Most of my photos of Deer Park Monastery disappeared from the camera. So the few that remain are extra precious to me.
The Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall was designed by the abbott of the monastery, who was trained as an architect. The hall is spacious, bright, earthy and celestial all at once. For morning meditation, the sisters sit on the left, facing west, where they can see the full moon set. Brothers sit on the right, facing east, toward sunrise.
The stained glass window on the north end of the meditation hall shows a lotus flower and Sanskrit words “Smrti Samadhi Prajna” (“Mindfulness Concentration Insight”). Mindfulness leads to concentration, which flowers as insight.
The stained glass window at the opposite end of the hall shows the Buddha with his father, Suddodhana, and son, Rahula.
Outside the meditation hall is a stately wooden gazebo that houses the giant bell. Each morning, beginning at 5 a.m., the bell is rung repeatedly for 30 minutes, filling the whole valley with waves of sound and calling the monastic community to morning meditation. The bell is accompanied by the sound of a monk or nun chanting, and the songs of crickets, and sometimes the playful howling of coyotes! It is quite an experience to walk up the road from the sisters’ hamlet in the starlight with these wake-up calls.
The bell is engraved with these words:
“With body, speech and mind in perfect oneness, I send my heart along with the sound of the bell. May the hearers awaken from forgetfulness and transcend the path of anxiety and sorrow.
I listen, I listen. This wonderful sound brings me back to my true home.”
Overlooking the monastery is a plateau where a stunning Buddha statue resides. Sister Dang Nghiem told us that this statue was chosen for its serenity, which can be seen and absorbed by people who look upon it. The face is truly a radiantly peaceful sight.
I was quite taken by this statue, and feel fortunate to be able to share these photos. If you can sense the peacefulness when you look at this countenance, it’s because you already have that peacefulness in yourself.