Buddhists Seek Enlightenment

BY BOB SARGEANT, The Free Lance-Star, Jan 3, 2009

Fredericksburg, FL (USA) -- THE WAPTA Tesarangsee Buddhist Temple has served Fredericksburg-area Buddhists from a modest but appropriately decorated and nicely appointed structure since 2000.

<< The Wapta Tesarangsee Buddhist Temple in Stafford serves the area Buddhist community.

The area has had a Buddhist community for a long time. Local adherents are fortunate that a search of Virginia found a location that was quiet, not too expensive and provided convenient access for a significant number of Northern Virginia Buddhists.

They are also fortunate that the temple is staffed by several of the most experienced and enlightened monks that Thailand--a longtime Buddhist nation--has to offer.

Dhammarak Butsahip XX leads visitors into the richly carpeted temple after asking them to remove their shoes. There, one faces several large, gilded statues of The Buddha sitting on elevated platforms. Butsahip's placid demeanor and the absence of chairs imbue the place with an atmosphere of welcoming informality.

"Here," say Butsahip, "we help people to correct their problems and practice how to spend their life in peace. The building is open to all religions, for anyone who wishes to try meditation; we welcome everyone to learn."

Butsahip will be in the United States for two years. He was sent here by the Grand Master in Thailand to be a leader at the local temple.Of the eight monks at the temple, six will be departing soon when their visas expire. Butsahip says they all came here to learn about the differences between Eastern and Western cultures.

Asked about what he likes most about the United States, Butsahip replies, "Freedom under the law."

Butsahip explains Buddhism as a "way of life, a system. The law of karma is a natural law; it controls every life, every soul. Whatever we do will come back to us. Whatever you do becomes an energy to your soul that will control happiness or suffering. Whatever you are depends upon what you did before.

"The [law of the land] regulates how people live together, but it does not stop the suffering of the soul. People do not know how to live, how to correct their lives.

"Buddha is not a god, but a teacher of the law of karma. He was an 'Isaac Newton of the soul' and knew how to reveal the law. When the circle of life is broken then we are free. There is no 'real' image of Buddha, the images are not worshiped, and vary in appearance from place to place. The way to make the world a better place is to start with yourself first to achieve happiness, and then lead by example."

Monks cannot marry. They work their way up through the hierarchy by starting out with mundane tasks, practicing for enlightenment and evolving their souls. The only significance of the traditional saffron robes worn by monks, according to Butsahip, is that they are easy to make, easy to care for and comfortable. They are not a fashion statement and have no religious significance. Monks are never to wear "fancy clothes," and they have little or no money, he says.

Asked about his opinion of Thai food as served by Thai restaurants in the United States, Butsahip says it is pretty authentic, but cautions against ordering it the way it is served in Thailand. The Thais begin eating very spicy food at an early age; Americans are not used to the fiery blast they will encounter, he says.

Butsahip summed up the visit with the following Buddhist observation on life: "Wrong thinking makes wrong actions; wrong actions equal wrong power; wrong power makes the wrong karma. The wrong karma will control you and you suffer."