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Phat Bao Temple

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Basic information
6427 Large St, Philadelphia, PA 19149, USA
Sectarian affiliation(s):
  • Mahayana
Cultural, linguistic, ethnic representation:
  • Vietnamese
Geographic origins of institution, founder, or network:
  • Vietnam
Best time to visit:

Meditation practice daily at 7pm, main service Sun. 10:30am.

Date last visited: December 8, 2019
Currently active?: As of the last time it was visited by our research team, this location was open.
Other Basic Information:

Established 2009 in a repurposed Catholic church. Like many Vietnamese temples in the region, this temple has a prevalent statue of Avalokiteśvara (Quan Âm) in front of the entrance. Interior altars focus on the Buddha, Avalokiteśvara, Kṣitigarbha. There are two monks that are in residence here, and there are nuns that come here to visit from other temples but do not live there. One of the monks is a disciple of a prominent monk in Thailand.

Local setting, neighborhood, demographics

This family-focused temple caters to attendees of all ages, and holds Vietnamese language classes and Dharma talks for kids in the basement during services. We are told about 90% of participants are of Vietnamese descent, and about 10% Chinese. About 70% are over 60, the majority are female, and about 20% of the participants on any given day are visiting from other temples in the area. According to census data, there has been a significant Vietnamese population in the surrounding neighborhoods since at least 1980.

Connections with medicine, healing, wellness

While initially distancing themselves from engaging in medical practices per se, the abbot does hold that meditation say helps practitioners achieve inner peace by connecting the mind and body, leading to healthy thoughts and a healthy mind. Chanting and ritual practice dedicated to Bhaiṣajyaguru, Quan Âm (Avalokiteśvara), and other deities is practiced by the sick, but the abbot stresses this is intended primarily as a means of cultivating mental comfort and peace.

Some interviewees mentioned bowing to Quan Âm as a health practice, and the idea that the energy exerted for each bow will be returned to help repair the body. They also claim that the vegetarian food they serve has some health benefits, as they help to gain good karma and to prevent diseases and sickness. Some specific ingredients are claimed to help with digestion, help improve sleep, and so forth.

As many of the people who attend this temple work in health fields, temple members organize an annual flu shot clinic in coordination with the Health Care Department of Philadelphia, and periodically operate a health clinic with blood pressure checks and other basic health exams for the community. The temple also collects toys for the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, among other charitable works.