Just east of Hobby Airport, sandwiched between stretches of light industrial warehouses and nestled into a green and well-kept enclave, Buddhist monks and the pilgrims who support them chant and pray at the Houston Buddhist Vihara, the largest of the three or more Sri Lankan Buddhist temples in Texas.
“Most of the meetings have been online these days, but now we are starting back with face-to-face meetings,” said Bhante Rahula, who leads the temple. “Most of (the people who come to pray) are Sri Lankan, but there are also Vietnamese, Indian and American friends.”
Rahula emphasized that although members are predominantly from Sri Lanka, the Houston Buddhist Vihara, which was founded in 1988, has members of various nationalities.
Visiting monks, generally from Sri Lanka, live at the monastery for differing lengths of time to help teach members and steer the house of worship.
It is a quiet and calm place with members encouraging others online to attend services for meditation and serenity. The temple welcomes all visitors.
Theravada Buddhism is the largest and official religion of Sri Lanka, an island nation near India in which there were around 6,000 Buddhist monasteries with approximately 30,000 monks in 2007.
In Houston, the temple is a non-profit religious organization whose members provide sustenance to the monks by providing all necessities, a practice called Daana. Like other churches and temples, expenses are met with donations by members.
Before the pandemic, regular attendance services topped 400 people.
Located at 8727 Radio Road, the compound takes up almost a block and includes a great hall, a dining hall and several other buildings that include residences for visiting monks.
In the middle of the compound is a statue of Buddha and an even larger sculpture in a meditation garden. There is also a playground for kids.
The temple also hosts regular dhamma (scriptural) talks and is returning to a schedule that, before COVID-19, included programs like instruction in Buddhism, guided meditation, Sinhala— the language spoken by the Sinhalese people of Sri Lanka — music and dance.
The best way to learn about opportunities at the temple, Rahula said, is to read its online newsletter and sign up for e-mail updates athttp://www.hbvihara.org/
Rahula, who has a Ph.D, in English from Texas Tech University, said the temple is guided by the simple principles espoused by Buddha. In his book Beautiful Living, Rahula writes about the steps and techniques Buddha recommended for the success and happiness of the lay community, including financial stability, healthy personal and social relationships, rational decisions, personality development, inner peace, and happiness.
On the website, the message welcoming visitors to the temple reflect this inner peace: “In this world Hate never yet dispelled hate. Only love dispels hate. This is the law, Ancient and inexhaustible.”
— By Brian Rogers