[Buddha-l] Bewildering temple in Bangkok

Richard Hayes richard.hayes.unm at gmail.com
Wed Feb 27 06:51:53 MST 2013

On Feb 27, 2013, at 2:42 AM, Chris Fynn <chris.fynn at gmail.com> wrote:

> Perhaps someone here familiar with Thai Buddhism could enlighten me.

If only Asian Theravadin Buddhists would read the Western textbooks, they would know how to behave!

There is a small mostly Thai temple in Albuquerque that is not nearly as elaborate as what Chris describes, but it has more on its altar than the familiar slender Thai Buddha figures. There is at least one Guanyin, an Amida, a Brahmā and lots of mermaids. I asked a Sri Lankan monk to give me a tour of all the different images, and he explained that because the Asian community here is rather small, the Asian communities intermingle more than they might in a large city. So this temple tries to make Chinese people, Koreans and Indians feel welcome, hence the Guanyin, the Amidabul and Brahmā.

This temple also welcomes a rather large weekly meeting of earnest Western Theravadins, who literally turn their backs on all the statues and do nothing but meditate and listen to dhamma talks delivered by Caucasian lay men and women, most of them having some connection to IMS or Spirit Rock. I have rarely heard more narrow talks; nothing is ever mentioned but suttas and Buddhaghosa. If a speaker says anything that sounds vaguely Mahayanin, some member of the audience is sure to complain. Usually the speaker reminds the audience that it would be nice to put some dāna (they never use dirty words like "money") in one of the two bowls—one bowl for the temple and another for the speaker. The temple bowl usually has quite a bit less dāna in it. I guess the meditators don't want to feed the monks' nasty statue habit. (While the white people are earnestly meditating, the Asian monks retreat to their living quarters and watch basketball games on television. I shouldn't wonder to find a statue of Michael Jordan on the altar one of these days.)


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