Wat Buddhananachat of Austin

This profile was last updated in 2003

Activities and Schedule

The lay community gathers every Sunday to offer the monks a potluck lunch. Wat Buddhananncat also hosts a wide variety of religious ceremonies and social events.

History

Wat Buddhanannachat in Del Valle is uncontested for the title of the first Asian temple in the area. It was built on a farmhouse a few miles east of what is now the Austin Bergstrom International Airport. Until 1999, Bergstrom International Airport was Bergstrom Airforce Base. Many of the founding lay members of the temple are Thai women who married American servicemen stationed at the base.
A sizable community of Thais, as well as Cambodians and Laosians, desired a center for traditional Buddhist practice as well as ceremonies such as weddings and funeral rites. So, in 1986, a farm site was purchased and arrangements were made with the Council of Thai Bikkus to have monks sent to Del Valle to found the Wat Buddhanannachat of Austin Temple.
Since that time, the temple has grown from less than 20 families to nearly 500 families that support 8 monks. Several photo albums kept in the prayer hall record the entire history of the temple’s construction and growth.

Demographics

The majority of the temple community consists of Thais, Cambodians, and Laosians. The most commonly used language is Thai while prayer and chanting is conducted in Pali. Transliterated texts are available to English-speakers.

Description

There are two buildings located on the temple complex. The first building contains living quarters for the 8 monks as well as a kitchen and the main prayer hall. The prayer hall is equipped with icons of Buddhas and Arahats. A row of pictures along the wall depicts the life of the Buddha as well as the Buddha’s previous incarnations. There are also portraits of the royal family of Thailand and an American flag. A large sofa is located at the back of the prayer hall for those who cannot sit on the floor.
The second building contains a large hall used for festivals, weddings, and other celebrations. During the day, this space is used by the lay community to sell fresh produce and delicacies such as Thai soup, noodles, and fried bananas. At night, the space is often rented out for private parties. All of the proceeds from these activities serve to support the monastery.
The temple grounds also support gardens for produce, herbs, and flowers. Many of the monks enjoy tending the gardens as a pastime.

Life at the Monastary

The monastary at Wat Buddhannachat is currently home to eight Thai monks. The monks are far from home and not all of them speak English. However, Venerable Abbot Phramathewa Pribeung, insists that they are never homesick. Some monks enjoy gardening while others have been taking ESL courses at local colleges. Some of the monks bear special tattoos are on their arms-this is part of a Thai cultural tradition that may go back to the Khmer empire.

Women are not permitted to touch the monks and must keep their shoulders covered while in the prayer hall. The monks of Wat Buddhanannachat are required to shave their eyebrows as well as their heads. It is believed that hair may make them appealing to the opposite sex. Usually they reshave their heads and eyebrows every full moon. Monks are also not permitted to eat after dark.

Center Activities

The lay community is responsible for offering the monks food everyday. The lay community is free to visit to monastery as often as they wish–either to use the prayer room, speak with one of the monks, or just to socialize.
Lay members may even take a “24 hour monkhood”, known as an upavasa, during which they follow the rules for nuns rather than monks. Nuns are not required to shave their heads, wear white robes, and are limited to two meals a day eaten before sunset. Lay members on the upavasa will usually wear white pajamas or other white clothing from home. The upavasa generates merit, which can be directed to help others.
Wat Buddhanannachat honors a variety of religious and cultural celebrations throughout the year including the ceremony of giving new robes to the monks at the start of the monsoon season and the celebration of the New Year. August 11th is also celebrated as the birthday of the Queen of Thailand. A Thai beauty pageant is held twice a year as another source of revenue for the temple.
The temple also offers traditional Thai weddings and funerals. Thai funeral services are held seven days after the death of a loved one and then again at intervals of fifty days, one hundred days, and one year. Such services would be very difficult without a nearby a temple and resident monks.