Donald A. Belt Ph.D., visionary developer and hardworking head of The Hollister Japanese Temple Garden project has died.
Dr. Belt, a long time audiologist in Hollister, crossed over peacefully on April 18th in his home on Riverside Road. Members of his family were present with him. Dr. Belt was 85.
The great project that he began late in life remains unfinished but he has left a master plan for his son David that will serve to assure the project will keep moving forward. Carpenters and roofers from Japan were finishing the roof of the Temple in the classic and ancient style of such buildings in Japan as Dr. Belt lay dying. Their incredibly beautiful work is now finished.
The following are Dr. Belt’s own words about his project written in 2005;
“The inspiration for a Japanese Temple garden first began for me while living near Hiroshima Japan in 1957 and 1958. In the spring, the profusion of colorful cherry blossoms were to be seen everywhere, from back yards to the streets, parks and playgrounds and even the mountains. In Japan, cherry blossom time is celebrated with picnics which abound. Then there is the awesome architecture of wooden buildings; temples with enormous majestic tile roofs, three, five and seven storied pagodas and elaborate entry gates to homes, gardens, temples and parks.
I saw incredible gardens awash with various conifers, robust azaleas and magnificent chrysanthemums. There were Koi ponds lined with interesting stones, rocks and boulders. Ornate granite lanterns were a common sight etc., etc. I really cannot adequately describe the beauty of the many gardens that I experienced in Japan but I dreamed about building a garden here in America for many years, that I could enjoy and share with others.
Since I have lived in Hollister for many years and since there is no Japanese garden represented in this area I wanted to create a permanent garden in this community, open to the public as opposed to a private garden. If there is interest from the public and we get the support of the powers that be, we shall build a garden which will be open to the public.
The HJTG is incorporated in state of California as a religious corporation. … We [were] formally affiliated as a sub temple with the ancient Shingon Buddhist religion.”
[That affiliation has changed over time. The Temple is now more closely affiliated with Soto Zen in general and particularly with the staffs of both the Santa Cruz and Monterey Zen Centers. Soto Zen was established in Japan by Dogen Zenji in 1244 C.E. and is the most widely practiced Zen sect in Japan. Eiheiji is one of two main Temples of Soto Zen in Japan and is located near the city of Fukui].
“The Japanese name for the HJTG is Shinsen-in, translated as ‘Sacred Waters’. The long term goals of HJTG are these:
-Develop a maintenance and pruning program for the trees and shrubs and gardens of the HJTG.
-Develop a program of traditional Japanese events which might include music (koto, shakuhachi, taiko, shamisen, ‘shigin’ (singing poem), etc.), the arts (tea ceremony, ikebana, plays and martial arts), and spiritual activities such as chanting and storytelling [meditation and classes in Buddhism] which can be enjoyed by the public.
-Develop a regular visitor program for the public at large.
-The HJTG hopes to become one of the finest Japanese gardens in North America.”
In addition Dr. Belt has built a convocation center which will be available for rent to any group, religious or secular, that wishes to foster peace, health and understanding in the world.
There is also a large koi pond completed, a Torii gate, a monk’s residence and a garden design which will include statuary and a giant bell hanging in its own open air building.
A Memorial service and Zen Buddhist ceremony will be held at 920 Riverside Road, Hollister on Saturday, July 20 at 4 p.m.
Direct further inquiries to:
Kim Varner Lopez