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Searching for the Heart of Sacred Space

Published Date: May 24, 2014

Available in


8 x 10, 292 pages, illustr.
pbk 9781896559162 ebk 9781896559216


Landscape, Buddhism and Awakening
Dennis Winters, OALA, ASLA

Searching for the Heart of Sacred Space is about Landscape, Buddhism and Awakening – spoken in the same breath – exploring ways of being in sacred landscapes, foundations for designing the contemplative garden.

The book’s three parts candidly reveal Winters’ path of transformation. His environmental activities and spiritual awakening lead to his design of a Tibetan Buddhist meditation centre, one of the first in North America. Fueled by his Cornell University mentor, and guidance from H. H. the Dalai Lama and Zasep Tulku Rinpoche, he questions, – “What is the truth of design? How deep would I go to draw inspiration? How deeply am I willing to know myself in order to design sacred landscape?”

His search for the answers to those questions draws us into the astounding history connecting Bodh Gaya in India to Kyoto’s Zen gardens, through Mount Kailas, to Pretapuri in Western Tibet, one of Buddhism’s twenty-four sacred tantric sites. Charged with spiritual agreement between pilgrims and deities, landscape is revealed through three layers of discourse – external, internal and secret – as the physical manifestation of Buddhist ideals.

As landscape architect and Buddhist, Winters personally speaks with these provocative landscapes and the historical characters who previously addressed their mysteries, supported with extensive textual references. Discovering layers of subtlety enhanced with sketches inSearching for the Heart of Sacred Space, you may never look at landscape the same way again.

Dennis A. Winters has sought stimulation in diverse places and ways of living – while residing in Helsinki to study architecture and urban design, he found the riches of being in the woods; in Ithaca, New York, he discovered a spiritual home while intimately documenting the natural environment; in Kathmandu to study the Himalayan mountain system, he made acquaintance with Tibetan Buddhism; and in Kyoto to study Japanese gardens, leading to research in Western Tibet, he found profound meaning in designed sacred landscapes.

He has given talks on his gardens and research on designed sacred landscapes to academic symposia, public forums and garden clubs including UNESCO ‘Natural Sacred Sites’ Symposium, Japan Society, Forum for Architecture, Culture and Spirituality, American Society of Landscape Architects, Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, University of Cincinnati ‘Making Sacred Places Conference,’ ‘Spirit of Sustainability Symposium,’ Toronto Design Exchange, University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and H. H. the Dalai Lama.

He has been able to marry personal interests with professional work. He became a Buddhist practitioner after receiving Kalachakra Initiation from H.H. the Dalai Lama in 1981. He teaches Buddhist practice and meditation at Gaden Choling Mahayana Buddhist Meditation Centre, where he was president 1987-90.

A landscape architect with degrees in landscape architecture (M.L.A., Cornell University) and architecture (B.Arch., University of Florida), urban design studies at Teknillinen Korkeakoulu in Finland, and professional work in environmental analysis and regional land use planning, he designs, builds and writes about gardens for meditation and sacred landscape through his Toronto studio, Tales of the Earth.

Creating places of silence … and the unbearable lightness of space.

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