Thai Buddhist temple to rise

By JAMES MCGINNIS, Bucks County Courier Times, Aug 13, 2007

Bensalem, PA (USA) -- A four-story Thai Buddhist temple of white walls, orange roofs and gold trimmings will soon rise from the woods near Knights and Byberry roads in Bensalem.

The Mongkoltepmunee shrine will be a place of high ceremonies and meditation for the Buddhist monks, who first emigrated from Thailand to Bensalem in the 1980s.

The Bensalem shrine will be the only one of its kind in the United States and is designed as an exact replica of a temple in Bangkok, members said.

The Bensalem council voted unanimously Monday to finalize plans for its construction. Plans submitted to the township show the 1,200-square-foot temple resting upon a 4,600-square-foot concourse of ornate white columns and curving staircases.

Mongkoltepmunee monk Phamaha Supichaya Esawanish said construction could begin within weeks. Local crews will help build the temple, but they'll get help from Thai designers, he said. Some of the marble, special art and decorative fixtures for the new temple will be brought from Bangkok.

“We are very excited about having the temple and opening it soon,” Esawanish said.

Members of the Mongkoltepmunee (pronounced Mong-kon-tape-mu-nee) order believe that meditation allows them to reduce stress, improve mental focus and connect with God. The faithful believe the spirit is polluted by the trappings, temptations and fears of modern life.
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During meditation, they visualize the spirit, or consciousness, as a glass orb filled with a luminescent light. This orb of consciousness rests in the center of the body, just above the navel.

Monks dress in bright orange robes and are forbidden to touch women.

On Tuesday morning, they gathered for morning chants and meditation in a multipurpose room, which serves as an education center, eating hall and shrine. Hundreds of golden statues of Buddha sit along the walls inside.

Legs crossed, the monks sat on the floor and began an hour of morning meditation. A mother and her young child sat before them in meditation.

As many as 4 million people in the United States practice some form of Buddhism. Mongkoltepmunee is one form of that religion and it has about 2,000 followers in the Philadelphia region, members said.