A taste of nirvana in Lake County

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The Church of Shambhala Vajradhara Maitreya Sangha Monastery sits atop a mountain overlooking Clear Lake like a mirage hinting of exotic mythical temples.

Six dome-shaped buildings surround a pyramid-shaped building structure, mimicking a Shambhala religious star. Nearby, energy generating windmills whir in the breeze, Tibetan yaks graze on hay and a larger-than-life statue of Buddha sits in contemplation.

But what lies below the ground is even more remarkable. Each structure includes underground levels that are connected by passage ways, a rabbit warren structure that helps conserve energy.

Spiral stairways link the above- and below-ground levels.

The design of the monastery near Kelseyville is intended to enhance spirituality and the environment, said Lama Daniel, a former London lawyer who gave up his worldly ways to become an American Buddhist monk.

The monastery incorporates green living and building technologies with sacred geometric patterns that stimulate healing of the soul, he said. It will include solar and wind technology, recycling, water conservation and organic food cultivation with a healthy, balanced and harmless lifestyle, <NO1>Lama <NO>Daniel said.

The monastery is on 160 acres purchased in 2006 for about $375,000, according to Lake County documents. The finished product is expected to cost $1.5 million to $2 million. Construction began in 2008 and has yet to be completed but the complex already is home to a small population of nuns and monks as well a handful of yaks and llamas.

Upon completion, it will be open to the public for spiritual healings and retreats.

The monastery is the brainchild of an American-born man known as Buddha Maitreya, a title claimed by a number of people worldwide.

Buddha Maitreya was unavailable for an interview, but in a written statement said Tibetan masters came to his home when he was 9 years old to tell him he was Buddha Maitreya, the reincarnation of Buddha. He did not divulge his birth name or place. His website says he was born in Oregon in 1951 and several other websites say he was born Ronald Lloyd Spencer.

He said his parents rejected the Tibetan masters' news and he did not pursue his calling until he turned 30.

According to the organization, Buddha Maitreya founded the Buddhist Association of North America, built several monasteries, including in Tibet, and meditation centers in India, Nepal, China, London, Sedona, Arizona, Napa and Santa Rosa.

The meditation centers focus on "Soul Therapy," a trademarked system using "sacred design" and "geomancy." They utilize crystals, magnets and wire in geometric designs to assist in the soul healing.

Healing tools are suspended over beds in private meditation rooms in the domes and in the pyramid building, where 3-foot long Buddha Maitreya "etheric weavers" hang in a chapel-like room with speakers emitting the calming voice of the Buddha Maitreya.

A variety of etheric weavers and pendants in geometric shapes can be purchased online. The money from the devices, which start at about $80, helps fund Buddha Maitreya's many projects. Since 1996, the church has given more than $3.7 million to support the renewal and restoration of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and sacred sites in Nepal, India and Tibet, said <NO1>Lama <NO>Daniel.

He's currently raising funds to build a monastery similar to Lake County's in Lumbini, Nepal, believed to be the birthplace of Lord Buddha.

Buddha Maitreya also supports practical needs of the monasteries, including diet, clothing and shelter, he said.

"One of the Buddha Maitreya's main teachings is the importance of practicing charity," <NO1>Lama <NO>Daniel said.

In October, two delegates from the Nepal Ministry of culture visited Lake County for a ceremony honoring Buddha Maitreya's contributions to Nepal and its people.

The Lake County monastery is expected to open for educational and retreat purposes early next year,<NO1> Lama<NO> Daniel said.

While Lake County may seem like an odd place for such a place, Daniel Lama said it's the perfect location.

"This is a place of extreme natural beauty," he said.

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