Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Green Temple/ Eco Logic article in the Ashland Newspaper

By Hannah Guzik
Ashland Daily Tidings
June 24, 2010

I went to speak with the lamas at Ashland's new Tibetan Buddhist temple on Tuesday.

I wanted to ask them why they decided to build a green temple. I'm curious about the ways that spirituality and sustainability overlap for some people.

I don't think you have to be religious or spiritual to be eco-conscious. I'm all for atheists and agnostics — and everyone else — planting gardens. We need all the help we can get.

For some people, though, caring for the environment is a way of communing with something larger than themselves. For others, spirituality gives meaning to environmental work.

I caught Lama Pema Clark just as she was stepping out of the temple to take her Australian shepherd, Dancer, on a walk through the Railroad District.

Clark is one of two resident teachers at the Kagyu Sukha Choling.

She explained the Buddhist philosophy on the environment: "From the Buddhist perspective, we believe we're interdependent with all of life, and so, from that standpoint, we should do our best to be good stewards and be in good relationship with all beings and the environment.

"We want to honor that interdependent spirit."

The 6,000-square-foot temple at 109 Clear Creek Drive uses the same amount of energy as a traditional 1,500-square-foot house, Clark said.

It's built with local and sustainably harvested wood, it has low-flow water fixtures and it uses passive heating and cooling methods.

An environmental committee has been formed to determine which cleaning and paper products should be used in the temple. And there are plans to install solar panels, a rain garden and a contemplative garden.

Beginning in early July, in addition to the classes and teachings offered, the lamas plan to allow anyone to sit in the temple once or twice a week.

Clark thinks people can sense the difference between a building that's been sustainably constructed and one that's been built using traditional methods and materials.

"I think people definitely feel the elemental connection," she said. "People say they feel peaceful and happy when they walk in — constantly that's what they're saying."

Clark said more than 1,200 people came to the temple's open house on Saturday. That's a lot of peaceful and happy people.

James Olson, "the stone guy," was one of them. Olson, who operates Stoneworks by James, was arranging giant slabs of Rocky Mountain quartzite and Oregon's Iron Mountain shale on the temple's porch when I visited Tuesday.

The Native American Buddhist spoke about the environment using the language of his trade.

"I believe in respecting the environment and taking care of what's around us, so we don't go and destroy this rock we live on," he said. "Because then what will we do?"

Olson's ancestors, from the Shasta tribe, have lived in the Rogue Valley for more than 6,000 years, he said.

Sustainable building is about taking future generations into account, Clark said.

"We wanted to sustainably build for centuries, instead of decades," she said.

I hope by then we'll still be around. And I hope we'll be off oil, instead of covered in it — but that's a topic for another column.

Clark invited me to the temple's silent meditation, from 6 to 7 p.m. today. And I might just go. In the silence, I'll be listening to nature.

For more information on the center, call 541-552-1769 or visit

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or For past columns see