The Buddha’s statues in the Buddhist temple at Jamyang

At Jamyang Buddhist Centre London, you can find a variety of Buddha statues, two, in particular, were hand made for the centre in the early days.

The history of the Buddha’s statue in the Buddhist temple

September 30th marked the 25th anniversary of the Buddha Statue in the Buddhist Temple at Jamyang London Buddhist Centre.

The statue of Buddha with his gentle gaze, has inspired so many people, visitors, meditators, and teachers during all these years, and made the centre highly recognizable.

Buddha’s statue by Peter Griffin

The beautiful golden Buddha statue that presides over the former courtroom, where the judge used to sit, was made by Peter Griffin, a local sculptor trained by Tibetan exiles in India and Nepal.

He used for the Buddha’s third eye, an engagement diamond ring offered after a failed relationship.

A second artist Bertrand Cayla made the exquisite aureole, which depicts the symbols of Buddhism’s ‘Six Perfections’, (Generosity, Morality, Patience, Enthusiastic Perseverance, Concentration and Wisdom) and namely that took the place of the `beak in the Courtroom’ – presiding over all the future events 

This magnificent nine-foot-high statue of Buddha was consecrated directly by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in May 1999 when he visited the Buddhist Temple at Jamyang London Buddhist Centre – photo below.

After 25 years we deeply thank all the donors, artists, and people involved for creating a unique piece of art not only for Jamyang but for the world.

The history of the Buddha’s statue in the Community Garden of Jamyang Buddhist Centre

The urban garden at Jamyang London hosts a reclining Buddha statue made by Nick Durnan, with the eyes painted by Lama Zopa Rinpoche. here an interview to Nick and he made the Paranirvana Buddha Statue at Jamyang Buddhist Centre.

Buddha’s statue made by Nick Durnan.

How did your collaboration with Jamyang Buddhist Centre come into being/how did it start? 

I am part of Saraswati Buddhist Group in Somerset led by Shan and Andy Wistreich and Andy knew about my work as a stone carver and sculptor and had heard from Jamyang Buddhist Centre through Alison Murdoch who was director there then that a Paranirvana reclining Buddha statue was planned for the courtyard. Andy asked me if I would be interested in being considered and I was thrilled to be asked. Alison came to Somerset to discuss the project. This was in the year 1999 or 2000.  The first task was making a half-size model in clay which was then cast in plaster. I had lots of very helpful advice from the sculptors Denise and Peter Griffin especially Denise, who taught me about the Tibetan proportion system of drawing and sculpture where the figure is 64 units high and all the anatomical details are specific units of length and width. I studied many Paranirvana statues from different Buddhist cultures to get a feel for the form whilst keeping with the Tibetan style. At this time I also began to become aware of the beauty of Gandharan Buddhist sculpture which is the earliest sculpted form of the Buddhist from around the 2nd century AD in from northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. I chose Bath limestone as this was a fine-grained stone suitable for the fine detail of the sculpture and warm honey colour. There was discussion at the time about whether the statue should be painted and gilded or show the stone’s colour and texture. It was decided to not to paint and gild the statue at the time of me making it. 

The statue took about 8 weeks to carve in my workshop in Somerset carefully scaling up to full size, 6 feet long, from the half-size plaster model. It was transported to London by lorry and unloaded by a forklift truck at Jamyang and set on the plinth where it is now displayed. I then carved the hair and drapery decoration around the bed in situ.  The statue remained unpainted and gilded for several years. Lama Zopa visited  Jamyang Buddhist Centre some time after and felt that the statue should be painted and gilded had he painted (opened) the eyes. Through connections with the local art college in Kensington, the City and Guilds of London Art School – in fact I had learnt my carving skills there as a student in the early 1980s as it specialises in teaching traditional stone and woodcarving and traditional historic painting techniques, it was agreed with the Conservation and Restoration department that a group of 3rd year students under the guidance of their tutor should paint and gild the statue. This was done in 2009 and was done very well and is what you see today.  

How did your own Buddhist practice influence your work as an artist? Do you feel that somehow your spiritual background influences your artistic work? 

I felt it a very special honour to be asked to carve this statue and I found the whole experience a deep and profound one spiritually. In meditation one learns to develop a peaceful mind and one where on can focus and analyse and visualise to aid developing a clear positive mind. And this peace and focus can really help when spending several weeks making something like this statue. There were certain times in the modelling of clay model and the carving process where I felt completely absorbed in the work almost like a meditation experience. Creating a pleasing form in clay or stone is a process of getting all the forms to interrelate and become interdependent in a balanced way. Every sculptor seeks to do this and yet no two results are same! And each artists work is individual.  Creating something beautiful and sacred is an inner as well as an outer experience. A Buddha statue can be seen as image of our Buddha potential, what each of us is capable of as a person. There is a link I think between expressing beauty and expressing our Buddha potential. The making of this statue had a very positive effect on me and I hope it has been beneficial to those who see the statue in the Jamyang Courtyard. 

We work a lot with visualisations in Buddhism. How do you think can visual imagery (thangka’s and statues, for example) help us to connect with an inner spiritual experience and support our spiritual practice? And how do you see this in relation to the Parinirvana statue in the garden of Jamyang Buddhist Centre? 

I have partly answered this in question but would like to add that carving the Paranirvana statue kindled my interest in Gandharan art and last year I had the chance to visit the Guimet museum of Eastern and Asian Sculpture in Paris and see the many beautiful Gandharan statues there. I came back inspired to carve and earlier this year carved these two pieces: a Buddha in meditation in limestone and a relief Buddha head in Alabaster, and more are planned.  

Nick Durnan at Jamyang Buddhist Centre with the new Buddha’s statue