A Buddhist Monastery Very Closely Linked to Sitges
A Buddhist Monastery with stupas in a historic mansion with a completely intact Catholic chapel. For this contrast alone, harmonious even if it might not seem so, it's worth a visit to the Sakya Tashi Ling community's spiritual house, which is open to visitors from Wednesday to Sunday, and also on public holidays. In fact, they offer guided tours both in the morning and in the afternoon - you can find all the details and prices on their website.
The Garraf Buddhist Monastery is located in the Palau Novella, an estate that originally occupied 500 hectares and was owned by Pere Domènech Grao, one of the famous 'Americanos' from Sitges who made his fortune in Cuba. The mansion or main house was designed by architect Manuel Comas and was inaugurated in 1890. With its pretentious style, characteristic of a megalomaniac, with some of its walls lined with elephant skin, the house and its owner's splendor was short-lived: in 1893, the phylloxera plague destroyed his vineyards, which, together with poor investments in the stock market, led Domènech to bankruptcy. Almost one hundred years later, in 1994, Master Jamyang Tashi Dorje Rinponché, a Barcelona native, bought the Palau Novella to become the spiritual home of the Sakya Tashi Ling community, respecting the cultural heritage of the building and its surroundings.
So, please don't imagine a Buddhist monastery with Nepalese or Tibetan architecture. What you will find is a Modernista and Neo-Gothic palace, with much of its original materials and furniture, which coexists, of course, with Buddha figures, photos of the Dalai Lama or sand mandalas in glass cases, among other elements. Next to the mansion, the estate's chapel remains intact and can also be visited. In fact, the Buddhist Monastery's iconic strength lies outside, in the Stupa of Health and Long Life. In the inner courtyard, beside the restaurant, rises another, smaller stupa, the Stupa of Wisdom.
We took the guided tour with Ismael, one of the monastery's teachers, who, along with historical and patrimonial explanations regarding the building, offers an initial approach to key concepts of Buddhism including meditation, karma, the impermanence of things and equanimity.
Ismael emphasizes that everyone is welcome to visit the monastery, regardless of their creed or religious convictions. In this regard, it's an open space, secular in nature, where you can come for a guided tour, stroll around the stupas, eat at their restaurant, or learn about the paths and foundations of meditation in their classrooms and their syllabus. Berta, one of the Monastery's teachers, summarizes these teachings as "workshops on the craftsmanship of the person, where the goal is to make you a better person".
Practical information: the Garraf Buddhist Monastery can be reached on foot from Sitges, in a walk that takes approximately two hours. By car it takes about thirty minutes, because the distance is longer, and the road is very winding. In any event, and regardless of your means of transport, the destination is well worth the journey. No need to meditate on it... ;)
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