Monday, May 7, 2012

Dharma Spring meditation group (Chua Phap Nguyen)

This is one in a series of "Profile" posts in which different local Buddhist groups and Temples will be described so that seekers will understand fully in advance what to expect should they decide to visit.


The Dharma Spring English meditation group is part of the Chua Phap Nguyen Temple in the northeast corner of Pearland, Texas (closer to Friendswood and Clear Lake proper than to the core of Pearland). 
Attempts to Googlemap either the search string "Chua Phap Nguyen, Pearland, TX" or "Dharma Spring, Pearland, TX" will not spot the location.  As of May 2012, it was necessary to enter the actual address of 1838 County Road 129, Pearland TX 77581 in order to pull a map. 
The English services are mentioned on the Temple's website, but without description or elaboration.  However, the English Sangha has produced several outreach resources in order to inform the public of its activities within the Temple.  Those resources include (but are not limited to) the following:
Appearance of the Meetup mainpage as of May 2012.
Example photograph from the Meetup group photo section.
  • A "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQ) document was developed and approved for distribution by the Temple's Abbot Thich Tri Hoang.  The FAQ is intended to provide newcomers with a complete basis of information for understanding both the logistical procedures followed during the English meditation sessions, as well as providing introductory denominational and philosophical "position statements" that characterize both the English group and the Temple itself.  A text-based copy of the FAQ is available on the Meetup site, and for ease of printing, images of this document are also provided below (click images to increase size but note that blog hosting here might result in unintentionally-degraded print quality).
This Temple is affiliated with Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel, New York, and the Abbot has been instrumental in developing a three-year Dharma Training Program which will be offered in English for the first time in Houston starting in September 2012. 
The Dharma Training Program may be accessed via the "Links" title on the Chua Phap Nguyen website or by following the URLs given here. 
Moderator's viewpoint.  This Temple offers several distinct advantages for English-speaking meditators, as follows:
  1. The presence of an accomplished monastically-trained, English-speaking but native Asian teacher-in-residence is rare in our area and offers the potential for learning opportunities that arguably exceed those typically found within leaderless lay groups.
  2. The Temple is explicitly and intentionally inclusive, stating on its website "Phap Nguyen Buddhist Congregation is a non-denominational community that follows various Buddhist traditions and is open to people from all walks of life and faith. We find inspiration in any sutra or scripture and hold none above any other since truth can only be experienced in our hearts and not in the letter."   In recent Dharma talks, the Abbot has stressed that the meditation sessions are offered equally to all persons without regard to their existing religious affiliations, and that there is no intention to "replace" any person's existing faith with Buddhism.  Therefore the group is suitable for local Christians and persons of other denominations who may wish to explore meditation as an adjunct to their own faith practices.
  3. The Abbot has studied under a variety of teachers including Thich Nhat Hanh who, in terms of "recognizeability" as a global Buddhist leader, is arguably second only to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.  This previous association tends to resonate with English seekers who are already familiar with Nhat Hanh's remarkable collection of published writings.    
  4. The English Sangha is particularly welcoming, as evidenced by the outreach efforts described above.
As with any institution, this Temple also has characteristics that could be viewed by some seekers as being limitations, some of which are as follows:
  1. Because this Temple formed only recently (2009), both the staff and the English Sangha itself are still small, and there are presently no participation programs for English-speaking minor children. 
  2. Thus far, Sunday services are presented in the Vietnamese language only. 
  3. A Master Plan for the property has been developed and both a small Sanctuary and dining hall are present, but the main Temple has not yet been constructed, which results in some space limitations. 
Future South Houston Sangha News posts will provide additional information regarding both this English meditation group and its outreach efforts, as well as the Dharma Training Program to be offered by this Temple.

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