Surrounded by nurseries and tomato and fruit farms, a Buddhist temple has been offering inner peace for more than a decade just a short drive from Miami.
The Wat Buddharangsi Buddhist Temple sits like a serene crown jewel on five acres in rural Homestead, its roof sprouting gilt, horn-like “chofahs” that gleam in the sun. The Thai wood carvings symbolize the mythical bird-like creature Garuda, which in ancient times was believed to ward off evil spirits from the sky.
Inside the red-carpeted temple, a 23-foot-tall, 5-ton gold-leaf image of Buddha, sculpted in Bangkok and shipped to Miami, presides over meditation services and ceremonies.
Buddhists, visitors and those seeking a serene environment are all welcome at the temple, where an abbot and three orange-robed monks live year-round, providing sermons, services and weekly meditation classes in English and Spanish.
Phramaha Surachett Boonnom, the abbot of Wat Buddharangsi, came from Thailand in the 1980s to minister to the Thai community, which bought the property in 1986. A decade later, members broke ground on the temple after they won support from county commissioners.
Although groves of litchi and longan tropical fruit, native to Thailand, abound in Homestead, South Florida’s Thai community is relatively small. There are about 2,000 Thai immigrants here, and they’re spread throughout the region.
But the temple welcomes all nationalities and counts a sizable number of Asians from other countries, such as Laos, as its members, as well as American-born and Hispanic adherents. Attendance can range from just a handful of people at the daily chanting rituals to several hundred for holidays.
The temple is a great way to spend a peaceful day just 30 minutes from Miami or a festive afternoon at one of its many celebrations and events.
The trained and enlightened monks at this working temple are always welcoming, but it helps to be aware of some simple etiquette expectations.
· Dress conservatively and leave any racy South Beach clothing back in Miami.
· Remove shoes before entering the temple.
· Don’t touch anything other than the literature provided.
· Buddhist monks are not permitted to have physical contact with a female or accept anything directly from her hands. Women can engage them in conversation, but they’re not allowed to be in close proximity.
· It’s acceptable (and nice) to bring fruit or some type of food as a gift to the monks.
· Photographs are fine, even inside the temple. The monks embrace technology and cameras, and will eagerly pose for photographs.
Best times to go
The temple hosts festivals throughout the year to celebrate Thai culture and special occasions; timing your visit for one of these ensures lots of color, culture and usually amazing food.
· Wat Buddharangsri 32nd Anniversary, June 22, 2014
· Asalahapuja Day & Khao Phansa Day, July 12-13, 2014
· The Queen’s Birthday & National Mother’s Day, Aug. 10, 2014
· Sart Thai Ceremony & Salak Phat, Sept. 14, 2014
· Oak Phansa & Takbatdevo, Oct. 11-12, 2014
· Kathin Ceremony, Oct. 18-19, 2014
· Piya Maharaj Day, Oct. 26, 2014
· Loy Krathong & Thai Food Festival, Nov. 23-24, 2014
· The King’s Birthday & National Father’s Day, Dec. 7, 2014
· New Year’s Eve 2014, Dec. 31, 2014
· New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2015
More info: Wat Buddharangsi, 15200 SW 240th St., Homestead, 305-245-2702, http://thaitemplemiami.com