Wat Buddhabhavana (Great Wisdom Center)

This data was last updated on 9 July 2019.

Address: 25 Milot Road, Westford, MA 01886
Phone: 978-692-3120
Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wat%20Buddhabhavana/139949346076962/

History: Originally known as The Laotian Temple of Massachusetts, Wat Buddhabhavana was founded in the mid-1990s by a small Lao community in Lowell, Massachusetts. In the early 2000s, due to the illness of the head monk of the temple and his subsequent retirement, the temple's lay board members considered dissolving the temple. However, board members happened to hear of Venerable Ajahn Mangkone and Venerable Ajahn David Chutiko, two monks who were living in Lowell at the time, and invited them to become the temple's new religious leaders. Venerable Mangkone and Venerable Chutiko agreed with one stipulation: that the temple's name be changed from The Laotian Temple of Massachusetts to Wat Buddhabhavana. With this name change, the two monks hoped to welcome and include all people, regardless of their ethnicity. Under new leadership, Wat Buddhabhavana was revived. In the summer of 2004, Venerable Mangkone began looking for a new location for the temple. By August 2004, Wat Buddhabhavana relocated to its current location, a 2.25 acre property in Westford, Massachusetts. Lay members and resident monks soon began the process of renovating the old farm house, garage, barn, and horse stable. There are currently 5 monks living at the temple: 3 Lao, 1 Euro-American, and 1 Sri Lankan. The temple is fundraising to continue its construction and hopes to have adequate funds within the next 5 to 10 years to build an elaborate Lao-style retreat center.

Description: Wat Buddhabhavana is located on a dead-end street in a rural part of Westford, Massachusetts. Formerly a small farm, the property includes a modest house, large garage, play structure, sheep's stable, horse barn, and garden. So far, with the combined efforts of the monks and lay members, the large garage has been converted into an indoor meditation hall. The roof of the building is decorated with red and gold detail, reflecting a Lao architectural influence. The hall's sliding glass doors, carpeting, and wide shrine provide a venue for meditation and services during the colder months. Above the property's former swimming pool, Venerable Mangkone and volunteers constructed a larger hall for services and functions. This structure includes a raised platform for the monks and an ample seating area for temple attendees. The temple attracts many families with young children who enjoy playing on the playground near the small house in the front of the property. This house serves as the monk's living quarters. The temple has plans to convert the barn into a commercial kitchen and restroom facilities. There are also plans to develop a new residence for the monks. Venerable Mangkone feels that the temple's grounds and location are ideal for establishing a Buddhist retreat center. The property lies contiguous to a bird sanctuary and nature preserve. Both of these grounds are open to the public and the monks often greet and chat with bikers and walkers on the path. A picturesque marsh brimming with greenery, flowers, fish, and turtles lies just behind the temple grounds. This area as well as the adjacent stream, public trails, and a historic 140 -year-old stone bridge provide the perfect environment for contemplative walks and meditation.

Leadership: Venerable Ajahn Mangkone was born in Laos in 1968. He left Laos with his family as refugees in 1977 and resettled in Australia in 1978. It was there that Venerable Mangkone was ordained as a Theravada monk in 1992, before finishing a degree in civil engineering. Venerable Mangkone also spent time in Thailand on retreat where he met vice-abbot, Venerable Ajahn David Chutiko. The two monks have spent many years traveling and working together, spending a particularly long time in Australia developing a meditation center. Venerable Mangkone and Venerable David moved to the United States in the late 1990s. Venerable Mangkone was attending classes at University of Massachusetts -Lowell when he was approached to help reestablish what would be known as Wat Buddhabhavana. As abbot and president of the temple, Venerable Mangkone now plays an integral role in the remodeling of the temple property, doing much of the construction himself. He also emphasizes the importance of working with children at the temple. In an effort to help provide Lao-American children in the area with cultural roots, he initiated Lao cultural programs and language classes for children at the temple. Venerable Mangkone and Venerable Chutiko developed a similar, highly successful cultural group during their time in Australia. Venerable Mangkone, Venerable Bouakeo, and Venerable Somphone host a radio show on a Lao program called "Thinking Out Loud" on 91.5 WUML. Venerable Mangkone regularly travels to other Buddhist temples and religious institutions to speak about Buddhism. He also volunteers his time to local organizations such as the Rotary Club. Venerable Ajahn David Chutiko serves as vice-abbot of Wat Buddhabhavna. He was born in Malden, Massachusetts. After a short enlistment in the United States Air Force, he relocated to San Francisco, California in 1963. Venerable Chutiko was ordained as a Buddhist monk of the Theravada tradition in 1996 in Thailand, where he met Venerable Mangkone. Venerable Chutiko regularly travels to other towns and states to speak at various institutions about Buddhism. He is currently involved in the development of a meditation center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At Wat Buddhabhavana, Venerable Chutiko often plays the important role as translator for English speaking worshipers during ceremonies and events. He also helps lead many of the center's meditation classes.

Activities and Schedule: Wat Buddhabhavana hosts regular services and events, including weekly meditation classes instructed by Venerable Chutiko. Temple members provide daily offerings of food to the resident monks. Venerable Mangkone is developing a weekly Dharma School for children on the weekends which will offer lessons on Buddhism and Lao language and culture. In the Summer of 2007, the temple began offering a free Lao culture camp for children, Monday through Friday. Children receive lessons on Buddhism, Lao language, culture, and dance. Venerable Mangkone hopes to host a similar program next summer and include Lao musical instrument lessons to the list of activities. Throughout the year, Wat Buddhabhavana celebrates a number of Buddhist holidays such as the Rains Retreat in the spring. Many of these celebrations act as vital fundraisers for the temple. Venerable Mangkone is involved in helping to organize the Buddha's Birthday celebrations at the Samantabhadra/Pho Hien Buddhist Center in Braintree, Massachusetts. He sits on the Board of Directors of Lowell Community Health Center (LCHC). Venerable Mangkone is also involved in the Lowell Folk Festival and the Southeast Asian Water Festival in Lowell . In the summer of 2007, children from the Lao culture camp participated in both events by performing the dance they had learned. The monks are also often invited to private homes for small blessing ceremonies and other religious services.

Demographics: Wat Buddhabhavana's members are predominantly Lao-American with some Thai-, Khmer-, and Euro-Americans. However, the temple welcomes individuals of all ethnic backgrounds to their activities and services. Services are held in Lao with some Pali prayer and can include English translations.