Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Mahayana Buddhist Temple

Location:   Chinatown
Year:   1997

The City Campus of The Eastern States Buddhist Temple of America, Inc., usually just called the  Mahayana Buddhist Temple, is located at 133 Canal Street in lower Manhattan. The Temple is located adjacent to one of Chinatown's other major pilgrimage sites, The Fung Wah Bus ticket office. 

The Eastern States Buddhist Temple was founded in 1962 by Mr. and Mrs. James and Annie Ying, and maintains several sites on the eastern seaboard, including a monastery.  The City Campus was opened in 1997. It is dedicated to Kwan Yin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion (also known as Avalokiteshvara in Sanskrit and Kanjizai in Japanese). 

The Temple provides a tranquil refuge from the hustle, bustle and chaotic sidewalk marketplace (selling everything from fermented fish heads to knock-off designer handbags) that is the hallmark of New York City's frenetic Chinatown. 

The Temple itself is housed in a boxy building that formerly hosted The Rosemary, a porno theater.  

Today, a fierce pair of carved fu dogs guard the entrance, keeping man's baser instincts at bay. There are also bilingual "Not responsible for personal property" notices on the walls for those who have no fear of dogs. "Please Maintain Noble Silence" signs hang next to them. Curious tourists often do not.

The Meditation Hall is graced by an enormous 16-foot-tall golden Buddha statue,  and 32 wall prints explain the life of the Buddha for those unfamiliar with the story. 

Waterstained acoustic ceiling tiles and barred window grates create an anomalous contrast to the colorful interior decoration of the Hall and the wedding reception surplus crystal chandeliers that light the Hall.

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