Jamyang Buddhist garden of contemplation
||Friends throng the temple courtyard for the launch of their garden of contemplation. On the right are the feet of the new statue of the Buddha.
The Jamyang Buddhist Centre began when Alison Murdoch, a worker with homeless people, saw a derelict courthouse in one of the poorest parts of South London and learned that it had been empty for five years.
It took her and fellow Buddhists nearly three years to buy the former Elephant & Castle Courthouse – under heavy pressure from a developer who wanted to build apartments.
‘Everyone – Buddhists, supporters and many local people who had nothing to do with Buddhism but wanted a tranquil place to go to – made this centre happen,’ she said. For the Buddhists the project fitted a teaching often stated by the Dalai Lama – ‘Our religion is kindness: everyone wants to be happy and we do what we can to help’.
As with so many regeneration projects it was a struggle to find funds – they had to borrow the first £300,000, and then the roof cost £450,000 to repair (‘I cried down the phone when I found that the Heritage Lottery Fund had come through’).
But today Jamyang is a living example of how spirituality is giving new energy to making a better environment in the broadest social sense of the world.
The barbed wire has been torn down, people attend meditation sessions, local authority members convene meetings (they find it easier to relax at Jamyang) and people in trouble come to find someone to listen.
Outside there is an area – in the former car park where prison vans used to drop their high security prisoners – that is planned to be a sacred garden, designed in conjunction with ARC.
Already there is a vegetarian café, where police officers regularly have lunch, sitting alongside homeless people and social workers, while headmistresses share tables with crimson-robed Buddhist monks.
Sculptor Nicholas Durnan – known for his stone carvings to restore cathedrals like Canterbury and Wells – was commissioned to create a life-size stone carving of the reclining Buddha, commemorating his passing from this world. see his sculpture>
To some environmentalists Jamyang encapsulates the environmental aims of a religious organisations while avoiding the pitfalls.
Learn about Buddhist beliefs on environment
Visit the Jamyang Buddhist Centre website