By Kathy Chouteau
A new outdoor space in East Richmond Heights is offering a peaceful respite for the community amid the tumult of the pandemic.
The neighborhood’s resident Buddhist temple, the Gyuto Foundation, has opened a beautiful Peace Garden on its Redwood-dotted grounds bordering Wildcat Canyon. According to the garden’s chief creator and designer, Thupten Donyo, the self-described founder, manager and dreamer at Gyuto, “there are no rules, it’s just open to the public every day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.”
Well, there might be one little rule: If you go, wear a mask.
According to Donyo, work on the Peace Garden began at the end of March just as the pandemic was gaining momentum and the Bay Area shelter-in-place order was enacted. It was created in honor of and leading up to the Dalai Lama’s 85th birthday, which occurred July 6.
“Many volunteers helped” and “many plants were donated,” Donyo said about the effort, which he hopes will bring people “much needed peace.” It takes seeing it in person to fully appreciate the enormously successful fruits of their collective labor.
Upon entering the Gyuto Foundation’s main gate, the Peace Garden is located to the right side of the main driveway. A sign welcomes visitors and states that the garden is dedicated “to the community to promote peace, tranquility and harmony.”
As visitors enter the garden through a small wooden gate, a pathway winds through the garden past a series of visual delights, among them multiple messages of peace, Tibetan prayer flags, fountains, rock formations, spiritual sculptures, various plants and miniature replicas of both the Golden Gate Bridge and the Potala Palace, onetime residence of the Dalai Lama and seat of the Tibetan government.
Colorful placards placed intermittently throughout the garden feature inspirational quotes from the likes of Buddha, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama. According to Gyuto, the color of the placards represent the five essential elements of life: white, yellow, red, green and blue.
It may only take a few minutes to stroll through the entire Peace Garden, but its meaningful impact resonates far past the time spent there. Anyone interested in visiting can find it amid the Redwoods at the Gyuto Foundation, 6401 Bernhard Ave. in East Richmond Heights.
Parking is available up the driveway just past the entrance to the Peace Garden. After visiting the garden, Donyo welcomes the community to also enjoy Gyuto’s canyonside walking trail (the “Path to Enlightenment”), children’s playground etc. on its grounds, which are open to the public. Per Donyo, Gyuto’s building is also accessible to the public, although they currently do not have any programs offered within.
To support the garden with plant donations, particularly evergreens, contact Donyo at 510-674-6000. Click here to learn more about the Gyuto Foundation.