Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Growing Community in a New Promised Land

Salute the flags of the US, Cambodia, and Buddhism

Prepared for Buddhist Monks' sermon

Reported by ខែ្មរវឌ្ឍនកម្ម

Minnesota, a land of ten thousands lakes and a home of the Mall of America ( the largest shopping mall in the nation) is also a promising land for a Cambodian Community in the US. About 10,000 Cambodian Americans settled in the state, the coldest place in winter but the most beautiful place in summer. Minnesota's size is slightly bigger than Cambodia (about 220,000 to 180,000 square km ), but it has population roughly about five millions as compared to Cambodia about 15 millions, which is one of the most spacious states for its small population. Such a natural endowment has contributed to a sustainable livelihood of the people in the state. A wast green land has provided people with many great activities during summer time: from camping, fishing, hunting, picnic, and  numerous activities that help people releasing their stress from urban life and work places. Also Minnesota is a leading state in agriculture as well as the high tech-industries; many US giant companies are originated here such as 3M, Delta Airline, Metronic, General Mill, BestBuy, and so on. These high-tech companies have provided a great employment opportunity for the people from different backgrounds. For Cambodian Community despite it's smaller than Spanish, Hmong, Somalia, India, and Vietnamese Communities, but its unique culture and adherence to Theravada Buddhism have made it more visible than the other minorities in the state.

If we drive about 20 miles Southeast bound from the Twin Cities, we will see an architectural red roof of a temple appearing from green carpets of corn field; it is the Munisotaram Main Temple locating on a hilltop over 43 acres of land. A $1.5 million two-story temple (Preas Vihear) was built and completed in 2007, and now the two new construction projects of a Sakyamuni Stupa and a Muchilin Pond (sras srang) are on the way. According to a Board Member, Mr. Sithoeun Chem said, " these two projects will be completed in 2015 with about $1.5 million price tag." The Sakyamuni Stupa structurally designed to be a worthy place for holding and venerating the relics of Buddha donated from Sri Landka in 2009--it is a rare and blessing donation from a land of Buddha Dharma to any Buddhist temple in the world at the present time. The three level Stupa covers 3,600 square foot base and has a height of 100 feet. After the completion of these projects, Wat Munisotaram will become the largest Cambodian Wat in the US, where the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha can be truly contemplated and revered.

 This great achievement depends on the leadership skill of board members of the Cambodian Buddhist Society of Minnesota chaired by Abott Moeng Sang and the participation and contribution from the whole Cambodian Community members in the state. The volunteer works and unity among the community members are very impressed, and they can show as a role model for other Cambodian Communities around the world. Wat Munisotaram is not only a place to serve religious purpose, but it is also a great cultural center, a symbol of Khmer identity, and a gathering place for the community events throughout the year--from New Year, Pchum Ben, summer festivals, and the other activities. During summer time, many American guests especially students from elementary schools through universities tour the Compound to learn and research about Khmer Culture and Theravada Buddhism. Wat Munisotaram also provides a Sunday school teaching Khmer, Pali, and Sanskrit Languages to the community members.

Minnesota, a wild winter state, is hardly to become a great place for Cambodian immigrants who originally came from the mild winter place of Cambodia where people enjoy their outdoor livings all year round that is not relevant in Minnesota.  Besides extremely cold in winter, there is nothing stops people from settling in such a gorgeous and healthy living place. The state economy, health care, welfare, education, employment, and environment are ranked among the top ten in the US; despite the great recession is not completely over yet, but Minnesota's unemployment rate never goes higher than 7 percent as compared to the nation's unemployment rate of 9 percent or higher during the 2008-2009 great recession. Currently, the state's unemployment rate is around 5 percent-- among the lowest rate in the nation. A better job opportunity in the state has attracted many immigrants around the world to find their new homes here, especially Cambodian immigrants who decided to settle in this state as sub-zero temperature is not an obstacle to their daily life.

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