhism that he and his stu­dents upheld and prac­ticed.

The ear­ly Euro­pean set­tlers must have also felt some­thing spe­cial about the moun­tain. The name they gave it, Mori­ah, is the name of the rise upon which Abraham’s faith was test­ed and King Solomon cre­at­ed the Israelites’ first tem­ple and enshrined the Ark of the Covenant.

But the native Cana­di­an tribes held Mt. Mori­ah in deep regard long before that. Cather­ine Shar­bot Duchaine, a Mohawk chief, has vis­it­ed Orgyan Dzong sev­er­al times.  Based on her research into Mt. Moriah’s place in native lore, she said that all the leg­ends point to Mt. Mori­ah as being the point of ori­gin for her peo­ple and their myths. Indeed, an archeo-geol­o­gist that was part of a research team that eval­u­at­ed the area dis­cov­ered evi­dence of human habi­ta­tion on the moun­tain dat­ing between 5 – 10,000 years ago.

1988 Aerial View of Mount Moriah

1988 Aer­i­al View of Mount Mori­ah

Based on these and oth­er find­ings, in 1999 Mt. Mori­ah was des­ig­nat­ed an Area of Nat­ur­al and Sci­en­tif­ic Inter­est (ANSI) due to its unique geo­log­i­cal for­ma­tions and rare flo­ra and fau­na, and made a pro­tect­ed con­ser­va­tion area which was includ­ed in the Ontario Lands for Life – Liv­ing Lega­cy pro­gram.

So what is it about Mt. Mori­ah that makes it feel like the spir­i­tu­al heart of Ontario? Though only 1,215 feet at its high­est now, Mori­ah used to rival the lofti­est Himalayan peaks—more than one bil­lion years ago. For aeons since its first upwelling as a mound of molten rock, it has with­stood the for­ma­tion and evap­o­ra­tion of vast seas, the freeze and thaw of innu­mer­able ice ages, the scour of glac­i­ers, tor­rents, wild­fire and wind, even the depre­da­tions of mod­ern man. Per­haps this is it: Mt. Mori­ah is ancient.

Mori­ah rep­re­sents time­less patience in the cru­cible of change – the very qual­i­ty that med­i­ta­tors seek at her feet. And to the right indi­vid­ual, she will dis­close spir­i­tu­al visions. In 1998, Pel­ing Rin­poche had such a vision of a vast gold­en chakra, or wheel, rest­ing on the mountain’s peak and radi­at­ing out 1,002 spokes. At the junc­ture of the rim and each spoke was one of the 1,002 Bud­dhas proph­e­sied for this age (our Shakya­mu­ni Bud­dha was the 4th), which is called the “For­tu­nate Aeon” where a roar­ing lion, spew­ing flames, sat before each Bud­dha.

Top of Mount Moriah

Top of Mount Mori­ah

Two years before, at Pel­ing Rinpoche’s direc­tion, his dis­ci­ple Lama Jigme sought and encoun­tered the deva—local god—of the moun­tain. The deva appeared to him in an enor­mous abstract form made of light. It made two requests, agreed to pro­tect the cen­tre, and then gave Lama Jigme his name, ‘Nir­ma­ta’. Nir in San­skrit is a very strong neg­a­tive, and mata means moth­er. The deva’s name could be trans­lat­ed as “absolute­ly moth­er­less,” which pos­si­bly points to how ancient and “pri­mor­dial” the moun­tain is (and feels itself to be), seem­ing­ly always exist­ing, with­out birth or cre­ation. One could also say that this points to the Pri­mor­dial Wis­dom nature of the moun­tain, as well as that of all beings: unborn, undy­ing, beyond harm or improve­ment, exist­ing a-pri­ori to all dhar­mas and con­cep­tu­al dual­i­ty.

Prayer to Shri Nirmata


Giri deva* Shri Nir­ma­ta,
Ancient One of the North,
From your base the heav­ens crown you,
From your peak, the infi­nite expanse is all that can be seen.
Bear­er of the chakra of one thou­sand and two Bud­dhas,
Pro­tect the yogins that shel­ter at your feet,
And enact your activ­i­ties of sta­bil­i­ty and increase.

- Com­posed by Lama Jigme, 2009

*Giri deva = moun­tain god