Books
Dennis Alan Winters

Searching for the Heart of Sacred Space

Searching for the Heart of Sacred Space is about Landscape, Buddhism and Awakening — spoken in the same breath. The author personally explores ways of being in sacred landscapes, foundations for designing the contemplative garden. The book candidly reveals a path of transformation. Discovering the riches of the woods in Finland, the author investigates the natural environment for local government in Upstate New York and USAID in Nepal. He begins to taste the meaning of a spiritual home. Mentored by Tom Johnson at Cornell University, he designs a Tibetan Buddhist meditation centre, one of the first in North America. During a private audience, H. H. the Dalai Lama questions the basis for the design. Firmly linking the design of landscape to a spiritual path, the author questions, — “What is the truth of design? How deep would I go to draw inspiration? How deeply am I willing to know myself in order to design sacred landscape?” His search for the heart of sacred space points to an astounding historical connection between Kyoto’s temple gardens and Pretapuri in Western Tibet, one of Buddhism’s twenty-four sacred tantric sites. Guided by Zasep Tulku Rinpoche, he dissects the reference, an old Japanese garden-making text designating the first stones set upright in the landscape — 8,631 stones on the Tibetan Plateau guarded by the Eight Naga Kings. He makes a pilgrimage to Pretapuri, a landscape charged with the power of spiritual agreement between pilgrims and deities, revealed as three layers of discourse. External explanations enrich physical descriptions with tales told by rivers and terraces about the meaning of life. Internal explanations relate stories and legends investing a place with subtle attributes accorded to a sacred landscape. Secret explanations present a landscape produced by the power of the Six Perfections, graced by the purity and wisdom of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, corresponding to a structured pattern of focal points of energy and subtle channels. As a landscape architect and Buddhist, the author personally speaks with these provocative landscapes and the historical characters who previously addressed their mysteries, calling extensive textual references into the discussion. By disarming the feral conditions left by others, and awakening to the perfection and beauty of sacred landscapes, he uncovers profound tools for designing gardens for contemplation. Discovering layers of subtlety enhanced with hand-drawn maps and sketches in Searching for the Heart of Sacred Space, you may never look at landscape the same way again. With unbound wonder and reverence — naked — in silence … and the unbearable lightness of space.
555 printed pages
Original publication
2014

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