Robbery at a Buddhist center is a horrible thing, and it just happened at ours. A few weeks ago someone stole three thangka paintings from Sacred Studies (a building that houses many paintings, a beautiful shrine room with lots of light, and our library). Thangka means “record;” the thief took two thangkas of Padmasambava, and one of a Buddha, I forget which Buddha. One was worth ten thousand dollars, the others were several thousand apiece. Padmasambava is the bodhisattva who brought Buddhism to Tibet and Afghanistan. We only discovered the thangkas were missing a few days ago; sometimes they get moved for different events and ceremonies. Dorje Kasang called the local sheriff’s office, after a few days of internal investigation. The Kasang is our protection force, something like a neighborhood watch group with medical training, that also meditates together. The Rusung (the head of the Kasang) called the Larimer County Sheriff with an idea of who took them; yesterday we heard they caught the guy. He had come here on some meditation retreat two weeks ago; the paintings were found hanging in his house. We haven’t gotten them back yet, and there is the fear they might come back mangled in some way. When they do come home, we’ll probably do a lasang (a Tibetan purification sort of ritual) to cleanse them.
A few weeks before this happened, almost a month ago, someone stole my coworker’s new coat from a mud room, with his brand new camera inside. The person rifled through his things, leaving them thrown across the floor. Whoever took the winter coat and camera is long gone, and the whole situation is very crummy. Not even a dharma center is safe from theft and violation. We invite people to come here for retreats and programs, and trust they’ll respect us—lately this isn’t happening. I used to keep my ipod in our work office, but now it doesn’t feel so safe in there, so I take it home at night. It didn’t use to be like this here, from everyone I’ve talked to. I think maybe the bad elements are here because we’re too corporate, not discriminating enough in who comes to stay. Anyone who can pay can rent a building here (the guy who stole the paintings was here on a rental program), and these people generally don’t take their shoes off inside, despite repeated signs and pleading. Not only is this how it’s done in Eastern traditions, walking around at 9,000 feet tracks a lot of mud, rocks, and pine needles inside when you don’t take your boots off—and my department gets to clean it up, over and over.
Not sure how to tie this up, except to say I’m slightly jaded but still believe humans are basically good, which is a guiding tenet of Shambhala Buddhism.