July 27, 2017

Buddhist Temple serves Salt Lake Valley Vietnamese community

Buddhist Temple serves Salt Lake Valley Vietnamese community
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By The West View

By Atticus Agustin

Sunday service is finishing up, and Lin, the religious leader, steps outside towards the Buddhist nuns’ quarters. She is easy to spot, as she is the only one wearing traditional bright yellow robes. Lin has been a Buddhist nun for as long as she can remember.

Everyone else hangs around the traditional-style Buddhist Temple called Chua Tam Bao; many of them lighting incense, praying, and kneeling in front of a 15-foot-tall statue of Buddha.

This religious organization reflects part of the religious diversity on 700 West in this west-side, Jackson neighborhood; a mosque, Buddhist temple, and a Catholic parish are all on the same street.

The temple, in addition to another temple located near the Day-Riverside Library on 1000 North, serves the Vietnamese Buddhist community as part of the Vietnamese Buddhist Association of Utah. Many of the regulars live in Poplar Grove, Glendale, Rose Park, West Jordan, West Valley, and Ogden.

Western religions oftentimes differ fundamentally from Eastern ones, but the Vietnamese Buddhists point out the commonalities on their website, www.chuatambao.com:  “Buddhism shares numerous features with all other religions. All religions encourage human beings to do good deeds, avoid evil deeds, cultivate a good life of morality and compassion, and develop human dignity for both oneself and others, as well as for family and society.”

Chua Tam Bao’s mission, as translated from its social media page, is: to facilitate Buddhist followers who take refuge in Buddhist, Dharma, and Sangha teachings, to help followers find peace of mind as they pray for living family members and ancestors who are deceased.”

Back in June, I toured the temple. Van Nguyen, one of the temple members, was my guide. Just like in the Bosniak mosque a few feet away, I was instructed to take off my shoes before walking fully inside. You won’t find any chairs in here; just book rests neatly laid all over the ground. There is a large altar on the west side of the gathering room. A statue of Buddha sits in the middle, with two smaller statues on both of his sides. The rest of the altar is embellished with carefully placed daffodils, bamboo, and oranges. To finish off, a backdrop of trees and Chinese characters sits behind.

On this particular day, people start leaving at about 1 p.m., but there is still a lot of noise in the temple. People in the backyard are putting metal bars together and a large canopy. Others are carrying tools and buckets in and out of the monks’ residence. This was all done in preparation for the vegetarian food bazaar and fundraising event that occurred on June 24.

Van explained what Chua Tam Bao means: “Temple of Three Jewels” in Vietnamese. The three jewels represent: Buddha, a drummer, and a singer.

According to Van, three female nuns live in a house next to the temple. “They sing, chant, meditate, and analyze one-thousand-year-old scriptures to be able to convey the message to modern day members.”

The temple had its early beginnings in 1975 when the first Vietnamese came to the United States. It was established in 1984 in a house that now serves as the nuns’ quarters, but over the years expanded when it added the traditional style pagoda, which was dedicated in 1990.

The temple is easy to spot. It is big, bright, and surrounded by several life-size statues of Buddhas and other important people around well-manicured lawn and gardens. Although the service is all in Vietnamese, Van says that anyone is welcome to attend.

Services are conducted Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Tam Bao Pagoda, which is located at 469 N. 700 West. Vegetarian food is available for purchase on weekends, on the full moon and the new moon, based on the lunar calendar.