|Thai Buddhist Temple in Houston
Who founded Wat Buddhavas of Houston?
The manner in which Buddhist temples are formed is the same whether in the U.S. or in Thailand, that is
lay persons in the Thai Buddhist community initiate the action. Neither the Thai government, nor the Buddhist associations from Thailand, conduct missionary activities in other countries. After a temple has been established, the community invites one or monks to come live in their temple. Because Buddhism is not an abstract religious belief, but a set of principles by which Buddhist people conduct their lives, a temple may be built anywhere in the world. Its principal functions are to allow Buddhists to associate together and find solace in the teachings of the Buddha and practice their beliefs as a community. For example, Buddhists come to give alms to the monks and make merit on special festival days and come to visit the temple and its monks
on important milestones of their lives, for example, birthdays, wedding anniversaries, ascending to the monkshood, funerals, and like occasions. Wat Buddhavas of Houston was created in this manner. Thai Buddhists in Houston and its surrounding communities created the temple on April 5, 1982,in Missouri City, Texas. The temple moved to its present location on Spindle Road in Harris County, on February 26, 1983.
Where do the monks come from and how long do they stay here?
All the monks currently residing at Wat Buddhavas were born in Thailand. They received permission to come to the United States to reside at this temple from the Sangha Supreme Council of Buddhist Monks in Bangkok, Thailand. The monks, in effect, are ambassadors of Buddhism from Thailand to the Thai people residing in this country. The monks who come here have obtained the equivalent of a Bachelor's Degree in Buddhism, and some have obtained higher degrees of religious studies. In addition, some of the monks come with certain specialties, for example, training of insight meditation. Any man in the Buddhist community is welcome to join the monks in living at the temple as a monk by taking the priestly vows, doning the monk's vestments, and agreeing to live an ascetic existence during the period he stays at the temple.
Each monk sent to
the United States agrees to a primary term of three years. But because of
the Temple and the Thai Community
In Thailand, the temple, seemingly
shut off from the world by its compound walls, is in fact the
very center of village life. It may serve not only as a place
of residence, study, and meditation for the monk, but also as
school, social center, medical dispensary, and counseling center, home for
the aged and destitute, news and information center, and
social work and welfare agency for the larger society.
the temple offer to the membership?
The major events in the Wat Buddhavas calendar are as follows :
The monks arise from their sleep before dawn and at 7:00 partake of breakfast. From 8- 9 am the monks engage in morning chanting. At 11 am the monks are invited to eat lunch (after lunch, the monks may not eat solid food again until the next morning) and give the sermon. From 8- 9 PM the monks perform the evening chanting and meditation. Every Sunday, at Wat Buddhavas, the monks lead a meditation class for the community from 1:00 - 4:00 PM.
Visakha Puja Day (the first full moon day in May) is the day on which the Buddha was born,attained enlightenment, and passed from this world. The ceremonies and activities, at Wat Buddhavas, are much the same as they are on Makha Puja day.
Asalha Puja Day and the beginning of the Buddhist Lenten season (celebrated on the first full moon of July) is the anniversary of the Buddha first sermon to the world. He gave this sermon to the first five monks who followed his precepts. This sermon included the critical Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path to Enlightenment. The Buddhist Lenten season lasts the threemonths during the monsoon season in South Asia. Monks are required to reside in their temple and provide learning and sermons to the local community and to engage in meditation and preparation for the following 9 months of the year.
Sart Ceremony falls in September of each year and is the occasion for paying respect to each individual's departed ancestors.
Oog Pan Saa and Tak Bart Tevo Day: Oog Pansa marks the end of the three month Lenten period during which monks are required to remain at their assigned temples and not venture out on overnight sojourns. On this day we will hold ancient and revered ceremony of "Tak Baat Tevo". This ceremony symbolized the fable said to occur in the seventh year after the Buddha's Enlightenment. The Buddha was said to journey to visit heaven to teach his mother, then an angel, about what he had learned. After his journey, he came down from heaven to Sangkassa City where his disciples waited to greet him and provide him a great feast. This feast was a one time event in the Buddha's life. Our ceremony is a memorial to this fabled feast.
Kathina Ceremony : For one month after the end of the Lenten period the Buddha gave permission to his monks to either make or gather their robes and vestments for the next year and to be able to preach their sermons to the populace. The monks robes were made from cast off funeral vestments which are dyed saffron. In today's times, during this month, the Buddhist community donates robes, vestments, and articles of daily use to the individual monks for their use during the coming year. In our communities in the United States, the monks must be provided heavier clothes, hats and sweaters, so they will not get sick. In order to allow the monks to fulfill their responsibilities, and the community's responsibility to support the monks, Wat Buddhavas arranges the Katin ceremony each year.
Songkran Day : This day is the traditional Thai New Year which falls on April 13th of our western calendar. This national festival is celebrated by each person, be they children or adults, paying respects to the older, respected, members of the community. These individuals include monks, teachers, community elders, and older siblings. This respect is demonstrated by the younger person pouring scented water over the hands of the respected person.
Loi Krathong Day is one of Thailand's most beloved ceremonies and festivals. It falls on the day of the new moon of the twelfth month November of the western calendar). The festival occurs at the end of the rainy season when rivers and streams are at flood time. During this festival people prepare floats and small boats in the shape of lotus flowers containing candles, flowers, and incense sticks to float down the rivers and streams. It is a quieter and more romantic event in which homage is paid to the Holy Footprint of the Buddha on the beach of the Namada River in India. It was originally a Brahmatical rite whereby Hindus gave thanks to the Mother Goddess of the Ganges River which is their source of life and vigor in their country. Our ancestors also believed that these floating craft take their carry their cares and troubles down the rivers and streams away to the ocean. In connections with this festival, Wat Buddhavas holds a cultural festival with traditional Thai dancing, singing, and displays of Thai cultural artifacts.
King Bhumibol's birthday is
celebrated by Thai people all over the world; his is perhaps the
most sovereign of the Chakri dynasty.
B. Cultural and Artistic Activities
Even before Wat Buddhavas came into existence, the Thai community began teaching its young people their native arts, language, and culture. A half dozen very talented, classically trained, teachers took it upon themselves to be the leaders in this important activity. To date they have trained hundreds of boys and girls in Thai dancing, singing, Muay Thai (Thai Boxing), and Thai Fencing.
C. Educational Activities
Wat Buddhavas of Houston runs a Sunday School and summer classes in language, religion, culture, and arts for the younger members of its community. In the past, the teachers have come from the ranks of visiting university students and the parent group. Starting with the past year, the temple joined a program involving the School of Education at Chulalongkorn University to bring graduate students to Houston for from two months to a year. These teachers, coming two at a time, have taken over the responsibility of teaching our youngsters language and cultural arts. These teachers and other members of the community have also taken on the responsibility for teaching Thai language to Americans who have an interest in the Thai language and culture.
D. Buddhist Traditions through the Life Cycle
When a baby reaches the age of one month, parents invite monks to their house or take the baby to the temple for his or her hair shaving ceremony. Parents often bring their male children to the temple to stay with the monks for a period of time, generally during the school breaks. The boy is brought into the temple as a "novice" or "Samanera" and participates in the activities of the temple without all the life-style restrictions that a full-fledged monk lives by.
It is common for a man, upon
reaching the age of 20, or before he marries, to enter the monkshood for
a period of from one week to three months. This period of
solitude, meditation, and learning prepares him to carry on a full,
family-oriented life. It is important to note that Buddhism imposes no
sanction against anyone who leaves the monkshood, and, in fact,
encourages these temporary retreats. Marriages are, sometimes,
held at the temple and involve paying homage to the monks, bringing food
for the monks and their guests at the temple. Other life
cycle events, such as birthdays, commemorations of anniversaries,
remembrance of departed ancestors, and funerals, involve the temple, its
monks, and Buddhist rituals.
E. Community Service
Even though most monks are not formally trained as pastors, many have taken on the responsibility for providing counseling and guidance to families with problems with their daily lives, husbands and wives with relationship difficulties, and for children who are undergoing stresses of school and society. This counseling brings home to their daily lives the teachings of the Buddha regarding suffering, the causes of anxiety and unhappiness, and how these might be alleviated.
come to worship at the temple?
Buddhism does not have a concept of prayer in the western sense, that is, of requesting certain outcomes from a deity. Their chanting, however, is to learn and commit to memory the teachings of the Buddha and to rid themselves of stress and mental discomfort.
Because Buddhism is a personal set of practices and beliefs, it is common for Buddhists to have one or more Buddha images in their house and to wear amulets on chains around their necks. They repeat their lessons and meditate at home, traditionally, twice a day - once before they go to sleep at night to allow themselves to sleep soundly and again in the morning to refresh and prepare themselves for the hectic day ahead.
For older Buddhists who have the time to visit the temple more often, services are held four times during the month (UPOSATHA DAY : First Quarter, Full Moon, Third Quarter and New Moon), to coincide with the four phases of the moon. Apart from these times, they recite the Buddhas lessons at home at their leisure.