Center Profile

Wat Promkunaram (2004)

Theravadin (Buddhism)

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Description

History

Wat Promkunaram is a Buddhist temple, monastery and cultural center created with the help of the Thai government by three Thai monks in 1983. At first a very small temple located in the Phoenix metropolitan area, the community purchased five acres of isolated farmland in 1985 and opened a new temple in the rural, far west Valley city of Waddell in 1989. The temple was stunned by the massacre of six monks, a nun and two other temple affiliates in 1991 (a tragedy that remains Arizona's largest mass murder) but has recovered to become a vital center for local Theravadin Thai, Laotian, Vietnamese and Cambodian Buddhists, as well as serving Mahayanist Buddhists and non-Buddhists.

Activities and Schedule

Open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., the main prayer hall (sala) is available to the public for prayer and meditation. The monks maintain a structured schedule of daily activities from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m., including prayers and meditation, work on the temple grounds and counseling, preaching and teaching in scheduled classes or when guests visit. The Wat operates a Buddhist Sunday School for Thai-American children but it is also open to any interested community members. The center also holds Thai language classes, classical dance lessons, instruction in meditation, and special merit-making ceremonies for marking particular family milestones such as births, marriages and deaths.
Connected with its role as a community center, the Wat annually hosts eight major Theravadin Buddhist festivals. Many of these festivals, such as Loy Krathong or Magha Puja Day, display regional traditions distinctive to Buddhist communities in southeast Asia.

Demographics

The monks resident at the center are predominantly Thai, though also including Euro-American Buddhist monks. The community served -- mostly Thais in the Valley in some cases for over three generations-- spans a number of different age groups. The modern monastic population is all male, while at worship services women may have slightly outnumbered the men present.

Description

The center complex was placed in a distant rural setting that, over the years, has become less remote as the Phoenix metropolitan area has expanded. The main prayer hall building has living quarters for the monks and offices in the back-- it includes a small library. A large community hall is nearby on the grounds, and is attached to a kitchen and dining hall. It is used for receptions, parties and other social events. The buildings are surrounded by gardens which the monks maintain, and the garden contains various small shrines (including one dedicated to the victims of the 1991 massacre).

Date Center Founded
Founded in 1983, at present location since 1989.

Religious Leader and Title
Venerable Pramaha Winai Booncham (4th Abbot of Wat Promkunaram)

Membership
Approximately 2,500 people in the community.

Ethnic Composition
Mostly Thai, but with significant representation among Valley Laotians, Cambodians and Vietnamese.