Thursday, June 10, 2010

Albuquerque Stupa Update: It Is Official

Our reader, Alan Suits, reports as follows:
"I just had a quite pleasant call from Diane Sauter, superintendant/ director of Petroglyph Nat'l Monument. She assured me that there are no plans to raze-bulldoze-molest the stupa in any way . The construction workers on an amphitheater some 500' distant will be alerted about the stupa. She said she will have official remarks about this on their [petroglyph monument?] site within a few days. She also said she'd gotten word back from feds ( director of Parks Dept!) in Washington about the whole issue so apparently the emails- calls- letters did have good effect.
There's also going to be an article with pix in the Alb Journal within the next several days, maybe Sunday[?].
May this modest stupa continue to generate great benefit for all beings!"
This is Saga Dawa, and collectively, our readers, and the readers of the other Buddhist bloggers who picked up this story, have accomplished something of memorable significance. I believe it is important that we follow through on this, and remember to thank the elected representatives who assisted us, notably Representative Martin Heinrich, and his Legislative Director John Blair. We must also remember to thank the National Park Service for responding so quickly.

By the way: Ariane Emery (she built the stupa) now has her own site operational at  --

Ariane's site gives the local perspective and a good deal more history, including photos of the grand prayer wheel that was out there. I want to encourage people to follow the story on her site.

The merit associated with preserving, protecting, and securing a stupa is inconceivable to the human mind. May that merit be dedicated to the welfare of all sentient beings.

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13 reader comments:

Kyle Lovett said...

Excellent work man, thank you very much for bringing this to the Buddhist community!

TENPA said...

Thank you, Kyle. This worked because it was a collective effort to address a righteous issue. That it happened during Saga Dawa is, I think, most auspicious.

Anonymous said...

This is fantastic news. May all beings benefit!

Putting the stupa (or the land beneath it) into the hands of a nonprofit foundation would still be a good idea, of course, but at least there is no immediate threat.

Anonymous said...

Outstanding news. I'll post this on the facebook page.
In the mean time.
Stay vigilant.

GK Sandoval said...

This is very wonderful news!

For the benefit of all sentient beings. Namo Buddha.

Anonymous said...

Email I received today:

"To those interested in the Albuquerque Stupa:

We are aware that there is an unfounded rumor that the National Park Service plans to destroy the Buddhist Stupa located within the boundaries of Petroglyph National Monument. Such is not the case. While soils are being stockpiled nearby for the future construction of an amphitheater, the National Park Service has no plans for the Stupa. Had anyone contacted the
Superintendent of the park such misinformation would have been prevented.

Please share this information with others who have an interest in the
Albuquerque Stupa.

Joseph P. Sánchez, PhD
Petroglyph National Monument"

TENPA said...

I'll just tell it like it is, with no apologies...

Numerous people DID contact the park, and were basically refused information. I know, because I am one of the people who tried to cut through the circumlocution.

So, now that NPS is feeling the heat, there is some "spin" going on.

That is unfortunate.

It is much more useful at this point to reassure people, in writing and on the record, that this stupa is safe for all time. That way, we can all say "Thank You," and happily go about our business.

Kyle Lovett said...

While no one may have contacted Sanchez, even though I did try, certainly I did contact people at both the park and the HQ. The only response was "I don't know."

I find it odd, while 2 Christian Crosses get Presidential and Congressional intervention, us Buddhist who ask questions get a snarky response.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I think there is some retconning going on here.

They have also added a link to "Current Construction Projects" from the Petroglyph National Monument home page:

TENPA said...

Kyle, I do not believe the ink is dry on this one just yet.

The way I read it, and I could of course be wrong, is that the locals tried to pull a fast one when they thought nobody was looking.

Turns out somebody was looking.

Also turns out there was one honest ranger who answered the phone, said they were fixing to build an amphitheater, and in response to "Sounds great! What are you going to do with that white thing sticking up out there...that Buddhist thing," replied, "Oh, that's going to be all new parking out there. They're going to level all that off."

We'll see about that.

We break the story on June 3rd with a release date of June 4th and it almost immediately goes viral (I publish on Asian time). We both know from the logs that NPS was reading bright and early that morning, so they certainly know the score.

They watch and they wait for a week, to see which way the cat will jump, and now they are in spin mode, sweating the Albuquerque Journal article. Note carefully that for a week, nobody jumps up and says, "Wait a minute!" Nope... they watch and wait, and craft their spin.

Snarky? Most definitely. But, you know official Washington. This is fairly standard stuff. I'll take some in-coming snark if it saves a stupa. I'll take all the snark they can dish out, and then some, if it saves a stupa.

It is my impression the New Mexico congressional delegation has a very good idea right about now that Buddhists in New Mexico are an active, aware, and process-involved constituency that deserves fair dealing.

This country has to stick by its founding principles.

Kyle Lovett said...

Nevermind, here is the text of the article.

No Need for Alarm; Stupa Is Staying Put

By Leslie Linthicum
Journal Staff Writer
You'll find towering, white Tibetan Buddhist stupas in some surprising places in New Mexico — tucked up against the Latir Peak Wilderness in Taos County, rising high into the blue sky off Airport Road in Santa Fe, up in a meadow in the Zuni Mountains, stranded in the great open nothingness near Tres Orejas.
And as you tromp past a parking lot out on Albuquerque's far West Mesa, the volcanoes shimmering in the heat, you'll find another stupa. This one sits near a dirt pile, abandoned to the chamisa and sage, looking as out of place as a penguin at a Fourth of July parade.
A stupa, the representation of the enlightened Buddha, is believed to carry incalculable blessings to its builders, those who care for it, even the ants that might crawl across its wide, white base.
This one was built by Harold Cohen and Ariane Emery on property they owned and opened up to like-minded devotees. They sold their land after six years of less-than-happy negotiations with the federal government, and the place was swallowed up by the Petroglyph National Monument. That was back in 1996.
The United States government — you, me and everybody else — has owned the stupa ever since.
It's not identified by a marker, and I'll guess that it has befuddled more than a few petroglyph-seeking tourists who wonder what a concrete block with a copper top is doing off to the side of a national monument's parking lot.
Now that you know about the stupa's existence, let me assure you that it is in no danger, contrary to the reports of a handful of excited Buddhist bloggers (yes, that's what I said) who have written that the National Park Service plans to attack it with a bulldozer.
The alarm bell about the stupa and its possible endangerment has been tinkling out there in the Buddhist blogosphere for more than a year as the park moves forward with plans to build a new amphitheater. In the past few days, the worry level rose as dirt was seen piled near the stupa and a call was put out to demand that Congress save the stupa from the bulldozer's path.
It seemed for a few instants that New Mexico might have its own Mojave Desert Cross controversy. But monument Superintendent Joseph Sanchez tells me the stupa is safe today and tomorrow and as long as can be predicted. We live in a world of impermanence, after all.


Kyle Lovett said...

The amphitheater is staked out, and it has gone through a fairly involved environmental review under the federal National Environmental Policy Act. When it is built in the next year, the amphitheater will sit about 500 feet west of the stupa and will not affect it at all, Sanchez said. The construction will not cause the stupa to be disturbed or demolished.
"The answer is no, absolutely no," Sanchez said when he heard about the blogging rumor. "It's absolutely ridiculous. It's not even on the radar screen."
The dirt piled near the stupa came from reconstruction on a park parking lot and is being stored for use in building the amphitheater. The bulldozer that caused the alarm is similarly for that purpose.
The Petroglyph National Monument is a place where prehistoric rock art has been preserved and where a short hike reveals pictorial descriptions of how people lived here long before we did.
"The petroglyphs are a place of spirituality," says Sanchez, who has headed up the park for seven years. "And I and everyone else has felt that (the stupa) is perhaps another element of that spirituality."
So, while the park can't legally maintain the religious symbol (separation of church and state), it can respect it and that's what it's done. I think Sanchez is talking about karma.
Emery, who lives in Albuquerque and visits the stupa on occasion, said local Tibetan Buddhist groups maintain the stupa and make offerings there.
When I explained to her the reason for the dirt piles and the park's assurance that the stupa was safe, she said, "I'm so relieved to hear that."
In a ruling in May on a lawsuit challenging the cross that stands inside the Mojave National Preserve in California as a memorial to war veterans, the U.S. Supreme Court signaled a softening of restrictions on religious symbols on government lands.
In the principal opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that the cross, although a Christian symbol, was not placed to put a government "imprimatur on a particular creed."
It's interesting, and maybe we can flatter ourselves and say it's uniquely New Mexican, that the controversy here about a religious icon at a national monument concerns saving it, rather than removing it.
After all, a stupa on federal land doesn't stand out much in a state that boasts national monuments with, kivas (Pecos), the shrine of the Stone Lions (Bandelier) and Catholic missions (Salinas).
If you are moved to go visit the stupa, you'll find it by walking west from the restroom in the visitor parking lot. Walk around it in a clockwise direction and don't pick up the offerings left by others.
If you leave feeling good, Emery says, that's all that was intended when she built it.
"It's nonsectarian," Emery says. "Its blessings are for everyone."
UpFront is a daily front-page opinion column. Leslie Linthicum can be reached at 823-3914 or

Anonymous said...

This "controversy" has become such a source of anger and suspicion. There are self-identified Buddhists, paranoid Christians, and First Amendment defenders getting their hackles up, even making occasional threats.

I feel for the employees of the Park, just folks doing a pretty good job for a pretty good cause and trying to make a living. No matter what they do or say they are sure to anger someone and to be called liars by more than one group.

There are real issues at stake (and I can see it from more than one side). No matter whose side we are one, I wish we could all pursue our agendas with the love and respect that I see as at the heart of Buddhism