Corvallis groups hope for Buddhist temple

by Kyle Odegard, Albany Democrat-Herald, May 11, 2013

Corvallis, Oregon (USA) -- Corvallis has about five or six Buddhist groups that meet for meditation and study, but they’re somewhat hidden and scattered throughout town.

That might be changing soon.

The Corvallis Zen Circle is leading an effort to create a local temple, and has formed a religious nonprofit to raise funds for the new facility, said its founder, Abby Terris. 

Two other Corvallis Buddhist groups will use the temple regularly, added Terris, who is known as Mushin in the Buddhist community.

“We really do need a place that’s larger and more versatile,” Terris said.

Len Coop belongs to Drolma Samten Chuling, which will be part of the new temple, and he was excited by the possibilities.

“There’s a lot going on nowadays, but most of the groups are very small, and they’re not very institutionalized. They’re very informal,” said Coop, an Oregon State University associate professor of entomology.

Terris said a centralized location with more space would make it easier for people to get involved.

“When you have a place, then more people come,” she said.

Terris said interest in Buddhism has increased greatly since she moved to Corvallis 20 years ago.

According to census records, Buddhism is the fastest growing religion in the United States, said James Blumenthal, an associate professor at OSU who specializes in Buddhist philosophy.

Blumenthal added that his OSU classes on Buddhism always fill up and students are enthusiastic.

“People in their late teens, early twenties, they are exploring different ideas, different cultures,” Blumenthal said.

According to Terris, the temple would need about an acre of land, and would include a meditation hall and a memorial garden, where people can come and spread ashes of their loved ones.

“We’d like it to be centrally located, but accessible easily and safely by bus and bicycle. There are a lot of people in the community who want to use this that aren’t car dependent,” Terris said.

The facility also could draw people in from Linn County and the coast, and serve as a venue for visiting Buddhist teachers.

Anytime a Buddhist speaker or expert talks in Corvallis, the event is well attended, Coop said. 

The facility’s name will be the Sangha Jewel Temple. Sangha refers to the community of practitioners, as well as the community of all beings.

And the Buddhist community in Corvallis feels welcomed by the greater community, Terris said.

“Even people who aren’t Buddhist express a lot of support for us creating a meditation hall here,” she added.