New technology added to the prayer wheel in the Santa Cruz Mountains

BOULDER CREEK — Inside a nearly finished 10-foot-tall prayer wheel tucked away in a 7th-century Tibetan mandala-inspired house in remote Santa Cruz Mountain land lives a much more modern concept.

Tsering, a Nepalese Buddhist monk, is one of the artists painting the Mandala House that holds the new prayer wheel at the Vajrapani Institute. (Shmuel Thaler — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Wrapped around the inside of the wheel are rolls of an emerging technology that executives at the Vajrapani Institute of Wisdom Culture describe as “nano film” designed by an Indonesian monk. When completed, the wheel—designed specifically 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-mantras of great compassion.

“We are not building this prayer wheel, we are not building this for ourselves. We’re building this for others,” said Vajrapani Wisdom Culture Institute co-founder Tom Wagoner, who serves as project manager for the new prayer wheel. “For us to be fulfilled in our undertaking, people will come, 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.”

Venerable Jiatso, a monk who is working on the new prayer wheel at the Vajrapani Institute, walks near the Mandala House, where the wheel, which will contain 3 quadrillion mantras, is located.  (Shmuel Thaler -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)
Venerable Jiatso, a monk who is working on the new prayer wheel at the Vajrapani Institute, walks near the Mandala House, where the wheel, which will contain 3 quadrillion mantras, is located. (Shmuel Thaler — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Wagoner said there are many ways for the public to interact with the new prayer wheel. Visitors willing to drive about 50 minutes north of the city of Santa Cruz, mostly on remote Kings Creek dirt road off Highway 9, can choose to donate to help complete the project, come and spin the wheel, look at an architectural design, admire its artistry or embrace its spiritual qualities, he said.

On September 10, the institute will host a 24-hour prayer wheel spinning event that the public is invited to watch and participate in. For more information visit vajrapani.org online.

“It will resonate with people on different levels, according to their disposition,” Wagoner elaborated.

Describing himself as an “old hippie” coming of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Wagoner was among those who found ways to “tune in, tune out,” as he called it counterculture icon Timothy Leary at the time.

“What we wanted to do is build a retreat center,” Wagoner said. “People have had experiences at that time by exploring philosophy and using the methodology to explore it, and we’re finding that it’s been life-changing. And they wanted to offer that to others. This offering is Vajrapani.

The Vajrapani Institute, a Tibetan Buddhist retreat center, was founded in 1977 with the donation of 30 acres of vacant land bordering Castle Rock State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Within five years, the property was expanded to 75 acres, dotted with stupas, huts and meditation areas, through subsequent land acquisition.

The center has attracted Tibetan Buddhist luminaries during its decade-plus existence, even receiving a visit in 1989 from the Dalai Lama, about a week after he was announced as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

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