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Thứ Năm, tháng 1 05, 2006

No. 0723

Buddhist temple aspires to inspire

Monday, January 2, 2006


Copyright © 2006 Republican-American

NEW HARTFORD -- Dae San Su Nim and Sue Yen Su Nim were divinely inspired to build a Buddhist temple outside of their home on Kinsey Road.

And since the completion of the Dae Yen Sa International Buddhist Temple five years ago, 200 other Koreans have been moved to join them for weekly services.

Some are local; others make pilgrimages from as far as New York and New Jersey to worship on the couple's wooded property off Route 202 near the Torrington line.

While Dae San and Sue Yen are grateful for the enthusiastic response, they were more recently inspired again, this time to target a new audience: Americans.

The temple has recently begun an "American Buddhist" program: weekly services in English for anyone who wants to learn more about the religion, or relax and meditate.

The group, so far, is small: Between five and 20 attend the Saturday morning service, which includes yoga, tea, meditation, discussion and a vegetarian lunch.

"We're a very open, affirming group," said the Rev. Brian Vaughn, the temple's English-speaking monk. "They don't necessarily become Buddhists. We're more interested in providing a spiritual space. I don't want it to be more formal."

Vaughn, a former Catholic monk who converted to Buddhism a decade ago and started his work in New Hartford two years ago, is considered a divine intervention at this little temple.

The idea of the service hit a snag early on: Dae San speaks hardly a word of English; Sue Yen knows some, but preferred an fluent English-speaking monk. So they prayed for one.

Shortly after, Sue Yen, a nurse at Waterbury Hospital, was praying at the bedside of a dying patient. Vaughn, a chaplain at the hospital, saw her fingering a bracelet he recognized as Buddhist prayer beads. When he later approached her, she told him she had been praying for an American monk to lead her temple.

Vaughn, surprised, told her he was also a Buddhist.

Soon he was ordained as the temple's priest. Since then, the congregation has grown slowly, and recently hosted its first American Buddhist wedding.

But Vaughn said he hopes for a larger congregation as he makes a concerted effort to gather publicity through the Internet and local media.

Not many people know about the temple, set back from Kinsey Road down a winding, wooded dirt path. Its exterior architectural design is unassuming.

Inside is a large, silent room with an altar bearing three large gold-plated Buddhas and incense. Shoes must be removed before entering, as per Buddhist tradition. Guests sit on the floor atop large brown pillows.

Vaughn said while the temple's design is very traditional, his service within the space is a liberal interpretation designed to appeal to American culture.

"We're looking for something greater than ourselves," Vaughn said. "We're looking for answers. ... We need to look upward, outward and inward. I think that's what spirituality is."

The temple's English service focuses on using meditation to lessen stress and teaching basic Buddhist principles to those who are interested, Vaughn said.

The most basic of those tenets is the concept of "Buddha," which for some is a worshipped entity and for others means "the light within a person," Vaughn said.

Buddhists here are focused on trying to find the light within themselves and each other, Vaughn said. They are taught to practice kindness.

"Buddhists want everyone to go to heaven," Vaughn said. "We're all in this together, so we pray for peace and salvation for everyone in the world."
Attendees who happened upon the temple's Web site, www.gobuddhism.com, said they feel fortunate to have discovered the temple.

"This place is a beautiful place to sit and meditate; it's very peaceful," said Farmington resident John Brooks, who has been a member for a year.

"I don't mind the hour's commute," said Plainville resident Eric Hohfeld, who recently began attending regularly. "I find when I leave I'm a lot more calm."

The Dae Yen Sa International Buddhist Temple's English service is open to the public each Saturday. Yoga starts at 9 a.m.; discussion runs between 10 and 10:30 a.m.; and meditation is from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.