After traversing several miles of dirt roads, the visitor
comes upon an information booth and parking. A short hike
is required for most able visitors, taking one up a mountain
path, past ponds and groves of aspen. A concrete walkway leads
the visitor past a birdbath-like bowl over-stuffed with donations
and on to the stupa.
The structure stands 108 feet tall, with a base diameter
of nearly 200 feet. The basic architecture is meant to evoke
the shape of a sitting Buddha. Near the top of the primarily
white edifice are the figures of a sun and moon, above which
sits a jewel symbolizing perfect enlightenment. A portal on
the exterior of the third level presents an atypical walking
Buddha, symbolizing the ambulations of Chögyam Trungpa
in the West. The stupa has three interior levels, the lowest
of which is open to the public, which is a departure from
the typical nature of stupas as closed buildings.
Within the Doors
Inside the visitor finds a great figure of Shakyamuni Buddha
in meditation clothed in the orange robes of the Buddhist
clergy. Fine tile work covers the floors, and a pilgrim to
the shrine will generally find meditation mats waiting before
the Buddha. Niches in the walls are littered with devotional
offerings left by visitors, including money, both real and
the devotional sort common in East Asian tradition; photographs
of both clergy and laity; and a wide array of trinkets, including
toys, watches, and figurines.
Within the Buddha rests the skull of Shambhala's founder,
the aforementioned Chögyam Trungpa. The stupa was consecrated
with the relic in August of 2001 in a ceremony led by Chögyam's
son and Shambhala heir, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.
Hiking through the mountainside belonging to the Shambhala
Center reveals several lesser holy sites. A surprise on the
Tibetan Buddhist grounds is a Shinto (Japanese) Shrine to
Amaterasu at the end of a mountain path, a testimony, perhaps,
to a pan-Asian sentiment. Elsewhere in the forest a much smaller
Heart Stupa can be found.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has visited the Great Stupa of
Dharmakaya and presented the shrine with his blessing.