The Chico Dharma Study Group is basically a one time, but now for the most part, no longer operational, tax exempt, nonprofit educational organization that was dedicated toward the study and advancement of Buddhism. The Group was previously administrated by the late Dr. Peter Della Santina --- a highly recognized scholar, teacher and practitioner in the area of Buddhism and Buddhist Studies. Originally established as a vehicle for a number of Buddhism related efforts on the academic level, it was most readily a standard bearer for Dr. Santina's rather extensive online study course now titled Buddhism In Forty-Eight Chapters --- which initially appeared under the Group's auspices, but most recently carried, but no longer so as well, through the graceful services of the free online Dharma course Awakening 101.
NOTE: The complete original course as envisioned by Dr. Peter Della Santina has recently been made available online in a book-like format and can be found by going to the Buddhism In Forty-Eight Chapters link.
DR. PETER DELLA SANTINA:
Dr. Santina passed away suddenly on Saturday, October 14, 2006, in Penang, Malaysia. Prior to his death he had not been active with, nor had the Group been active, for many years. The last director or official contactee listed for the organization is the artist Jo Murphy. Two contact addresses, both listed a decade ago or so, are: 1381 Huggins Ave, Chico, CA 95926 and 26 Kirk Way, Chico, CA. 95928.
It was the wish of Dr. Santina that by offering Buddhism In Forty-Eight Chapters to the public through venues such as the Chico Dharma Study Group and Awakening 101, it would help to initiate a program whereby Buddhist Studies materials would be made available free of commercial considerations to students of Buddhism through a variety of media. The following almost biographical narrative on Dr. Satinia is by his son Siddhartha Della Santina:
DR. PETER DELLA SANTINA
Many of you who will read this will recognize Dr. Peter Della Santina rather as an instructor and guide, but probably you will know him also as a Buddhist scholar, and perhaps you will have encountered him first through one of his books. But of course he was not only this, he was also a husband, as my mother knew him.
Long ago many would know him as a Greco-roman wrestler during his high-school years in Connecticut, or as an avid fan of the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan at Wesleyan University. In India, he had long hair, wore beads and dressed in sandals and white kurta-pajamas. I never knew him like that, but equally uncharacteristically for the person he would later become, I knew him during a time when he shaved his beard, dressed in suits and ties, and wore calf leather shoes. In Italy, among the family friends he was known as a gifted cook, a great traveler and a gifted writer. Many of my friends have known him as a bantering philosopher late into the night. Various people variously knew him as Pete, Doc, Peter, Pietro, Peter C. Della Santina, Peter D. Santina, Peter Santina, in a particularly unfortunate corruption, Peter Dallas, and during a foray into fiction writing, Conrad Ellasan. I knew him as Dad. To each name there is attached a different person that I can distinctly recall. He was many things, to many people, at many times. If this sounds banal, in mythology the capacity to change forms is usually the reserve of Gods.
Some metamorphoses were particularly considerable. I was told that many of you would like to know how my father became blind. I had very little conception of my father being blind. He certainly did not act as if he was blind. To our exasperation he would have rather uncompromising opinions on what color to paint the house, and would not decline from playing ping-pong or football with me as a child. I think my first realization of my father’s blindness came by way of a classmate’s question: Your father is blind? Well, yes, clinically speaking. The result of Infantile Glaucoma, a relatively rare, and now easily treatable malformation that prohibits fluids within the eye from draining. The pressure caused thus leads to a progressive deterioration of sight, culminating in blindness, as it did with my father at the age of 11. He never spoke of it as a trauma or a loss, but quite to my astonishment, as a positive development, perhaps even a great opportunity. As a child he was fascinated with guns, knives and all sorts of other weapons used in hunting. The blindness, he would say, ridded him of his interest in this rather macabre paraphernalia; he had, after all, no way of using it. And the blindness occasioned some rather remarkable capacities: he had keen hearing, and was a most attentive and perceptive listener, as I am sure you have come to appreciate as his students and associates. And his capacity for conceptualizing space was so acute that I would turn to him with questions of geography rather than consult an atlas. It is said that the senses compliment each other; that the loss of one results in the concomitant sharpening of the others. My father was a case in point, and I think he was well aware of it. Those who knew him certainly were.
At about the same time that my father became blind he had his first encounter with Buddhism, possibly the greatest transformative event in his life. It was certainly not an intellectual encounter, not yet, but came by way of a statue of the Buddha, found by chance in a storage room. If I remember the story correctly, my grandfather had wanted to throw it away, or perhaps sell it, but my father had an instinctual liking for it, for no apparent reason at the time (he had never heard of the Buddha and knew nothing of Buddhism yet), but the statue found a place on the dresser in his room. It would take him a decade and a half more after that auspicious event for him to find his calling, during which time he was diversely a student of Political Science, a moderately debauched Hippy in Spain, an Anthropologist, an English teacher in Peru, and finally a student of Buddhism in India. It was a conversion that throughout the remainder of his life gave him incredible clarity of mind, strength, and a boundless love his family and friends cherished dearly. It is a love I am sure will long remain luminous as his passing marks his latest transformation, just another change of forms.