Leader of Buddhist group sees problems continuing in and around Amsterdam

Roughly 100 people crowded into the banquet room at the America’s Best Value Inn hotel to listen to

Roughly 100 people crowded into the banquet room at the America’s Best Value Inn hotel to listen to Buddhist Master Ziguang Shang Shi at the start of a preaching convention Thursday.

But despite his words of peace and health, it appeared his organization’s optimism about its future in the area is becoming clouded following incidents of vandalism, theft and trespassing.

Guests traveled in from Hong Kong and several provinces of mainland China, some of them scurrying into the room late with their luggage in hand, all of them eager to listen to the master outline the group’s plans for the city of Amsterdam.

They mingled with monks and other members of Ziguang Shang Shi’s World Peace and Health Organization, which espouses a formerly secret form of yoga, the Guang Huan Mi Zong Health Dharma, which they believe helps people channel positive energy and improve their health.

But Ziguang Shang Shi, while fielding questions from the media, said investors — friends and followers who have been sending money to buy buildings to support his cause — are pulling back as they wait to see if their holy master will stay in the city.

These investors and supporters paid for the 48 buildings the Buddhists purchased at the city’s property auction, only to learn that in some cases the buildings had been stripped of copper plumbing, had collapsing roofs, and were strewn with feces from squatters.

The investors have learned several statues were stolen and defaced from one of the former Roman Catholic churches the group purchased in the city — St. Casimir’s on East Main Street, which the Buddhists re-named the Five Buddha Temple.

The Buddhist master, through an interpreter, suggested that the plans for the properties already purchased remain in place, but cast doubt any further purchases.

Also Thursday, Ziguang Shang Shi informed the group that despite formal letters and requests to authorities in the town of Ephratah, a farmer continues to tap maple trees on property they purchased there.

Investors joined the Buddhists to visit the 200-plus acre property off Hart Road, formerly the Adirondack Center, a retreat site the WPHO bought earlier this year.

When they arrived, they found signs asking people to stop trespassing were torn down, and new maple syrup taps appeared to be fitted to the trees near the entrance.

Ziguang Shang Shi said the group has plans for development on the site, but he said he is troubled because the taps are “taking energy from the trees,” he said through an interpreter.

The tapping affects the environment there, he said, and affects the whole scenery of the place.

The trees are fitted with taps that are in turn connected to tubing stretching from one tree to another leading to tanks to collect the sap.

Farmer Arthur Popp, of the ALP Farm on Murray Hill Road, told The Gazette later Thursday he intends to have the maple syrup gear off the property by Nov. 1.

The generations-old farm has been tapping trees in that area for 43 years, and Popp said he’s had permission to do so.

But it’s the busy harvesting season right now, he said, and he’s been unable to remove the gear immediately.

Popp said the Indians were tapping these trees before the English ever showed up, so he doesn’t understand why the Buddhists believe it affects the trees’ health.

He said he’s been visited by people including the Ephratah town supervisor and a state Department of Environmental Conservation officer, all responding to the Buddhists’ request that the tapping end.

Popp said people should be more concerned with the Buddhist’s plans to develop Chinese-style buildings on the site than tree tapping.

Meanwhile, sources say the property has been a longstanding hunting area for locals. The Buddhists want the animal killing to stop on their property, as well.

There is a deer hunting stand in the middle of the woods to the northwest of the property’s buildings, and the Buddhists want to remove that.

Categories: Schenectady County

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