The Shakyamuni Buddha Statue was built by many kiwi volunteers under the guidance of the resident teachers, Venerable Lama Samten and Venerable Lama Shedrup, to fulfill the wishes of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. The eyes were opened in 1992 and it was consecrated by His Holiness Dalai Lama and subsequently blessed by many high lamas including His Holiness Sakya Trizin, head of the Sakya lineage. At 7 m /25 ft tall, it is the largest Buddha Statue in the southern hemisphere. It has just been restored and repainted.
History of the Buddha Statue Plans for the Buddha statue were developed by Ven. Lama Karma Thinley (the first teacher at Karma Choeling) after the first stupa was finished in 1980. After receiving these instructions from Lama Thinley, William Hursthouse, who built the stupa, went on to an interview with HH 16th Karmapa and told him of the plans. His Holiness looked at William with great seriousness and asked if the plans were definite. In that instant William was forced to commit himself to the project and as a result the Karmapa arranged for him to receive a small Buddha Statue, hand made by himself, to go inside the Karma Choeling statue. When the translator handed it over to William he spoke sternly, saying 'you have no idea how fortunate you are to get this little statue, it is very rare to get one of these'. William returned full of enthusiasm, but had to wait until 1988 before work started on the Buddha Statue, as Ven. Lama Samten the new resident teacher wanted the temple built first. The main work was finished in 1992, and for some years the statue remained black until Lama Samten procured gold paint and refined the contours of the face in 1996.