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House of the Spirits


Like any other town, Santa Cruz hosts a wealth of traditional spiritual centers like synagogues, churches and temples. But part of what makes this area so unusual is its array of spiritual centers that are off the beaten path--both in location and in teachings. The county nutures more religious faiths than even Cat Stevens (a.k.a. Yusef Islam) has pursued during his multiple-conversion lifetime.

One of South County's largest retreats is Mt. Madonna Center, located on 355 acres of mountain-top redwood forests and fields overlooking Monterey Bay. Here seekers are urged to leave materialism and greed behind--whether for a weekend retreat or in a more permanent living situation--and explore the teachings of Baba Hari Dass and the principles of Karma Yoga.

Buddhism is a popular focus of many local spiritual centers. Land of Medicine Buddha is a nonprofit retreat center located in South County's tranquil woods. Aimed at "healing and developing a good heart," Land of Medicine Buddha draws on Mahayana Buddhist philosophy combined with ancient wisdom and healthy doses of modern medicine. The center offers courses in such topics as Qigong, feng shui and hands-on healing. The center, founded by Buddhist monks and linked to the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition, provides conference facilities, opportunities for day trips, overnight rooms and limited camping. Also founded by Buddhist monks, Taungpulu Kaba-Aye Monastery in Boulder Creek hosts classes in meditation and Theravada Buddhism. The monastery's notoriously warm and welcoming monks have built a Kaba-aye (World Peace) Pagoda for prayer.

Those who opt for Western spirituality can seek solace in the peaceful St. Clare's Retreat. The Franciscan Missionary Sisters who own the retreat offer a weekend spiritual retreat. The 50-acre center allows opportunities for walking, swimming and quiet contemplation--they encourage a weekend-long vow of silence.

Though just outside of Santa Cruz, the Vajrayana Foundation's Corralitos retreat center often receives locals making a pilgrimage for insight into Dharma and Vajrayana Buddhism. Located on 102 acres of beautiful Santa Cruz mountains, Pema Osel Ling offers classes, spiritual retreats and an art institute devoted to studying Tibetan sacred art and creating traditional ritual dance, music, painting, sculpting and calligraphy. Its College of Buddhist Studies is known for its wide range of classes.
--Mary Spicuzza

Koinonia Conference Grounds--Seventh Day Adventist conference site.
1605 Eureka Canyon Rd., Watsonville (831/722-8222)

Land of Medicine Buddha--Emphasis on Mahayana Buddhism.
5800 Prescott Rd., Soquel (831/462-8383)

Mount Madonna Center--Retreat devoted to the practice of Karma Yoga, follows the teachings of Baba Hari Dass.
445 Summit Rd., Watsonville (831/847-0406)

St. Clare's Retreat House--Christian Retreat emphasizing quiet contemplation.
2381 Laurel Glen Rd., Soquel (831/423-8093)

Taungpulu Kaba Aye Monastery--Follows and teaches Theravada Buddhism.
18335 Big Basin Hwy, Boulder Creek (831/338-4050)

Vajrayana Foundation--Retreat and teaching centers and art institute devoted to Vajrayana Buddhism and preservation of Tibetan sacred arts.
2013 Eureka Canyon Rd., Corralitos (831/761-6266)

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From the September 24-30, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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