- Associated Press - Saturday, August 19, 2017

HAMPTON, Minn. (AP) - The largest Cambodian Buddhist temple in the United States has unveiled a new reflection pond.

About 7,000 of Cambodian-Americans came to Minnesota in the last week for the inauguration at Watt Munisotaram, located in rural Dakota County, the Star Tribune reported. The three-day event also attracted 140 monks from around the world, adorned in their distinctive robes in shades of tangerine, melon and copper.

Many of attendees camped out.

“This is once in a lifetime,” Sonny Lay said of Muchalinda Pond’s inauguration. “It’s really a blessing to experience.”

The 200-by-175-foot pond features a 20-foot statue of the Buddha in the middle. It took two years to build at a cost of about $530,000.

The event also marked the temple’s 29th anniversary. Initially located in Eagan, it is now on 40 acres in Hampton, with its vibrant colors and distinctive southeast Asian architecture rising up among surrounding farms.

“To the mainstream society, I always tell them we just saved you $3,000 to $4,000,” joked Chanda Sour, a temple member. “Now you don’t have to go to Asia (to see a temple).”

Sour said the $1.5 million temple building, inaugurated in 2007, put Minnesota’s Cambodian temple on the map, as did an exhibit of the world’s largest jade Buddha in 2014. Watt Munisotaram has become the United states’ biggest Cambodian Buddhist temple, despite the existence of larger Cambodian communities in Boston and California.

“It’s almost even better than what is in Cambodia,” Sour said.

The temple’s physical dimensions and beauty are a source of pride to the 10,000 Cambodian-Americans in Minnesota, said Aht Sao, a member who once served on the temple’s board.

“It means a great deal, especially to the elders,” Sao said. “Our faith is a big part of who we are.”

Alex Prom drove in from Chicago with about 20 family members to camp out. He said he wishes the temple were closer. He said when you show up at the temple to camp, everything is provided. You come with nothing and leave with everything, Prom said.

“It’s not about religion, it’s about coming together,” he said.


Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com

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