Padmakara Garden Planning 

By Yuji Matsumoto 

April 4, 2020

Hello, my name is Yuji and I am part of the residential community and a full-time staff member at the Nyingma Institute. My current duty, along with fellow residents Katie Black and Kris Klark, is to construct our newly designed outdoor space, Padmakara Garden. The project is now past its halfway point, but we’ve decided to start blogging our experience to keep everyone informed about our progress … starting today! Without further ado, Padmakara Garden construction, raw and uncut.

But first, some background. The new space was dreamed up by our deans, Pema Gellek and Lama Palzang, in order to provide an accommodating outdoor area for practice and gatherings. The previous incarnation of the garden was beautiful, but lacked a large open space. Also, its retaining walls and substructure were beginning to fall apart, prompting a change. But where to start? Like all large projects, we needed architects and engineers to provide drawings and specifications. We also have former volunteer Nathan Gallanter to thank for getting the project started. Nathan, along with Pema and Palzang, teamed up with the landscape architects SWA [John Wong and Bill Hynes] to work on the design. [We also consulted with David Warner of Redhorse.] With the building permit in hand, only one question remained: who would build it? 

The Nyingma community has a rich history of working volunteers who have made everything from our large outdoor prayer wheel to the drums we use for chanting. However, it was clear that a project of this scale and complexity would also require professional involvement. After negotiations with local contractors didn’t pan out, the team reached out to longtime community member David French, who agreed to take on the job. David French is a general contractor who has helped to build many large projects for the Nyingma organization and its various centers. We are very grateful to have David on board. At this point, David and the Nyingma Institute still needed to find people to actually do the physical work. Who would they be? Kris, Katie and Yuji. [Yuji joined the team full-time at Nyingma Institute around August 2019, followed by Kris and Katie in September 2019.] 

Kris and Katie will have their opportunity to introduce themselves in future blogs, so I’ll take mine now. I’m Yuji. I grew up not too far from here in Sonoma County, and went to college in Berkeley. I lived a few blocks down from the Nyingma Institute while I was studying but didn’t discover it until I was looking for housing years later. Nyingma had just started renting out rooms to the public, and I was fortunate to secure one in February of 2018. It is a wonderful place with wonderful people – I fell in love right away. At the time, I was working for myself as a licensed contractor, doing whatever jobs came my way. I even did a few jobs around Nyingma, such as helping to renovate our second floor conference room and eventually recladding the outdoor prayer wheel with new wood. I worked with Nathan on these projects and it was a blast, as he is also an accomplished builder. When May of 2019 came around, we were issued our building permit for the garden and it was time to start digging. To make a long story short, I couldn’t resist a good project, especially one right at home. I now feel fortunate to be a part of this community and to be able to offer my skills.

That is all for this time, next time: Padmakara Garden construction begins!