What is the Mandala Hall?
For many years a group of students held retreats and practiced together in a sprawling old farmhouse in Conway, Massachusetts, but as more and more people became interested in the teachings, they found they needed a place that could better accommodate their growth, as well a place where they could do spiritual practice retreats, so in 1988 they bought 60 acres of picturesque land in Buckland, Massachusetts.
In the Autumn of 1990, while in personal retreat in his newly completed cabin on the Buckland land, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu had a series of dreams where Dakinis (female forms of enlightened energy) indicated the instructions on how to perform sacred dances on a mandala (symbolic geometric representation of the cosmos). These dances have since come to be known as the Vajra Dance. He learned that each space on the mandala corresponds to places in both the inner dimension of our bodies as well as the outer dimensions of the earth, our solar system, and the universe. As each step of the dance is performed, it corresponds to these inner and outer places and can bring about a harmonious flow of energy.
When Rinpoche was in this initial retreat he asked that his attendant bring him paint in the five colors of the five elements: blue for space, green for air, white for water, red for fire, and yellow for earth. The attendant dutifully brought five small jars of paint thinking that he had fulfilled his task. Rinpoche politely laughed and asked for the colors to be brought in gallon cans, so he could begin painting the very first Vajra Dance mandala. Carefully referring to his notes from his dreams he laid out the mandala on a platform, which had been used as a dining area during a group retreat that year. Towards the end of his personal retreat, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu started teaching the steps of the Vajra Dance to his students for the first time.
In 1992, Rinpoche enthusiastically agreed to the building of a larger Mandala on the hill on Khandroling, where he had first received his dreams. For many years Chögyal Namkhai Norbu returned and continued to receive further instructions on the Vajra Dance during his stays on the Buckland land, which he named Khandroling, which means, “Land of the Dakinis.” As more and more people became interested, he designated several other teachers to travel the globe and teach the Vajra Dance.
Because the mandala on the hill was outdoors and exposed to the elements, after some years it began to deteriorate. With Rinpoche’s support, a group of energetic practitioners decided to build in its place the first Universal Mandala, which they completed in 2004. This Mandala was consecrated in 2005 in a ceremony performed by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and attended by practitioners from all over the world.
There are three sizes of mandala that correspond to the dimensions of the Earth, the Solar System, and the Universe. The first mandalas built had all corresponded to dimension of the Earth. The Universal Mandala encompasses more than twice the diameter of the Earth or Solar System mandalas, and until this time the Universal Mandala at Khandroling has been the only Vajra Dance mandala in the world built of this size.
Chögyal Namkhai Norbu suggested that we make a protective hall to cover the Universal Mandala so that it would not be exposed to the New England elements. This would be an engineering feat. The hall had to be a clear covered space that protected the Universal Mandala at a diameter of over 67’ with a walkway around the perimeter. The experienced builders, engineers, and Vajra Dancers of the Community met multiple times in order to create a design that would be worthy of protecting such a unique and important site. Construction began on an auspicious astrological day in the Tibetan calendar: August 5, 2008.
The Mandala Hall is set to be completed by July, 2014. It stands 35 feet tall and is topped with the Longsal symbol, a symbol significant to the teachings that Chögyal Namkhai Norbu has received in his dreams. The Universal Mandala itself has a diameter of almost 68 feet, while the total diameter of the building, including a roof over the promenade around the hall, is 117 feet.
The Mandala Hall will be inaugurated during Tsegyalgar’s 30th Anniversary celebrations, July 11-13, 2014. We are excited to share our joy of the completion of this five-year undertaking with the Pioneer Valley community and the world with various events linked to this unique space.