Tag: Theravada

A Vietnamese Mendicant Tradition

Nhu Lai Thien Tu

There were six, if not more toilets at Như Lai Thiền Tự, a Buddhist temple in San Diego. I figured six was excessive—until three coaches of pilgrims pulled up in front. Celebrations for the Lunar New Year continue, and this includes the ancient tradition of temple hopping. Apparently the new year is the best time to make merit—and to wait in a long line to pee.

On any given day, there is very little about Như Lai Thiền Tự to distinguish it from the multitude of other Vietnamese temples across North America. There is a main shrine hall, an ancestor hall—even a special stage set up for Tết ceremonies. Statues of Buddhas, bodhisattvas and classic characters from Chinese Buddhist literature meet you at every turn, always accompanied by a incense holder for the devotee. But this is not your typical Mahayana Buddhist temple.

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Sects and Sectarianism

UnityEdictSarnathweb-fullThe problem with free eBooks is that, for all the gains in access they offer by removing the constraints of traditional distribution they remove some of the methods of traditional promotion. For Buddhist monastic authors this is usually not a problem since free access is greatly prefered to fame and fortune, but this means that many great eBooks fall through the cracks, unnoticed.

Thus, attention all Buddhist nerds: read Ajahn Sujato’s Sects and Sectarianism immediately. I cannot think of a more important book written for the cause of Global Buddhism.

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Bhante Khippapanno

There is a great monk currently leading a course at the IMS Forest Refuge. Ngài Kim TriệuBhante Khippapanno, alternatively known as Hòa thượng Kim Triệu (his lay name), is a well known meditation teacher in the Vietnamese Theravada community. A year ago when we started this blog, I’d never even heard of Vietnamese Theravada monks in the United States. But because of my post on this topic, one of the Dharma Folk pointed me to a local Southern California center. I went there and found that most of the monks, though Vietnamese, spend significant time studying meditation in Burma. So my own journey comes full-circle.

I’ve since developed friendships with some of the monks and practitioners at this temple. It’s a bit out of the way, but I try to go there every other month. A friend who had done a retreat there with Bhante Khippapanno encouraged me to go visit, and Bhante gave a valuable lesson on friends and practice.

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Therapeutic etymology

*Disclaimer* I am not a linguist by any means. My lack of understanding of Pali, Greek, and possibly English validates any grain of salt thrown at this post. Put your Skeptics hat on, my friends.

Around 250 BCE, the Third Buddhist Council convened under the patronage of Asoka, emperor of the pan-Indian Mauryan empire. The council’s purpose was to expunge the heretical and false, including both the views of dhamma and monastics. The council compiled the teachings and rules that would be considered the “teachings of the Elders”, Theravada.¹

After the council had concluded, Asoka sent out missionaries on the behalf of the Theravadins to all parts of the known world, including the Hellenic world.

These missionairies would have been called the Sons of the Elders, Theraputta. Although there is little record, Asoka claims to have reached Egypt and Greece with the dhamma.

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Vietnamese Theravada Temples

Many thanks to Oz, I finally found a Vietnamese Theravada temple in Southern California. On top of that, when searching for the temple address, I found a list of all Vietnamese Theravada temples on Binh Anson’s website.

The Vietnamese word for Theravada is Nguyên thủy, which means something along the lines of “original” or “primitive”, as in xã hội nguyên thủy (primitive society), so if you click on Binh Anson’s link, look for the term chùa Nguyên thủy ‘Theravada temple’.

Below I’ve copied the list of Vietnamese Theravada temples outside of Vietnam. Enjoy!

  • Chùa Pháp Vân, Pomona, California
  • Thích Ca Thiền Viện, Riverside, California
  • Như Lai Thiền Viện, San Jose, California
  • Chùa Phật Pháp, St Petersburg, Florida
  • Pháp Đăng Thiền Viện, Spring Hill, Florida
  • Chùa Pháp Luân, Houston, Texas
  • Chùa Đạo Quang, Garland, Texas
  • Chùa Hương Đạo, Fort Worth, Texas
  • Chùa Liên Hoa, Irving, Texas
  • Chùa Bửu Môn, Port Arthur, Texas
  • Chùa Kỳ Viên, Washington DC
  • Bát Nhã Thiền Viện, Montréal, Québec
  • Chùa Kỳ Viên, Paris, France
  • Chùa Phật Bảo, Paris, France

Again, follow the link above to get addresses and contact information, although there are some typos. For example, “3 rue de Broca, Savigny-sur-Orges” should be “3 rue Brocca, Savigny-sur-Orge”.

Vietnamese Theravada?

Recently, I was cleaning up the list of Theravada Buddhist monks on Wikipedia. Sometimes names get accidentally sorted by their honorific. For example, Ṭhanissaro Bhikkhu should be sorted by ‘T’, and not ‘B’, since bhikkhu is a title, not a last name. I was making sure each name was sorted right. It’s fun because you have to visit each page, and then you get to learn about monks you’ve never heard of before.

One such monk was Bhante Kassapa.

He’s described as the “first non-Vietnamese Monk in the Vietnamese Theravada Sangha in America”. I didn’t read on because I was still hung on the first question that popped into my mind. There’s a Vietnamese Theravada Sangha in America?

See, I regularly attend a Vietnamese temple, but my practice is more in line with what I’ve learned from my Theravada teachers. For me this means that I could actually merge my temple and my personal practice! Anyway, I did a search, and found an article by Binh Anson all about the history of the Theravada Sangha in Vietnam (also here). I’d previously thought that all Theravada Buddhists in Vietnam were Khmer Krom, but Vietnamese in fact have their own recently conceived Theravada sangha. How cool.

Now all I have to do is find a Vietnamese Theravada temple in Southern California.

Ordination of a new Vietnamese monk
Photo of Vietnamese Theravada ordination from Bhante Kassapa’s site.