Buddhist temple a spiritual haven in Port Arthur

By CHRISTINE RAPPLEYE, Beaumont Enterprise (The Associated Press), Aug 22, 2007

PORT ARTHUR, Texas (USA) -- When the Buu Mon Buddhist Association members first bought the building in the 2700 block of Procter Street in October 1986, it had been both a Baptist and a Catholic church.

During the next year, community members pitched in to make it their spiritual haven in a strong Christian community. They took down the steeple and added a tiered stupa, which now towers above Procter Street. The front of the building took on an Asian pagoda style. Inside, an artist created a fresco painting of a large tree and a tranquil lake and mountains behind where the Buddha shrine would sit.

The lotus and bamboo gardens had yet to be cultivated when it was dedicated Aug. 15, 1987.

Now, thousands come see the expansive gardens kept up by the Rev. Huyen Viet, the temple's abbot, who pronounced the temple's consecration 20 years ago, according to The Enterprise archives.

"It seems so long ago. It's gone by so quick" Viet said in a recent interview. "We've been going on very well ... The community accepts us as friends."

Twenty years ago, practically all of the Buddhists were from Vietnam, coming to Port Arthur after the communist takeover of their homeland in 1975.

Now, there are many non-Vietnamese speaking Buddhist who are active in the temple's services, and several are studying to become Buddhist, said the Rev. M. Kassapa, the temple's meditation instructor.

Buddhism is considered a philosophy and way of life, said Danny Dubuisson, temple spokesman. Buddha is a great teacher or philosopher, not a god.

Buddha is the name given to Siddhartha Gotama, who lived about 2,500 years ago near present-day Nepal. He left his comfortable home and family to look for deeper meaning in life. He found it, or enlightenment, as he meditated under the Bodhi Tree, in a secluded grove by the banks of the river Neranjara, according to the Buddha Sasana Web site.

"In this century, our word is to bring peace to the world," Viet said, adding they also provide religious and spiritual leadership for those studying the introspective teachings of Buddha. "We do our best to take a role to make our place better."

They have tour groups come through several times a month, he added. The monks aren't sequestered at the temple and are out in the community.

"A lot of Americans are interested," Kassapa said, adding that many of the teachings focus on showing personal responsibility. "It's a chance for use to debunk some of the rumors."

The temple has also expanded. Ten years ago, the dragon and lion dancing group started, and now they perform at the temple's celebrations and other programs throughout the community.

The Lotus Hall behind the temple can sleep up to 150 people and there are plans to create a meditation retreat there, said Dubuisson, adding that air conditioning has been recently added to the main shrine and hall.

Weekly meditation classes are offered under Kassapa's instruction.

The number of monks and nuns at the temple has varied, and at times Viet has run the Buu Mon Temple solo while helping elsewhere.

Now, there are three monks here — Viet, Kassapa and the Rev. Tri Quang, of India — which makes it easier to have regular Sunday services and classes, Dubuisson said.

Initially, in 1980, they worshipped in a rented home in Beaumont, Viet said. Incidentally, "Buu Mon" means priceless gate and sounds similar to Beaumont, which is why it was chosen, according to the archives.

A year later they moved to Orange to a building at the corner of Texas 62 and FM 105 and began to look for a larger building, he added.

Viet came to Southeast Texas two years before they moved into the Procter Street building.

"If we wouldn't have bought it, it would have likely been demolished," Viet said of the current building.

The building in Orange later became a restaurant, but a fire destroyed it, he added.

In 1990, the 7-foot gold leaf Buddha that now sits in front of the fresco arrived, completing the renovation, according to the archives.

The temple commissioned the image from an artist in Thailand, according to the archives.

Vases filled with flowers and dishes of fruit were on the tiled alter earlier this week.

"We pay respect to Buddha for his teachings," Viet said. "Pick a right way of life to have spiritual nourishment every day."

Coming to the Buu Mon Buddhist Temple in Port Arthur makes Nha Nugyen feel like she's at home.

"We love the gardens," Nugyen said, who comes from Houston to attend the Wednesday night meditation classes at the temple.

The lily, lotus and bamboo plants in the gardens make her feel like she's back in her homeland in Vietnam, which she left in the 1980s.

"Here is closer to my home," Nugyen said. "It's very peaceful."

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv. Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/norbuchatbot. Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv