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Vajiradhammapadip Temple filed as a not-for-profit organization under the "Religious Corporation Law of State of New York" on July 22, 1975. The original location was on 179th Street in the West Bronx. However, due to the small physical size of the temple and the large numbers of members, the temple was moved to its current location in Mount Vernon.
On November 10, 2006, construction was completed on another Vajiradhammapadip Temple, located on 110 Rustic Road, Centereach.
A Brief History of Vajiradhammapadip Temple Adapted from the book “Thai Buddhism in the Buddhist World”
By Phra Rajvaramuni (Prayudh Payutto) (Presently : Phra Brahmagunabhorn)
Vajiradhammapadip Temple situated in the West Bronx, New York City, was filed as a Not-for-Profit Organization under the Religious Corporation Law of the State of New York on July 22, 1975 (B.E. 2518). This founding date was both De facto and De jure. It now claims to be the first Thai Buddhist temple in the United States to be a full-fledged temple both legally and ecclesiastically.
Legally, it is a legitimate organization established under the local and national law of the country. Ecclesiastically, it conforms to the tradition of the Thai sangha regarding the administration of monastic affairs. As prescribed in the by-laws of the Temple. The President and the Secretary of the Temple shall be its resident monks, putting executive power in the hands of the ecclesiastical section of its Board of Directors. The origin of the Vajiradhammapadip Temple can be traced to the Buddhist Study Center, which was founded by a group of Thai and American Buddhists in New York and was granted legal status as an association in 1965 (B.E. 2508). In 1973 (B.E. 2516), the Center invited a monk from the Thai Buddhist temple in London to come to advise them concerning the establishment of a Thai Buddhist temple in New York. After that, dating from the middle of 1974 (B.E. 2517), two monks were invited to come in succession to organize Thai Buddhist cultural ceremonies and services and to conduct other activities for the Center. This period of time witnessed increased participation in the Buddhist activities of the center and may be regarded as the crucial part of the plan for, and a big step towards the founding of the Temple.
During the early period the invited monk had to stay at a Chinese temple called Cittabhavana Temple in New York City and all ceremonies and services were held there. On August 6, 1974 (B.E. 2517), the monk moved to a house at Anthony Avenue in the West Bronx, which was rented by the Buddhist Study Center for the monks’ residence and the Center’s office. This marked the informal founding of a “Thai Buddhist Temple in New York,” as it was temporarily called for a short while. It still had to hold its bigger ceremonies and celebrations at the above-mentioned Chinese temple.
On December 31, 1974 (B.E.2517), the Buddhist Study Center was allowed to file, under the Religious Corporation Law, for another separate nonprofit organization under the legal name of Budda-Sasana Temple Buddhist Study Center Inc., publicly called Buddha-Sasana Temple, marking the official founding of the Temple. With funds collected from donations of the people, the Center purchased the rented house on Anthony Avenue at the price of $23,373 and paid in full in February, 1975 (B.E. 2518). The house, which was the property of the Buddhist Study Center Inc., simultaneously became the Center’s office and the site of the Buddha-Sasana Temple. At this point, conflict and controversy developed among committee members of the establishment concerning the legal right of ownership over the house and other property, which was held by the Center, not by the Temple.
The executive power was put in the hands of a lay executive director, not the resident monks, leading to widespread dissatisfaction and criticism among the people. The temple was temporarily closed for a short period from the end of March 1975 (B.E. 2518) to the middle of May 1975, due to a leave of absence of the two resident monks; one returned to London and the other left for Los Angeles. A newly invited monk from Thailand then arrived together with the monk who returned from Los Angeles.
During the very brief stay of the two monks, the conflict and controversy intensified to such a degree that activities could not continue. The monks had to leave and stay away from the Temple. Then, a number of committee members of the Temple, members of the Temple and representatives of the Thai society and other Thai associations in New York gathered together and came to a conclusion : that a new Thai Temple had to be established in New York, a temple which they hoped they could trust to be viable both legally and ecclesiastically. Overnight, a temple called Vajiradhammapadip Temple was established on 179th Street in the West Bronx. The site is a house on a 4,121.5 square - foot plot of land purchased with donated funds totaling $43,000.
The two monks moved to the residence on July 2, 1975 (B.E. 2518). The following day the Temple was granted legal status and its official establishment marked. Since then it is this new temple that has been known to the public and has been serving Thai people and Buddhists of other nationalities in the Tri-State area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut as well as in other neighboring States. As the site of the temple was too small for the various activities of the large Thai community of the Tri-State area, it was moved on July 17, 1983 (B.E. 2526) to the present site in Mount Vernon, a two-acre plot of land purchased at the price of $310,000. As for the other temple, though it remained inactive for years, without monks in residence and with problems unsolved, efforts continued to bring the problems to a solution. On September 12, 1975 (B.E. 2518), the Temple was granted by His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand the honorary name of Usabudhyaram Temple. Finally, its executives made a decision to abolish the Buddhist Study Center Inc. ; to transfer the Center’s property to the Buddha-Sasana Temple, and to hand over activities of and executive power over the Buddha-Sasana Temple to the monks who represent, or are authorized by the Governing Buddhist Order of Thailand.
During the Vassa period (raining season) of 1983 (B.E. 2526), five monks resided at Vajiradhammapadip Temple, including a visiting monk. Located in the principal Atlantic port of entry to the United States, the temple is often visited by individual monks and groups of monks coming to the United States, who may stay for a short or long while before resuming their travels. Moreover, as New York City is the biggest city in the U.S. with a large Thai population of various professions and occupations (medical doctors, nurses, businessperson, taxi-drivers, bartenders, students, etc.),
Vajiradhammapadip Temple has become, in New York, the main center and, in the United States as a whole, a focal center of Thai religious and cultural activities. It is frequented by many people and welcomes visitors, Thais, Americans and those of other nationalities, who come from the Tri-State area, from other more distant states and from Thailand. Merit - cultivating ceremonies and festivals have come into vogue here. Again and again, gatherings of friends and relatives are seen participating in merit-making ceremonies, held at the temple or at the homes of the alms - givers on auspicious occasions such as birthdays, weddings and house blessings, and on funeral and memorial occasions. Almost all Buddhist holy days and yearly festive occasions like New Year’s Day and Songkran (a Thai cultural festival) are observed and celebrated, being attended by such large gatherings of people that the comparatively small building of the temple could hardly accommodate them.
However, it is the Buddhist Sunday School classes (with an enrollment of about 70 in 1977 or B.E. 2520) that is the main on-going activity of the temple. In addition to lessons in the Thai language, morals and general social studies, the Temple’s teaching staff, which consist of monk-residents and volunteers, offers its young students, at ages ranging from three to twelve, special lessons and training in painting, Thai dance and Thai sword play. Now and again, the Temple school is invited to send its young students to perform shows of Thai dance and Thai sword play at festivals and fairs held or sponsored by different Thai groups and associations.
Classes in the Pali and Thai languages for English-speaking people are held from time to time, depending on the number of students and space in the building. The Temple library, roughly divided into English and Thai sections, plans to place its emphasis on Buddhist studies, Thai studies, Southeast Asian studies and Thai literature. Meditation training is offered only when there is a meditation-master monk in residence at the Temple or a visiting master has been invited by the Temple to hold a training session. On invitation, some monks go at times to deliver lectures and engage in discussions on Buddhism and related subjects at other religious institutions, colleges and universities. The Temple issues a periodical called Dhammapadip, which is published six times a year, as a part of the celebration on the occasion of annual Buddhist holy days and traditional Thai festivals. Books, booklets and pamphlets are also published from time to time to realize the objectives of propagating Buddhism and publicizing the activities of the Temple.
At this new location in Mount Vernon, the building itself is still small to accommodate the fast-growing numbers of the congregation. So they plan to construct a new hall and a large parking lot. The project was blocked by the protest from nearby neighbors, referring to the “Deed Restriction” written by the previous owner, which indicated that the houses in this area would only be the one family homes, and not to be used as public places. This restriction was overlooked by the lawyer who handled the buying of the property. After several hearings in courts, the temple lost the case and the lawyer agreed to pay the temple for his mistake. After that, the temple not only lost the case, but it was cited and not allowed to service large numbers of people. With the limitations of religious practices in the temple, the abbot and the committee then decided to find another place that would be more suitable and legally right location for the religious organization. In the year 1981 (B.E. 2534) the property at 110 Rustic Road, Centereach New York (Long island) was purchased at the price of $ 1,200,000.00 and it has been used as our temple up to the present time. The building at Mount Vernon is maintained to be the office, the residence for monks, and a center for small religious services accommodating small numbers of the temple members.
This new Temple in Long Island has two buildings, and the lot size is 4.98 acres. It used to be a church before. The main building has a large hall that can accommodate about 1,000 attendants with separate facilities for men- women’s restrooms. The property includes a four bedroom house, which is now used for occasional guests. The parking lot can accommodate 300 cars. The property is not too close to the other residences which is ideal. After the purchase of this new location, the Temple will be more able to practice and serve the Buddhist Tri-State area communities during all holy days and festive occasions. People also come from as far away as Boston, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. to attend the big events at the Temple. The plan to build the new ordination hall came years afterwards, to separate the religious ceremony location from the civic festive celebration location. After the ground breaking ceremony in the year 2002 the constructions of the new hall have been going on with support from so many people that it is beyond our words to describe how grateful we are to them.
The new ordination hall, “Ubosot” is a large 3 sectioned building. The main hall is in the middle with two sections functioning as wings on both sides. The main hall will be used for all religious activities such as daily morning and evening chanting, and religious ceremonies on all holy days. Sundays religious services and meditation classes also will be performed there. This area can accommodate about 200 occupants. Facing the entrance door is the statue of the Lord Buddha, and the altar which is adorned with sacred decorative ornaments and offerings. The right wing of the building is for the monk’s residence. There are two large rooms with attached private bathrooms, and other seven rooms with a common bathroom. The left wing is for a kitchen, pantry, dining room, a room for a resting area of the lay persons, and bathrooms for men, women and those who are disables. The building is met with all safety rules and regulations of the city, state and fire departments. The project has now reached success and now we are ready to celebrate. It will be the Celebration of Demarcation of the new ordination hall which will take place on June 24–27, 2010. Please join us for this grand event of merit cultivation to mark the success of all of our big efforts.
By Phra Rajvaramuni (Prayudh Payutto) Printed 1984. The followed information was added to complete and update information up to the present time by Preeya Sevikul
Main : 110 Rustic Road, Centereach, New York 11720 Tel. 631-471-8006, 631-471-6256 Fax. 631-588-2482
Local : 75 California Road, Mount Vernon, New York 10552 Tel. 914-699-5778 Fax. 914-668-5054