A Buddhist Monastery in Stafford County

By MEGHAN HERBST, it! Magazine, March 7, 2006

A youth correspondent learns about meditation from an authoritative source: a local Buddhist monk.

Fredericksburg, VA (USA) -- The smell of incense danced through the air. Golden statues lined the walls, and the eloquent chants of the monk seated cross-legged before the altar left the small room abounding with energy.

<< Snow covers the ground in front of Watpa Tesarangsee monastery in Stafford County earlier this year.

The monk, Tunkian, was now deep into his evening meditations, the process of which included a prayerlike recitation of Buddhist chants followed by an escape to personal solitude.

I have to admit the situation was new to me, and I was a bit nervous. A Buddhist monastery is not a particularly common thing to see in Stafford County. But that's exactly where Watpa Tesarangsee is.

I had practiced meditation on my own before, but the difference between meditating alone and meditating with someone else in the room was a bit intimidating.

I simply swallowed the awkwardness of the situation and closed my eyes. To the resounding hum of the monk's chanting and then the profound silence afterward, I was able to release myself from the disorderly and frenetic world of which I am a part.

Only when the whistle of a train approaching nearby pervaded the silence did I come out of this boundless state of mind.

The monk, still seated at the altar in silence, seemed to be immune to the train whistle that must not be uncommon at the monastery, so I quietly opened the door to slip my shoes back on and left.

Many Stafford residents may not know >>
that their county is home to a Buddhist monastery on Railroad Lane.

It's not every day that you are able to become acquainted with a real Buddhist monk--from Thailand, no less.

The youngest monk in the monastery, Tunkian lives a life spent in solitude and spiritual reflection, a life that many of us would be delighted to live for a day or two. Meditation is a practice that is just gaining momentum, and the health benefits are plentiful.

The lives of these monks and the simplicity with which they live teach us that there are far too many things that we take for granted each day: little things, like the birds singing in the morning, or the rain falling on the roof, or even an unexpected "I love you" said with full meaning.

So your car broke down, or maybe you failed that chemistry test you thought you did great on; what does it really matter?

The fact is, we're all here for a very small amount of time, and we can never know when it will run out. We should soak in experience like we might never have another chance.

I can tell you the fabric of the Buddhist way of life right here: live every moment, and take everything as it comes. Considering the fact that our lives are just a series of moments compiled together, this mantra makes sense.

Go speak with Tunkian; he'll put things into perspective for you.

Watpa Tesarangsee is opened to anyone desiring to delve into the world of meditation or Buddhism. It is located at the end of the road on Railroad Lane in southern Stafford.

It's open for chanting and meditation daily. There is also tea and coffee offered at 7 each morning and an authentic Thai meal at noon. For more information, call 540/368-2272.