Blessings come in many forms. When we offer those blessings back to the Divine with our highest aspirations, we find them multiplied, and our lives transformed. Such has been the experience of Ananda Seattle in the building of its new meditation temple in Bothell, WA.
The Dream is Born
Since 1995, Ananda Seattle was located in a rented facility across the street from East West Bookshop, some ten miles south of the Ananda Community in Lynnwood. Faced with a rapidly growing congregation, the need for a larger facility to sustain and expand Ananda’s work became apparent.
A group of devotees had recently visited Ananda Assisi with its beautiful Tempio di Luce (Temple of Light). They proposed, “Why not build a similar temple in Seattle?”
Thus, the vision for a temple was born. But a miracle was needed first! This miracle came in the form of a small technology company owned by Ananda Seattle members, which was recently bought by an international media giant. The tithe from the sale was enough to make the future temple even possible to contemplate.
Though still an ambitious goal, it “just felt right” to all involved. We began fundraising efforts and the search for a building site. In 2003, after a few “false starts,” a site only a few miles from the community was found along a state highway in the city of Bothell, WA.
A local planning team was assembled, and plans for construction were drafted. We created an affirmation to help energize the project:
“Beloved Master, in your name we build this new Mandir (Sanskrit for Temple). Infused with your love, immersed in your light, it calls to devotees far and near.
May all who enter receive your grace.
May they know your heart, may they see your face.”
The Dream Takes Shape
A member of Ananda Village who is an architect, helped to plan the new temple. His task was to adapt Assisi temple blueprint to the Bothell construction site and the needs of our congregation.
The local firm Axiom Construction was chosen to be the general contractor. Whenever possible, they would integrate commercial construction codes with the active participation of Ananda’s own building team. In August 2005 equipment moved onto the site, and work began.
This project was Ananda’s first to be done almost entirely by outside contractors. To ensure that the new Temple would be infused with Ananda’s energy, congregation members participated in ways large and small.
One of us served as the liaison with the city officials. Another organized workdays on the site. An artist-in-residence guided the endless details of the building’s interior design. (The dome ceiling of the sanctuary has an exquisite mother-of-pearl finish, hand-applied in multiple layers of opalescent paint).
A “high-energy, low-voltage” team led by 2 members of Ananda Community in Lynwood installed electrical wiring for the Temple’s audio, video, communication, and security circuits. Another Ananda member, a professional landscape architect, was in charge of the landscaping design that incorporated native plants.
The “cookie brigade” brought treats for the construction workers, while the clean-up crew made sure the site was free of debris for each next step of construction. Still others participated in creative fundraisers to keep the project going.
During a 2-week period in summer of 2006 over 100 people, many of them from Ananda centers across the US, came to help with the construction. How much their efforts were appreciated! As it says in one of Ananda’s songs, “Many hands make a miracle.”
Through every step of the construction, one of the founding members of Ananda Seattle overcame grave health difficulties to go to the site with his camera, recording progress and posting photos for all to see.
Though the sheer scale of the project presented many challenges along the way, it inspired us to rise to the occasion with a joyful spirit. Thus, building of the Temple became an opportunity to integrate our spiritual teachings ever deeper into our beings.
The Dream Is Realized
The first public event held in the new temple was an all-day Christmas meditation in December 2006. During the Candlelight service the next evening, everyone gazed in wonder at the splendor of an iridescent glow coming from the dome’s ceiling, as it reflected the light from the candles below.
The new Temple is truly a sight to behold. Walking up the stairs to the main entrance, visitors are greeted with the words, “Joy is within you!” above the door. Passing through the foyer and into the octagonal sanctuary with its twenty-foot high dome, one cannot help but feel uplifted.
Windows line six sides of the sanctuary, filling the space with natural light. Traversing the spiral staircase to the fellowship hall downstairs, one finds the main reception desk, boutique, classrooms, utilities rooms and offices.
The beauty, care, and grace with which the Temle was constructed are evident in every detail throughout the building. As 2007 dawned, we saw many newcomers drawn to the temple to meditate in the sanctuary and experience its peace.
The temple and grounds were filled to overflowing with some 550 people attending the event. Our guests included the spiritual directors of each Ananda Colony, as well as dignitaries Mr. Soumen Bagchi, the Indian Consul of San Francisco, Washington State Senator Rosemary McAuliffe, a representative from Congressman Jay Inslee’s office, and the Mayor of Bothell Mark Lamb.
(Click here for online audio, video, and slideshow of the Dedication weekend events).
Though the Dedication weekend was an inspiring culmination of years of effort, we know that this is only the beginning of things to come.
Hriman and Padma McGilloway have served as the Spiritual Directors of Ananda Seattle since 1994.