Source: The Houston Chronicle
On November 11, 2000, The Houston Chronicle reported that the largest of the True Buddha temples in North America, located in Sharpstown, TX, has approximately 500 memebers. When the bell of Mee Yee True Buddha Temple rings, followers believe, deities hasten to its sanctuary. Among them is Amitaba Buddha, the temple's special deity who is honored by a wall of 1,080 small statues of his likeness. He is considered the king of all Buddhas, and the devotees who follow his 'dharma,' or teachings, eventually become Buddhas. Other deities, or spiritual beings, include the Dragon King, who rewards his devout followers with a wish, and a multitude of Buddhas dedicated to bringing peace and harmony to people seeking the path to supernatural enlightenment. 'When the bell rings all the spirits of the temple have to come,' said Seamus Miau, a San Francisco-based lama who serves at the Houston temple on a rotating basis. For the 5 million people worldwide who follow the True Buddha tradition, deities are not distant or impersonal. They were people who lived and attained enlightenment centuries ago, Miao said. Today they are compassionate spiritual beings committed to helping people find peace and tranquility and become Buddhas, as well. "The interesting thing about Buddhism is that there is no one god," said Miau, 40, a native of Taiwan. 'In Buddhism, we believe that Jesus Christ is one of the Buddhas,' said John Lin, chairman of the temple's board. 'He came to this world to help other people.' But he died before he was able to impart the dharma, Lin said. The temple's primarily Chinese devotees meet on Sunday afternoons for meditation. 'We don't worship our deities,' said Miao, who earned a master's degree in biostatistics from the University of Michigan before becoming a monk three years ago. Instead, Buddhists seek to become one with the deity through yoga or meditation...One of the school's 60 grand masters, Master Samantha Chou, was dispatched from San Francisco in 1992 to help the group establish itself. She predicted on her first visit that a temple would be established in four years, Lin said. In 1995, Master Samantha, as she is called, asked the then-200 local followers to appeal to the Dragon King for assistance. According to True Buddha teachings, the Dragon King is obliged to grant the wish of followers who pray for seven nights and prepare a special vase containing herbs as an offering. The vase is then dropped into the ocean, where the Dragon King is believed to live. Lin believes the Dragon King helped the group find its temple site, which they purchased for $ 885,000 in 1996. The date they moved into the church at 7734 Mary Bates was exactly four years from the day Master Samantha, who is regarded as a seer and a healer, predicted the temple would be established. Over the years, the congregants have made $ 500,000 worth of renovations to change the facility from a Christian church to a Buddhist temple, including a traditional 'mountain gate' that graces the entrance...The temple also features a Hall of Eternal Bliss, where cremated remains of ancestors are stored. The Amitaba Buddha is the featured deity there, and the spirits are believed to live in his light...The Houston temple was dedicated Oct. 29, capping nearly a decade of work and devotion."