Today I took students of my Intro Buddhism course at UCLA to Wat Thai, a Thai Theravadan Buddhist temple in North Hollywood. Its the oldest Thai temple in the United States (founded in 1972) and serves as a home base for the Thai community residing in greater Los Angeles. There is a main hall, a Thai language school, residence quarters (housing visiting monks from Thailand), a kitchen and dining area, and many small shrines and statues dotting the premise.
Today was the third time I’ve taken a class here and it’s always a wonderful experience. Than Dusit Sawaengwong, one of the long-term resident monks, introduced us to a simple form of meditation, followed by a short talk on Thai Buddhism and the history of Wat Thai. This was followed by a delicious meal of Pad Thai!
People retire their old and broken buddhas, bodhisattvas and deities under the tree. Apparently the practice is common enough that the monks have to periodically clear out the base of the tree. I hesitated ask where the images go from there…
A shrine devoted to Guanyin (J. Kannon, Skt. Avalokitêśvara), interesting in that Thai do not worship this bodhisattva. Rather, Buddhists from other traditions (East Asian Mahayana here) patronize Wat Thai as well.
The group from today’s visit standing in front of the Main Hall. Also present here is Frederick Ranallo-Higgins (lower left) and Matthew Hayes (behind the lens), teaching assistants for the course and Buddhist Studies PhD students at UCLA.