A Buddhist temple and monastery in Savage gets a gigantic jade statue, and opens its arms to its neighbors.
Hundreds of tiny flags are fluttering on strings around a low-slung property near Prior Lake High School, giving it the air of a garden store cheerfully signaling that it’s back for spring.
Instead, they are more like Christmas lights: a sign that a newly created temple and monastery is preparing to celebrate the birthday of the Buddha.
And this year, something extra is going to be added in the area next door that has been graded for a parking lot.
A statue of Buddha carved from a rare 18-ton boulder of translucent jade is to arrive in Savage this week and to be on display during 11 days of celebrations.
“The Buddha represents the power to heal, and universal peace,” said the Venerable Thich Hanh Duc, one of two monks who inhabit the monastery. “You have to believe that in your heart, and it will happen.”
With a smile he added:
“We will put it on the construction site because it needs to be strong just to hold it.”
The monk has been in Minnesota for five years, serving Vietnamese Buddhists. He began at a temple in Roseville. In 2012 he found an appealing piece of land in Savage visible from the high school, with dramatic changes in elevation.
“The master was looking for a quiet, beautiful place,” said Dong Hanh of Lakeville, a member of the community. “When he walked in here, he found that it had a different feeling.”
The building was finished in June 2013 and began to be used, though up to now there hasn’t been much parking. Luckily, the high school’s parking is a short walk away and officials there have been willing to share.
Scattered across the ample grounds today are statues and zones for meditation. Suburbia is visible in the distance, incongruously so, though most of the 100-plus who regularly attend do come from southern suburbs themselves, Dong said.
The arrival of the massive stone Buddha — officially known as the “Jade Buddha for Universal Peace” — is plainly the major event in the temple’s short existence.
The statue was created from an extraordinary piece of jade found in Canada just over a decade ago.
It’s now on a lengthy tour around the world that so far has drawn more than 7 million viewers, according to a website devoted to explaining it (http://www.jadebuddha.org.au).
The statue spent April, for instance, in Florida at the Ichimura Miami-Japan Garden, and then was in Maryland at the Xa Loi Temple in Frederick, until last Sunday. It was then to be trucked to the Twin Cities, to the temple in Savage known as Tu Vien Tay Phuong, at 7107 150th St. W.
Members of the local temple produce a huge poster-sized list of events, including meditations, a live concert at the opening ceremony,and a candlelight ceremony. There will be a “food court” open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, with items offered for purchase.
The opening ceremony is Saturday, May 3, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., while the closing ceremony is May 11 from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Monks from the monastery as well as others visiting from Vietnam will be on hand for “teaching, leading meditations, and available for guidance,” the poster says. The Buddha’s birthday is known as Vesak.
There is a website mostly in Vietnamese but with directions in English as to how to e-mail for more information.
The abbot and Dong were eager to stress that the temple welcomes people from the area to experience its offerings. They are able to provide English translations of the meditations and chanted prayers — the “mantras,” to use the term for once in its actual, literal sense — taking place during services.
The Twin Cities area is sprinkled with Buddhist temples of differing national origins following the influx of refugees and immigrants after the Vietnam War.
Asked whether the membership at the temple consists of many extended families, Dong said:
“Whoever came here, it’s a big family.”
About 100 people attend in a normal week, more in warm summer weather, she said, coming mainly from suburbs such as Eagan, Lakeville and Prior Lake — “all the areas around.”
There is not so much a sermon in a Christian sense, she said, as “chanting and practicing meditation. My master teaches and helps the Buddha speak to them.”
David Peterson • 952-746-3285