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Deden Tsuklagkhang

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The visual focal point and spiritual center of Norbulingka Institute is the Deden Tsuglagkhang temple. The temple is a magnificent example of Tibetan religious architecture, displaying some of the finest work done by Norbulingka artists, and the perfect place for prayer and reflection. Adorning the walls are thangka frescoes depicting the deeds of the Buddha, the Fourteen Dalai Lamas, and other great Buddhist masters, appliquéd thangka, over two stories high, hangs from the ceiling, displaying the Buddha and the 16 arhats, the work of dozens of artists and thousands of hours of dedicated labor. The centerpiece of the temple is a 14ft gilded statue of Buddha Shakyamuni, the largest of its kind outside Tibet, lovingly crafted by Norbulingka artists from hand-hammered copper sheets. The gilded copper statue of Buddha Shakyamuni, made by Norbulingka Institute statue making master Pemba Dorjee, is the largest of its kind in exile.

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Deden Tsuklagkhang Temple, meaning ‘The seat of happiness’ temple is a magnificent example of Tibetan religious architecture, displaying some of the finest work done by Norbulingka artists, and the perfect place for prayer and reflection. The temple is built in the traditional Tibetan style with a wide base and a narrow top.

The centerpiece of the temple is a 14ft gilded statue of Buddha Shakyamuni, the largest of its kind outside Tibet, lovingly crafted by Norbulingka artists from hand-hammered copper sheets. The statue of Buddha Shakyamuni, begun in July 1994 and completed in late 1995, is symbolic of the huge influence the Buddha’s teachings have had on Tibetan culture. The Buddha statue and the clay sculpted images that decorate the arch behind him, as well as the frescos on the walls, were all made by Norbulingka artists.

Painted behind the statue are the 12 principal deeds of the Buddha Shakyamuni and on the two sides of the Buddha statue, the painting depictions of the Sixteen Arhats, leading disciples of the Buddha Shakyamuni. Around the main hall of the temple, the walls have 1173 images of the Buddha that decorate the 44ft high temple hall.

On the balcony are two sets of paintings, which is quite unique. The paintings on the two sides illustrate the fourteen Dalai Lamas, on the one side has the fifth Dalai Lama Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, who was the first Dalai Lama who was the considered the ruler of Tibet. His predecessors had been great religious teachers; they did a great deal for Buddhism in Tibet. The Great Fifth, as he is usually referred to, became the ruler of a unified Tibet. On the other side, we have His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and his predecessor – the 13th Dalai Lama, they painted lifelike and differently from the others because of the availability of references and also to form a connection with the viewers. At the back wall are paintings of some of the great Buddhist masters and scholars.

Deden Tsuklagkhang is the spiritual centre of Norbulingka and its community. It stands witness to the exquisite work of the Norbulingka artists: the master sculptor and his team built the Buddha statue, while the Thangka painters painted the walls of the temple with elaborate paintings, the woodcarvers worked on the carved throne for His Holiness and the tailors sewed the curtains, cushions. It is indeed a masterpiece and a tribute to the rich traditional artistic heritage with the work and dedication put in by our artists who worked for more than a year, sometimes long into the night, to bring it to completion.

Buddha Shakyamuni statue

A monumental sculpture for the Deden Tsuglagkhang Temple - the colossal 14ft tall statue of Buddha Shakyamuni, begun in July 1994 and completed in late 1995. This statue is symbolic of the huge influence the Buddha’s teachings have had on Tibetan culture, and because the statue was actually made in the temple where it was to be housed, the various stages of its creation were witnessed by members of the community. Everyone was able to participate in the required preparatory rituals. For example, there was an opportunity to contribute pieces of jewelry, part of an offering symbolic of prosperity. The community observed the assembly of the gilded parts of the statue, its being filled with scriptures, mantras and other sacred objects, and its final consecration.

The first project that our late statue-making master Pemba Dorje and his team worked on here at Norbulingka was the creation of the Buddha statue, which now graces the Deden Tsuglakhang temple, where it exerts a pacifying and stabilizing influence. It is said that the traditional image of the seated, meditating Buddha provokes neither anger nor desire but has an active, calming influence. Visitors at Norbulingka Institute are often charmed by the gardens and the architecture and are impressed by the industry and enthusiasm they find in the studios. Then, when they reach the head of the compound, the tremendous image of the Buddha in the temple has a profound impact.

The Buddha Shakyamuni statue is the principal object of reverence in the Norbulingka’s Deden Tsuglakhang, the “seat of happiness” Temple, which the members of the community circumambulate and where they assemble to pray on special occasions.