Located just off of River Road in Poolesville, Kunzang Palyul Choling Temple’s 65-acre Peace Park offers a quiet refuge from the hustle and bustle of everyday Potomac life. The heavily wooded garden property encloses a chain of rambling walking paths leading to quiet, meditative spaces and magnificent stupas, symbols of Buddhist enlightenment. A recent visit to the park provided an afternoon of restful reflection amidst early spring foliage and the murmuring sounds of tiny woodland animals.
Visitors enter the Peace Park by climbing up a short wooden staircase from River Road. At the top of the rise is a small clearing with a park map and information on the diverse wildlife found on the property. Three distinct walking paths, thickly carpeted with last year’s leaves and tiny patches of green, extend tantalizingly out of view in opposite directions. Overhead, multi-colored translucent prayer flags, strung between old black oaks, flap softly in the wind. To the right, the trail descends rapidly downwards, crisscrossing a small streambed over a series of arched wooden bridges. To the left, the trail ascends upwards, flanking a large open field and providing access to a magnificent sheltered stupa garden.
The central of the three walking paths leads directly to the principal feature of the park, the golden Migyur Dorje Stupa. Towering 35 feet above a grassy clearing, the large yellow stupa contains relics of 17th century teacher, Migyur Dorje, and is believed to be an important healing site. Convention dictates that visitors circumnavigate the stupa in a clockwise direction while offering well wishes for all those who are suffering.
The expansive hilltop space is warm and inviting, surrounded by tall black oaks and dusty green cedars. Rough-hewn granite benches, positioned at discreet distances from the monument, offer quiet places for contemplation.
In the thickly wooded area surrounding the Migyur Dorje Stupa are five other smaller stupas. Hidden away in tiny meditation gardens sited at the four points of the compass, each is embellished with aged-bronze prayer wheels, stone obelisques with crystals and colorful prayer flags. Presumed to be the metaphysical “center” of the property, the White Garden is accessed by crossing a miniature creek over a graceful arching bridge. In the western direction, the Red Garden symbolizes wisdom, while at the southern end of the park the Yellow Garden is dedicated to generosity and the purification of pride. In the rear of the garden are the Green and Blue Gardens, which symbolize the purification of envy and jealousy as well as “mirror wisdom,” or the quality of the imperturbable mind. The Blue Garden, attained via a steep woodland trail, marks the highest point in the park.
A short climb back up the northern side of the property rewards the visitor with an unobstructed view across an expansive green meadow, the sudden appearance of sunlight reflecting like diamond shards through the semi-bare trees. A short left turn reveals the Stupa Garden, a serene and meditative space composed of a large yellow stupa flanked by four smaller monuments set in a flagstone terrace. As in every other area of the garden, silence governs, only occasionally interrupted by the whistling of wind through the leaves or the high-pitched chirp of early spring birds.
Visitors complete the walk by heading out up the meadow path and turning left to close the loop and arrive back at the original park entrance clearing. If you’re still looking for more, the Kunzang Palyul Choling Temple is located right across the street and offers a 24-hour spiritual refuge for quiet contemplation.
The Peace Park is located at 18400 River Road, Poolesville, MD 20837. The park is open from dawn to dusk.