by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, August 2014) Over 200 people gathered at Quan Am Buddhist Temple at 11921 Bellaire Road on Sunday July 20th to celebrate the temple’s tenth anniversary.
Many members of Cleveland Buddhist Community attending the celebration, came early to go inside the small temple for a moment of reflection before a beautiful image of Buddha prior to the ceremony. Nuns from the Quan Am Temple greeted guests and members of the temple. Young girls, chosen to carry flowers during the ceremony, gathered inside the temple beforehand to practice their procession.
The ceremony was held in a tent just outside the temple. The altar, in the tent, was placed in front of a colorful cloth picture of the Buddha. Arrangements of fruit were placed on either side of the altar. Each of the fruit arrangements included two bowls, one on top of the other ringed with large oranges with a pineapple placed in the center on top of the bowls.
Members of Quan Am Buddhist Temple and its Sangha, a community of ordained Buddhists nuns led by Abbess Venerable Thich Nu Le Thanh, invited guests from twenty Sangha – communities of Buddhist nuns or monks throughout the United States, Canada and even Vietnam. Representatives of those communities in attendance came from many diverse locations including Vietnam, Canada, Michigan, New York, California and Texas. Monks and nuns from Cleveland’s Vietnamese and Cambodian communities were also in attendance. At the beginning of the ceremony the nuns and monks walked in a colorful procession from the temple and down the center isle of the tent.
During the ceremony two Buddhist nuns, Venerable Thick Hue Heu and Venerable Thick Quang Nguyen from the Quan Am Temple, announced the names, temple and city and country from which the Buddhists monks and nuns had come. The announcements were made in both English and Vietnamese.
The Venerable Thich Nu Le Thanh, Abbess of the Quan Am Temple welcomed all those in attendance and shared some of the history of the struggle to purchase the land and tear down a garage to develop an extension of the original building. Abbess Thich Nu Le Thanh said, “Today it is a beautiful place and a very nice Buddhist Temple for everyone to come to worship Buddha, to meditate or for Community meetings.” She thanked all those who have given “direct and indirect support” over the years to the temple and offered a prayer “may the Buddha protect you and your family and guide you on a path of awakening.”
The building contractor, who built the extension, was among the guests recognized at the ceremony. Other guests included Joseph Meissner and Gia Hoa Ryan of the Friendship Foundation of American Vietnamese. Meissner spoke of the 32 trips he took to Vietnam and the work the Friendship Foundation in developing a connection between the Vietnamese American Community and Vietnam. Meissner relayed the dying words of a monk from a temple he visited in Vietnam “Follow the Buddha and Do Good.”
Le Nguyen, now retired from the City of Cleveland Community Relations Department, presented proclamations from both Mayor Frank Jackson and Ward 11 Councilperson Dona Brady.
During the ceremony a group of girls slowly marched down the isle to the altar going slowly from side to side bringing offerings of baskets of flowers for the Buddha. The ceremony also featured a team of Lion dancers.
Toward the end of the ceremony a number of guests were given beaded bracelets by the monk presiding over the ceremony. The bracelets had been blessed on the altar during the ceremony, in placing the bracelets on the wrists of the guests, the monk told each person that the bracelet would bring them “good luck.”
Following the ceremony all were invited to stay for food and entertainment. Guests feasted on a wide variety of vegetarian Vietnamese dishes.