This data was last updated on 13 August 2018.
Address: 81-83 Marion Street, Boston, MA 02128
Description: The Universal Buddhist Congregation (UBC), which meets in East Boston, was started in 1985 by Rev. Thich Giac Duc, who is the spiritual leader of the community. The extended community consists of between 2,000 and 3,000 people, with 50 attending services on an average day. Young people are a focus of this community, and it is not unusual for half of those gathered to be children and teenagers. There are activities for the youngsters after the Sunday services, which are held on the fully renovated first floor which includes a large hall, a kitchen and a dining room. The youth are part of the International Buddhist Youth, an organization started in the 1930s, which has over 20,000 members in the United States, and three million around the world. The Congregation meets in a former Catholic church, which they purchased in 1987 and have extensively renovated. Mostly volunteer labor has supported the installation of electricity, heat, flooring, a new roof, and the large worship space on the second floor, which includes a large altar with illuminated images and another altar for ancestors. Renovations of the exterior of the building have not been a priority. Instead, the congregation tithes money to the poor in Vietnam, without regard to their religious affiliation.
Leadership: The Universal Buddhist Congregation is unique in that the monks are allowed to marry. They observe the same vows as other monks, except that abstention from sex becomes fidelity in marriage. The UBC believes that married monks can be closer to the people, that sexual desires can be overcome with meditation and do not preclude marriage, and that marriage and procreation are important for some monks as well as for lay people.
Activities and Schedule: This Vietnamese tradition draws on many strands of Buddhism, including Mahayana, Theravada, Tibetan and Zen Pure Land. The services are conducted in Vietnamese, and people sit on mats on the floor or on chairs behind the mats. Visitors are welcome. Major events at the UBC include: the celebration of the Buddha's Birthday in April, which draws between 700-1000 people; Vietnamese Mothers' Day in July, reflecting their ongoing concern with respect for parents; and the Ceremony for the Buddha's Enlightenment in December, which is held over three days with chanting from 10 A.M. to midnight. In January, over 500 people gather to pray for the coming year.