By Kathy Chouteau
The Standard’s recently launched series, “A Few of My Favorite Things” takes a quick look at some of this reporter’s top local treasures—be they food, drink, places or faces—from Richmond and beyond. Up this week: The Gyuto Foundation’s Peace Garden.
Today more than ever, everyone needs a place to escape to for a little ‘serenity now.’ One of my go-to spots when I need my own pandemic pause is the “Peace Garden” at the Gyuto Foundation, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the East Richmond Heights neighborhood.
Thupten Donyo, the Peace Garden’s chief designer/creator and the monastery’s founder, embarked on realizing his vision “for a place to promote peace, tranquility and harmony,” as a sign reveals, as the Bay Area shelter-in-place order was enacted in March 2020. With a little help from his friends via volunteer-power and donated plants, the garden was completed in time for the Dalai Lama’s 85th birthday on July 6th of that year. It’s open to community members and their well-behaved four-legged friends from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Since opening two years ago, the Peace Garden has blossomed into a beautiful, lush oasis with ample flora, fauna and the occasional human to boot. After entering the Gyuto Foundation’s main gate, the Peace Garden can be found immediately to the right side of the main driveway. When you see the eye-catching wooden gate, you know you’ve arrived.
From there, get ready for a feast of the senses—sites, sounds and scents. A quaint pathway winds through the garden past vibrant flowers, plants, trees and other delights. Along the way, there’s lots to discover, including messages of peace, Tibetan prayer flags, fountains, spiritual sculptures and replicas of both the Golden Gate Bridge and the Potala Palace, onetime residence of the Dalai Lama. Benches tucked away into the landscape offer places to take in a tranquil moment amid the sounds of nature.
Another highlight of the Peace Garden is the array of placards featuring inspirational quotes from Buddha, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and others. The color of the placards represent the five essential elements of life: white, yellow, red, green and blue, per the Gyuto Foundation. Nearby, Buddhist prayer wheels line the upper perimeter of the garden.
While a stroll through the Peace Garden only takes a few minutes, the experience resonates far beyond one’s visit. I’m fortunate enough to live nearby, so I walk there, but parking is available straight up the main driveway for anyone who needs to arrive by car. While you’re there, take time to explore the rest of the Gyuto Foundation’s Redwood-laden grounds by Wildcat Canyon, which the monks so generously open up to everyone.
The Gyuto Foundation’s Peace Garden is located at 6401 Bernhard Ave. in East Richmond Heights. Learn more here.