Preparing to leave the city in northern Colorado we have called home for the past 34 years, we leave behind a long list of nearby places and attractions that we intended to visit, but didn’t. For the first 5-10 years after arriving in this beautiful state, we were relentless explorers and visited as many places as time and budget would allow. Because our budget was tiny, most of our travels were day trips to the mountains in the Isuzu Trooper with our young sons for hikes, picnics, sight-seeing, and sometimes a little fishing. There simply weren’t many places in Larimer County that we did not visit in those early years, and they were fun times!
As time went on, our leisure budget increased but our available time actually decreased, since Bill and I both worked long hours, plus we participated in various school, sports, music and social activities for the boys. Our family still enjoyed wonderful vacations, but as our travel geography expanded, we spent less leisure time right here in our own backyard. Now that we’re retired, we are catching up on a few of those attractions and experiences close to home, including the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya located in the foothills just an hour northwest of Fort Collins.
As you might imagine, there is a story behind this magnificent example of sacred Buddhist architecture. The Great Stupa is located within the boundaries of Shambhala Mountain Center, a 600 acre mountain valley retreat with housing and facilities that offers year-round classes focusing on personal health, deepened awareness and transformation.
It was sunny and hot the day of our visit, and the Great Stupa is located about 0.9 mile from the parking area. After a leisurely uphill stroll to reach the site, we first decided to watch an introductory video at the Visitors’ Center located just a short walk from the Great Stupa. The orientation was helpful in understanding the history of the Center and why and how the Great Stupa was constructed.
The Shambhala site was established in 1971 by Tibetan meditation master and teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The Great Stupa was built in his honor after his death in 1987. Construction began in 1988 and took 13 years to complete. It was consecrated in 2001 in a ceremony that lasted several days, and the Great Stupa now serves as the anchor for the entire Center. The use of symbolism in the ornate design of the Great Stupa is extensive and impressive.
Visitors are allowed to tour the first floor, where we were met by an impressive, 20-foot tall golden Buddha. We spent about 20 minutes inside the main hall, which also houses a number of collections, presumably items that belonged or were otherwise significant to Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.
Even though we (still) don’t have a working knowledge of Buddhism, we are a little more familiar with and appreciative of the practice and thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya.