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Volunteer members building Buddhist Temple in Jupiter Farms

Tim Tavis stepped into an empty former horse stable in Jupiter Farms and envisioned a Buddhist Temple.

“The first time I came here, it just felt right. This place has everything we need,” said the 59-year-old autism psychologist and former Catholic who became a Buddhist 12 years ago. The Riviera Beach resident is on the board of directors for the Learning Center at the Els Center of Excellence in Jupiter.

The Padmasambhava Buddhist Center (PBC) bought the 10 acres off 131st Trail North in 2014 for $650,000. The property has three now-vacant wooden buildings that each were airy stalls for six horses. There is also a house that is now the home for a caretaker.

The organization is raising $500,000 to do the refurbishing on the buildings, each about the same size. One will become the meditation center. The structure in the middle will be a temple; the third a kitchen.

The retreat center in Jupiter Farms is named Palden Sherab Pema Ling (Lotus Land of Glorious Wisdom). It is named in honor of the organization’s co-founder, Ven. Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche, who died in 2010. It is operated by the PBC, an international Tibetan Buddhist organization based in Sidney Center, N.Y.

Locally, PBC operates the Palm Beach Dharma Center, 1205 N. Federal Highway, in Lake Worth, which has been there since 1999. Dharma means “the teaching of the Buddha.”

The organization has more than a dozen centers in the United States, including Orlando, Tallahassee and Puerto Rico. There is one center in Canada, one in Latvia, and three in Russia, along with a monastery, a convent and a center in India.

Tavis reached out to nearby Jupiter Farms property owners after PBC bought the land. He took them on a tour, showed the buildings and explained their vision. PBC expects to hold about five events a year that will draw up to 50 people, Tavis told them.

“When Jim Smith was running against Jeb Bush for governor, I had parties for 3,500 people on my place. They aren’t going to bother anyone. I like what they are doing out there,” said John Christiansen, an attorney who visited the property. Christiansen owns a 37-acre horse ranch just north of the PBC property.

PBC volunteers are helping to paint, landscape and do other work required. Volunteers have collected horse manure from Jupiter Farms residents for a small vegetable garden.

Chris Rothman, a retired Atlantis psychiatrist, does volunteer organizing, cleanup and buying of supplies.

“We’re a melting pot of people who have that inner-searching mind-set. It speaks to a compassionate and peaceful way of life,” said the 65-year-old Chicago native.

Outdoor meditation gardens are envisioned by Jay Zuckerman, a general contractor and former Jupiter Farms resident who now lives in Tequesta. Rather than attract lots of followers, the center’s goal is to create a sanctuary for members to meditate and have discussion groups.

“We’re not like a mosque, church or synagogue. We’re not about attracting as many people as possible. We’re about individual enlightenment and meditation,” said Zuckerman, 68, who has been a Buddhist for about 15 years.

The solitude will be cherished by PBC members, said Tavis, stepping between the horse stalls. Stripped of their equestrian equipment, the stalls are now stuffed with irrigation hoses, landscaping tools and construction materials.

He nods toward a nearby pond where otters make their home. Birds squawk in the trees. Purple and white orchids sprout from tree trunks. The wind brushing through the palm fronds sounds like rain.

“We’re not going to make big changes to the land. We want to be compatible with our natural surroundings,” Tavis said.

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