Area Buddhist temple certifies new monk

by ROBERT CYR, Register Citizen, Oct 24, 2005

New Hartford, CT (USA) -- What began as a small shrine in Pil Kang’s family home in Torrington years ago has now become a full-fledged Buddhist temple in the serene New Hartford countryside.

Young Kang and Man Ji Kang, Pil Kang?s parents, had to be divorced in order to become monks, Young Kang said. With support from donors in the regional Buddhist community, Man Ji Kang was able to move from Torrington in 1993 and build New Hartford?s first full-scale temple in 2001, Pil Kang said.

The temple, a many-tiered pagoda-style structure, was officially opened in 2003 and a ceremony was held for the "opening of the eyes" for the three small Buddha statues within, Pil Kang said.

On Sunday the temple was once again host to a unique ceremony - the certification of a new area monk, complete with head shaving and a two-stage event to commemorate a new Buddha statue.

Leonore Alaniz, a local yoga instructor who has been teaching as a volunteer at the temple for two years, will be joining monks at the Dea Yen Sa Temple and assuming her new Buddhist name Ji Yen Sunim. At noon Sunday, guests were able to watch the genuine Buddhist ceremony to certify Alaniz at the temple?s 19 Kinsey Road location.

Alaniz took vows during the ceremony to renounce jewelry and garish adornment, alcoholic beverages, pleasures of the flesh, and above all else, the "cycle" of suffering. The goal of the practice is called "nirvana," the spiritual enlightenment of the monk.

Alaniz, who was raised in Germany as a Christian, said Buddhism is very flexible and allows for the mingling of different faiths. This appealed to her immediately, having been familiar with Buddhist teachings through her 20 years of experience as a yoga instructor.

"I?ve been interested in Buddhism for a long time," she said. "It?s a way of life that?s very applicable today. My involvement in community service brought me closer to Buddhism."

When she expressed interest in becoming a monk, she said, the mostly-Korean congregation took her in with open arms, welcoming the addition of a white, English-speaking member.

"It?s becoming more interfaith, because it?s actually happening," she said. "They needed another English-speaking person, and I can serve as a channel, a go-between to help spread awareness, to work for peaceful solutions in the world."

Northwest Connecticut resident Brian Vaugn joins Alaniz as the other Anglo-Saxon monk. Alaniz will split her time between her Winsted home and the temple. Four monks are part-time residents, and three live at the temple full-time, she said.

Other than a few, small details, her life will not change much, she said.

"The only thing that might be affected is my personal expression," Alaniz said. "I?m a fabric and clothing designer. But other than that, I live by Buddhist principals already."

Buddhism is attributed to the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who lived from 566 to 486 B.C., according to The religion spread from India and eventually to Japan, and has long since found followers in America. More than 360 million people worldwide practice Buddhism, the aim of which is to end the suffering of cyclic existence, according to the site. According to, there are 32 Buddhist organizations in Connecticut alone.