Years Of Work Paying Off for Buddhists' Retreat

May 4, 2009

Author: Zen T.C. Zheng

Source: The Houston Chronicle

Amid echoes of drums, bells and Buddhist chants, a monk donning a red and yellow robe raised a golden ceremonial key and led two followers to slowly open the door of the meditation hall in front of a crowd of 1,200.

The hall, a hybrid of Eastern and Western architectural conceptions, is one of numerous structures completed in the initial phase of the American Bodhi Center, a 515-acre Buddhist retreat nestled in a forested part of Waller County.

Nearly a decade in planning with construction begun three years ago, the about $10 million project has been built entirely with funds donated by local and overseas supporters and followers.

One of the nation’s largest Buddhist developments, the center is everything a devotee dreams of: a site far away from the city’s hustle and bustle, the seclusion in a forest of pines and oaks, and a variety of facilities for study, meditation, meeting, camping and short-term living.

The center’s ribbon-cutting Saturday coincides with two other milestones for the Houston-based Texas Buddhist Association, which built the center: the 2,553rd birthday of Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, and the organization’s 30th anniversary. The group, which has a congregation of about 1,500 families, has held services at its Jade Buddha Temple, 6969 Westbranch in Houston.