The Buddha was created by Chakdud Tulki Rinpoche, during a Tibetan Buddhist Retreat, with many teachings, chanting and ceremony within a rhythm of life. He taught in the Dharma Yurt, a 30-foot round structure at the bottom of the meadow. There were about 30 people participating.
There was a wooden shed that had been a camper shell sitting near the well, our tool shed at the time. The Rinpoche worked inside the shed making the head, hands and feet, while the community built the base and the lotus seat.
The wind came up while we were pressing the lotus petal form into the sand to make a mold for the rest of the petals, but the sand blew away. We got clay from the pottery and pressed the form into deep slabs of clay to form the petals. The wind increased and blew 65 miles an hour. Two yurts blew down and one tipi. Pottery rolled down the hill from the pottery shed that was under the Teaching Tree at the time. Plan for the community blew away, and Rinpoche said, “Don’t think, work.”
One night the Dharma Yurt was shaking so hard that people, including the Rinpoche, stood around the inside holding the top down through the night. The next morning I brought ropes from Santa Paula to tie it down.
The ceremony continued as we gathered jewels, gold and silver jewelry, precious stones and an iridescent pot made by Beatrice Wood to put treasures in. This pot is buried in the lotus seat. We continued building the body of the Buddha, adding saffron soaked spine – the Rinpoche sculpting the body, adding the feet, hands and head. When the cement structure was complete, there was a double rainbow from behind the Topas across the valley to Sulphur Mountain. We were sitting on the deck that has been a yurt, and the Rinpoche said, “Now everything is new."
The Buddha was painted bright red for the energy of life and the eyes were opened and the crystal placed on the top of the knot. We performed many circumambulations while singing songs about the pure land and how this world could become that. We could live in this beautiful world with our eyes opened to see the pathways bejeweled and the people could live as interconnected beings with no separation.
Later the Buddha was painted dark tan by a woman named Chitra, who built the Aura behind the Buddha. Then is was painted pure white, and then painted again by Lucia Vinograd, as it is now.
Contributed by Lola Rae Long.
Lola is a wife, mother of three, grandmother of eight, and great-grandmother of one. She came to the land in the fall of 1979, and is one of the founding members of The Ojai Foundation. She was a board member and co-chair of the board with Jack Zimmerman.
She was a staff member for twenty-four years, holding various positions where she had the opportunity to learn from many of the great teachers who came to the land, as well as from the people who were part of the staff, board, and community. She became a teacher, working with schools to develop and participate in Rites of Passage youth programs for twenty years. She helped to develop the youth team to work with expanded school programs.
Lola was work retreat coordinator for ten years and she helped to develop a work-retreat program that included Rites of Passage. She has participated in staff, board, work-retreat and community Councils since the early days at TOF, and she has co-led Council I, II, & III. Lola is a potter and has taught pottery workshops and hosted a variety of workshops with well-known potters on the land.
She continues to serve as a mentor and teacher at The Ojai Foundation, offering the Medicine Wheel teaching that she learned from Heyemehosts Storm, Joan Halifax, Emerald North, and others to many groups of children and adults over the years.
*Excerpt from ‘Human Creations at the Ojai Foundation Land Sanctuary.’Overview by Gigi Coyle and Introduction by Leon Berg. Stories contributed by members of TOF Elders Council (Leon Berg, Lola Rae Long, Marlow Hotchkiss, and Jack Zimmerman) and early staff member Sharon Gonzales-Alei. Edited by Gigi Coyle and Win Phelps. Photos collected and created by Laura Whitney with Shai Ardebilchi and TOF Friends. Booklet design by Emily Pease.