'Eco-monastery' opening at Siddhartha's birthplace
March 9, 2011 12:06 PM PST
Lumbini, the UNESCO World Heritage Site so marked for being the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, will soon also be home to an "eco-monastery."
The Lumbini Udyana Mahachaitya World Center for Peace and Unity (LUM), which began construction in 2006, opens this April in Nepal. It will be the largest Buddhist temple and meditation hall in Lumbini, but aims to leave the smallest carbon footprint.
The lighting system for the 48,600-square-foot structure will rely entirely on solar panels to generate electricity for its lighting, as well as incorporating the use of natural light in its design. It has cavity walls for increased thermal insulation and was designed so that it can rely on natural passive airflow systems to regulate heating and cooling.
But the temple is not entirely green. The LUM center is being built to withstand earthquakes of up to 7.7 on the Richter scale, it was constructed using stone and brick masonry, as well as concrete, a material known for its release of carbon gases when manufactured. The building itself, however, was constructed in large part without the use of electricity. That was mainly due to frequent power outages in the area, necessitating workers to even carry "heavy buckets of wet cement to the top of the structure's dome," according to Dharmakaya, the organization leading the building effort.
"This is an effort to save the ancient arts and wisdom, to highlight the importance of our gentleness to the earth, and to promote a sense of peace and unity for all," Trungram Gyaltrul Rinpoche, the high-ranking lama leading the project.
"Architecturally, unlike many other monasteries, this one will be a modern hybrid monastery. It is a chaitya based on the ancient Indian work of Shariputra's stupa found at Nalanda University, and also incorporates Nepalese architecture, which is then beautified by Tibetan artworks," Rinpoche said.
Rinpoche, a Harvard graduate, is known for being one of the first lamas to earn a Western Ph.D.