The Temple of the Great Contemplation is located at Merigar, the first center of what is now the International Dzogchen Community, in the foothills of Mount Amiata in Tuscany, Italy. Located in the township of Arcidosso, the temple was conceived and designed by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, the spiritual leader of the community. In May 1990, the temple was inaugurated by H.H. the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.
The paintings, inscriptions, and decorative motifs that now adorn the temple were undertaken and completed in the immediately subsequent years. These deities, symbols, mantras, and floral designs were initially selected, described, and rendered in sketches by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu in his manuscript Merigar’s Great Temple of Self-Liberation Through Seeing, together with related explanations and teachings. In his words, the temple was to look like a beautiful flower. This text was used as guide by the artists and skilled artisans who came from Tibet and other lands to paint and embellish the temple. Later the author placed the text on his computer, which he had originally written by hand in Tibetan umed characters, modifying it slightly in the process.
The present volume is divided in two parts: the first contains the English and Italian translations of the digitalized text. The drawings of the proposed adornment of the Temple in the original manuscript are reproduced in our text to clarify the meaning of the symbols, syllables, and deities painted on the various panels as well as the significance of the disposition of color. These elements plus the selection of the masters portrayed reveal visually that the temple contains in essence the Dzogchen teachings that Chögyal Namkhai Norbu has transmitted and is transmitting to the world, beginning with the depiction of the symbolic Longsalletter painted in gold on the external panel of the hallway of the eastern portal.
The second part is comprised of the biographies of the masters pictured in the temple, preceded by an introduction by Fabian Sanders that defines the research involved in finding, verifying, and synthesizing the many sources used for compiling these biographies.
Chögyal Namkhai Norbu wrote the original text presented in The Temple of the Great Contemplation: The Gönpa of Merigar in the early 1990s. It served as an indispensable support for the planning and realization of the decorations that were subsequently painted in the temple. In addition to the instructive descriptions written in cursive script, this manuscript also includes sketches of the various symbols, mantras, letters, ornamental motifs, and images forming the basis of the representations of buddhas, masters, and divinities. Chögyal Namkhai Norbu himself later created a digital version of the text, at the same time incorporating a few modifications and additions. This second document contains only the transcribed text, not the images. It is titled “Notes on the Ornamentation and Images Found in the Temple” (མེ་རི་སྒར་དགོན་པའི་ལྷ་བྲིས་ཀྱི་ཐོ་). The translation contained in the book The Temple of the Great Contemplation: The Gönpa of Merigar is based on this second version, but also includes the sketches from the earlier manuscript.
The ceiling of the gonpa
Il testo originale de Il Tempio della Grande Contemplazione, Il Gönpa di Merigar, fu scritto da Chögyal Namkhai Norbu nei primi anni novanta e nacque come necessario supporto alla progettazione e alla realizzazione delle decorazioni che dovevano essere eseguite nel tempio. In questo manoscritto si trovano quindi, oltre il testo redatto in caratteri corsivi, anche i bozzetti e gli schizzi dei vari simboli, mantra, lettere e motivi ornamentali e le immagini usate come base per la rappresentazione dei Buddha, dei maestri e delle divinità. In seguito lo stesso Chögyal Namkhai Norbu creò una versione digitale del testo, apportandovi alcune aggiunte e modifiche. Questo secondo documento contiene quindi solo il testo trascritto e non le immagini ed ha come titolo Note su decorazioni e raffigurazioni del tempio di Merigar (མེ་རི་སྒར་དགོན་པའི་ལྷ་བྲིས་ཀྱི་ཐོ་ ). La traduzione che si trova nel libro Il Tempio della Grande Contemplazione, Il Gönpa di Merigar si basa su questa seconda redazione, ma riporta anche gli schizzi e i bozzetti del primo manoscritto.
Retreat in Merigar, May 2014. Photo by Paolo Fassoli.