This data was last updated on 3 July 2018.
History: The Massachusetts Buddhist Association (MBA) began in the mid-1980s as a small group of students meeting in private homes in Lowell, Massachusetts. With increased interest, the group decided to move and expand in order to offer teachings to a larger community in a more central location in Massachusetts. They first hosted dharma meetings on Sundays at 565 Lowell Street in Lexington. In 1991, the group bought their current property, a former church, located at 319 Lowell Street. Since 1991, the Center has steadily expanded its community membership and activities. Today it is the largest Chinese Buddhist lay organization in Massachusetts and offers a wide variety of classes, services and events.
Description: Housed in a former church, the Massachusetts Buddhist Association is on a hill above Lowell Street removed from the road. Through the front entrance of the building one finds the reception area. There are two walk-in closets with space for visitors to leave their shoes and belongings, shelves with free books and reading materials, and during special events, refreshments. With a central staircase in the building, one may walk up half a flight of stairs and enter the main dharma hall to the right. There is a modest central altar at the front of the hall, and space to comfortably seat 40-50 people on cushions. The building also features a sound system that enables visitors to listen to dharma talks from anywhere within the building. As many events are well-attended, this system is used often. On the upper floor across from the dharma hall, the library houses an impressive collection of books on Buddhism. The room was recently renovated in 2004. While most of the books and audio/visual materials are in Chinese, they are steadily expanding the selection in English. All of the dharma talks are recorded and are available in the Center’s library. Between the library and dharma hall, there is a two-room suite reserved for guest teachers. Following the staircase down from the reception area, there is a long hallway with smaller rooms. A number of rooms are used as offices, storage space, cooking and dining rooms, guest rooms and a space where the caretaker of the building lives.
Temple Leadership: As a lay organization, there is no resident teacher. While there was originally a five person board of directors, a president and a cabinet, MBA is now directed by a nine member executive board.
Demographics: There are 175 paying members while newsletters and other figures list 200-300 participants. Except for the monthly youth group meeting in English, all services and classes are conducted in Mandarin Chinese.
Activities and Schedule: As a non-sectarian group of lay people, there are a variety of practices at MBA including ch’an (Zen) meditation, chanting, dharma classes, cultural classes and events. There are meditation, tai chi and chanting sessions throughout the week, both in the morning and the evening. The weekends are typically the busiest times at MBA, with visiting monks and nuns and meditation and chanting sessions. Since the Center is a lay organization without a resident teacher, MBA hosts venerables and lay teachers for short periods of time to give teachings. Throughout the year, there are approximately ten different monks, nuns and lay teachers that come to teach at the Center. While all activities and dharma talks are conducted in Chinese, once a month an American monk, Venerable David Chutiko, from Westford, Mass. teaches a youth group about Buddhism in English. The Center has also hosted movies, informal discussions with tea, free weekly acupuncture, and cultural classes on martial arts, tai chi and flower arrangement. In addition, the Center organizes summer outings for members. Along with regular activities on Lowell Street, smaller groups of members meet for informal study in private homes. There are one-to-three day and seven-day non-residential retreats throughout the year in both the Pure Land and Ch’an traditions. MBA hosts six annual celebrations including Chinese New Year, Filial Duty festival, Buddha's birthday and Guan Yin celebrations. In the past, they have also hosted an art auction and sponsored a Buddhist monk to speak at an interfaith event at a church in Stoughton, Mass.