Neighborhood Buddhist Shrines, Oakland, CA

Credit: greenkozi

Credit: greenkozi

There is a Buddhist shrine at the intersection of East 19th St and 11th Ave in Oakland, California. A man named Dan Stevenson originally installed the Buddha statue in 2009 “as an experiment to see if we could change the energy of our corner divide and keep the garbage and mattresses from being dumped there constantly.” Writing in June 2012, Stevenson described the gradual change in the area around the shrine:

The Buddha sat there for several months and slowly we noticed slight changes in the garbage environment. The garbage and mattresses didn’t stop arriving but the dumping occurred on the other end of the street divide from where Buddha sat. Buddha just sat there and never said a word. Within the first year the graffiti was reduced by 50% and the drug and urination problem was lessened as well. And all the Buddha did was sit there.

It was well into the second year that someone painted the Buddha a beautiful soft white and a short time after that offerings started to appear. At first, oranges and pears. Then flowers and candy. And then large flower arrangements and bowls of fruit and finally the incense. For a long time I did not see anyone bringing the offerings. They just appeared. Along with all this new activity the area continued to change and the illegal dumping all but disappeared. Many neighbors started to pick up and clean the area more. And due to people being present at different times of the day the drug and urination problem ended. Buddha just sat there saying not a word.

As time passed the immediate neighbors and extended neighborhood tended to stop and view the Buddha. Whether they were walking their dogs or taking an evening stroll they would stop and seem to ponder and many times get into conversations while viewing the Buddha. People talking to each other. The Buddha just continued to sit there and never saying a word.

About two months ago a Vietnamese fellow and his wife came to our door and asked if I would mind if he put a little house around the Buddha and I informed him that I had no issue with that and that he didn’t have to seek our permission because the Buddha we installed was a civic Buddha and didn’t belong to us but to the community.

East 19th and 11th

Before the shrine upgrade. Credit: Dan Stevenson

Also in 2012, “someone called the City Public Works Department to complain about its presence.” Stevenson’s story shows how well that was received:

It wasn’t more than five minutes from the time the Public Works supervisor pulled away in his new clean pick-up truck until I was on my computer asking for help from the neighbors and the community as a whole to help save the Buddha. There has been a remarkable outpouring of letters of heartfelt support asking for the Buddha to remain in his place undisturbed. The Public Works Department with the input of City Councilwoman Pat Kernighan, halted the dismantling of Buddha in order to “study the situation.”

Credit: greenkozi

Credit: greenkozi

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that since 2012, “crime statistics for the block radius around the statue” have decreased significantly:

Since 2012, when worshipers began showing up for daily prayers, overall year-to-date crime has dropped by 82 percent. Robbery reports went from 14 to three, aggravated assaults from five to zero, burglaries from eight to four, narcotics from three to none, and prostitution from three to none.

The Chronicle reports that “To this day, every morning at 7, worshipers ring a chime, clang a bell and play soft music as they chant morning prayers.” According to the shrine’s Oakland Wiki page, “Every Saturday morning the shrine is cleaned and new offerings are provided. In the morning, you can often hear music coming from a small boom-box inside the shrine.”

Credit: greenkozi

Credit: greenkozi

Also, a few blocks away, at the intersection of 12th Ave and 20th St, there is a Quan Am Tu Shrine. Quan Âm is the Vietnamese name for the bodhissatva known as Guan Yin in Chinese and Avalokiteśvara in Sanskrit.


Credit: mk30

11 responses to “Neighborhood Buddhist Shrines, Oakland, CA

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