As my site visit project I chose to visit the temple of “Wat Budharamgsi of Miami” which practices Thailand Buddhism. Buddhism is truly unlike most western religions which I have experience with. It is very compassionate and open in its teaching, this is very well expressed through the temple and its followers. Their teachings and practices focus around the three jewels gems, the eightfold path, the four noble truths and center on the five precepts. The immense temple is very active in its community and not only provide practitioners with their needs for their practices but in other ways as well such as, sharing free food to the public.
Their fundamental beliefs and practices somewhat focus on the repetition of their teachings. They see the Buddha as a teacher and also somewhat of a hero. The Buddha abandoned a life of riches and no suffering in order to find truth and understand how to deal with suffering. After an arduous journey he finally became enlightened while in meditation under a Bodhi tree. There he learned the four noble truths: “dukkha”, there is suffering in life, “samudaya”, desire creates suffering, “nirhodha”, the removing of desire will rid suffering, and “magga”, the eightfold path removes desire. Those who follow the eightfold path become released of desire and break from Samsara which is the endless cycle of death and rebirth which even Gautama himself is said to have gone through many times before becoming Buddha. When one removes desire through the eightfold path and breaks from samsara they reach nirvana, they become nothing therefore become everything the Buddha taught his followers. In the temple which I visited practitioners meditate 3 times a day, worshipping the triple gem (Buddhha, Dhamma, and Sanghaa) as well as the five precepts of not killing, not stealing, not committing adultery, not telling falsehoods and not intoxicating the mind which in Buddhism is very important because your mind must be clear and focused to meditate and intoxicants make one lose full control of the mind. They also thank the Buddha on their meditations and some even leave offerings such as fruit for him. Most visitors and practitioners, even some of the staff/volunteers, wear normal clothes even while in meditation although the monks themselves wear simple orange robes and shave their head. By wearing simple clothes and shaving their hair it helps them to further detach from desire.
The non-profit organization “Wat Buddharangsi” was formed on 1986 with the goal of to open a temple that would be an active Buddhist temple in South Florida and the temple itself opened in 1995. It has undergone various renovations due to hurricanes and for expansions, more than a million dollars were spent into the making of the beautiful and stunning temple. From its 5 ton Buddha statue “Phrabuddhadhammachinaraj Sakayamuneesrisamaidulnakij” to its various decorations it is very clear that a lot of work and dedication went into its creation and into the institution it holds. The golden Buddha statue was mad by a master artist using a stone center and then encasing it in various metals. The immense amount of attention and detail put into the 60,000 dollar statue shows the adoration and importance they not only hold to his teachings but to the Buddha himself. Today the temple is very active and compassionately serves its community immensely. They offer free summer classes for children that teach the Thai language, customs and even dance. They also hold open classes in both English and Spanish for adults that teach Buddhism. Many ceremonies are held at the temple even a weekend retreat is done in which participators can learn the eightfold path. Their services include much more such as providing free home cooked meals for the public. Most if not all of the monks seemed to be men although women seemed to be very necessary at the temple such as cooking. Many of the practitioners were women as well. The strong influence that they have on the community and the immense number of services that they provide simply to provide in itself truly represents and embodies the whole concept of Buddhism within itself. Many other institutions could learn from it a thing or too.
The temple hold many events that are reminiscent of its origin culture of Thailand as well as religious events focused on Buddhism. Some events are very flamboyant and cheerful such as the Asian culture festivals and Thai New Year’s water festival. On the Thai New Year’s water festival, water is used to cleanse bad luck and eight precepts meditation are held. On the Asian Culture Festival arts and crafts are held, traditional dancers perform and even Asian foods are provided. The most important religious ceremony held must be “Visakha Bucha Day”. Visakha Bucha Day represents the day Buddha was born, the day he became enlightened and even the day he died through food poisoning. During the full day ceremony practitioners chant the 8 precepts as well as listen to the monks teach Dharma. They also hold some events celebrating important Thai historical figures or events such as the temple’s anniversary. The great amount of events held truly further emphasize the influence they have on their community and show their dedication to provide a meaningful service.
Personally although the temple itself was very impressive what impacted me the most were the religion and the monks themselves. Most religions hold a sort of hostility toward outsiders although mostly unintentionally but at the temple I truly felt none. Anything I asked and even when the monk explained to me his teachings I truly sensed that I had his whole attention. Also in many other religious institutions there are many areas which are prohibited to the public or things that are kept private or in a tight circle but at the temple I was allowed to explore and wander freely. Through examining of its various locations such as the enormous Buddha Statue, the areas of meditation and the Bodhi tree I definitely gained a deeper understanding of the religion and its culture as well as a more meaningful appreciation of its teachings and respect for its practitioners.
My experience with the “Wat Budharamgsi of Miami” was a very educating and inspiring experience. The temple is definitely a place I will come back to and the deep philosophical teachings are definitely practices that I will incorporate into my life and have given me a broader perspective of myself and the world and I am very grateful for it. Being such a relatable and enlightening religion it is very apparent why it has become so popular through not only eastern countries but even here in the west. The temple from my experience seems to do a great job of spreading the teachings of Buddhism and keeping its practices in the community alive setting a great example not only for other institutions but for the way we should live our lives as well.