Princeton Manor

IN A MANOR OF SPEAKING...
News and Events from Princeton Manor

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PUBLIC ACCESS
 
Volume 8, Issue 4
April, 2016
In this issue: 
Sacred Places: Our Neighbors on Route 27
 
Sacred Places: Our Neighbors on Route 27
Part 2:
A Place of Peace
click on image to enlarge
by Lucy Joye
 
Like most residents, I have long been curious about the big Buddha statue outside the gates of Princeton Manor. My questions were finally answered by two monks residing in the home at the New Jersey Buddhist Vihara (Monastery) and Meditation Center. It is located in front of the 30 foot gleaming white concrete, brick and steel Buddha statue which was built between 2007 - 2009, and which cannot be missed when driving along Route 27. When I rang the bell at the back door of the residence, I did not know what to expect. What a relief it was for me to be greeted by a warm smile and a kind invitation to "Please, come in from the cold."

After identifying myself as a neighbor from Princeton Manor and that my purpose was to write a series of articles for the Princeton Manor Newsletter about our neighbourhood Sacred Places, a second monk welcomed me and said they would be happy to answer my questions. We made an appointment for me to return the following morning.

I asked the monks what it is they would like their neighbors to know about Buddhism. The response was that the main goal in Buddhism is love, peace and happiness. There is a cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth until the cycle is broken when happiness is achieved. Happiness is the ultimate truth which never changes and can never be destroyed. It is perfect peace, the end of all suffering. It is "Nirvana" in Sanskrit and "Nibbana" in Bali. Buddhists reach Nirvana by following the teachings of Buddha and through meditation, which means training the mind to empty itself of all thoughts so that what is important becomes clear. Buddhism is not a religion but a philosophy and way of life. There is no god. The individual is his/her own master and is responsible for the consequences of their actions. There are good activities (Wholesome) and bad activities (Unwholesome) according to the way one lives his/her life.

There are four monks who live in the home at the Vihara. Their activities include maintaining the 10-acre grounds, including the annual painting of the Buddha statue. The Buddha statue is painted white to symbolize calm and peace. It is the largest statue of Buddha in the Western Hemisphere. Chanting is a daily activity which the monks practice. As explained to me, chanting is a sign of respect for the Buddha, for those who feed the monks, for those who bring flowers to the Buddha statue, etc. There are special chants which the monks practice. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings they chant Mahasamaya Sutra, a sermon of the Buddha or one of his disciples. On Saturday evenings they chant Dhamma Chakka Sutra, which contain the essence of a teaching of Buddha.

The Meditation Center is a Buddhist temple of peace and meditation which is open to everyone. Fridays from 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm are evenings of meditation followed by a period of discussion of Buddhist doctrine. It is an opportunity to learn the teachings of Buddha. Before approaching the Buddha for meditation, there is a sign with rules of behavior upon entering the tiled area.

There is a school for children which is held on alternate Sundays at the residence. Teaching is divided into three groups: (1) worship for the very young which teaches respect and discipline; (2) the basic teachings of Buddha for the next oldest age group; and, (3) the doctrine of Buddha for the oldest group.

The interview was conducted in the Shrine Room which holds a gold statue of Buddha surrounded by many beautiful fresh flowers brought by worshippers. The ceiling of the Shrine Room is decorated with colorful lanterns. The Shrine Room is used for worship during winter months. There is also a Library with several cases of books and computers.
 
  

The outside grounds include the 30 foot statue of Gautama Buddha who is the 28th Buddha, according to the Buddhavamsa which is the text describing the 28 Buddhas. Behind Gautama Buddha is a smaller statue representing the future 29th Buddha, Maitreya, who will appear on Earth, achieve complete enlightenment and teach pure Dharma.

  

There are two other statues on the property - one of native born New Jerseyan Colonel Henry Steel Olcott who composed the "Buddhist Catechism" in 1881 which is a lasting contribution to the revival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka; and, a second statue of Anagarika Dharmapala who was a Sri Lankan Buddhist revivalist and writer.
  

The property has meditation trails which wind through a forest of 60 dawn redwood trees. There are signs along the trails with quotes for meditation.
 
     

In the front yard of the property there is a giant dawn redwood which, along with those planted along the meditation trails, were planted in 1940 by Chinese monks.
 
Before leaving, I thanked the monks for their kindness and generosity in answering my questions and sharing openly with me information about their lives, the Buddha and their Sacred Place of Worship.


In an article by Adya Beasly on June 5, 2015 on nj.com http://www.nj.com/somerset/index.ssf/2015/06/the_giant_backyard_buddha.html
He's big. He's bold. And he's NJ's own giant Buddha the author notes that there are plans for a $2 million expansion in the woods behind Gautama Buddha. The new building will include a library, rooms for meditation and community gatherings. The needs and size of the community served at the present location have grown since the house and property were first bought in 2002.

For more information and photos go to:
http://www.njbv.org - the website for New Jersey Buddhist Vihara and Meditation Center. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quQbMyP-ixk - the video of the property and expansion plans for the Vihara and Meditation Center.

Attribution:
1. Wikipedia
2. buddhism.about.com

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