Buddhist Master, Harvard PhD - Now Temple Builder Trungram Gyaltrul Rinpoche Oversees Construction of a New Eco-Monastery at Buddha's BirthplaceBy United Trungram Buddhist Fellowship, PRNE
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
LUMBINI, Nepal, March 10, 2011 - He made Buddhist history when he was graduated from Harvard University in
Now Trungram Gyaltrul Rinpoche (PhD, Indo-Tibetan Buddhism) is about to
make another kind of history in one of Buddhism's most significant historical
places — Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha.
On April 4, Rinpoche will preside over the opening of the Lumbini Udyana
Mahachaitya — World Center for Peace and Unity, the latest and largest
Buddhist temple and meditation hall complex to be built at the UNESCO World
Heritage Site. (www.utbf.org/en/projects/dharmaprj/lumbini and
The 48,600-square-foot structure is also the first modern Buddhist temple
to be built as an "eco-monastery," one that incorporates a green design that
builds in extra insulation while relying on large area solar panels to
generate all of the building's lighting needs. It will be the most
environmentally friendly of all the buildings in the monastic zone of
Lumbini, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In addition to the other ecologically friendly elements, the complex
features an anti-earthquake system that can help the building resist temblors
as strong as 7.7 on the Richter scale.
The World Center or Mahachaitya, from its architecture to its adornments,
is the brainchild of a 42-year-old high-ranking incarnate lama who
crisscrosses the world delivering teachings on the Dharma, or Buddhist
"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," said Rinpoche.
Mahachaitya is the latest addition to a master-planned monastic community
that envisions more than 40 Buddhist temples in different national styles to
be built near where Prince Siddhartha Guatama, the Buddha, was born in 583
As a young man, Siddhartha renounced the comfort of royal riches and
adopted an ascetic lifestyle to find a solution to end human suffering — a
quest that led to his enlightenment as the Buddha 2500 years ago. His
philosophical breakthrough of the "middle-way" and its tenets of
non-attachment, revolutionized Eastern thought.
Rinpoche's journey from the halls of Cambridge to the construction
trenches in southern Nepal represents a remarkable personal pilgrimage as
Recognized as an incarnate lama at age eighteen months, he was given the
honorific "Rinpoche," meaning "precious one," by the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa,
leader of the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Rinpoche then received the
traditional monastic education and meditation training accorded to important
Buddhist teachers. But he also realized that to communicate effectively in
today's complex world he needed a Western education.
His quest opened the doors to Harvard, from where he was graduated in
2004 with a PhD, publishing his dissertation on Gampopa, a 12th century
meditation master and forefather of the Kagyu lineage.
It was while studying at Harvard that Buddhist leaders in Nepal
approached Rinpoche about building the World Center. After graduating, he
applied for and received permission from Lumbini authorities to build the
temple in the name of the United Trungram Buddhist Fellowship (UTBF), a
nonprofit organization Rinpoche formed as a young man to further dharma work
for the public benefit.
While most other Lumbini structures are being built by governments, and
thus reflect different nationalistic styles, Rinpoche decided to build a more
universal structure that harkened to Buddhism's educational and ecological
He personally designed the central building, named Mahachaitya, to recall
the greatness of Nalanda University, the ancient Buddhist seat of learning
that served as the Harvard of Asia from the 5th to 12th centuries A.D. The
Mahachaitya is modeled on one of the surviving structures of Nalanda — the
Stupa of Shariputra, one of the Buddha's closest disciples.
"Architecturally, I was inspired by the ruins and the sketches of what
the Shariputra stupa probably looked like at the ancient Nalanda University.
With the help of French, Nepalese, and Taiwanese architects, we were able to
come up with this particular design," said Rinpoche.
Rinpoche oversaw construction of the World Center, which was built mostly
by hand because of Nepal's chronic power outages. At one point, workmen had
to form a chain to lift heavy buckets of wet cement to the top of the
Rinpoche has filled the central meditation hall and surrounding walkways
with more than 1000 custom-made copper statues depicting Buddha, his close
disciples, and various Buddhist deities in the style of the 7th to 13th
centuries, considered the height of Buddhist classical art. By reviving the
unadorned, balanced figures, Rinpoche hopes to create an atmosphere of
serenity and simplicity, conducive to reflection and meditation.
Rinpoche's efforts to promote serenity through meditation also extends to
the United States where he currently oversees the establishment of the
Mahamudra Buddhist Hermitage in the Hudson Valley of New York State. The
Hermitage will be nestled on 90 acres near the village of Cragsmoor, in
The Hermitage will offer facilities for both short and long-term
retreats. It will also feature a teaching center for daily classes on
Buddhist philosophy. (www.dharmakaya.org/project)
Contact: Suzan Garner, +1-805-455-8420, email@example.com
Suzan Garner, +1-805-455-8420, suzangarner at gmail.com
Tags: Lumbini, March 10, Nepal, United Trungram Buddhist Fellowship