Local street to be renamed in honor of Buddhist teachings

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Berkeley will be saying goodbye to Harold Way and introducing Dharma Way, depending on the outcome of Tuesday’s Berkeley City Council meeting.

Harold Way will officially become Dharma Way on June 28 with a ribbon cutting ceremony if the change is approved by the council, following an initiative led by the Tibetan Nyingma Meditation Center.

The center, a non-profit organization that seeks to preserve Tibetan Buddhist culture and owns three properties on the west side of the street, began to contact the city in hopes of changing the name in April 2011.

The center owns Dharma College, Dharma Publishing Bookstore and Mangalam Centers. To keep up with their own theme of Tibetan culture the new street name reflects the beliefs of the center.

“We greatly appreciate the city council for considering the change, it further helps us put the Dharma teachings in the public,” Co-Director of Dharma College Robin Caton said.

The center began the street renaming process by gaining signatures from more than half the residents on the street favoring the change. According to the council documents of the name change, all of the residents signed in favor of the change.

After about a year of going through the process with the council and writing an $800 check for materials and maintenance, the center will now finally be able to unveil the new street and introduce Dharma Way to Berkeley.

City spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross said the process of changing a street name is easily laid out.

“The process to change a street name is fairly straightforward,” Clunies-Ross said. “The (center) completed every step and once the council votes on the matter the street name will be determined.”

Dharma is a Sanskrit term for the truth, reality and natural order of things. Dharma is used in all religions of Indic origin such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

Harold Way was named after Harold Woolsey, the grandson of Francis K. Shattuck. While some believe it represents Berkeley history, others feel that Dharma would provide a piece of culture to the street in honor of the Tibetan preservation.

“There’s an incredible amount of religious diversity in Berkeley including a high number of Buddhists so I think it’s a sweet name for that street,” Worthington said.

Worthington said that he doesn’t think there’s a logical basis for the city to keep names of streets that have been there for decades, except for the obvious few.

Robin Caton, co-director of Dharma College — the center’s teaching institution — said that she hopes to bring awareness of the Tibetan culture and Dharma teachings to Berkeley.

“We feel that it is important to show that we as an organization are committed to the community and show the revitalization of the culture for the future,” said Caton.

In addition to renaming the street, Dharma College is offering free art tours, open houses and lectures throughout the summer to further enlighten the public about the Dharma teachings.

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  • I_h8_disqus

    I would be curious to find out how many on the council support the idea that separation of church and state would mean that we should remove religious phrases from public buildings, remove religious symbols from parks, and eliminate prayer from before public meetings? I am just so used to people in Berkeley arguing that government should not have anything Judeo/Christian, that it is actually surprising to me that they are going to rename a street with the specific purpose of endorsing the spread of Buddhism. Where is the ACLU while all this is happening?

    • Guest

      It’s a good point that religions other than Christianity are given a free pass. Sort of a double standard going on there. However, I think buddhism is generally regarded as a way of life rather than a religion in the sense of the three major Western ones – Christianity, Judaism, Islam.

      That being said, I think Islam is often given more of a free pass than Judaism and Christianity because it is, to Western eyes, seemingly more of a cultural thing than a religious thing.

      • I_h8_disqus

        Too bad people don’t look at the rest of the world. Buddhism is the state religion for Cambodia and Laos among a couple other countries. Islam is the state religion of about two dozen countries. If we didn’t refer to them as religions in those countries and several others, we would be in trouble.

        • Wall of Separation Fan

          The idea that Buddhism’s a way of life, rather than a religion, is strictly Western. It’s a way of making it more appealing to potential American and European converts who are disillusioned with the Big Three.

          In the parts of the world where Buddhism has a longer history, they’re don’t waffle on this issue — it’s a religion. And Tibetan Buddhism? Good grief. It merrily incorporates all kinds of folk deities left over from the pre-Buddhist period.

          Renaming Harold Way “Dharma Way” because a Buddhist institution has bought up that block is no different from renaming LeConte Ave. “Holy Sacrament Ave,” or Ridge Road “Sola Scriptura Road.” Luckily, the GTU seminaries don’t seem to feel any need to promote their religious beliefs by rewriting Berkeley history.

          • Like anyone connected with GTU believes in Sola Scriptura anyway. :)

    • Matthew Weber

      Yeah, I’m just sitting on my hands here waiting for Lorina St to be renamed Corpus Christi Ave.