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Buddhists celebrate new temple in Elyria

by Cindy Leise, The Chronicle-Telegram, August 28th, 2011

Elyria, Ohio (USA) -- A community of Buddhists celebrated the opening of a new temple on the city’s north side with food, music, meditation and the joyous “Money Flower” procession Saturday night.

About 100 people from several states, mostly of Cambodian descent, took part in the ceremony as several Buddhist monks dressed in orange or brown robes looked on.

“I feel happy,” said templegoer Yenn Yon as she offered monetary support for the temple.

Families carried offerings of money in flower arrangements as they circled the temple, which is decorated with colorful panels depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha.

Born Nai, a Buddhist monk at the temple, said this is a very big moment for the Cambodian community in Northeast Ohio.

He said the temple was cramped at its smaller facility in Cleveland, so it purchased the former Grace Brethren Church building at 1305 Nash Ave. for $180,000 and sank additional money into renovations.

Temple member Bunrith Leng, a machinist from Middleburg Heights, said the temple members want to be good neighbors.

He said they have told nearby homeowners about their services, which involve music and chanting.

Among those attending the ceremony was Dave Hribar of Avon Lake, who said the new temple is larger and more family-friendly than the group’s former temple in Cleveland.

Today at 9 a.m., the temple will have a ceremony honoring the Triple Gem and observing the Five Precepts.

The Triple Gem consists of the Buddha, the Dhamma, or the teachings of the Buddha, and the community of Buddhists called the Sangha, according to Hribar.

The Five Precepts are to refrain from taking any life, refrain from stealing, refrain from sexual misconduct, refrain from false speech and refrain from taking intoxicants, he said.

The Cambodian Buddhists can be shy, but they are kind and welcoming, Hribar said.

“They’ve been through hell in this life,” Hribar said, referring to the terror wreaked on Cambodia by Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia until his death in 1998.

An estimated 1.7 million to 2.5 million people - or about 21 percent of the Cambodian population - died under the Khmer Rouge.

Nai, the Buddhist monk, said his uncle was a casualty of the terror during the reign of Pol Pot.

One person who is wholeheartedly welcoming the temple to Elyria is David Arredondo, director of international student services at Lorain County Community College.

A number of Buddhists attending LCCC over the years have inquired about nearby temples, and Arredondo said the closest ones were in Cleveland before the Nash Avenue facility opened.

Nai said he will be attending classes at LCCC himself.

This weekend’s dedication is bittersweet. It comes a month after tragedy struck the fledgling temple when a 17-year-old member, Darryl Phoeur of Cleveland, drowned in Lake Erie on July 30 when he was apparently drawn into strong currents.

IF YOU GO

What: Buddhist ceremony honoring the Triple Gem and observing the Five Precepts.

Where: Watt Buddhavacanarama, the Cambodian-American Buddhist Temple at 305 Nash Ave. in Elyria.

When: 9 a.m. today, followed by a luncheon at noon.Sri Lankan pilgrims that took place in South India.


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