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BUDDHALAND

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COUNTY’S BURIED BUDDHIST MONESTARY

By Taylor Riley

 

Nestled on the Henry and Carroll County line, there’s 200 acres that hopes to be a site of enlightenment and mindful living.

On a road appropriately named Zen Forest, BuddhaLand is tucked deep into Turners Station. The Buddhist monastery, or community of monks, isn’t a secret, though; the 2-mile trail has been in the works for two years.

As one tours the facilities on the grounds, he or she will begin to feel the energy of the religion that focuses on personal spiritual development. You may, too, want to live among the monks in The Villages, reach enlightenment at the Stupa or recite the chants in the Tu An Temple. 

The story

Nam Do, owner of BuddhaLand, is a traditional follower of Buddhism. He grew up going to the temple often with his family in Vietnam, where he said there were “temples everywhere.”

“To us, temple is house,” Do said.

By 1969, Do and his family were caught in the middle of the violent Vietnam War. The United States infiltrated Southeast Asia with hundreds of thousands of troops, as some of the natives were beginning to be sent to safer territories including North America. 

Do and his family could not seek refuge until 1975 when they were fortunate to be the last group of Vietnamese to be picked up by the U.S. Navy before the communists took over the country, according to Do. His family was then relocated to the U.S.

“We were very lucky to come here,” Do said. 

Do realized after many years in the U.S. that there were Vietnamese temples or Roman Catholic monasteries such as the Abbey of Gethsemani, in Nelson County, but not many places for American Buddhist monks and believers. 

“American people need some type of support,” Do said.

After Do retired from the Kentucky Truck Plant where he was an engineer for 30 years, he and his devout wife decided to build a place for Americans to worship and soon BuddhaLand would become a reality.

“We wanted to pay back what we owe to (Americans),” Do said. Do previously built a farm in Henry County and knew the area was where he wanted to see his vision obtained.

The tour

Do and BuddhaLand’s Mindfulness Forest Monastery Abbot Thich Tinh Tri, an American monk, take visitors on an enthusiastic tour of the facilities beginning with the Retreat Center and Mindful Living Village. 

The center, designed to be a headquarters for 500 Thich Nhat Hanh Buddhist mindful living groups in the U.S., with each group using the same practices of BuddhaLand. Do hopes that each year, the center will be used as a “good location” for an annual meeting.

 

 

 

The village, a 35-acre community, began construction last year. Do hopes it will be finished in the next several months with 35 cottage lots and a fully functioning Meditation Center and hall. The lots will be sold to retirees from Sangha, a community of Buddhist monks and nuns. 

 

Next, meditators head to the stupa, a hemispherical structure containing relics, surrounded by flourishing blooms. The religious site is used as a meditation spot; it points upward so that the supplicant can have a “single point in mind,” according to the Abbot Thich Tinh Tri.

 

Dharma, or scrolls, are placed inside the sacred site. There are only four of these types of stupas in the U.S. and the one at BuddhaLand is the largest.

 

Next, the tour takes visitors to The Villages and Caves, which are small cottages on the side of a literal mountain used for monks and lay people (regular people), to meditate. There is no electric or water in the caves so that the meditations can be just as they are in Asia, fully succeeded.

 

Next, the site of Do’s home, which he converted into the monastery. Now, the full-time Abbot lives there, as well as teachers and local and nationwide American monks who stay for retreat and mediation. The home also holds the Chanting Hall, or the Tu An Temple, which is a place for enlightenment for devout Buddhists.

 

Also on the grounds of the two-mile trail is a deck that overlooks a forest that stretches to what seems like urban Cincinnati; the deck is also a place for monks to meditate.  

 

Community of ‘brothers’

 

The American Abbot Thich Tinh Tri began practicing Buddhism in college, where he would go on retreats and study martial arts. As he continued his practice, he met the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, and he knew that he wanted his life to be different than his peers.

 

“The more I practiced, the more it made sense,” Thich Tinh Tri said.

 

The monk said the most essential vows for living a pious life are living with kindness and compassion.

 

“Knowing that suffering is universal and (then) giving with a bindless heart,” he said. 

 

Monks are “human,” though, he pointed out.

 

“We constantly have to test ourselves,” he said.

 

Thich Tinh Tri’s thoughts about the temple were in unison with Don’s, saying, “all temples are a big family.” 

 

“We pray together, we chant together, we meditate together,” Thich Tinh Tri said. “(And then) in-between, we play volleyball. We’re brothers.”

 

To tour BuddhaLand or use its facilities, contact Nam Do at 502-648-2050 or go to www.buddhaland.us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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