In Black Rock City, amid the joyous cacophony of sights and sounds, a lone building rises out of the deep playa in quiet contrast. Welcome to the Temple: a gathering spot for those seeking solace and respite during Burning Man. Part of the beauty of the Temple is that it is a sanctuary for all, no matter your religion, spiritual inclination, or lack thereof. It is where people come together on the playa to honor what is important to them and to their community.
History of the Temple
The first Temple on the playa was created in 2000 when David Best and Jack Haye brought the Temple of the Mind. When their friend and fellow builder Michael Hefflin tragically died in a motorcycle accident, the Temple of the Mind became a memorial to him. Fellow participants at the event quickly began leaving remembrances of their loved ones as well, and the first Burning Man Temple was born. In 2001 the Temple of Tears, another temple created by David and Jack, was brought to the playa, creating an annual tradition that has become a fundamental part of Burning Man ever since.
Meaning of the Temple to the Burning Man Community
The Temple is a community shared space that is an important part of Black Rock City. It is not a temple in recognition of any religion; it’s a neutral, non-denominational spiritual space where everyone can gather to share in the experience of remembering the past, honoring or cursing the present, and pondering the future to come. The Temple is not fixed around one concept, belief or theme. It is an inclusive safe space for all Burners. Some will gather in pairs or groups, others will sit alone in silence. And yet, in the Temple, no one is ever alone.
Building the Temple is not simply about building a large art project at Burning Man. It’s about community. It’s about finding that place inside us where we can take the time to be introspective, to grieve and to honor those who have been lost to us. It’s a safe space where Burners are invited to find and feel love, joy, sadness, anger, fear and any emotion that rises to the surface. The Temple is a place where we all allow each other to do what we need to do and to truly be ourselves.
When the Temple opens, it’s a clean slate. By the end of the event, every inch is covered with photos, inscriptions, art, small mementos and even the ashes of loved ones left by participants. The Temple is one of the most important places on the playa for Burners and many find catharsis there.
There is only one official ritual in the Temple, and that is to burn it. On Sunday night of the event, with thousands of participants as witnesses, the Temple is burned in silence.
Building the Temple
One of the most important aspects of building the Temple is to remember that while the design initially comes from the artist’s vision and the builders’ sweat and tears, once it is built it belongs to the community.
If you want to learn more about the history, significance and what it’s like to build the Temple we suggest you read the essay by John ‘Moze’ Mosbaugh called Building the Temple.
If you are interested in applying for a Temple Grant, see our submission guidelines.