| 'Jaw-dropping' decision
by Buddhist master 'best lesson ever' for his congregation
Vancouver, Canada - Small in numbers
but big in heart, a little-known Buddhist congregation in British
Columbia is selling its major temple, worth an estimated $500,000,
and will donate the proceeds to the Canadian Red Cross tsunami-relief
If the former church on one hectare
of land in the Fraser Valley community of Mission does not sell
quickly, the temple itself will be donated to the Red Cross to be
auctioned off, congregation spokesman Phien Nguyen said yesterday.
"We can have a temple of compassion,
instead," said Mr. Nguyen, noting that the congregation of
Vietnamese-Canadians had planned to use the sale to build a more
suitable temple closer to Vancouver.
The extraordinary gesture was announced
at Saturday prayers by the 40-member group's Buddhist master, Venerable
Thich Nguyen Thao.
Yesterday, seated cross-legged on
a pillow before a large white Buddha at the group's modest ceremonial
hall in Burnaby, the brown-robed master said the idea bubbled up
spontaneously from his heart as he contemplated the misery of so
many in south Asia.
"I feel that we can share a little
bit of suffering with them. And by doing this, we can help all faiths
join together to make the world, which is so full of hatred, a better
place to live," he said through an interpreter.
Mr. Nguyen, the spokesman, said many
in the congregation were initially stunned and not exactly overjoyed
by their master's decision, announced without consultation or warning.
"But we are all happy about it
now. Our master has spent many years teaching compassion and this
has been the best lesson ever for me."
He said he has known the Buddhist
master for many years, since his arrival in Canada as a "boat
person" in 1980, and something seemed to come over him as he
prayed for the tsunami victims last weekend.
"After the prayers, he looked
different," said Mr. Nguyen. "He stood up, facing us,
and he just announced it [donating the temple]. It was jaw-dropping
for all of us. We were very surprised."
Members had donated thousands of dollars
each to buy the defunct church in Mission five years ago for about
$300,000 and convert it to a Buddhist temple.
However, the hour-long drive to Mission
for weekly prayers proved too daunting. Attendance dwindled, and
last year, the congregation decided to sell the temple and use the
funds to expand a residence it owns in Burnaby into a full temple.
Now, the money will go to the Red
"If it goes through, this will
be a very unique donation, certainly one of the larger ones we've
had," said Carmen MacKenzie of the Red Cross's Lower Mainland
"They are concerned about the
disaster and they are showing their concern in a good way, a big
Ms. MacKenzie added that another Buddhist
leader came to the Red Cross office recently to make an individual
donation of $100,000. [GLOBE AND MAIL]