History of
Wat Buddhavas

(Thai Buddhist Meditation Center)
6007 Spindle Drive, Houston, TX  77086-3930
Tel :(281) 820-3255, 445-5773,  Fax : (281) 931-9746


 
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
administrative difficulties of obtaining visas and permission to move to this country and the desire of the   Monks Association to choose the best monks to move to a new cultural environment in the U.S., in   practice, monks tend to remain here until they themselves decide to leave. In fact, an important tenet of   the monkhood is that a monk is able to move freely from place to place, except during the time of year    that he is required by tradition to remain at a single temple.


The Relationship between
the Temple and the Thai Community
     The Thai community in Houston organized themselves and created Wat Buddhavas to be a refuge for  their cares and worries, as a place to practice their religion and to transmit their cultural heritage to their  children.

     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.


What services does
the temple offer to the membership?
A. Religious holidays and how are they celebrated
The major events in the Wat Buddhavas calendar are as follows :
1. Daily
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.

2. Religious Holidays
Magha Puja Day celebrates on the full moon day of the third lunar month (about the last week of February or early March). On the evening of that day, Lord Buddha gave his disciples a discourse  "Ovada Patimokkha" laying down the principles of His Teaching summarized into three acts, i.e. not to  do any evil, to do good and to purify the mind. On this day, the monks give sermons, the eight-fold   precepts first taught by the Buddha and assist the congregatants in meditation, provide an opportunity  for the celebrants to provide food for them, and have the evening candle procession. The founding day    of Wat Buddhavas of Houston is also celebrated on this day, as it falls so closely to the traditional Magha   Puja day.

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.

3. National Festivals
New Year's Day : Buddhists believe that they should begin each new year with good deeds. Thus,  they show these good deeds by providing food and money to the monks and the temple.

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.

How often do Buddhists
come to worship at the temple?
Actually, Buddhism neither requires nor recommends that its adherents come visit the temple or its monks on   a regular basis but it does stress the practice of the Buddha's teachings in their daily lives. However, Thai  Buddhists have found that they gain personal comfort from their visits to the serenity of the temple, from  providing sustenance and daily necessities to the monks at the temple, from the practice of meditation with the    monks and members of the community, and from listening to the monks' sermons.

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.