Burmese BuddhaMaybe you’ve noticed him, sitting quietly near the librarians’ offices in the Reference Services area. Maybe you’ve even given him your two cents worth…as so many others previously have…in donated coins. And maybe you’ve even wondered, why the heck is there a Buddha in the SDSU Library? Well, here’s the story…

The Burmese Buddha was presented to the San Diego State College (now SDSU) art department in 1938 by Mrs. Henry B. Clark. After being displayed in the Art Building for several years, the Buddha was placed on display in the library during the 1950s and has been transported to each new library building since. The statue has been stolen twice, once in 1969 by a student because of a bet and once in 1970 by someone unknown. When the statue was recovered in 1970, it was found burned and with some of its jewels missing.

We don’t know why…or when…it started, but people began leaving “donations” with the Buddha. Librarian Robert Fikes said, “People were already leaving money on it when I arrived, and that was 33 years ago.” Usually the donations are pennies, with the odd nickel or dime tossed in the mix, but I have noticed a stray Junior Mint or flower petal now and then. As to why people leave money…my guess is, in hopes that the gods will intervene for some poor soul who put off their research paper until the last minute!

No one seems to know what becomes of the money, either. One theory is, the Buddha’s stash functions as a “penny tray” similar to what you see on store and restaurant counters. People in need of cash “take a penny,” while those with some spare change “give a penny.”

Next time you’re cramming for a particularly difficult test, try buying a little karma…leave a penny with our Buddha and join a long-standing SDSU tradition!