Discussion:
Odiyan: A Forgotten Scandal?
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5***@gmail.com
2014-04-09 08:43:21 UTC
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This group is a cult. When I came from the EAST COAST to stay with them I realized that there was something very fishy about the publishing company. They were situated in a secret building in Berkeley. NO STRAIGHT FORWARD BUDDHIST GROUP would use SECRECY in this way UNLESS they have something to HIDE. I know what they are hiding, but I am not going to reveal it here, because it is basically sad and pathetic. When you find secrecy, deception and bizarre behaviors in any group---RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN to get away from it. BIZARRE CULTS exist in many religions. But Buddhism is particularly open to this because of the lack of central authority. Publishing books is good. Running an organization like the CIA is the work of paranoid and disturbed individuals.
5***@gmail.com
2014-04-09 08:53:28 UTC
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This group is a sad and pathetic cult group. There is no transparency, and their press is a mismanaged mess of a company. Working there is bizarre-there is no clear management and no clear purpose to a lot of what they are doing. They did produce an incredible run of the Tanjur/Kanjur in 108 beautiful volumes. What actually happened with this production is unclear. If this was a legitimate group, they would openly publish their activities and financials and have a board of directors to oversee their work. Moving the press into the country is bizarre and not what a real Buddhist organization with sensitivity to the environment would do. ANY GROUP THAT DISPLAYS GREAT SECRECY AND PARANOIA IS ONE THAT ANY SENSIBLE PERSON SHOULD AVOID. EXCESSIVE PARANOIA IS A SIGN OF MENTAL DISEASE AND IS NOT BUDDHIST.
Back in 1991, as work on Tarthang Tulku's Northern California
retreat center Odiyan was entering its final stages, I became aware
of stories that a group of Tibetans had "escaped" from there. The
group, which apparently included at least one tulku and some other
religious figures, had been kept there--according to the stories--
in very poor conditions and had been made to work long hours on
construction and other tasks. Finally, they climbed the fence at
Odiyan, wandered on to one of the California highways, and made
their way to the Oregon center of Gyatrul Rinpoche and to several
other places where they were looked after.
I forgot all about this story until just recently, when I spoke to a
friend in Canada who told me that she had met and spoken to one of
these Tibetans, who had told her: "Getting away from Odiyan was
like escaping from the Chinese all over again!"
I have no idea what the truth of this story really is. Does anyone
know any details? Is anyone sure of what happened there?
- Rick Finney
a***@gmail.com
2015-02-19 05:23:09 UTC
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Back in 1991, as work on Tarthang Tulku's Northern California
retreat center Odiyan was entering its final stages, I became aware
of stories that a group of Tibetans had "escaped" from there. The
group, which apparently included at least one tulku and some other
religious figures, had been kept there--according to the stories--
in very poor conditions and had been made to work long hours on
construction and other tasks. Finally, they climbed the fence at
Odiyan, wandered on to one of the California highways, and made
their way to the Oregon center of Gyatrul Rinpoche and to several
other places where they were looked after.
I forgot all about this story until just recently, when I spoke to a
friend in Canada who told me that she had met and spoken to one of
these Tibetans, who had told her: "Getting away from Odiyan was
like escaping from the Chinese all over again!"
I have no idea what the truth of this story really is. Does anyone
know any details? Is anyone sure of what happened there?
- Rick Finn
8' razor wire topped electrical fences and Buddhism seem contradictory to me
s***@gmail.com
2015-07-25 22:59:04 UTC
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This whole subject is complete horse stuff. I worked at Odiyan from 1979 thru 1995 and basically nothing said in this comment thread is true. Odyian was (and still is?) a major heavy duty construction site. Like most such sites it is closed to the public. Because funds were always an issue living conditions were very spartan. As the title and substance of the book 'Skillful Means' imply work as a spiritual endeavor is very important in this lineage. People were there to work and work on their inner spiritual issues. And nobody got to be 'special' and not have to work. In fact the higher you rise the more responsibility you have and the more work you have to do. My guess is that the South American friend mentioned above thought is donation of money would earn him some kind of reprieve from the daily work load. It just doesn't work that way. If you don't want to work hard for long hours you shouldn't be there.

There were rules about who could be there and what they could do while they were there. People were asked to commit to stay there and work for a certain amount of time. Given the amount of training that had to take place before one was a productive member of a team this does not seem unreasonable to me. I know from my own personal experience that people could an did leave whenever they wanted to. There was no need to go over a fence at night when you could simply walk or drive out of the front gate anytime during the day.

Tarthang Tulku is one of the many recognized representatives of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism which is the oldest of the various lineages and which, until recently, had no Head Lama or Leader. All most all of the Tanjur/Kanjur sets were distributed to Tibetan schools in India. They were meant to help continue the lineage which means they were not destined for Amazon or Barnes & Nobel and the set is not available in the US. Printing the set took a tremendous amount of effort (thousands or tens of thousands of hours) and a great deal of money and it produced no income at all. So if you really want to see one go to India and join a Tibetan monastery and start studying Buddhism. Eventually you may be introduced to the Tanjur/Kanjur set.

Other parts of Tarthang Tulku's work include:
1. the very public Nyingma Institute in Berkeley, CA.,
2. Dharma Publishing which publishes at least 150 books & calendars that range from translated religious texts to cookbooks to children's books and more,
3. Ratna Ling and the Yeshe-De, Tibetan Aid Project. Much of the work of Ratna Ling and Yeshe-De has to do with the translation and preservation of the ancient texts which are of great importance of in the Nyingma Lineage and are not for the casual perusal by just anyone.

If you are really interested join the program, learn Tibetan and expect to work long and hard. Nyingma and Odyian are in no way a cult. They certainly don't hold people against their will and they do a great deal of good. At least if you're in favor of Tibetan Buddhism remaining a living tradition and effecting the world.

Steve Polkow
r***@gmail.com
2016-01-20 03:26:48 UTC
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Odiyan is not a cult. It is hard ass work in attempt to save a the dharma which was forced out of Tibet. I stayed and worked there on Cinttamani temple for 7 months in 2003-2004. It was 12 hour days off tough work helping to pour bronze stautues, working in lost wax casting and assorted other jobs. It is an experience that has helped me profoundly. If you want to go and sit and meditate, it is probably not for you. If you want to be part of building something that helps build and maintain the dharma in the world and don't mind busting your ass, then it might be. When I wanted to leave after my commitment was up, I did get the hard sell from Rinpoche, who was trying to finish the temple within a planned schedule and wanted to keep hard workers familiar with the work rather than retrain new ones. When I made it clear that I was not staying, no one was anything but friendly and appreciative for the work I had put in. There are many Buddhist lessons to be learned, but you do have to search them out rather than be spoon fed. I returned a year later and actually got kicked out for having a couple drinks at a bar on Halloween after they had made new rules because some clowns got into a drunk driving accident and then got rolled by some Pomo Native Americans on meth when they tried to walk back to Odiyan. I have nothing but affection though for the place in all its striving imperfection. The crew of people I met there was very diverse (personality wise if not really racially) and too individualistic to be a bunch of cult members. I am actually writing about my time there now, which is how I happened on this thread. I'm an inner city teacher now in Hartford CT and use many of the lessons I learned at Odiyan on a daily basis to maintain equinamity in the face of a difficult and challenging, but worthwhile and important work environment.
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