Ireland’s first Tibetan temple is being built on the grounds of Dzogchen Beara, a Buddhist meditation centre – located between Castletownbere and Allihies – that has been attracting people to the Beara Peninsula for almost 35 years.
Malcolm MacClancy, the centre director of Dzogchen Beara, confirmed that the inauguration date is planned for 2020 and that the temple is being built to ‘a monumental standard’, which means it is being designed to stand the test of time and last for hundreds of years.
The three-storey structure will be crowned with copper roofs and external decoration typical of a Tibetan Temple. Some striking traditional features are already complete, such as the moulded surrounds for the windows and a slight taper in the plaster of the external walls.
The sacred decorations for the roofs and balconies will be made from gilded copper and these are already being worked on by skilled artisans in Himachal Pradesh, India.
The main room will be an open space with six columns, all of which will be decorated in traditional Tibetan style, and it will comfortably seat 300 people.
Built over three floors, Malcolm said: ‘It will be in the traditional Tibetan style but it will also have floor to ceiling windows to make the most of its extraordinary location overlooking Bantry Bay.’
The cost of the project has been estimated at €3.6 million, approximately half of which has been raised through Rigpa, the international network of centres and groups that offer Buddhist teachings.
However, Dzogchen Beara has also submitted a number of funding applications to local development agencies to help support the building, and Malcolm said: ‘These, hopefully, will come through before the end of the year.’
The centre director explained that Dzogchen Beara has grown to become main employer in the parish, with 40 people working on site.
With its coffee shop, self-catering accommodation, care centre and year-long programme of retreats, Malcolm said: ‘It is a very big tourist draw and people are welcome to come and stay here at any time.’
The building is also supporting local jobs because the contract was awarded to Brian Murphy of Beara Building Services of Kilmacowen in Eyeries.
The engineers, Diarmuid and Gavin McCarthy of DMCA Engineers in Bantry have also had a long association with Dzogchen Beara, having worked as its executive engineers from the outset. The architect, Giles Oliver, has long experience of designing social and community facilities and meditation centres in the UK. A student of Tibetan Buddhism for 40 years, Giles has been involved with Dzogchen Beara since its foundation, and supported the centre through all stages of its development.
In the lead-up to the Tibetan New Year, in February, work started on an adjacent building that will include service rooms, such as stores, toilets, and a tea station.
Earlier this year, the site boundaries were also clearly defined and the ground was prepared for new lawns and gardens, as well as the planting of 365 new trees.
When finished, Malcolm said he believes the temple – with its magnificent copper roofs – ‘is going to be a jewel for Ireland, but also for the Beara Peninsula and will attract many more visitors.’
Although the temple is undoubtedly going to be a tourist attraction, Malcolm said: ‘Above all, it will be a place for spiritual practice and study and will have a library to house sacred texts in the Buddhist tradition.
‘Like Dzogchen Beara, the temple will continue to welcome people of all spiritual faiths and none, and we would hope that many people from a wide variety of backgrounds would come here and learn the benefits of meditation, and maybe explore a saner way of living in a supportive environment.
‘We also plan to hold conferences looking at issues like end of life care, improved medical care, ecology, peace, these kind of topics. And, if nothing else, they can always come and have a cup of coffee in the cafe.’
So far, Malcolm said the project is ‘on schedule’ and he described their Christmas match-funding appeal as having been ‘an inspiring success.’
‘Our target was €50,000 but we received €56,600 by the end of December, and, as promised, a donor matched that with €50,000, which brought the total to €106,600.’
Part of the reason the fundraising campaign has been so successful is that they have an online ‘shop’ – dzogchenbearashop.com – where people can sponsor anything from a concrete block to a wheelchair lift.
Every donor’s name – regardless of amount – will be written on a scroll and the scroll will be enshrined in the temple when it is finished. Malcolm said he believes this has inspired people who value having ‘a personal connection with a building that is designed to bring benefit to others.’