by Paul Shippee

A sacred temple is being built at a retreat center high in the mountains above our Crestone/Baca community. Since the location is far from any electric utilities, this 3-story temple is enjoying a generous contribution of both solar-generated heat and electricity.

The temple is located on the Tibetan meditation center land named Samten Ling and sits among high rocky peaks surrounded by our National Forest Wilderness Area. This special location was donated by the Manitou Foundation for the practice of Tibetan Buddhist meditation and hosts a dozen small cabins for long-term retreats of 100 days to several years.

Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, the spiritual director of Mangala Shri Bhuti, the nonprofit organization and spiritual community that owns this retreat land, has been carefully nurturing its development as a sanctuary for more than 20 years. One of his early visions for this sacred land devoted to meditation practice was to build a traditional Vajrayana Buddhist temple such as is found in Asian countries like Bhutan, India and Tibet. According to Rinpoche, the purpose of building such an ancient temple with revered origins is three-fold: spiritual, secular and political. I will offer an explanation of each of these now.

The spiritual aspect of this 3-story, 55-foot high temple building is embodied in its name, Sangdo Palri, which reflects the “tradition of the old realized ones.” Sangdo Palri in Tibetan means Glorious Copper (or Ruby) Colored Mountain and symbolically represents the mind-essence of Padmasambhava (or Guru Rinpoche), the Indian spiritual adept who brought the original Buddhism from India to Tibet in the 8th century.

The traditional three stories of the Sangdo Palri temple represent the three aspects, namely: body, speech and mind, of the enlightenment potential of all human beings. Therefore, it is a teaching temple intended to remind beings of what the realized mind of enlightenment and sanity actually look like. People seeing and understanding this symbolic teaching aspect of the sacred temple can then view an alternative vision of humanity’s potential than that presented by Western psychology. Basically, the temple can be viewed as a lamp that dispels darkness. That’s what it is and that’s what it stands for. What fuels that lamp? The wisdom and compassion inherent to the human mind. This is the spiritual view of the temple’s purpose.

Next, the secular aspect of a Sangdo Palri temple is to convey, inspire and project a vision of world peace. Not only a vision but perhaps, according to Rinpoche, a palpable encouragement to utilize wisdom and compassion as a means to work for and realize world peace among nations, individuals and all our relations. This vision and this encouragement is especially needed in our fragile and dangerous time of warfare, unrestrained conflict, climate change, and general ignorance of relational, cooperative and diplomatic skills. To this secular end, the Sangdo Palri temple in Crestone will be the only publicly accessible building of its kind in North America. There is another one in California that is not open to the public.

The political aspect of this Sangdo Palri temple, according to Rinpoche, is primarily that it is being built in America, a country that wields enormous influence on the world stage. This particular aspect can only add fuel to the fires of blessed unrest spreading among the people in America, and in the world, who are tired of wars and who are articulating visions of world peace and justice as well as taking serious social and political action toward peaceable relations and survival.

Yet another aspect of this sacred temple is environmental. This concerns the physical operating energy of the building itself. Located high in a remote mountain location and powered by the bright Colorado sunshine, this offgrid building is self-sufficient with its on-site-generated heating and electricity. The solar thermal panels, installed by local and talented Talmath Lakai of New Gen Energy, are already providing heat to the basement via the radiant floor concrete slab.

A crew of skilled local carpenters are now busy working indoors on the architectural temple details using American ingenuity and power tools that are powered by electricity from the sun through a solar electric system also installed by Talmath. Thus the carpenters are creating the intricate millwork for the elaborate symbolic expression of the temple’s time-honored interior and exterior sacred architecture that will serve generations into the future.

To see more pictures or learn more about the Sangdo Palri Temple of Wisdom and Compassion visit: or contact Sasha Meyerowitz: