Tuesday, August 16, 2011

First Thai Buddhist Temple In Louisiana

Dressed in flowing orange robes and with a haircut cropped so close to the scalp it might as well be shaved, he possesses no property and never eats after noon.

He lives a life of celibacy and doesn't dare touch a woman. "We dedicate our lives to avoiding desire," he said.

Phrakhrupalad Wutthichai Phothachai, or "Monk Wutti, " is a Buddhist missionary monk living in Mobile who helped build Louisiana’s first Thai Buddhist temple in Algiers, Louisiana, which celebrated its grand opening on August 14,2011. He is also the abbot of the new temple, named Wat Wimuttayaram.

The temple is comprised of a raised cottage of ordinary Western style. Inside are sleeping cells for the monks and a large gathering room with a bronze Buddha.

Monk Wutti agreed to help build the new temple on newly acquired land outside New Orleans. Until Sunday he lived at a Laotian Buddhist temple in Mobile. A native of Thailand, he entered a Buddhist monastery at 12 and was ordained at 21.

More than 200 people assembled to celebrate the opening of Wat Wimuttayaram on that day in an undeveloped area of Algiers. The site was decorated with hundreds of small Thai flags, while local Thai restaurants provided food.

That day celebration was the end of a process that began 3 years ago when the community founded the organization that would build the temple.

Until the construction of the temple, Monk Wutti said local Thai Buddhists would gather at members’ homes. But the new temple provides the community with a new center to stay in touch and seek guidance from resident monks.

Monk Wutti and those celebrating the opening of the temple practice Theravada Buddhism, a conservative school in the Buddhist tradition. Theravada Buddhism is most popular in the southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

However, life isn’t all work and no play for a Buddhist monk. Monk Wutti enjoys a good joke and isn’t afraid of technology — not only does he own an iPhone, he manages the temple’s email and computer correspondence.