Dharmalaya Land

The Road to Mudville

Merhaba from Konya!

The Mevlana's Mausoleum
The Mevlana's Mausoleum

Arriving in this ancient Anatolian city, once a fertile garden of cross-pollination among the great mystics and scholars, philosophers and poets from all over Eurasia, my warm-hearted tram driver, Mehmet, asked my views about Islam and Linux… I grinned. I had spent the whole night on a bus to reach this place of pilgrimage, the shrine of the great Sufi poet and teacher Jelaluddin Rumi, and my groggy mind had to do some quick yogalates to engage Mehmet the tram driver’s eager questions about cross-platform network administration. But i did so with relish. After all, what was Rumi’s legacy if not Open Source…?

And that’s par for the course lately: a lotta profound, a lotta mundane, and not a lot to distinguish one from the other (since, on close examination, each is full of the other).

Like this service ashram eco-campus thing, for example, and the new land…  But wait, i get ahead of myself. Rewind…

Bodhgaya Boot Camp & a New Home in Bir

Bodhi Tree
Sitting under the Bodhi Tree

This winter (which never actually happened as winter, as such: it was the warmest on record in India), we had the very good fortune to return to the Bodhi tree (in the Indian town of Bodhgaya, birthplace of Buddhism and world capital of burning plastic bags) for a two-month program of Buddhist philosophy and meditation given by the Karmapa (leader of the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism) and Mingyur Rinpoche (one of the most gifted and scientifically-minded meditation teachers of Marg Trek: The Next Generation).

By dint of this intensive mindfulness boot camp, i have fresh awareness that the previous paragraph was in fact a single run-on sentence peppered with four parenthetical clauses… and i simply rest in that awareness, as it is… 🙂

Front Yard
The new front yard

Back home in Bir (and it’s a new home, BTW — i’ve been restoring an old house at the top of the village to serve as our new base, for now at least), i’ve continued the practice of doing at least two hours of meditation daily, and it makes a world of difference.

So, yes, i’m still charting my own Middle Way du jour, in search of my optimal hybrid of the life of the servant, the monk, and the artist that feels most appropriate for this chapter. And, as has been the case for the last three years, i’ve been leaning generally more monkwardly, still as devoted as ever to humble service, but wanting to continue tilting the balance toward the relaxed and contemplative…


While the deepening of meditation practice keeps me smiling more than ever before, i’ve also been a busy little bee, collecting pollen for our blossoming Dharmalaya project. After a few months of wading through Indian legalese (and drafting 20+ pages of it), i’m happy to report that at last we have been signed, attested, notarized, certified, triple-stamped, submitted in duplicate, registered, and numbered Charitable Society #4305.

And i suppose the “big news” is that, at long last, we have land on which to build the ecovillage-ashram-school-thingy i’ve been dreaming of since i sat on my rock in Nepal in 1992.

Now, to say “we have land” is both to overstate and to understate things.

The overstatement: Though we have a signed agreement and we’ve put down a deposit, we still need about $5000 to complete the purchase, and there’s Byzantine paperwork ahead. So we “have land” in the sense that we’ve signed on the dotted line and we’ve started the first stage of pre-construction work: we’ve hired local laborers to start laying a motorable track (taking care not to disturb the trees) from the existing village road up to the bottom of the building site.

The understatement: The word “land” in “we have land” doesn’t really capture the gift that has presented itself in this glorious piece of Mama Earth. It’s a quiet, green, terraced hillside with a mesmerizing 300-degree view of the Kangra Valley, with snow peaks behind us. It’s pristine, with rich soil and full sun, and it’s breathtakingly beautiful. It’s ideal for the project in pretty much every way. Better than i’d ever hoped for, really, so i’m beyond delight.

Dharmalaya site

So, what will we do on that beautiful piece of land? I’m thinking maybe a casino. What do you think? 😉

I’m excited to share juicy details, like the great good fun we’re having with our friend and co-conspirator Didi Contractor, a virtuosic and sagacious 79-year-old eco-architect who is volunteering her time and immense knowledge, skill, and heart not only to help us design and build our first green buildings, but also to guide us in developing a training program that will give local laborers a chance to learn the arts and sciences of neotraditional green building (i.e. indigenous earthen architecture plus earthquake retrofitting and other enhancements for safety and aesthetics) using the construction of our facilities as their OJT.

That plus other sustainability workshops (like high-yield organic farming and eco-friendly cottage industries) equals a humble, village-scale community college for green job skills — the direction we’re heading. There’s more on the Dharmalaya website

The Near Future

Day trip to Tatooine

I have a few more days to explore Turkey, which i’m loving. (I started this email in Konya and i’m finishing it in a “cave hotel” in Ürgüp, an ancient oasis in otherworldly Cappadocia.) Next, i’ll hook up with family in Berlin and Denmark, then onward to Switzerland for time with dear friends and teachings from the Dalai Lama, followed by a few days of down time in Andalucía, then a couple of months in the US — mostly in Colorado, where Dara and i will continue our slow-grow cultivation of an album of her lovely songs, and finally a California visit in late October or early November before returning to India to start planting seeds (figuratively and literally) on the new land…

Or something like that.  🙂

Sending you all a warm glow from the cave…


Thoughts? I'm listening…

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