We had 24 days of "work" and "party" at the Great Smoky Mountains Peace Pagoda, and it brought a little bit of everything. We had folks from as close as Cosby to as far away as Holland, ages ranging from almost 5 to 82, new friends, old friends and folks who happened to come up the mountain and got put to work. (They didn't seem to mind.) Much work got done, but even more important, the Peace Pagoda community continues to grow.
Stone carvings made in India and delivered to our mountaintop a few years back were put into place in October and November. There were 160+ pieces weighing more than 40 tons. It was quite a job, but as usual, an entirely volunteer effort.
The pieces make up a 8 panels: in order they depict a Jataka tale; the dream of Queen Maya that foretold the Buddha's birth; Prince Siddhartha's departure from the palace; Lord Buddha's Enlightenment; Lord Buddha's preaching in Rajagriha and being visited by King Bimbisara; the appearance of a stupa on Sacred Eagle Peak, as told in the Lotus Sutra; the dispersal of Lord Buddha's relics following his Paranirvana, the relics held aloft by couriers riding elephants; and the establishment of the Buddhist religion by King Ashoka 200 years following Buddha's passing.
These are modern carvings but based on designs that are 2,000 years old, dense with imagery, packed with symbolism, full of creatures and lots of people. "Upright in character and gentle/Wholeheartedly wishing to see Buddha," is a description in the Lotus Sutra of the followers of Buddhism. That is what they look like. We invite you to come see and enter their realm of tranquility and devotion.
We now have about three more concrete pours to finish the dome, plus a pour for the staircase from the first walkway to the second. That latter task, the staircase, is probably going to be our next project.
The Spring Work Party had more than 40 participants over three weeks, many not pictured here because I have trouble keeping up with it all! The main project was the build and secure the forms for the next 8 feet and to get that concrete poured. All that was accomplished safely, and we are grateful for that.
The 8 feet of wall includes the four niches where 15-feet high Buddha statues will be enshrined. Those statues are being made right now in Japan, and we will be making a trip there later this year to check on the progress.
Next work party is October 13 through November 4. Please join us!