Oregon's first Vietnamese Buddhist cemetery a reality

by ANGIE CHUANG, Oregon Live, December 5, 2005

A dream of followers to have a place to rest in peace comes alive

Portland, Oregon (USA) -- The Buddhist monks and nuns wore woolen knit caps and struggled to keep the altar candles lit in the wind. But as the near-freezing morning turned their Vietnamese chants into puffs of condensation, the Chimes Memorial Garden in Portland made history Sunday.

"Before, this burial ground was just a dream, a great idea," William Vuong, an organizer, told about 50 Southeast Asian community members gathered at the dedication of the first-ever Vietnamese Buddhist cemetery in Oregon. "Now, thanks to the hard work of many, we have made a dream come true."

Until now, the Portland-area's Southeast Asian Buddhist community cremated their dead and kept urns in temples or vaults, or sent them back to their birthplaces. But some prefer burial, and there were no Southeast Asian Buddhist cemeteries in the state.

Several community and religious leaders worked with the Chimes Memorial Garden and Sunnyside Little Chapel of the Chimes, a funeral home, to establish the 348-space burial ground on a hillside off Southeast Stevens Road. It will be used primarily by Buddhists from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. A white marble Buddha statue imported from Vietnam keeps watch over the gravesites.

The sites are marked with tiny flags -- green ones for those that are available and red for those that are reserved. By Sunday, 55 sites had been reserved.

That shows the clear need for a burial ground like this one, said Bac-Ai Nguyen, president of the Oregon Vietnamese Community Association. Vietnamese Catholics have a dedicated burial site at Lincoln Memorial Park in Portland, he said, but it means a great deal for Buddhists to have one as well.

"It takes a Vietnamese guy working in the funeral business for this to happen," he said.

That's Anh Nguyen, a family counselor and adviser for Dignity Memorial, the international network that includes Chimes Memorial Garden, Lincoln Memorial Park and dozens of others other cemeteries and funeral homes in the area.

Anh Nguyen said the new site is part of a plan to provide thousands of culturally appropriate burial sites for the Portland area's growing Asian American community. By most recent census estimates, the three-county metro area has more than 90,000 Asian American residents.

Lincoln Memorial Park currently is constructing an "Asian Garden" that will incorporate traditions from a variety of Asian countries and provide 3,000 burial sites.

At Sunday's ceremony, the nuns and monks made offerings and prayed, sanctifying the Buddha statue and the burial ground. The U.S. flag and the South Vietnamese flag flanked them, symbolizing the dual homelands of those who will be buried there.

"We Buddhist believers like to be near our community and families. They keep us safe as we pass on," said Thich Minh An, a monk and spiritual leader at Portland's Minh Quang Temple who led the ceremony.

Because Asian cultures place high importance on visiting and tending family members' graves, many immigrants and refugees want to be buried in Oregon, said Chi Jones, a board member of the Vietnamese Science and Culture Society of Oregon. "They want their kids to be close."

Standing in the wings at the gathering were a half-dozen members of the grounds crew who helped build the cemetery and will maintain it. Wearing rain gear and curious expressions, some of the veteran workers acknowledged they had never seen anything like the Buddhist ritual.

"It gives you a good feeling for people to walk away with smiles on their faces," said John LaGood, the construction foreman who oversaw building of the Buddhist cemetery.

"A lot of people think we just mow lawns, but it's a lot more than that," LaGood said. "You think about the different traditions of the people who will be buried there and who will be visiting."
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