BOULDER CREEK – Inside a nearly completed 10-foot-tall prayer wheel, sheltered inside a 7th-century Tibetan mandala-inspired home in the remote backlands of the Santa Cruz Mountains, lives a much more modern concept.
Surrounding the inside of the wheel are scrolls of an emerging technology that leaders of the Vajrapani Institute for Wisdom Culture describe as “nanofilm” designed by an Indonesian monk. When complete, the wheel, specially designed to support 18 pounds of weight, will contain 1,500 rolls of nanofilm and a total of more than 3 quadrillion (that’s 3,000 trillion) mini Great Compassion Mantras.
“We are not building this prayer wheel, we are not building this for ourselves. We are building this for others,” said Tom Waggoner, co-founder of the Vajrapani Institute for Wisdom Culture, who is serving as project manager for the new prayer wheel. “For us to be complete in our efforts, people will come, they will see this prayer wheel. This will be an inspiration to them and they will use this prayer wheel to help in their own spiritual development. That is our wish.”
Waggoner said there are many ways for the public to interact with the new prayer wheel. Visitors who wish to drive the approximately 50 minutes north of the city of Santa Cruz, much of it along the remote Kings Creek Road off Highway 9, can choose to donate to help finish the project, come and turn the wheel, look at it for its architectural design, admire its art or enjoy its spiritual qualities, he said.
On September 10, the institute will host a 24-hour prayer wheel spinning event, which the public is invited to view and participate in. For more information, visit vajrapani.org online.
“This will resonate with people on different levels, depending on their disposition,” Waggoner explained.
Waggoner described himself as an “old hippie” who came of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and was one of those who found ways to “turn on, tune in, drop out”, as counterculture icon Timothy Leary urged at the time.
“What we wanted to do is build a retirement center,” Waggoner said. “People were having experiences at the time by examining the philosophy and using the methodology to examine it and we found that it was life changing. And they wanted to offer that to others. That offering is Vajrapani.”
The Vajrapani Institute, a Tibetan Buddhist retreat center, was founded in 1977 with the donation of 30 acres of vacant land abutting Castle Rock State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Within five years, the property was expanded to 75 acres, dotted with stupas, retreat huts, and meditation areas, through subsequent land acquisition.
The center has attracted Tibetan Buddhist luminaries during its more than decade-long existence, and even garnered a visit in 1989 from the Dalai Lama, about a week after he was named the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
According to the organization’s website, the Vajrapani Institute is affiliated with the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition, an international non-profit organization “dedicated to the transmission of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and values throughout the world through of teaching, meditation and community service.
Waggoner described the meaning of a prayer wheel with many mantras inside it as an opportunity for public outreach and education, as well as doing spiritual good. He compared a sentence to a hydroelectric plant, which generates electricity with the help of dammed water, a generator, and a turbine with copper coils inside.
“So when you turn the wheel, you are like water. You spin that wheel and the nano-mantras in there are now like the copper coils that are inside (the turbine),” Waggoner said. “So, the more copper coils there are, the more vital electrical energy is provided to more and more people.”