At Buddhist Temple, Cleansing Rituals to Ring in the New Year

February 7, 2008


Source: The New York Times

Ha Tran was applying the final swipes on Saturday to a 20-foot Buddhist statue inside a Chinatown temple. It took two days, but Mrs. Tran, a 62-year-old Vietnamese immigrant, lovingly washed every one of the deity’s thousand arms and did the same for its 10 heads. Balanced on scaffolding, she painstakingly removed 12 months of accumulated dust and incense in time for the Chinese New Year on Thursday, her yearly rite for 22 years.

“My mom says that we get to bathe once a day,” said Terri Ma, a 34-year-old acupuncturist, translating for her mother, Mrs. Tran. “But Bodhisattva only gets to bathe once a year. So we have to do a good job.”

Ms. Ma accompanied her mother from their Brooklyn home to the American Society of Buddhist Studies on Centre Street in Chinatown, where the enormous golden deity dominates the main worship area of the temple.