Project Renew: Rebuild the Lao Temple

Remember the Lao Buddhist Temple of Colorado that burned down? Well, now you can help. Especially if you live in Colorado.

On Saturday, February 18, 2012, you can attend a fundraiser at the University of Denver where “Asian and hip-hop communities will rise in solidarity to hold an extravaganza of Asian cultural dances and hip-hop showcases.” Admission is just $5!

To quote the flier:

The Lao Buddhist Temple of Colorado burned down on December 5, 2011. Only darkened debris and remnants of memories were salvaged of the once regal temple that emanated strength and hope.

Even a small donation will make a big difference to this community. You can learn more about the temple at their website, where you can even submit a donation by Paypal.

Planning on attending the fundraiser? Let me know—I’d be delighted to post your photos or share your thoughts on this blog.

Support Lao Buddhists of Colorado

There is a huge backlog of Angry Asian Buddhist posts that I haven’t quite gotten around to, but some issues are more important than others. This is one of them. Gil Asakawa writes from Colorado:

The Laotians epitomize the ability of recent immigrant communities to hang together and promote their traditional culture and values while they (especially the younger generation) embrace American culture and values. That sense of unity will serve them well in the months to come, as they rebuild “their heart and soul,” as one tearful women described the temple.


I visited the temple yesterday afternoon and felt an indescribable sadness for their loss. Firefighters were still milling about, sifting through debris, probably investigating the cause of the fire. Police blocked the street (the temple faces a side street, not Wadsworth Blvd., which is a major thoroughfare). But a steady stream of Laotians kept coming by, parking their cars down the block and walking to the temple to pay their respects and offering their help.

One young man sitting in his car with his baseball cap askew rolled down the window and turned down the hip-hop on stereo to ask me details about the fire. I told him what I knew. He told me he’d helped the head monk for several years and considered him a mentor. A woman who parked her car and began walking began sobbing when she got her first look at the burned-out skeleton of the temple. She said she left work early when she first heard about the fire. Many of the visitors had just heard about the tragedy through the community grapevine while at work.

The community has established the Lao Buddhist Temple Fire Relief Fund at 1stBank, a Colorado-based bank chain, and is accepting donations to help rebuild the temple. You can find the nearest 1stBank location here, or call Sy Pong at 720-210-7555 or Maly at 720-217-6142.

It’ll help the Laotians bring back to life the heart—and soul—of their community.

Please support Colorado’s Lao Buddhists. You can learn more about the situation at the links below.

  • Congregation gathers at Buddhist temple lost in Westminster fire [Nina Sparano, KWGN]
  • Community rallies to rebuild Buddhist temple destroyed by fire in Colorado [Buddhist News]
  • Lao Buddhist Temple of Colorado Needs Help to Rebuild After Devastating Fire [Gil Asakawa, Huffington Post]
  • Buddhist Monks Hoping To Recover Temple Artifacts After Fire [Deb Stanley, ABC7News]
  • Blaze destroys Buddhist temple [CNN]

If you donate more than $250, I’ll send you a thank you card. More importantly, you’ll be providing enormous help to a Buddhist community that dearly needs it.

Update: In response to a question on Twitter, the fire occurred in Westminster, a suburb northwest of Denver. You can also get more information about donations at the temple’s website:

Losar Musings

Today marks the Tibetan New Year, Losar. In line with my most recent holiday post, I planned to invite a local Tibetan American to write some personal thoughts on celebrating Losar. You will probably see a number of blogs today post about Losar, but for the most part, you’ll be reading about white Buddhists describing a Tibetan holiday.

For the record, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with white folk celebrating Tibetan culture. In fact, I feel it’s absolutely important that we hear the voices of white Buddhists who practice Tibetan Buddhism, and who feel an abiding bond with Tibetan culture, including Losar. But what you’ll be missing out on is what they can’t tell you. For example, they can’t tell you what Losar means to them from growing up in a Tibetan family.

Amid all my criticism of white Buddhist publishers, writers and bloggers for their rampant neglect of Asian America, I operated under a silly assumption that these same individuals would realize that they were effectively excluding Asian American Buddhists from the conversation of Buddhism in the West—and then do something to change things. It’s become increasingly evident that the closest thing to inclusion we can expect from these writers is the appropriation of Asian American narratives and relating them through their own white-privileged perspectives. We hear white Buddhists speaking out about Wat Lao Buddhasampham—but where are the voices of the Lao Buddhists?

It’s not necessary to have an ethnic Tibetan talk about Losar to understand what Losar means—nor is it necessary to hear from a Lao Buddhist in Kansas to understand the injustice currently facing Wat Lao Buddhasampham. But the continued displacement of Asian American voices from the discussion of Buddhist America sends the implicit message that these voices are not worth including. By simply not changing the way we go about our research, interviews and writing, we accept the inequity of the status quo and thus support the continued subjugation of our diversity under the weight of the white privilege so tightly woven into Western Buddhism.

Then again, whose words are you reading here today, other than my own? I have no interview with other Asian Americans to present today for Losar. A death in the family pulled me away from my preparations, but that’s really no good excuse. If I’m going to castigate Buddhist publishers and bloggers for keeping Asian American Buddhists out of the spotlight, then I’d like should show them exactly who they’re missing. If you know of people you think should be interviewed on Angry Asian Buddhist, please don’t hesitate to drop me a comment below, and I’ll be more than happy to look into setting up guest posts and interviews.

Until then, tashi delek!

Discrimination Against Buddhists in Kansas

Fox 4 Kansas City reports on alleged neighborhood discrimination against Buddhists in Kansas.

The Lao-Buddhist Association [Wat Lao Buddhasampham] is trying to move it’s Olathe temple to a location along 119th Street in Olathe. But the Johnson County Board of Commissioners has so far denied the group a conditional use permit. Neighbors say that the area the Buddhists have chosen is zoned residential, but Lama Chuck Stanford of the Rime Buddhist Center says that discrimination is the real reason behind the opposition.

“This is clearly just ugliness of ethnic and religious prejudice,” said Stanford. […] Standord notes that Christian churches are common in residential areas, and that comments made by residents during a January zoning board meeting indicate fear and ignorance. At the meeting, people raised concerns about traffic, water pollution and “animal sacrifices,” along with noise from gongs, which Stanford says are no louder than church bells.

You can watch a video and read the article in full at Fox 4 Kansas City. I’m very grateful that Chuck Stanford has the integrity to go out of his way and stand up for the rights of Lao American Buddhists.

Elsewhere on this blog, I keep track of vandalized Buddhists temples. I’m not including Wat Lao Buddhasampham on this list simply because vandalism (fortunately) doesn’t appear to be one of the issues. Even so, if you have updates or more information on this community situation, I encourage you post in the comments section below!