I have been a Buddhist for over 10 years but never went to any of the Buddhist Temples that are dotted around the Midlands area. I did make an effort and had a quick search on the internet for a few of the temples and one or two I did pop into. I discovered that the temples cater are for their local communities, so some of the temples have Vietnamese monks and the community are Vietnamese, some of the temples are Thai and the monks are Thai.
So when I started a relationship with my girlfriend, we started going to her Temple, The Wat Sanghathan Temple which is in Birmingham. I must admit I was very curious when I first arrived and found the people very friendly and welcoming. A few of my non Buddhist friends have come with us, out of curiosity and enjoyed it.
I found that the temples here are effectively split into two areas, the shrine room where the prayers and ceremonies are held, and the other ages, normally speckled with free food stalls, where you can try all different types of food, from all different parts of Thailand.
It’s great, you can try one, two or all of them, but come early as the food can go quick. The good thing is there is no waste, as any leftovers are hurriedly snapped up by the congregation. You can see them, carrying small clear plastic bags with the precious contents, and a tight elastic band on the top keeping the food safe from spilling. My girlfriend will then fest off this for a day or so, depending on how much she has managed to get.
If you are curious, please do not be afraid to pop in and have a look, even if it’s for the food. There is no preaching, no attempt to convert you, (It’s against the Buddhist Monks rules to try to convert anyway) You can pop in and out without being noticed.
You will see many a falang man, sitting around looking after the children, or talking amongst themselves, as there other half are in the shrine room, or doing what they love most, eating and catching up with what’s happening.
For most Thai and Buddhists from Asia, the temple is the centre of their community, a chance to catch up with friends, eat some free food and worship. As it’s a Thai Temple, the Monks will chant and speak in Thai, even though most of them can speak English, but with varying degrees of competence.
Unlike churches, the Temples do not meet regularly, say every Sunday, but at about once a month, depending on the Thai celebrations. Whoever you can pop in anytime you want, to meditate and you will not be stopped