The Norman Transcript


January 4, 2013

Temple doesn’t always inspire peaceful reactions



The temple’s leader, the Most Venerable Thich Giac Si, said he is mindful of his neighbors’ concerns and reminds visitors to park outside the neighborhood to reduce the number of cars streaming along the residential streets.

“Whatever they like to say or express to us, we like to listen,” he said.

Rusty Kennedy, executive director of the Orange County Human Relations Commission, said budding religious groups often set up shop in suburban areas, and such clashes can be expected.

“In many religious communities you will see this tradition of starting a congregation in your home before you’re able to buy or build,” Kennedy said.

Even though the face of central Orange County began changing decades ago with the arrival of Vietnamese immigrants, the tiny neighborhood temples sometimes seem foreign to residents when they spring up.

“There’s no question where you’re confronted with something you don’t understand or are unfamiliar with, you’re uncomfortable,” Kennedy said.

Often stereotypes about a culture or its images — such as the Buddhist swastika or Sikh turbans — can “color our thinking” about a neighbor, Kennedy said. But the conflicts, he said, sometimes sort themselves out.

Van agreed, saying some may feel uncomfortable with the chanting because of a language barrier, but the sound can comfort even those unfamiliar with it.

“You don’t have to understand it for it to be soothing to your ears,” he said.

For the recent gathering, Van’s relatives came from as far as North Hollywood and West Covina to visit the temple to participate in the final day of prayer for his uncle’s spirit, 49 days being the period a spirit needs to find its new life, according to Buddhist tradition.

The next time the family will pray for their uncle will be at the one-year anniversary of his death.

In addition to hosting ceremonies for the dead, Van said the temple gives back too — donating clothes and vegetarian food to the homeless and helping with construction of water wells in Vietnam. The temple also sends money to 120 handicapped people in Vietnam, Thich Giac Si said.

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