Hudson Valley Times - Ceremony of gratitude KTD thanks the old Mountain House as it prepares for Karmapa visit
SmartHudson Valley Times
July 14, 2011 01:57 PM
The old Mead’s Mountain House. Photo by Dion
Karmapa in his 2008 visit to Woodstock. Photo by Andrea Barrist
of the key events at the Green Living Day taking place up at the Karma Triyana
Dharmachakra monastery last Saturday, July 9, was a special morning Appreciation
Ceremony for the historic Meads Mountain House that first housed the sacred
site’s monks when they arrived in Woodstock three decades ago.
cloudless, blue sky, a slight wind whistling through open microphones and
billowing the umbrella a monk tried holding over the head of KTD Abbot Khenpo
Karthar Rinpoche, flags rippled around a small but growing audience. The
solemnity of this closure ceremony was raised, and mention made of the
interconnectedness “between people and people, between people and animal life,
between people and all sentient beings.”
A fire was fed with a burnt
offering of juniper and other fragrant woods and leaves to acknowledge and
express gratitude for the use of the same old hotel from which Ralph Whitehead,
Bolton Brown and Hervey White once surveyed the local mountains and valleys and
conjured their dream for what would become the Byrdcliffe Arts Colony.
The address numeration 335 sat above the shuttered front door of the old
boarding house, in front of which a small stage had been set…and the abbot sat.
There were ‘Danger’ signs noting the care that needs to be taken at all
KTD Executive Director Mark Rothe spoke about the new
forms that “engaged Buddhism” has been taking since the 17th Karmapa, who will
be visiting Woodstock in the coming week in his first visit out of India in
three years, decreed a new openness to his order.
A new blog on his
visit to the U.S., “Karmapa in America 2011: The Time Has Come” — which went up
July 7 with an image of a double rainbow over KTD — noted how the 17th Gyalwang
Karmapa “will turn the Wheel of Dharma at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra on July 18
and 19…Web streaming will be available during the event for those who cannot
attend, so watch this site for details!”
(For more information on the
upcoming Karmapa visit, which is closed to the general public, as well
information about Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, call 679-5906 or visit
At the ceremony, Roth told
of utilizing the Mountain House building.
“We are sincere but not proud,”
Rothe says. “I lived here, in this drafty building, from 1984 to 1987. I met my
wife here. We remember here how raw things were.”
Rothe mentions past
winters when it seemed to dip below minus 20 with great regularity. How north
winds blew threw layers of plastic over each window…and he took to sleeping in
the bookstore to stay warm.
“We would fill trashcans with snow and melt
it so we could flush our toilets,” he noted. “It had its charm…and there was a
great deal of practice done here. A lot of dharma occurred here.”
forever thankful for having been able to use this building for as long as we
could,” said KTD Board member Kathy Wesley a few days before the ceremony, from
her Ohio home. “The beauty of this line of Buddhism is the belief that there are
local spirits who watch over this mountain, these buildings…It is important to
We had called to see where plans were regarding the
planned dismantling of the historic structure, which now sits overshadowed like
an old car on blocks besides KTD’s monastery, built in 1992, and its more
recently-completed residence building, which can’t get its official Certificate
of Occupancy until the historic old structure that preceded it as a dormitory
and refectory is gone. Back this past winter, Rothe had talked about how
demolition was reliant on detailed archive documentation and preservation of
Meads Mountain House as an historic artifact.
“We’ll be charting the
dimensions of every room and preserving certain boards from the building,” he
added at the time, while remembering how cold the place had been when his wife
and he first moved to the heights just west of town from California in the early
1980s. “A plaque will be put up on the site.”
Wesley, then, recalled
meeting the poet Allen Ginsberg on the patio at Meads Mountain
Now, she said from Ohio, there were ongoing discussions with
wildlife experts on how best to take apart that same bluestone patio so as not
to distress its long-resident chipmunks too much.
“We’ve been talking
about their life cycle,” Wesley said in an initial discussion about the
documentation process, and what might come next in the long process of making
KTD what it’s long dreamed of being: a North American monastery on a par with
those left behind in Tibet, or built as exile homes elsewhere in the Himalayas.
“It’s been a learning process…Talk about living with the
Photographs had been taken, inside and outside the structure
brought to life by George Mead when he built a large addition to his home for
boarders in 1880, with a ruler present in each image to ensure every inch of the
place was captured for eternity. Specific items within, from mantels to the main
stairwell and other materials, had been offered to the Woodstock Historic
Society and other local organizations.
“KTD staff is still in
discussion with Historical Society staff about items,” Wesley added. “Talking to
Mark this morning, I’ve learned that while we did receive $25,000 towards the
cost of the demolition this past spring, there’s still more to raise to ensure
everything is done properly. The archiving has to be fully completed before we
can schedule the next step…”
According to the town’s late historian, Alf
Evers, Mead’s Mountain House held about 50 guests at a time, year-round, during
its peak years. Among those who stayed were the legendary architect Stanford
White, artists Jervis McEntree, Frederick Church and Sanford Gifford, and other
“artists and intellectuals.” The place had a 975 pound cook stove. And, of
course, that patio…and those accompanying views.
“The actual demolition
has been delayed until the end of summer, at least,” Kathy Wesley said. “No
specific date has been set, yet.”
Wesley noted news,
from the July 5 Hindustan Times out of New Delhi, that Ogyen Trinley Dorj, the
17th Karmapa (not acknowledging an ongoing controversy on lineage), had just
been okayed by Indian authorities for his first trip in three years to the
United States, including Woodstock.
Asked about the controversy
involving Chinese cash found amongst the Karmapa’s belongings last year, Wesley
pointed us to a host of quiet stories from the spring about how all charges had
“He’s not been here since 2008,” the KTD board member
said. “The whole thing was like something out of a novel.”
to have His Holiness in America with us again!,” read a statement from this
week, in anticipation of a joint event with the Dalai Lama in Washington that
will also be livestreamed this Saturday, July 16.
move for spirits
The ceremony last weekend, and the Green Living Day
event, the KTD Development office noted, included a Textile Fair featuring
Himalayan fabrics, a Pondside Interfaith Life Release Ceremony, landscaping
activities and various talks, lunch for all, and afternoon eco-advocacy forums,
seminars on organic gardening, Native American dance, cooking demonstrations,
and a final Earth Preservation Call to Action.
Speaking again about the
old building, Rothe mentioned the auspicious signs that led to the 16th
Karmapa’s choice of Meads Mountain House for KTD, over an earlier suggestion
that Putnam County could work as well.
“As for this old building behind
me now, it really is old,” he said as smoke billowed, fragrant, over the façade
of the old boarding house.
The abbot spoke, in translated Tibetan, about
the spirits who looked after and resided at this spot. The idea of the ceremony
was to allow them a graceful exit and move into the new dormitory.
are ensuring all spirits a peaceful move,” his translator said after he quieted,
and before the chanting began.
Wesley had noted that the monastery was
doing all it could to treat the structure they called home for so long with the
utmost respect and honoring, along with the greater community in the town they
call home. ++
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Worshipped as a living god and the Buddha of Compassion, will he also inherit the Dalai Lama’s imagery of divinity and celebrity?
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