Lao Gather at Buddhist Temple

January 21, 2007


Source: Anchorage Daily News/Buddhist Channel,3650,0,0,1,0

Kneeling before a towering, gilded Buddha, Phouvong Soneoulay lifted a morsel of sticky rice and placed it in a metal offering bowl. As it left her fingers, she prayed the nourishment would reach her husband, Soulideth, who died at this time last year.

Along with six children and close to a hundred others, Soneoulay honored her husband Saturday at Wat Lao of Anchorage, a Buddhist temple in Mountain View. The small temple, which was completed last year, is the heart of the city's Lao community, where followers gather to grieve, worship and celebrate. It hosts memorial ceremonies like Soneoulay's at least once a month.

"Some come here for the meditation, some come for the monks, some come to gossip, some come to share food with the dead, some come for good fortune," said Soneoulay's daughter, Toc.

The 2000 census put the number of Lao people in Anchorage at about 1,400, but community members estimate there are now more than 2,000. About 300 families regularly visit the temple, according to the monks.

The temple is the latest addition to a compound of yellow buildings on Schodde Street, which are home to seven monks and one young boy, "a novice," or monk in training. The monks have no income and depend completely on offerings from the community.