#65. Attend a Buddhist Ceremony

A Buddhist temple... not exactly what I had pictured.

A Buddhist temple... not exactly what I had pictured.

When I think of Elk River, Minnesota, I envision snowmobiles, big trucks, Carhartt coveralls and maybe a Fleet Farm. And when I see a house like this, I am instantly reminded of childhood friend whose family lived in one exactly like it. Though the building is perfectly structured to house a family of four (specifically, an Elk River-y outdoorsy family of four, based on the style of wallpaper displayed inside... see below photo), the inhabitants might surprise you.

The bathroom wallpaper: Cabin/Buddhist temple chic, no?

The bathroom wallpaper: Cabin/Buddhist temple chic, no?

For the last six or seven years, a group of Buddhist monks have called this split level property home. It's also served as a de facto community center for Twin Cities-based Thai and Lao transplants. On the surface, Elk River seems a strange choice for a Buddhist temple, but the place is situated at the end of a heavily wooded cul-de-sac, which is actually quite beautiful and serene.

My Thai friend Pui (pronounced Poo-EE...) invited me to attend the annual Kathina Ceremony. The gist, according to the best source I know, Wikipedia:

Kathina is a Buddhist festival which comes at the end of Vassa, the three-month rainy season retreat for Theravada Buddhists. The season during which a monastery may hold a Kathina festival is one month long, beginning after the full moon of the eleventh month in the Lunar calendar. It is a time of giving, for the laity to express gratitude to monks. Lay Buddhists bring donations to temples, especially new robes for the monks.

Pui described it as a big party where everyone eats a bunch of awesome Thai food, followed by a bunch of chanting. Definitely a new experience for me, plus I love food. So off we went!

While I love writing, sometimes photos and videos do a better job of telling a story (see below). My main takeaways from this amazing experience:

  • Thai home cooking is better than most of the stuff you've probably been eating
  • You might be surprised to discover what's hiding in your own backyard, especially if you live in Elk River.

Thanks for the cultural immersion trip, Pui!

Pui & I, awaiting the monks, treats in hand. 

Pui & I, awaiting the monks, treats in hand. 

Before anything religious happens, you gotta take off your shoes. 

Before anything religious happens, you gotta take off your shoes. 

How good does that look?

How good does that look?

What's cooler: passing around a basket to collect donations... or building a money tree? No answer needed.

What's cooler: passing around a basket to collect donations... or building a money tree? No answer needed.