CONSTRUCTION has resumed on the site of what will be Ireland’s first Traditional Tibetan Buddhist Temple, at Dzogchen Beara on the Beara Peninsula in West Cork.
It is hoped this will be the final phase of the build, after the project was halted by Covid restrictions, which will see the installation of a copper roof that is set to light up the West Cork coast for decades to come.
Dzogchen Beara, which is a part of the Tibetan ‘Longchen Nyingtik’ lineage of Buddhism, is a member of Rigpa, an international network of Buddhist Centres.
It has been a refuge for Irish Buddhists since its beginnings in Allihies 40 years ago, providing a space for meditation, Buddhist teachings and retreats.
With the temple’s inauguration planned for September, 2022, a number of watershed moments in its construction lie in the pipeline: the installation of a shrine will happen in a few months’ time, while acres of literature containing the original words of the Buddha has already been delivered, and will be set in place alongside the shrine in due course.
But the most visible and eye-catching part of the development will be the installation of the three layers of copper roof.
Leon Rossiter, who is one the four directors of the centre, explains: “There are three copper roofs. The top most, then there’s the canopy, and the bay roof at the front. It’s currently being designed by the engineers, the contractor, of course the coppersmiths, along with the fabricators and the client as well, so I’m heading it up for the client.”
The project began in 2016, and Rossiter, along with the team of coppersmiths, fabricators and engineers, have been meeting for the last few months, working out logistics around the design and installation of the roof.
All the crafts people involved have been sourced locally, including Wychbro Coppersmiths from Clonakilty, Stroker Fabrications from Enniskeane, and local contractor Brian Murphy of Beara Building Services.
Stroker began drawings recently and a completion date is set for the coming weeks. Following that, a scaffolding goes up in June, and the full installation of the roof will happen over the following three months.
Brian Murphy, of Beara Building Services, who is overseeing the construction, said: “We’re getting everything set up again (after the restrictions). Next we’re finishing the entrance, then we get the accommodation up and running, and then around June we’re moving on to the copper roofs.”
He says he is delighted to be involved in such a unique project.
“How many more contractors will come across something like this in Ireland again?” he said.
“It’s probably the only one to ever be built here in Ireland so it’s great to be involved, and when the roof arrives it will bring a whole new emphasis to finishing the job.”
The temple’s design draws from the traditional style of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and will act as a beacon of light from its place within the West Cork coastline.
“When the sun is shining, it will be seen from Sheep’s Head and Mizen Head and from all the boats. It’s going to be gleaming so it’s going to be quite a striking building when it’s finished,” Rossiter said.
After an 18-24 month period researching different styles of copper, the team at Dzogchen finally settled on a particular style of the metal, one that has been proven to last the elements.
“Over the last 18 months we really put a lot of effort into it,” Leon said.
“We put many samples out there, like classic copper, putting lacquer on it and we tried gilding as well. But we found a product called Nordic Royal. It’s a copper alloy. It has aluminium and zinc and nickel in it; so it’s a gold colour.”
As a nod to Allihies’ rich copper mining history, gleaming across the West Cork skyline will also be some locally sourced bronze.
“Because there are copper mines in the area, the locals are going to offer up a piece of copper as a gesture and we will incorporate that into the sacred decoration that will sit on the roofs,” Rossiter explains.
“The locals have a big interest in this project and many a time I’m in the shop or a restaurant, people come over to talk and what they’re really waiting to see is the copper roofs.”
I was surprised to learn this is not the first Buddhist Temple on the island of Ireland. There is a Shaolin Buddhist temple in Slane, Co Meath; a wooden structure that offers tai chi, meditation and some of the more martial art style practices.
But Rossiter assures me that the Temple at Dzogchen Beara will be the first ‘Traditional Tibetan Buddhist Temple’ in Ireland.
What will the temple offer that Dzogchen Beara in its current form doesn’t?
“Without a temple there’s no real house for the Buddha’s teachings to really reside in, and there’s a tradition there,” Leon explains.
“This is where the lineage will be imparted to hundreds of thousands of people over the next maybe five to ten centuries. It’s a living lineage, so it’s passed from a master to the students and then they practice the teachings and practices and so forth.
“It’s like a church where people can gather and receive the teachings and make a connection.”
Dzogchen Beara was established as a retreat in 1987, and the first closed one-year retreats, which follow a traditional Tibetan schedule of practice and study, began in 1994. Its Spiritual Care Centre was opened by Mary McAleese in 2007.