Lama Ole in Dhagpo Collection
Take the highway east of Malaga and take a left at the Mediterranean Sea. Follow the road into the hills as they twist away from the coast, towards the Zafarraya Lions Gate to the north, and in the distance you can catch a faint glimpse of a white structure adorning the hillside. You will find a dirt road that veers off, and as you follow it up the hill you will feel every step you take brings you farther from the bustling city, the strict and rigid shackles of modern life, and deeper into a space who’s energy can be felt well before your arrival. Winding up the hill, climbing higher and higher you will finally reach a path on the hilltop, a path lined by beautiful trees on both sides, whose shade covers the cobblestone path that winds up the hill. At the crescent the tress open and you will find yourself directly facing a Kalachakra Stupa, a glowing white pearl in a courtyard of brown stone, looking out in all directions, prayer flags dancing softly in the breeze. The Buddha statue in its perch, gazing out, like passing through a gate on a Tibetan mountainside, once you’ve entered it is clear you have left the world behind. Your mind will open, a sense of clarity and joy will come across you, for you are in a very special place – you have arrived in Karma Guen.
Spending only a part of my afternoon in Karma Guen wasn’t nearly enough to absorb its qualities – this is an enormous place who’s energy and calming demeanor were truly present from the moment I arrived. Lush green hills in every direction, a 360 degree view of the landscape and rolling hills, a sky soft and blue, not a cloud in sight, a delicate shade covers everything in its caress of pastel. From the hilltop one can see the buildings that make up Karma Guen’s center, dotted farmhouses across the horizon, the beautiful new building that now houses the library and housing for guests, and the Gompa down the hill with its pillared gate, and unique construction and style. The sound of birds whistling and the occasional crowd of goats passing by puts one in a village of long ago, like time has yet to catch up here, the day calmly passing by without a care in the world. This place is immense, one easily understands that it was intended to house events and guests in the thousands without anyone feeling cramped or burdened with a lack of space. Even the kitchen, with its rows of industrial sized sinks and grills, preparing food for this kind of event must be such an undertaking, and yet it seems like everything has been so carefully laid out and planned. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves, passing though there are several enjoying a simple cup of coffee, heading into some personal practice time – laughter routinely meeting our the ears as we casually passed through. Though the center was almost empty, just some retreatants and those coming for personal practice, I got an familiar feeling like I was back in Dhagpo – having decided to enjoy my afternoon with a slow walk, the center has a very welcome and homely vibe despite its size and occupancy.
I was told that back in the day for events on the grandiose level one would even walk a short trip of fifteen minutes to the adjacent hillside, where a tent used to be put in place for such the occasion. Now there is a Gompa whose occupancy is nearly unfathomable, and it has to be seen in person to be appreciate. The fresco walls are only a small part; beyond impressive, beautifully painted in pastel colors that literally coat you in their delicate presence. Though they are unbelievably detailed, every square centimeter of all the walls are covered, they are never daunting of overwhelming, each figure, each scene is depicted with great care and traditional style, telling the story of the Dharma as you walk through. I could quite honestly spend the entire day admiring them one by one if given the chance, though I had already seen the book detailing their intricacies I am in awe of them seen in person. A truly staggering project. Two large statues in one corner catch my eye immediately and I spent the rest of my time admiring them. The Guru Rinpoche is especially powerful, his staring gaze made lifelike by his sheer larger than life size and the quality of the work. Though the hall was empty, I could feel what it must be like when it is packed with people, and I make a promise to myself that I will do what I can to make sure I come back here for one of their now legendary large scale events.
Karma Kagyue Diamond Way Buddhist Retreat Center “Karma Guen” is a special place, with its Stupa on the hilltop where the mountains meet the sky, the gompa and its magnificent walls of painted history, or its rolling mountainous hills and amazingly calm feeling throughout – one can easily see why so many frequent this place, why the dharma has flourished here, and why so many have decided to stay, and simply call it home.
Karmapa Europe Center Visit 2015
I will be in the EC for Karmapa’s visit this August 2015 – more photos to come!