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 satellite photo of Mt Moriah with Lingham Lake above. 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.
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