Monday, March 09, 2009

The Lost Stupa of Albuquerque


Ah, yes... the Legend of the Lost Stupa...

I have been hearing about this one for years, so I decided to do some research.

Apparently, during the 1980s, Harold Cohen and Ariane Emery set out to build a stupa and temple on their land, which was located near the visitor's center at Petrogylph National Monument. They got as far as the stupa, which was consecrated in 1989 by Lama Rinchen Thuntsok.

Thereafter, for reasons which are not entirely clear to me, the National Park Service essentially exercised eminent domain and, despite an epic and costly legal holding action by Cohen and Emory -- which consumed everything they had or would have -- the Park Service prevailed. There were also rumors of some fundamentalist Christian involvement.

As you see from the above photograph, the United States Government has not been kind to this stupa. What is this? "In God We Trust," but leave the Tibetan Buddhist stupa to rot away out in the middle of a rubbish-strewn field? What is this? Grab the land so Muffy and Buffy can see the Indian writing, and then turn around and ignore the original energy? The fundamental energy? I was not born the way I was born nor did I live the way I have lived to let this class of bullshit just pass by unremarked.

Naughty Smokey! Naughty!

Well, that was 1989, and now we are in 2009, and regardless of your personal politics, Nancy Peliosi and the distinguished former Mayor of the City of San Francisco, now U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein are in Washington, D.C., and H.H. the XIVth Dalai Lama's likeness is on the face of a Congressional Medal.

I bet if we all get together and write to Speaker of the House Peliosi and Senator Feinstein, the Park Service might sit up and take notice.

After all, Senator Feinstein's husband, Richard Blum, is out saving stupas in the Himalayas, so you would think his wife might be able to save a stupa in New Mexico.

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5 reader comments:

Anonymous said...

I live near this stupa. It was really an incredibly sad story what happened to it and the people that built it. However, the field around it looking like a wasteland, that is the natural appearance of this landscape here at the West Mesa. Part of the Park Service duty is to maintain or restore the natural environment and this is indeed a desert. Some deserts are pretty to some eyes and some deserts are not.

I have visited the stupa several times and every time I have visited it, someone has lovingly tended it (not the Park Service, I can assure you, but local Buddhists.) I myself have placed offerings there and reset statues that have been blown down by the wind. It can get extremely windy here especially in the spring. I have heard from a local Buddhist that it was a conservative senator, Senator Domenici, who interceded to ask that the stupa remain rather than get torn down. My acquaintance claims that Senator Domenici is the only reason that the stupa is still there. Or I should say all the folks that pestered him to intercede.

Things are generally more complicated than they appear at first. Because I live nearby, I will go out there more frequently to place offerings and clean it. But planting shrubberies and such? No, they will likely not thrive due to the decisions of Mother Nature around these here parts.

May the Buddha Dharma flourish and spread!

Editor said...

I could discourse at some considerable length about the benefits of tending to a stupa... I could give you a dozen citations to texts in which said benefits are enumerated and discussed... but all I am going to do right now is say, "Thank You," and let you know that people all around the world respect you for what you have done, and are doing, and it doesn't matter if you are Buddhist or not!

Well, I love the deserts -- so much that I write prayers for them -- so the desert is beautiful to me. I am just so thankful that you are around out there ... all it takes is one good heart.

If I can ever do anything for you, all you have to do is let me know. Thousands of people visit this site, and you can bet their prayers are with you.

Drums of Dharma said...

I grew up in Albuquerque and Santa Fe but have since relocated to Phoenix, AZ. Ever since I saw my first stupa, I've been fascinated with them. Stupas are my main motivation for pursuing a degree in architecture. It's really too bad that i moved out the of the area, I would love to visit this site and make circumambulations and offerings. Maybe someone can organize a team to whitewash the stupa and do a little upkeep?

Thanks for the articles! Great blog.

Anonymous said...

You mention that Lama Rinchen Thuntsok consecrated the stupa. I know of a Lama Richen Phuntsok, a venerable Lama trained by HH Dudjom Rimpoche, who also teaches in America but has a home in Nepal. Is this the same Lama?

Thanks ...

Anonymous said...

This group sent out the below press release today. I hope you will use it to generate even more public outcry to the NPS to save the stupa.

Please counteract any negative results that come from this release by reaching out to your community and urging renewed calls to NPS officials that they preserve the stupa.

Contrary to the claims of PEER, I would suggest that anyone contacting the NPS remind them that many of the petroglyphs that the Park protects also have a religious purpose, and that the stupa does in fact have an important historic purpose as it was on the land when the land was seized.

I'm so sorry about what the Buddhist community, and the owners of the land and stupa have had to go through. I will do what I can to ensure that the stupa is preserved.