A couple of weeks ago, Doug, our excellent hired worker, was planning out some closet shelving for the slipi house, which he is helping to renovate. That's the building the slipis live in when they come to Kauai. In passing, he consulted with Acharya Kumarnathaswami as to whether he should buy MDF (press-board) or plywood for them. Acharya offered to provide solid boards instead from our large stock of local woods, milled and dried here at the monastery.
The option that jumped forward was to use some of the wide monkeypod boards that came from a tree that arborists gifted to the monastery after removing it from the side of the Shell station across the highway from Coco Palms hotel. The tree was enormous, and its antiquity was revealed by the fact that it was already a large tree when captured in a photo taken at Elvis Presley's wedding.
Over the retreat Acharya chose the boards from a pile made from a single log just the right length, so wastage would be close to zero. Fourteen shelves were needed, 10 of them 19 inches wide and 4 at 16 inches; all about 5 feet long.
Since our thickness planer accepts a maximum 15" width, Acharya ripped the wide planks down the middle, ran them through the planer and then edge glued them back together. (Sometime in the future, we hope to get a 20 inch planer!)
Step two was to hand plane the machined surface. Step three: sand with 6" orbital sander. Step four, apply sanding sealer, and Step 5 brush on one coat of lacquer. Eighteen man hours after the ambitious offer was made, the shelves stood ready to be installed.
While the Media Studio is up and running, there are a few projects still working their way towards completion. One such project has been the doorway to the conference room. With a lot of work from Acharya Kumarnathaswami and our hired carpenter, Jeff, the installation of the doorway's redwood frame has been made a reality. Ultimately the doorway will be fitted with sliding glass doors.
After many moons the eloquent carpentry and stone work in the Media Studio Cave Entryway has finished. This was a creative collaboration between the monks (design), Kanda Alahan in California (fabrication of the roof shrine, plus innovations), and Bhani Karthigesu in Singapore (engineering the masterful and colorful wooden sculptures in North India). The result is simply magical, providing a moment of blessing and change of consciousness as one moves from the tropical gardens into the more-akashic-than-physical space of the Media Studio. Jai to teamwork!
We unpacked the five bronzes of God Siva yesterday, revealing their astonishing detail. No wonder it took years for the craftsmen in South India to makes these murthis. Five forms each in five metals, to be placed in five niches on the outisee of the Iraivan garbhagriham.
Meantime, we thought you would love to see them, to enjoy the high level of sculpting that was achieved and a few words about this traditional depiction of divinity.
Most Saivites understand that Siva has five powers: creation, preservation, dissolution and the dual graces, concealing and revealing. Those who read our philosophically rich July, 2012, Insight Section, "Five Powers of Siva, Sadasiva in the Agama Scriptures," will have encountered the profundity of this understanding of God (bit.ly/Panchasiva). In Iraivan Temple, these five powers are enshrined as five forms of Siva in bronze, two-foot-tall statues installed in niches around the outside of the central sanctum: Sadyojata, Vamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusha and Ishana.
Sadyojata, "quickly birthing" is Brahma, element earth, color white and denoted by Na in the Panchakshara Mantra, Namasivaya. Vamadeva, "pleasing," is Vishnu, element water, color saffron and letter Ma. Aghora, "non-terrifying," is Rudra, element fire, color blue-black and letter Si. Tatpurusha, "supreme soul," is Maheshvara, element air, color gold and letter Va. Ishana, "ruler," is Sadasiva, element akasha, color crystal and letter Ya.
These bronzes were commissioned from Ganapati Sthapati's Mahabalipuram worksite and took several years to complete under his careful direction. They finally and somewhat magically arrived on Kauai in November, 2014, right at the conclusion of the Mahasamadhi observances for Gurudeva.
With the bulk of the Media Studio having been completed, a few final detailed projects remain. Though the list is short, these to-do's require ample time and skill to come to fruition. Two such projects are now wrapping up, and they happen to be some of most noteworthy additions to the building's near-finished look and feel: the mango wainscoting on the north wall and the entryway's lava rock.
With help from master-carpenter Jeff, the wainscoting on the north wall was fully created, assembled and finished in the woodshop, before being carried over the the building for a quick and easy installation. This is the mango wood from the tree that had to be cut down outside the Media Studio. It will live on as one the the space's most stunning features.
It has been a long process to properly prepare the entryway walls for the placement of lava rock. The two massive doors on either side had to be engineered to hold hundreds of pounds of weight. The left-side door leads to Arumuganathaswami's office and the right-side door leads to the building's restroom. Both doors are designed to blend into the lava rock walls. Brad, a master stoneworker, has been hired to fit the stones to perfection. He is creating beautiful seams in the doors and a balanced look around the two wooden shrines of both Gurudeva and Ganesha.
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