Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, the founder of NKT, has dedicated his life to helping people find true happiness by developing inner peace through meditation and other practices. He has designed an international education program that provides everyone regardless of nationality, age or gender with the opportunity to learn simple techniques for developing the capacity of their mind and eventually attaining the permanent inner peace of enlightenment. To date, this program has been implemented in over forty countries.
Geshe Kelsang’s compassionate intention is embodied in the International Temples Project (ITP), a unique international fund dedicated to public benefit. The ITP fosters the international development of temples and retreat centers. All these institutions provide a public service that exemplifies the Buddhist faith.
Kadampa Meditation Center Maryland & World Peace Temple
Kadampa Meditation Center Maryland (KMC Maryland) is the main temple and spiritual home for practitioners in the Baltimore area, and is part of the International Temples Project. We welcome many visitors everyday who come for classes or simply want to stop in and see the beautiful shrine. The proceeds from all the courses presented atKMC Maryland as well as other Temples for World Peace are dedicated to public benefit through the ITP, so simply by attending them you are helping to bring peace into the hearts of this and future generations.
Symbolism of the temple
Just seeing the Temple reminds us that we all have the potential to experience lasting peace and happiness, and to achieve the highest spiritual goals imaginable. The Temple encourages us to enter into a path through which we can realize our full potential. In this way we can understand that this Temple is not ordinary, but a very holy place.
The Temple adornments are gold-leafed. The use of such precious materials reflects the richness of Buddha’s teachings and the preciousness of the inner realizations we gain from putting them into practice.
As you enter the Temple, pause to experience the peace and tranquility that pervades this holy space. Buddhist Temples are representations of the Pure Land of enlightened beings – an enlightened heaven. Whoever sees them immediately experiences peace of mind. When we experience inner peace we are happy, so Temples function to give happiness to everyone, regardless of their background or way of life.
“Only by creating peace within our own mind and helping others do the same can we hope to achieve peace in this world.” – Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
Vajras, Deer & Dharma Wheel
The roof of the Temple is adorned with three golden, five-pronged vajras (pictured above). These vajras symbolize the indestructible good qualities of the enlightened mind. In particular, they symbolize the five wisdoms of an Enlightened being – the highest spiritual attainment and the completion of the spiritual path.
Above the main doorways, there are two deer and a Dharma Wheel. These symbolize the stages of the path to enlightenment. In particular, the male deer symbolizes the realization of great bliss, or compassion, the female deer the realization of emptiness, or wisdom, and the Dharma Wheel the union of these two. Through progressing in this union of great bliss and emptiness, or compassion and wisdom, finally we will attain the five omniscient wisdoms of a Buddha, which are symbolized by the top five-pronged vajras.
The eight auspicious signs (explained below) symbolize in general how to progress along the Buddhist path, and the deer, Dharma Wheel, and top vajras teach us the stages of the path of Highest Yoga Tantra.
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The Buddha Statue
Along the front wall of the Temple stands the main shrine, at the center of which is a large statue of Buddha Shakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism. He showed the manner of accomplishing the ultimate goal of living beings, the attainment of enlightenment, at Bodh Gaya in India in 589 BC. For Buddhists, faith in Buddha is their spiritual life; it is the root of all Dharma realizations.
In front of the shrine are offerings that are made daily to the holy beings. We can offer anything we find beautiful or welcoming. Traditionally we offer seven substances based on offerings made to revered guests: water for drinking, water for bathing, flowers, incense, light, perfume and food. There is also an eighth offering, music, which is not represented by a physical substance but is offered when we chant prayers. On most days, these offerings are represented by bowls of pure water, but on special prayer days the actual substances are set out.
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The Eight Auspicious Symbols
On the exterior walls of the temple, and on the shrine cabinet inside the meditation room, you will see eight beautiful auspicious symbols. The meaning of these symbols is described below:
This symbol invites us to come under the great umbrella of Buddhism by applying effort to receive the inspiration and blessings of Buddhas, the enlightened beings, to receive help and support from Sangha, our spiritual friends, and especially to gain personal experience of the Dharma, Buddha’s teachings.
- The Precious Umbrella – This symbol invites us to come under the great umbrella of Buddhism by applying effort to receive the inspiration and blessings of Buddhas, the enlightened beings, to receive help and support from Sangha, our spiritual friends, and especially to gain personal experience of the Dharma, Buddha’s teachings.
- The Precious Fish – The fish symbolize harmony and peace, and teach us that we should always live with one another in harmony and peace. Whenever we see a fish, we can remember the importance of maintaining harmony with others through the power of our love and respect.
- The Precious Vase – This Vase symbolizes taking the precious jewels of wisdom and compassion from the treasure vase of Kadam Dharma.
- The Precious Lotus – The lotus flower symbolizes purity and goodness, encouraging us to become a pure being, enjoying the purity of our mind and our actions.
- The Precious Conch – Listen to the precious sound of the conch of Dharma, Buddha’s teachings, and contemplate and meditate on its profound meaning.
- The Precious Indestructible Knot of Eternity – The Knot of Eternity symbolizes an uncommon quality of Buddha’s realizations – his realization of omniscient wisdom – and encourages us to apply great effort to attaining enlightenment.
- The Precious Victory Banner – The Victory Banner encourages us to be victorious over the enemy of our delusions, our destructive mental habits.
- The Precious Wheel – Benefit others by turning the Wheel of Dharma, that is, by giving Dharma teachings both formally and informally through the power of our example.