Wat Buddharangsi of Miami
Wat Buddharangsri originally was called Thai Temple of Homestead. Then changed the name to Wat Thamarangsri and finally changed again to Wat Buddharangsri. The idea of building the temple started early in 1979. The word Wat means Temple .
Wat Buddharangsi of Miami is a Theravada Buddhism, Buddhist temple. The raising of a structure, a typically human undertaking, is never without difficulty. It may be as finding a level place to bulid with underlying stratum capable of supporting the building's weight, or a process fraught with political infighting, human prejudices and arcane building codes.
The design of the temple was given birth by Miami Architect Noppom Poochareon. He felt that there was a need for a place of refuge for local Buddhist. His vision for the sanctuary was one of a simple serene place, full of light, echoing tranquility. He had no preconceived notion of what sort or size of Buddha might reside there. The project would be fraught with difficulty and great personal expense for him just to acquire the proper permits and wage battle with the county authorities. Money is always a problem in any such undertaking. The search for financing was met with many closed doors. The First National Bank of Homestead Florida came to the rescue and allowed work to begin. The story of the construction of Wat Buddharangsi properly begins with its founder and president, born half a world away, knowing nothing of a place called Miami Florida.
Ajarn Surachett, as he is now known, was born Surachett Boonnom in the year 2482 (Buddhist Calendar) January 25, 1939. His nativity took place in the village of Nong Boua, near the city of Kanchanarburi, in the western part of Thailand on the famous River Kwai. Of his early years, and the Japanese occupation of the region, he has scant memories. The oldest of 8 children, equality divided in gender, to him fell the burden of his station. His parents were farmers and, as is the Asian tradition, he was obligated to take a responsible position in the family structure as the eldest male child. His formal schooling concluded at the end of the (equivalent of) fourth grade. He had accomplished the ability to read and write his native longue. Until the advent of his 20th year, he would be responsible for assisting his father in the running of the farm.
Thai tradition requires that the eldest son, by the age of 20, become a Buddhist monk for at least a short interval. This would usually occur during the 3-month monsoon season. Surachett was not especially religious, nor eager to enter into a monastic life, but recognized his traditional responsibility and took up the saffron robes of his office in his home village at Wat Nong Boua. It was there that he found enlightenment and began to dedicate himself to the study of Bali and Sanskrit, immersing himself in the teachings of Buddha and service to his community. So strongly was he motivated that in a short period of years he had qualified to the first level of study.
Determined to advance his education and sponsored by Wat Nong Boua, he went for further instruction to the Marble Temple in Bangkok. He was later able to gain admittance to the Nova Nalanda University in India, (the oldest institution of Buddhist learning in the world). With the financial assistance of his parents he earned an M. A. degree in history.
The Ajarn returned home in the early 70's because of his father's ill health. He was faced with the possibility of having to return to the life of a farmer to fulfill his familial responsibility. But his father recovered and The Ajarn returned to the Marble Temple.
Buddhism plays a central role in Thai culture. The presence of Buddhist teachers and places of worship is important to the Thai expatriates spread throughout the world. This was no less true for the small Thai community in the Miami area. Community leaders requested, via the Thai Embassy, that a monk be sent to minister to their needs. Ajarn Surachett was to be sent.
The lure of America was strong, but the sound of Miami was not particularly appealing. Shouldering his responsibility, he journeyed east and found himself with a congregation to minister to but no place in which to carry out his ministry. He was settled temporarily in an apartment near Homestead, Florida. This arrangement was far from satisfactory. Soon a house, for rent, was found off of Sunset Dr. in Miami that would serve both as a Wat and residence. The Ajarn realized that this place could only be temporary. He must find a place with acreage that provided room not only for a temple but for parking and other events and activities.
The search for suitable quarters became a frustrating quest. Wanting a more central location in the county he was thwarted by high land values and restrictive covenants. Finally, on September 7, 1986, in the heart of Miami’s only Amish enclave, he found five acres and a suitable house for $170,000.
The Thai community now had an in-residence monk and wished to take the next logical step; an appropriate structure dedicated to worship.
The design and size of the proposed temple gave rise to much discussion. Funds came in slowly. The Thai community, after all, was not large and was scattered across three counties in southern Florida. When blueprints were completed in 1989 they reflected the Poochareon`s dream. The plans were revised and revised yet again to meet building codes. The advent of Hurricane Andrew in 1992 caused further setbacks with damage to the existing structure and further changes and restrictions to the South Florida building code.
Ground was broken for the construction of the temple June 11, 1995. Construction did not begin until July 18, 1996. The two-storey tall bronze Buddha was delivered and set in place in December 5, 1997. It was dedicated on Jan 10, 1998. There was no roof above the Buddha’s head. As work on temple progressed the Ajarn demanded that only the finest materials be used, so plans had to be revised. The structure that took shape was far grander than what the community had envisioned. The temple would be a monument not only to Buddha but also to the vision and perseverance of Ajarn Surachett. This accomplishment was to supplant his personal goal of completing his doctoral degree.
As of January 2002, the overall construction of the temple was completed, short of some cosmetic touches and completion of the electrical work. Work has slowed at this point due to lack of funds.