Defying the bustle and hustle at the intersection of 13th & Washington, the Bo De Buddhist Temple projects an aura of peace and serenity.
It is the place for the ever-growing Vietnamese community which settled in and around 8th & Washington since the first “boat people refugees” were brought to the United States in 1975.
But inside the temple these days, a tempest blows as its members fight to save their building from an outright steal by a former member.
The Bo De Buddhist Temple was made possible by the donation of Buddhists from around the city who spent several years raising the money, with donations ranging from $2 to $20,000. They finally were able to purchase the Temple from the African American Jazz Clef Club in December 1994.
Named Bo De after the Holy Tree under which the Lord Buddha practiced meditation and experienced enlightenment, the temple is the religious center for a congregation numbering a thousand. Every Sunday, an average of over 150 followers, at non-holy-day festivals, gather there temple for prayer and meditation. They also attend cultural and English classes, while the youth attend the Buddhist version of the Boy Scouts.
What created the problem began innocently enough when the Executive Committee, led by President Tam Tran, petitioned the Vietnamese American Unified Buddhist Congress in California to send them an abbot to preside over temple ceremonies. In return, the congregation offered to donate the temple property to the VAUBC.
On the eve of the dedication, the Executive Committee discovered the monk that had been sent was involved in a lawsuit with a woman who had accused him of having an affair with her and taking from her $120,000. He went back to California.
The woman, Thoa Thi Tran, who had been a member, shocked the Executive Committee by filing a deed which transferred the over $300,000 property to VAUBC, with herself authorizing the title transfer as the agent for the Bo De Executive Committee. On close inspection, the deed was missing the necessary stamp from the temple. Furthermore, temple records do not show the deed transfer was voted on by members as required by the bylaws.
President Tran and the Committee, when notified by the City a transfer had been effected, immediately, on Jul. 20, filed a Quiet Title Action with the Court of Common Pleas. If this move succeeds, it will clear all other claims from their deed and secure the temple grounds for their flock.
Though they are on solid grounds, they are praying every Sunday for the kindly intervention of Lord Buddha to see the hearing on Dec. 5 will vindicate their efforts.