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Ascending up the road to Vajra Vidya Temple, one looses a sense of time and place. It’s a bright red temple adorned with gold objects, shining amidst snow capped peaks with Tibetan flags flapping in the the wind. Inside is the Shrine room, which contains an 8-foot central golden statue of Buddha, 21 forms of Tara, 8 Medicine Buddha statues and 1,000 statues representing Buddhas yet to come.
Of the smaller statues on the left is the likeness of Padmasambhava (Lotus-Born), otherwise know as Guru Rinpoche. Sometimes referred to as the “second Buddha”, Guru Rinpoche is attributed with the introduction of the Buddhist religion and establishment of the first monastery in Tibet. The statue, cast in bronze and adorned with gold plate, was missing a Dorje otherwise known as Vajra in his right hand.
Vajra is a Sanskrit word meaning both thunderbolt and diamond. Additionally, it is a weapon won in battle which is used as a ritual object to symbolize both the properties of a diamond (indestructibility) and a thunderbolt (irresistible force).
Raising concerns,the resident nun, Ani Drime and Khenpo Lobzang Tenzin approached Kary Kilmer, a Crestone resident and a master gold and silversmith, to make a Vajra that would be proportionally correct and match the materials of the statue.
“The challenges for creating a Vajra in proper perspective to the sacred statue were complex and required some flexibility. Traditionally, the object would be constructed by carving a wax model. However, if the model required sizing adjustments a new model would have to be hand carved, adding significant cost, delays and expense to the project,” Kary Kilmer explained.
“Instantly, I knew this project was the perfect candidate for CAD (Computer Aided Design) and 3D printing. I would be able to create a model in high detail that went beyond my carving skill. Prototypes could be printed in nylon for less than $5.00. The prototype could then be placed in the statue’s hand and adjustments can be made at the touch of a keyboard.”
There have been many advances in 3D printing over the last few years. In the past, 3D prototypes were restricted to plastic, nylon and wax. A mold had to be made from the prototypes which also compromised the detail and the proportions. Today’s technology includes direct printing in metals such as stainless steel, bronze, gold and silver.
The Vajra made for Guru Rinpoche’s statue will be directly printed in bronze with gold plate. This choice was made to ensure that the object’s material was consistent with the statue and did not look out of place.The Vajra is quite small, approximately two inches in length. This makes it ideal for a jewelry pendant.
Padmasambhava's Vajra Pendant