Save the Thai Temple

Wat Mongkolratanaram

I saw this letter on Asian Pacific Americans for Progress, and I had to re-post it. Back in the day I used to write letters all the time to build support for temples that neighborhoods were trying to shut down. It’s funny how things haven’t changed in these past fifteen years.

Update: Here’s what you can do to help. Visit the Save Sundays at the Thai Temple website, click on “How to help!” and call, fax and email Berkeley’s elected officials. There are sample letters and phone transcripts already posted, so with just five minutes of your time, you can help save and preserve 27 years of Sunday traditions at Wat Mongkolratanaram! Why do I care? Because the same thing that’s happening to the Berkeley Thai Temple happened to Wat Thai of Los Angeles. The difference is that this time I’m not going to sit on my hands and watch another group of NIMBYs bully a Buddhist temple into submission.

Another Update: The Save the Thai Temple website is down, but if you’ve got a Facebook account, you can get all the contact information for Berkeley’s elected officials (including sample email and phone transcript) from the Save the Thai Temple Facebook group (see this discussion topic). Please contact them before the hearing on February 12!

Below is Pahole Sookkasikon’s letter to APA for Progress:

Hello friends at Asian Pacific Americans for Progress, 

I hope this email finds you well. I am emailing you about the current situation surrounding the Thai Buddhist Temple of Berkeley, California. To fill you in: Our beloved 27-year-old temple has come under fire by a small group neighbors recently in the past months for the Sunday Food Offering that has become a part of the cultural fabric of the Bay Area. As in cultural tradition, the Sunday food services are essential to the Buddhist religious practice of communal food-sharing in receiving Buddhist spiritual merit. Furthermore, these services have become embedded with the Temple’s spiritual activities, a part of the Culture and Arts Plan of Berkeley, and a main staple for the representation of the Thai/American community. The offering also helps subsidize many of the cultural, artistic, and religious programs offered on Temple grounds; such as the Thai Cultural Center, language immersion programs, as well as instruction on Thai dance forms.

In the past 27 years, no complaints have been filed against the Temple until recent months. In lieu of the objections, the Temple has not only addressed the specific concerns of the complainants, but also has undertaken efforts to be a considerate community partner through surveys, readjustments of Temple activities, and land use impact studies. Even with all these concessions given to the neighbors, they still are not pleased and would rather shut the Sunday services down completely, leaving the temple financially helpless.

This issue is pressing because of the necessity it generates for the Thai and Thai/American community, the City of Berkeley, as well as all Buddhist disciples in the greater Bay Area.  I have attached three (3) documents that may shed light into this matter and answer some questions you may have. They are as follows:

1) Temple’s Press Release
2) Community Action Alert to be thoroughly spread to the masses
3) ASUC — UC Berkeley Senate’s Bill in support of the Temple

In addition to collectively organizing, we have recently garnered full support from key organizations and institutions that fully side with Wat Mongkolratanaram. Some of these well-known establishments are the Asian Law Caucus of San Francisco, San Francisco State University’s Asian/American Studies Department, UC Berkeley’s ASUC, California State Assembly Member Paul Fong of District 22, Filipinas Magazine, AsianWeek magazine, many Asian/American groups and institutions, Hardboiled Magazine,, as well as USF’s Center for the Pacific Rim.

It is here that I ask for the possiblity of having the verbal support from Asian Pacific Americans for Progress when the Temple goes to into our hearing this month. It is because of the your organization’s mission as a grassrooots, internet-empowered, national network of Asian Pacific Americans for progressive action, that I feel this would be a good fit. I urge you to visit our website listed below for more information about this situation and those involved. The public hearing will be next month (tenatively on 2/12) with the Zoning Adjustment Board of Berkeley and will decide the fate of the Temple’s services as well as its livelihood and the public is more than welcome to attend.

In the warmest of regards,
Pahole Sookkasikon

Pahole Yotin Sookkasikon
M.A. Candidate, Asian American Studies
College of Ethnic Studies
San Francisco State University

Save Sunday’s at the Thai Temple! Contributing to the Thai community and the City of Berkeley:

Be the one to save Michelle’s life.  Be a hero – register to be a bone marrow donor and help spread the word:

“Never cease to act because you fear you may fail. The voice of the people is the voice of God.” – Queen Liliuokalani

4 Replies to “Save the Thai Temple”

  1. Hey thanks for the update, Arun.

    FYI, the temple’s site seems to be down, but there’s also a Facebook group for those who are interested:

    I actually ride past this temple everyday on my way to work. And I like to point out that four houses up the street is the Berkeley Zen Center. No one seems to have a problem with those guys. I could say some snarky things about “Asian” Buddhism and “white” Buddhism…. but I think I’ll do my best and strive for “right speech” today!

Comments are closed.