First Theravada Buddhist Temple in Area Dedicated

April 30, 2007

Author: Karen Kane

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The dedication yesterday of the Pittsburgh Buddhist Center in Harrison was a feast for the senses.

There were monks swaddled in yards of orange cotton, the traditional ancient vestment of Buddhist priests; dark-haired, dark-eyed women in long dresses topped with saris; spicy-sweet smells from tables loaded with bowls brimming with food; the faintly undulating tones of Sinhalese, the primary language of Sri Lanka; and, overlooking it all, a 5-foot solid white statue of Buddha sitting samadhi, the traditional cross-legged pose of the meditating Awakened One.

It was a big day for the region's Buddhist community. The dedication of the Pittsburgh Buddhist Center -- an unassuming block building atop a little hill across from a car dealership off of Route 28 -- marked the official opening of Western Pennsylvania's first and only Theravada Buddhist temple. The closest is about five hours away in High View, W.Va.

Theravadan Buddhism is the oldest form of Buddhism.

"We didn't have any place of our own to go. Now, our kids will have a chance to learn the Buddhist teachings," said Dr. Chandrasiri Jayakody of Greensburg, a scientist with Chestnut Ridge Foam in Latrobe. A father of two children, ages 17 and 12, he moved from Sri Lanka, where about 75 percent of the population is Buddhist, to the United States in 1990. He is in the process of becoming a citizen.