AmeriCorps members visit An Lac Buddhist Temple
On March 22, members of the Interfaith Youth Ambassador Program will engage in a Sacred Spaces tour of An Lac Buddhist Temple. Anyone is welcome to join them. It promises to be a fascinating visit.
What can you expect?
The Immigrant & Refugee Service Corps was the CIC’s AmeriCorps program that extends access to services to Central Indiana’s population of newcomers. (It has since been renamed the Interfaith Enrichment Corps.) In 2015 they visited a Buddhist temple formed by Vietnamese refugees. New IRSC member Tara Cravens files this report. [See a report about a walking meditation in An Lac Temple by Cic’s Moira Frazier here.]
On the second of October as part of enrichment our group of Immigrant and Refugee Service Corps members was scheduled to tour the An Lac Vietnamese Buddhist Temple, located near the intersection of 30th street and Emerson. I was eager to learn more information about the existence of a Buddhist temple founded by refugees in Indianapolis as I had been trying to get in contact with one of the nuns associated with the temple for a few weeks prior.
Without knowing what to expect, we spent some time exploring the site while waiting for the whole group to arrive. It was fascinating to walk around the outside of the temple in the peaceful silence discovering the multiple components of the temple complex. Countless milky white sculptures depicting representations of Bodhisattvas and prominent figures in the tradition’s lineage were arranged throughout the entire complex. A koi pond with giant lily pads provided an area of reflection and contemplation. Many large, white stones with rust colored Vietnamese quotes carved into their faces helped to highlight the sacredness of the space. I found the experience to be very interesting due to my academic study of Buddhism and personal interest in the beliefs. Though the complex is developed through the Vietnamese lens, the environment invoked nostalgia for the time I spent living in Thailand while completing research for my undergraduate thesis. After removing our shoes and stepping across the threshold into the physical temple, I felt completely at ease and reminisced about the many temples that I visited while traveling through Southeast Asia.
Our gracious guide, Apostle David A. Scott, provided us with an interesting perspective through his experience as a Christian minister and a practicing Buddhist. [View images from Apostle Scott’s Amama House here.] Throughout our tour of the temple and surrounding gardens he provided several examples outlining the connections between the two religions. I found it to be very intriguing that he mentioned how wonderful it is that he and the master of the temple engage in educational dialogue regarding their respective religions. He discussed the mutual benefits possible if similar dialogue or even a synthesis existed between practitioners of both Christianity and Buddhism. Furthermore, learning about the history of the site and how it grew from one tiny house to a large pagoda with surrounding gardens was captivating. It was also quite moving to hear from one of the nuns about the difficulties the refugees faced when they were first becoming established and the numerous challenges that arose as the years have passed and the order has grown.
Though we only spent about an hour and a half at the An Lac Buddhist temple, I spent the rest of the day thinking about the plethora of Buddhist art I saw and the stimulating discussions that I heard. The peacefulness and warmth that embraced me while I was there remains with me still.