Creating Your Own Buddhist Garden
The most important thing is a design for a garden which communicates Buddhist ideals like peacefulness or goodwill towards others or respect for the lives of other creatures.
The garden does not need to look Buddhist or oriental. Many people, who are not Buddhist, also value such ideals.
That the design promotes peacefulness, goodwill and respect for all creatures is more important than things like wind chimes, prayer flags or stone lanterns.
If you wish so, you can certainly also include Buddhist and oriental decorations and garden features but, on their own, such decorations are not as important as a design which uses Buddhist ideas.
The eight topics below were each described in detail earlier on. You should go back to these eight topics and choose at least two which will feature in your design. You certainly do not need to cover them all. Many Buddhist gardens do not show the full set. It is fine to choose just two, three or four of these topics.
What follows are some extra comments about using each topic in your design. Before reading each one, you need to look back to see what was said about each topic (Click on the headers to see the relevant pages). Otherwise it will not make sense.
The sitting place will be especially important, if you don’t have much space for walking.
If there is no pleasant view, you may need to think creatively. Could you screen off your garden with plants or trellis? In the yard of a disused Fire Station, the London Buddhist Centre has created a lovely little garden. They painted lotus flowers on one wall. A small waterfall, set against another wall, adds to the feeling of peace.
If you have suitable space, a seat under a tree is worth considering.
Could you design a Zen style garden which you would enjoy looking at? If so, feel free to try. But if you don’t like the pictures of Zen gardens, you should definitely choose one of the many alternatives instead.
If you choose this, you need to think out exactly what pictures or writing you would put up. You need to describe this in full as part of your entry.
The pictures and texts do not need to come from Buddhist books. What matters is that they promote the same ideals. The people designing the garden could compose these themselves. Part of the Buddhist notion of ‘Right Understanding’ is that you think things through for yourself.
For instance, there are three ‘Peace Gardens’ in Some Buddhist Gardens In Britain. If you were to design a ‘Peace Garden’, could your garden include something which made people think about peacefulness towards other people in everyday school life?
In the British climate you need to use water lilies instead of lotus plants – they look similar. For water lilies, a pool should be at least 60 centimetres (2 feet) deep. The water should be still.
Cawood Oriental Garden, pictured earlier, shows a beautiful traditional arrangement of a Buddha image in a pool. There are underwater brick supports under the log slice on which the statue rests – it isn’t floating! Buddha images of this size and quality can be obtained quite easily in Britain. It would be perfectly possible to create this in a pool deep enough for water lilies.
You do not need to have a Buddha image in your garden design. Indeed, you should not include one if you believe it could be treated disrespectfully once the garden was actually in use.
If you choose this, feel free to create your own method for visitors to the garden to express wishes of goodwill. It is best if it is something which comes naturally to the people who would actually use it. The Wishing Tree at Samye Ling monastery in Scotland, mentioned earlier, was in fact invented by the Samye Ling community. They invented it as a mixture of Tibetan and Scottish traditions.
Note that it is important both that the creatures get suitable and regular food and that visitors to the garden are involved in giving it. If you choose this option, how would you achieve these things?
Could you make the garden a zone where it was agreed that visitors would take trouble not to harm any creature, insects included?
Are there any other rules which you would want visitors to follow while in this garden?
If a visitors’ code of conduct was to be part of your garden plan, you would need to describe how you would persuade people to follow this.
Can your design for the garden include features which will make it a friendly habitat for some types of wildlife? Or ways in which you would show care for the environment?
There are at least two ways this idea could be brought into the design stage.
Members of the design group could each name something quite small which they personally would choose for the garden. This could be something which they promised to make themselves, if the garden were built. The design might end up as quite a mixed bag but this would not matter.
Also, you could think about how to involve many people in giving their time as volunteers to build the garden. It could be a project which brings people together and makes participants want to support the garden in future. What would make people want to give their time? What could make them want to support this garden?
Continue reading: Plants and garden ornaments.