A Visit to Buddha Dendo

I went out to Buddha Dendo today, which is also known as the “California Tendai Monastery.” This site is near Middletown, California and is about an hour north of the Napa Valley along a fairly winding two land state road. Buddha Dendo is 160 acres of land on Cobb Mountain at about 2500 feet. It is run by a Tendai priest, Keisho, as a hermitage for himself and a place for others to come to in order to participate in Tendai Buddhist ascetic practices.

I had spoken to Keisho a few times by e-mail and had meant to go up back in April but events had not lent themselves to that end. I decided that this was as good of a time as any and Winter is coming soon, so it seemed best to get up before it might snow.

Keisho met me at the property. He showed me around and we spent a few hours having lunch, tea, and generally chatting about things. One of the things that he showed me is the Goma-do that he built this last year.

Buddha Dendo - 2

A Goma-do is a hall built as a place to conduct the Goma fire ceremony. We saw a number of these when we visited temples in Japan back in September and October. As far as I know, this is the first Goma-do built specifically as such in the continental United States (Hawaii may very well have a few with the Shingon and Tendai temples there). The inside of the Goma-do was quite nice with a gomadan (an altar for the fire ceremony) made out of a large piece of concrete built into the floor and painted over to the appearance of something like stucco or adobe. The entire space was bright and contained, among other things, a large statue of Fudo Myoo that Keisho carved by hand over a ten year period when he was younger. Keisho has a picture set to do with the construction on his site as well.

While it is quite a drive (about two hours each way), I’m glad that I went out there and got to visit with Keisho. He has an interesting background, personally and as a Tendai priest. He spent 5 1/2 years at a temple in Japan on Mt. Hiei, which gives him a particularly interesting perspective as an America. I expected that I’ll be out there again on and off.