PRACTICING THERAVADA IN OHIO
THAI BUDDHIST TEMPLE
Thai’s in the Dayton/Huber Heights area had no where to practice Thai Theravada without having to drive 4-6 hours away. They tried for some time to find a Monk to be their spiritual leader and start a local temple. Many Monks turned them down because they didn’t have enough families in the area to support the temple. Finally they found someone that was up to the challenge, Ven.Samak Ngamsaeng. The local group purchased a house for the Monk to reside and to use as a meeting place until they can erect a temple. This was the start of the Buddhist Meditation Temple located at 4545 Fishburg Rd, Huber Heights, OH.
The Buddhist Meditation Temple was started with the following objectives in mind:
1. To be a center of Buddhist activities.
2. To announce Buddhism to all who live in the USA.
3. Establish a center of teaching meditation.
4. Establish a center to study and preserve Thai traditions.
The Monks current residence/temple is a brick ranch style home on approximately 6 acres of land. There is one room in the house that is has a large Buddha and several other traditional ornaments, a large picture of Ven.Samak’s mentor and a photo of His Majesty King Rama IX. Today there are about 200 families that support the temple. They are in the process of filing the required city/county permits so they can start erecting their temple.
Once the temple is built they have to dedicate a Buddha image to the temple. A Buddha image can be made from any material and be any size. There is a ceremony for molding the Buddha, a ceremony when the mold is removed and a ceremony where an elderly Monk and elderly people from the temple dedicate the main Buddha before it is moved into the temple. They will also decorate the temple with traditional ornaments and smaller Buddhas.
Currently the Monk offers evening chants twice a week that are open to the public and a large gathering once a month. A service is held every 7 days where people bring food for the Monk. The Monk is not allowed to accept anything directly from a woman, touch or hug a woman. The Monk then blesses the people and conveys Buddha teachings to them in both Thai and English. People sit on floor on mat. There are seats available for those that can’t sit on the floor. No one is allowed to sit higher than the Monk. They must also take off their shoes before giving Alms to the Monk.
There are a few differences between what a Monk in the USA can do that they can’t do in Thailand. In Thailand the Monks can’t drive or own possessions. Here in the USA they may drive and have a checking account. They need to have a checking account to be able to get connected to basic utilities. The Monks aren’t allowed to beg for food or necessities, the people provide them with everything they need. In Thailand, the Monks will walk the streets with their head down in the morning for Alms and people will offer them food. In return the Monk will bless them. If the Monks that are in the USA did this they would be hauled off to jail for pan handling. The congregation is too spread out to be able to take care of the Monk like they do in Thailand. The members of the congregation set up a schedule to take food and necessities to the Monk instead. Due to the colder climate in the US the Monks may also wear hats and sweaters.
Buddhist Monks perform many types of ceremonies. One ceremony they performed recently at the Buddhist Meditation Temple was for Visakha (Vesak) Puja Day. It is one of the greatest religious holidays which falls on the 15th day of the waxing moon in the 6th lunar month. It is held to commemorate the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. Buddha was born, enlightened and died on the same day of the same month. There was a candle lighting by a member of the congregation to worship the Triple Gems. The Monks performed blessing chants and food offerings were made to the Monks.
Ceremonial presentation and offerings included:
•A speech to the congregation from the senior Monk.
•Temple representatives offer flowers to the Monks.
•More blessings by the Monks.
•Dedication of merits to relatives or loved ones through the pouring of water.
•Spreading of loving kindness to relatives, loved ones and to all living beings.
•Everyone walks around the temple from right to left three times while carrying blooming lotus flower, lit candle and 3 incense sticks tied together and held between both palms.
Another ceremony that Monks perform is that when newborns are brought to them they bless the baby and give them their name. The name is chosen by the Monk based on the day, month and zodiac year of birth and based on what letter is blessed for that day of the week.
During my visit to the temple I found it to be a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere. Everyone was very polite and friendly (as are most Thai’s I’ve met). Ven. Samak answered any questions that I had. Everyone that was at the temple showed great admiration and respect to Ven. Samak. He is well educated and a nice person to talk with. He was willing to take on the huge task of starting a Theravada temple that several other Monks turned down. He saw the need for a temple in the area and has worked very hard to make it a huge success. I wish Ven. Samak and his congregation good luck and many blessings on his endeavors with the temple.
Buddhist Meditation Temple, Ohio
4545 Fishburg Rd., Huber Heights, OH 45424
Phone : (937) 237-0378 , Fax : (937)235-0469