The Foundation, February - March, 2008
Construction began at the end of February 2008 with digging the footings for the foundation of the stupa, which were over two feet deep into the ground. Rebar was emplaced and a concrete form built for the foundation slab, which is an octagon twelve feet in diameter, over the next two weeks. A building inspector from Ventura County visited the site, gave us his approval, and we pushed ahead with the first concrete pour on March 14. Many lay people came to assist the monks that day, and made relatively quick work of the job of pouring eight cubic yards of concrete.
Our neighbor, Bo Forsell (second from left), a construction foreman in his working life, lent his expertise and was a great help during the concrete pour.
Stupa Construction, 2008
The next phase of construction was to mortar in place the stones that were shipped from Indonesia, tier by tier. Rev. Master Phoebe moved the bottom tier into place, and she and Rev. Master Seikai mortared them in place during the early part of April 2008. Good progress was made during the month on the painstaking job of stone laying.
A concrete form for the Buddha's plinth. During the concrete pour, a box containing relics of Rev. Master Jiyu, and a book of handwritten scriptures was buried in the interior; June 2008.
Rev. Leon, standing, was a resident of the temple from 2005 - 2009, during construction of the Stupa. He and Rev. Seikai are setting Vairocana Buddha in place; the dome of the Stupa eventually encased the statue, July 2008..
The upper part of the stupa is supported by square steel tubing set in the concrete of the base. Rev. Leon welded a steel plate to the tops of the tubing to create a ceiling; September 2008.
Tim Grant of Superior Masonry, Ojai, California, at work on the completion of the dome and spire; November 2008.
Rev. Master Seikai and Rev. Leon together lifted the spire and completed this phase of the stupa construction; November 17, 2008.
Many helping hands made possible all the steps--from ordering and shipping to unpacking the blocks, pouring the concrete foundation, filling in the lower portion of the stupa, building and then taking down the scaffolding to construct the dome, scrubbing off chalk marks and cleaning up the Stupa area in the North Field of the temple before winter set in; November, 2008.
The Stupa Surround, The Mandala of the Five Dhyani Buddhas; 2009
Paving a space around the Stupa for walking and sitting, in the shape of a Mandala, was the next phase of construction. The paving stones and wall blocks needed for building the surround were purchased in San Luis Obispo and trucked to the temple in January of 2009. The project sat idle until September, at which time Tim Grant, the stone mason, and his helper Miguel retuned to do the laying and fitting of the surround pavers - an exacting job requiring special equipment. With some help from Rev. Seikai, Tim and Miguel completed the work in one month, completing the surround in October 2009.
The final result is beautiful and compelling. A courtyard has been created by paving the area around the Stupa using commercially available pavers, and then building a two-foot high perimeter wall with four entrances. The entrances face the half-cardinal directions; thus, the four corners of the surround point in the actual four cardinal directions. Each entrance has two raised pillars topped with a solar powered lantern, which comes on in the evening. The perimeter wall doubles as a continuous seating bench around the Stupa Surround.
The surround represents a Mandala of the Five Dhyani Buddhas: Vairocana Buddha sits within the stupa itself, and the four corners of the surround are home to one of the four Buddhas: Akshobhya, Amitabha, Amogasiddhi, and Ratnasambhava. The Dhyani Buddha statues were carved in Indonesia by the same people who created all the blocks to build the Stupa, and the central Vairocana Buddha statue.
The surround, or courtyard, is a place for Buddhist practice. It is ideal for walking meditation, and sitting meditation can also be done using a chair, a meditation mat, or sitting on the perimeter wall. On occasion, ceremonies are held within the surround to give homage to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, the Three Treasures of Buddhism.