WatchSonoma Watch

Buddhist printing press wins OK to expand operations


A Buddhist retreat in the coastal hills of northwest Sonoma County will be allowed to expand its printing of Tibetan texts, which is considered a religious practice, under a new use permit approved Thursday.

The printing press building flanked by two of the four temporary book "Sacred Treasuries" at the Ratna Ling Retreat center on the ridge above Timber Cove. (John Burgess/PD)

One of the conditions, however, is that the fire marshal is to inspect the four text storage facilities to correct any fire hazards, and that the retreat must adhere to any recommendations that are made.

“We will do everything we can to protect the texts,” said Gene Gretchen, director of the Ratna Ling Retreat Center, emphasizing that the texts are considered sacred. “This is not storing commercial texts, we will do whatever we need to do.”

The printing operation at Ratna Ling, which was established in 2004 at the site of the former Timberhill Resort, has been allowed by the county Board of Zoning Adjustments as a religious practice and an accessory to the retreat.

“That was absolutely integral to approving it, it is ancillary to their religion,” said board Chairman Tom Lynch.

Residents of the Seaview Ridge area above Salt Point State Park, however, are still concerned over how production has increased over the years and the fire hazard they believe the text storage poses.

“Whether the books are sacred or not, they are still books, they are still paper and they still burn,” said Carolyne Singer, spokeswoman for Coastal Hills Rural Preservation, which is made up of area ranchers and landowners.

The retreat center, established when the Berkeley-based Tibetan Nyingma Meditation Centers bought Timberhill Resort, is an annex to Odiyan, a Buddhist monastery in the hills nearby that was founded by Tarthang Tulku, an exiled Tibetan lama, in 1975.

Soon after Ratna Ling was founded, it received county approval to move Dharma Press, its book-publishing operation, from Berkeley to the property.

The facility prints Tibetan-language texts that are meant to be distributed free to Buddhist monasteries in the Himalaya region. The books were destroyed by Chinese Communists between 1959 and 1961 as part of the Cultural Revolution.

The printing facility, hidden from the view off Hauser Bridge Road, is half the size of a football field and has six modern and old presses that turn out about 100,000 texts a year.

At times, production hit 300,000, exceeding what the county had permitted in 2006.

The county board, which is part of the planning agency and makes decisions on permit applications and zoning variances, is now restricting the retreat to one 24-foot truck a day. Retreat officials have said that will allow some expansion of the current operation.

The board also approved a new dormitory, seasonal campground and increase in the retreat capacity to 122 and the number of printing plant workers to 94.

Mike Singer, chief of the Timber Cove Fire Department, raised a concern that the conversion of the four large tents from temporary text storage to permanent storage, with texts stacked more than 12 feet high, created a fire danger.

“We are all volunteers, the station is unmanned and we wouldn’t get there until at least 15 minutes,” Singer said. “We are not equipped or trained to fight high-pile storage fires.”

The board included in the new permit the requirement that the storage facilities be inspected and Ratna Ling enact any necessary safety measures.

5 Responses to “Buddhist printing press wins OK to expand operations”

  1. linneac says:

    My message is to the Non-Delusional One who commented: “Furthermore these “teachings” are from delusional yuppie interpreters of Buddha and their operations are pathetic distractions from the Buddhas Dharma.”

    The printings include the Kanjur and the Tanjur, which are the direct teachings of the Buddha and commentary on the teachings. All works that are published at Dharma Publishing are selected by a high Tibetan Lama, an incarnate who received his training in Tibet. What is the lineage and training of the Non-Delusional one?

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  2. NonDelusional One says:

    Buddha would be appalled at these minions describing his teachings as “religion”. Furthermore these “teachings” are from delusional yuppie interpreters of Buddha and their operations are pathetic distractions from the Buddhas Dharma.

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  3. Don Jaime says:

    If the amount of books becomes a fire hazard, maybe they could rent some warehouse space in Healdsburg, Windsor, Santa Rosa, Berkeley or Oakland. According to the group’s spokesperson, the books will be shipped to Tibet. Might as well get them near the airport.

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  4. GAJ says:

    I’ve been to the facility and it never felt crowded, never felt like a commercial facility so they are doing an excellent job of trying to do their work without disturbing others.

    Very peaceful place and it sounds like they are doing important work for their people.

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  5. Steveguy says:

    Paper burns ? So do trees. Leave everybody alone you busybody weirdos.

    No work anywhere in rural areas seems to be the mantra of our Government. They even want the roads to crumble to further their aims.

    Any money made by anyone is bad, unless you work for the Government and can snag a $250 K a year retirement. Then you are a ‘chosen’ one, and the underlings will never whistle-blow on their bosses.

    No more production, only repressive Government jobs allowed. And we will eliminate them eventually, it’s all a matter of time and money and discontent.

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