Established in spring of 1979, Texas Buddhist Association – TBA – has been actively spreading the Dharma, contributing to the community, and carrying out philanthropic activities for the past thirty plus years. Under the leadership of Venerable Wing Sing, Venerable Jan Hai and Venerable Hung I, and with the unwavering devotion of its supporters, TBA has grown steadily from Buddha Light Temple, to Jade Buddha temple, and now to its most recently added venue, American Bodhi Center.
Originally from Tai County, Jiangsu Province, Ven. Jan Hai has studied under the tutelage of the Buddhist Master Ven. Tsi-Hung in Taiwan. In his pursuit to further his knowledge of the Dharma, he has also studied and researched in Thailand and Japan. In 1972, Ven. Jan Hai was invited to the United States. He initially took residence at Da Jueh Temple in New York, but later decided to move to Texas so that he can make Buddhism more accessible in the central US as well. In 1979, with the help of dedicated members and contributors, such as Mr. and Mrs. H.P Ngiam, he established TBA with Ven. Wing Sing. In 1980, Buddha Light Temple was built to serve as the main venue for TBA at the time.
Having dedicated much energy and effort into the building of Buddha Light Temple, Ven. Jan Hai soon fell ill in 1980. As no one could take care of its daily operations, Buddha Light Temple soon faced difficulties. At the time Ven. Hao Lin of East Zen Temple of New York, an old friend of Ven. Jan Hai, came to visit him. Accompanying him was a young monk – Ven. Hung I. Ven. Impressed by Ven. Hung I, Jan Hai and members of TBA earnestly asked him to stay in Houston. He was moved by their entreaties and agreed to stay and look after the newly established Buddha Light Temple. Born in Yunnan Province, Ven. Hung I’s family had moved to Burma in 1957, and he had taken his vows there in 1962. Knowledgeable, intellectual, humorous, and humble, Ven. Hung I has since become an indispensable part of the TBA leadership.
In order to better serve the immigrant community, Van. Jan Hai and Ven. Hung I rented a convenient space near the Bellaire Chinatown area and established Buddha Light Lecture Hall in 1984. The Lecture Hall held Dharma lectures, Dharma study groups, meditation classes, and English classes. Due to its convenient location, TBA soon garnered many devoted members and volunteers. As the congregation steadily grew, it became apparent that TBA needed a larger venue. After careful evaluation, a 2.5-acre piece of land in Southwest Houston was purchased in 1988 as the site for TBA’s second venue – Jade Buddha Temple. The Temple was completed in 1990 and the Inaugural Ceremony was held on June 2. On that day, on behalf of Governor Bill Clements, Texas State Senator Robert Eckels proclaimed June 2 as “Texas Buddhism Day.” A year later, thanks to the generous donations of Mr. H.P. Ngiam, a two-story Youth Activity Center was erected behind Jade Buddha Temple. It quickly became center for cultural, educational, charitable, and social activities.
Since its establishment, Jade Buddha Temple has been devoted to teaching Buddhism and giving back to the community for the past thirty plus years. Not distinguishing between different sects of Buddhism, TBA places an emphasis on spreading the right views of the Dharma. To foster a basic understanding of Buddhism, various Dharma talks, classes, and discussion groups are held throughout the year. Buddhist Ceremonies, such as Repentance Assembly, Chanting Assembly, and Medication retreats, are occasions where members can practice Buddhism. Venerables from other Buddhist organizations and sects are invited to give lectures and lead meditations on a regular basis. Furthermore, in an effort to make Buddhism more accessible to English speakers, Jade Buddha Temple has been holding weekly Sunday English Buddhist classes and meditation sessions in the Kwan Ying Hall since 1991.
With regards to education, TBA has established the Texas Buddhism Academy, Bodhi Chinese Language School, as well as various Bodhi Scholarships. TBA also organizes various annual camps for the youths, children, and families, blending the Buddhist concepts with interesting camp activities.
TBA is devoted to promoting the compassion and loving-kindness of the Dharma. Its charitable activities include jointly hosting philanthropic events with other religious and social groups, such as the Houston Interfaith Ministries. The Philanthropy Division and the Youth Division visit senior care centers and contribute to disadvantaged schools in the Houston area on a regular basis. And whenever natural disaster strikes, members of TBA are always ready to provide their support by pooling resources for donations to help with relief efforts.
In 2000, after twenty years of spreading the Dharma in the US, TBA realize that in order to continue to spread the Dharma for the long term, it is very important to serve the local community and provide services that meet the public’s needs. Thus, TBA officially adopted plans for the American Bodhi Center in 2000. By spring of 2001, TBA had bought 515 acres of land in Waller County as the future site of American Bodhi Center. After five years of planning and three years of construction, the first phase was finally completed in 2008. Official Grand Opening of the American Bodhi Center was held on May 2, 2009.
American Bodhi Center has a beautiful and natural environment as well as stately and elegant structures. It serves as one of TBA’s main venues and hosts various TBA sponsored events and activities sponsored, such as various camps, retreats, and Buddhist assemblies. TBA also welcomes other Buddhist and non-Buddhist organizations to use the site as well.
Since the establishment of Texas Buddhist Association 30 years ago, continuous efforts have been dedicated to educating and promoting the practice of Buddhism. With the establishment of American Bodhi Center, TBA hopes to continue its efforts towards the same goals and ideals that Buddha had taught by teaching the Dharma through education, philanthropy, and service to the public.
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