Buddhist temple set to open Sunday

by Troy Moon, Pensacola News Journal, November, 4, 2005

Pensacola, FL (USA) -- In the early 1990s, Pensacola Buddhists had no place to worship, so they took pictures of Buddha from home to home for services.

In 1993, the Dieu De Buddhist Temple was formed off Nine Mile Road.

Problem was, there was no real temple structure. An old two-story house served as a place of worship until construction began about three years ago on a spacious brick temple.

On Sunday, amid incense and pictures of departed relatives, the 150-family congregation officially will open the new temple with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Buddhist monks from throughout the nation.

"For years, we saved up money for this," said temple member Kim Nguyen of Pensacola. "When we started, we had $375 in the bank."

The new temple cost about $350,000 to construct and was funded with donations collected over several years from Buddhists in Pensacola and across the United States.

Inside the temple, a kaleidoscope of color fills the room, along with the thick scent of incense that burns in front of various representations of Buddha.

For the uninitiated, Buddha was Siddhartha Gautama -- sometimes spelled "Gotama" -- who, according to believers, found true religious enlightenment around 500 B.C. The word Buddha means "Enlightened One" or "Awakened One." Among Buddha's main teachings -- called "the dharma" -- is the belief that existence is a continuing cycle of death and rebirth.

Adorning a wall behind the main worship room are pictures of the deceased relatives of many temple members. In front of the pictures, small ropes of incense smoke snake through the air.

In a nearby room, a visiting monk from California, the Venerable Thich Tri Chon, sits with legs crossed on a small bed studying Buddhist text.

Nguyen said the new temple has two small rooms to house visiting monks.

Outside, another monk, the Venerable Thich Tam Van, tends to the many colorful fall blooms that dot the temple grounds.

"Even though we are a small Vietnamese community, we are growing," he said through a translator. "And we are pleased to welcome all people to our temple."