Trouble at the monastery

Having completed the “data gathering” (really a close reading) phase of my pilot study, I needed to clear my head and went for a drive. This habit is becoming increasingly frustrating; gas is much more expensive than it used to be and my finances are much more dismal than they used to be and so my range is increasingly limited, which means I’m treading the same territory over and over again.

Today, I decided to drive up by Odiyan, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in northwest Sonoma County, where I volunteered for about eight months roughly twenty years ago at an even lower point in my life than the one I’m going through now. I never met the Rinpoche, Tarthang Tulku, but the people I worked with were very nice. I left there hoping, however, that they would forgive themselves enough to work less than every waking minute (as a volunteer, my hours were shorter, but still long; had I stayed, I would have had to start working as long as they did).

Tarthang Tulku, it must be said, is something of a megalomaniac and not always, I think, sufficiently appreciative of the people who have devoted their lives to his vision. At that time, Odiyan was under intensive construction, and its development has continued since. But it seemed like Odiyan was getting along with its neighbors.

Today, as I drove up, I saw a number of signs—they were ubiquituous in fact—protesting Tarthang Tulku’s Dharma Publishing operation at Ratna Ling, a facility that wasn’t there when I was at Odiyan, as an “industrial printer” in a rural space. It has won approval from the county to expand.[1]

I also noticed a sign warning of logging trucks, which apparently drew no protest. I found that odd. I lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains when the water company proposed to allow logging on its watershed lands. The logging company intended to run several trucks a day over roads in considerably better condition than those in northwest Sonoma County and to lift some logs out by helicopter, in close proximity to schools and residences. I witnessed a rather vociferous protest that ultimately prevailed when someone found that the proposal was in violation of a regulation and therefore could not be approved.

So it struck me that Dharma Publishing’s trucks in northwest Sonoma County would be much less of a hassle than the logging trucks that apparently drew no protest whatsoever. But I guess the neighbors don’t see it that way. I drove past Ratna Ling to Odiyan and noticed the latter is now protected with concertina barbed wire and an electrified fence.

  1. [1]Bob Norberg, “Buddhist printing press wins OK to expand operations,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, June 7, 2012,

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