At present there are two stupas on the land, next to each other on top of a hill. The first dates back to the late 1970's, prior to the arrival of our two resident lamas.
There's a little story about that too......The Ven Lama Karma Thinley left a picture of the stupa he suggested we build after his visit in 1977. Armed with this solitary drawing, we made up for our limitless ignorance with boundless enthusiasm. After a year or so of working weekends the construction, with its (now) most embarrassing defects was was more or less finished when my family visited the states in 1980. We were fortunate enough to have several meetings with HH Karmapa, during each of which I importuned him to "please give me something to put in the stupa" A photo was provided, which he made no comment about. Later I realized this itself was an indication of his limitless compassion :).
Anyway, at the third or fourth meeting, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche (that link goes to Karma Triyana, Woodstock, New York) was present. Perhaps it is significant that he didn't see the photo, perhaps not. But he kindly intervened on my behalf, and suggest to HH Karmapa that he would offer something for the stupa, if HH would bless it, which is what happened.
I have never forgotten the way Rinpoche spoke to HH: the combination of dignity and devotion was totally extraordinary. I had never conceived of humility being such a strength. Well, due to all this kindness, we had some holy and blessed objects to put in our stupa, which was duly accomplished.
When Lama Samten and Lama Shedrup had been in New Zealand but a short time, they took me out to the stupa. I thought it was to tell me how nice it was. Oh foolish pride! It was to indicate various flaws, and their remedies. I couldn't take it! I remember backing away, saying: "no, no, I built it just like the drawing" I was so adamant it was never mentioned again. It was many years before I gradually learned about stupas, during the construction of a few more, and by then they (the Lamas) had fixed things themselves.
The second one was closely supervised by Lama Samten, and once finished, these two stupas completely filled the available space. Undeterred, the lamas announced a plan to build six more! In vain we weakly protested the lack of room. Actually, once it was revealed some money had been donated to hire a large machine, our protestations died down. We got a digger in during summer, whilst also doing work on the Healing Centre who shifted quite a bit of clay to prepare three more platforms, each like the old one, big enough to hold two stupas. Each platform is one meter below the last, so you will be climbing seven steps between each platform. However, the land ran out! So the last platform finishes in space....This means a retaining wall and a little filling, just for the last circumambulatory path. For reasons that are beyond me, the full moon in July (mid winter here) happened to be the day several of us were available to do a little work on this wall. Not that we knew that, it was just a happy "coincidence". Coincidence also, I suppose, that it rained most of that day. "The local dieties' blessings", a joyful Lama Shedrup informed us. The work that day involved carrying very heavy planks over to the site, followed by endless wheelbarrows full of scoria. Before fitting the planks, mud had to be shifted. Mud that had slid down from on high, that was boot sucking deep, that behaved like flowing lava, that was soon evenly plastered over our legs, arms, and even faces.
But the whole experience had something in common with that period sitting inside the statue: the mind's response was unexpected. Inside I was surprised to find space, not claustrophobia, and in the rain that day, there was quiet good humor, and gentle determination, not misery and self preoccupation.Must be something, must be some influence at that place. None of us would have considered working like that for money.
We just did it, that day. No fantasies of financial rewards, and what that could bring. Just one step after another. More days like that!
Photo of William and Alastiarcovered in mud, but happy