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Utah Buddhists pray for victims
By Amy Joi Bryson


Layton, United States - They came with baskets of fruit, bottles of water, wallets of money and hope for a prosperous New Year.

They prayed for loved ones who had died in the past year and the living who remain among them, wishing for good luck to embrace them during 2005.

And, members of the Thai Buddhist Temple at 644 E. Gordon Ave., also collected piles of cash and other goods to assist the victims of the Dec. 26 tsunamis that so far have claimed more than 123,000 victims in 11 countries.

Saturday's New Year's ceremony at the Layton temple is an annual event to pay homage to Buddhist tradition and beliefs.

This year's festivities, however, took on new significance as members gave what they could to help victims of one of the most devastating natural disasters to strike southern Asia and Africa.

"It's very, very terrible," said Narong Saipant, a member of the temple's board of directors. "We are trying to help whatever way we can, even if it is a little bit."

One member's wife has family in Phuket, Thailand, where thousands perished as a result of the powerful waves hitting the resort area, but all of her relatives were reported safe.

While Saturday's event was marked by spirituality, prayers and respect for the Buddhist way, it also featured the warmth of the people who had come to celebrate and an unabashed recognition that a New Year gives rise to new possibilities.

With that, members dined on a spread of food prepared and brought for festivities after the religious service.

Dozens of ornately knotted strings hung from the ceiling waiting for members to tug. The tug releases the knot as well as good luck and prosperity for the year and also protects participants from the bad in the world.

Afterward, the string can be worn as a bracelet during the year to keep that luck close.
Saipant said donations collected at the temple for the tsunamis' victims will be forwarded to the Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C.

The temple will serve as a collection point for any resident who wants to help victims of the disaster and is open every day.

With a smile, Saipant said anyone is welcome to come to the temple at any time, if just simply to pray. [DESERET MORNING NEWS]



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