|Local Buddhist temple celebrates 30 years in Northeast Portland
THE MID-COUNTY MEMO
Hongsa Chanthavong, one of the founders of the temple who now sits on the executive board, said he is proud that the Wat Buddhatham-Aram has become a type of community center, where everything from sporting events to marriages are held.
According to the mission of Buddhatham-Aram, Inc. the temple was established to promote the teaching of Buddhist doctrines, the teaching and preservation of arts and languages, the understanding between Buddhists and others, to make resources available for problem-solving capacity, and to promote the establishment of self-supporting Buddhist centers in the United States.
It was my dream become reality, Chanthavong said. Our dream has come true; this is a place of unity.
The center has sat on almost two acres at Northeast 133rd Avenue and Sandy Boulevard since 1987. Before the current property was purchased, the temple resided in two temporary locations, also in mid-Multnomah County.
Wat Buddhatham-Aram continued to expand with the addition of a wing in 1991 and a paved parking lot in 1993. The Buddhist temple's most sacred complex, the Buddhasima or Sim, was completed in 1996 and reflects the style of the ancient Wat Xieng Thon - one of the most important temples in Laos - located in Luang, Phrabang.
In our traditions the monks stay at the temple, Chanthavong said. The Sim is a place where monks can study, recite and pray.
Chanthavong said the building of the Sim was made possible by the donations and fundraising of over 900 followers, which totaled $316,372.25.
In January 2005, the 3,242 square-foot monks' residence was completed and includes seven bedrooms, study rooms, a living room and a meeting room. It is currently home to six monks.
The temple plays host to a variety of celebrations throughout the year, including Boun Visakha Busa, considered the day of Buddha's birth, celebrated May 16, and Boun Ork Phansa in October to commemorate the end of the monks' three months in the temple.
Originally planned to serve about 200 community members, the Wat Buddhatham-Aram now expects a few hundred people at celebrations. Followers come from various ethnic backgrounds, but are mainly of Thai, Lao and Cambodian heritage.
Famed Laotian musician and songwriter Chamsom Sengsirivanh, who performed at the temple's Lao New Year celebration last month, said Portland is home to one the biggest Lao communities in the country.
The location was primarily chosen because of its proximity to the homes of many members of the Lao refugee community. Today, Chanthavong said, the temple draws people from all over the region. Major celebrations draw crowds from neighboring states as well.
People come to the temple from all over Oregon and Washington, Chanthavong said.
The Wat Buddhatham-Aram also maintains close ties to the Asian Family Center, an immigrant and refugee community organization, located on Northeast Glisan Street.
Chanthavong, who has held a variety of positions at the center including past president, said the organization plays a role in guiding new members of the Asian refugee community to the temple and promoting events.
This month the center will celebrate its own 16th anniversary with an Asian Cultural Night on May 14 at Legin Restaurant, 8001 SE Division St.
Jennifer Kue, operation coordinator for the Asian Family Center, said the temple is seen as a center for the Portland area's Lao community and a great place for people to go and connect.
This type of community entity, Chanthavong said, is what he hopes the temple will continue to be.
We are here (in Portland) and the monks and the older people need a place to come, he said. You need a place for the young people - the new generation - to carry over our traditions.
Chanthavong said anyone and everyone is welcome at the temple, as both English and Laotian are spoken at meetings and ceremonies.
The festivities for the 30th anniversary of the Wat Buddhatham-Aram will take place later this year on November 6 and 7.
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