Trung Tam Phat Giao Van-Hanh

Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 11 October 2009.

Phone: 504-254-6031
Email: persglm@lsuhsc.edu
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Hurricane Katrina Update

Trung Tam Phat Giao Van-Hanh was hit very hard by Hurricane Katrina. The temple suffered major damage from the hurricane force winds which ripped through the area. The roof was badly damaged, and this led to water damage throughout the temple, even though flood waters did not inundate the building. Fortunately, no members perished in the hurricane. However, the evacuation was done so quickly that members had no chance to bring any articles from the temple with them as they evacuated. Upon their return they spent many hours salvaging and cleaning items from the structure. The restoration of the temple is well under way, with many members devoting time and expertise to restore the temple. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that more than half of the congregation have not been able to return to their homes. So the temple's congregation has been significantly reduced. The activities of the Buddhist Youth Association have been temporarily suspended. With work well underway to restore and enhance the temple, one member estimated that the Youth Association would be able to host a major conference at the temple within a year. Currently there are about 30 members associated with the temple, with about 20 participating in the Sunday worship ceremony.

History

Vietnamese Buddhist Americans founded Trung Tam Phat Giao Van-Hanh in 2001. Once a nursing home, the temple is situated close to the Vietnamese American neighborhoods in New Orleans East. This temple was founded by a group of Vietnamese families, some of whom had earlier been regular visitors to the Chua Bo De temple on the West Bank of New Orleans.

Activities and Schedule

Sundays are a celebration of peace where worshipers meditate and read from the Cau An scriptures. Every Sunday consists of two separate ceremonies. The morning service at 10:00 a.m. is for the younger students and lasts 30 minutes. The afternoon service is for the older lay people and lasts approximately 45 minutes. Both groups share a vegetarian meal between services. Many special holidays are celebrated throughout the year. Like many Asian centers in Louisiana, this temple serves as both worship space and cultural center. Vietnamese Catholics, for example, are frequent visitors.

Buddhist Youth Association

The youth organization is called Gia Dinh Phat Tu (literally: "Family of Buddhists"). The official title is the Buddhist Youth Association. Members of the organization are 7 years and up. Exceptions for younger participants are made when younger siblings accompany their older siblings, or when their parents supervise. The purpose of this organization is to educate Buddhists Youths to become true Buddhists and to help society through the spirit of the Buddha's teachings. There are three classes each Sunday for each age group. The first is Vietnamese class; here members learn the Vietnamese language and Vietnamese culture. This class is open to the public, but almost all are members of the Buddhist Youth Association. The second is Buddhism class in which students learn about Buddhism and the practice of Buddhism through discussions on Buddhist topics. The third is a class on social skills where students learn how to tie knots, set up camps, play games, and rescue techniques. Buddhist Youth also receive instruction in Morse code, the Semaphore Flag Signalling System, map reading, use of a compass, etc. These skills get put to use when the group goes on camping outings. Each week about 35-40 young people meet at the temple for Association meetings.

Description

Several steps outside the Buddhist Center lead up to what resembles a square apartment complex. One side of the Center is a long, rectangular room used for major ceremonies and as a dining area on Sundays. The other side of the Buddhist Center includes the monk's quarters, the Den Quan Thanh, and the Ban Tho Vong. The Ban Tho Vong is an altar for ancestors and community members who have passed away. The Den Quan Thanh is a room for seeking good fortune and is frequented by many non-Buddhist Vietnamese. The monk's quarters previously served as the full-time residence of the temple's leader. The current leader, Thay Thuong Luc, does not reside at the temple but he comes to perform special services and to stay for short periods of time.

Festivals and Celebrations

The most popular ceremony in the Vietnamese Buddhist tradition is Le Vu Lan, which takes place in July of the lunar calender. This is the month when we would pay respect to our ancestors and parents, whether deceased or alive. This is the month to remember our roots and to pray for our ancestors and parents so that they may be in peace. Vietnamese Buddhists acknowledge filial piety as a central Buddhist value. Children owe much to parents Le Vu Lan is the month for repaying parents for all they do. This is the most important ceremony for the Vietnamese Buddhist community.

Demographics

Trung Tam Phat Giao Van-Hanh is composed almost entirely of Vietnamese, many of them recent immigrants. The majority of this community are U.S. citizens, although many of the first generation retain their status as permanent residents since they do not know English well enough to pass the proficiency exam. For all Vietnamese U.S. citizenship is an honor; youngsters born elsewhere are encouraged to become citizens.