Friday, May 27, 2011

Buddhists from Burma Practicing in Minnesota

I'm a bit behind the blogging ball on this one, which happens sometimes. Arun, over at Angry Asian Buddhist, recently put a call out for posts celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Today, he has a round up post offering links to various bloggers who responded with some excellent writing.

First off, if you are interested in doing some more academic reading about Asian-American Buddhists, check out this bibliography.

Second, as long time readers know, I spent many years as an ESL teacher. Amongst my students over that time were a large number of Karen, an ethnic minority group from Burma. While many of them were Christian, I did have a handful of Buddhist Karen students, and they are members of a sangha located in Maplewood, MN.

While the convert Buddhist sanghas, like the one I belong to, have gained a bit of press and attention over the years, that Asian-American and Asian-immigrant dominant sanghas have mostly not - with the exception of the Tibetan communities here in Minnesota, which have mostly been able to ride the coattails of the Dalai Lama.

So, here is a little bit about the Sitagu Dhamma Vihara Buddhist Monastery in Maplewood, from one of their websites:

Theravada Buddha Sasana Nuggaha, Minnesota(TBSN/MN), a non profit organization, was established in St. Paul on May 2, 2004 (Buddha day) (Kason Full moon day of Burmese era in 1365) in order to full fill the crucial requirement for the Buddhists population from Burma, in mid west area of Minnesota. Even many Buddhists with different ethnic back ground from Burma migrated in Minnesota three decades ago there was no Theravada Buddhist monastery in Minnesota. Most of the Burmese Buddhists practice their belief at Lao, Cambodia, Vietnamese, and Chinese Buddhist temples in twin cities area those days.

Four years ago in 2004, Buddhists enthusiastic in Twin cities gathered at Lao Buddhist temple on Burmese New year day and discussed about future establishment of Theravada Buddha Sasana (Teaching of Buddha) association and monastery in MN.
On the full moon day of May 2, 2004, the first Buddhist non-profit organization was successfully formed and named Theravada Buddha Sasana Nuggaha (Supporting to prolong the uncontaminated Buddha Teaching

Meaning of TBSN

Theravada- Preserving the original Buddha’s teaching (canon) from elders Buddhist monk (sanga) until now, called Theravada Buddhism the form of Buddhism practiced in Sri lanka, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, considered to be the most orthodox current form of Buddha Teaching.

Buddha- the Founder of Buddhism, the Enlightened One

Sasana- All Teaching of Buddha.

Nuggaha- Supporters, custodians, preservers of uncontaminated pure teaching of Buddha.

It's so easy for communities like this to go under the radar, barely noticed outside of their membership. The services are held in a house. The websites (here is their main one) are often done in a mixture of first languages and English. And in this case, the English is written by second language speakers. Furthermore, the mainstream media just doesn't cover them. I could only locate the following article about a sangha food fair, which was held last year. And this from a very minor local media source.

Anyway, I hope you take a moment to check out some of the photos on their website, and to consider what sanghas might be under the radar in your community.

*The photograph is from a celebration of traditional Htamane, which is a dish from Burma consisting of sticky rice, mixed with oil, peanuts, Sesame seeds, and other ingredients.

1 comment:

Arun said...

Thanks for this post, Nathan!